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Local law enforcement officials want to be clear: They work only with certain victim advocacy groups.

In Callaway County, that's the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence. In Cole County, it's the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service and Cole County Prosecutors Victims Advocate.

During a Dec. 29 meeting, Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism, Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers and Holts Summit Police Chief Kyle McIntyre affirmed they're currently not working with any other groups.

"We had several community members reach out to us," Chism said. "Based on inquiries we'd received we felt it imperative to reach out to clarify that we have a longstanding partnership with CARDV."

Chism and the other officers stated they never worked with newly founded group Guardians of the Innocent, or its parent group, Defenders of the Abused. In fact, Myers and McIntyre said they had never heard of either group prior to last week.

Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler echoed the sentiment in a Jan. 2 news release.

"I do not doubt the sincerity of this, or any, organization that wants to help others. While the intention is good, it takes a lot more than good intentions to deal with abusive situations," Wheeler said. " ... Victim advocacy is a serious subject that can, first and foremost, have dire consequences for the individuals involved but also can taint a criminal case if not handled properly."

Training matters

CARDV is a Callaway County-based nonprofit that supports and aids victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The other major victim advocacy group in the area, Bikers Against Child Abuse, works with the prosecuting attorney's office rather than directly with law enforcement, Chism added.

Officials listed several reasons they prefer to work with certain established groups, and why that's not changing any time soon.

One reason is familiarity.

"CARDV was founded in 1994, and we've worked with them since day one," Chism said. "The amount of resources CARDV has provided to law enforcement and its clients alike has been phenomenal."

Not only does CARDV have credibility with law enforcement, their representative also are a regular presence in the local court system.

Perhaps more importantly, law enforcement trusts CARDV's employees are qualified to help, Chism added.

"It's imperative for the community and for law enforcement to work with groups with training, experience and ample legal knowledge," he said.

CARDV vets employees extensively. The organization also trains employees in the intricacies of the legal system.

"If you don't understand the system and don't know how to operate in the system (you'll be ineffective as an advocate)," Myers said.

"These are professional organizations, with counselors who have been vetted and specifically trained for this task," Wheeler said of RACS and Cole County Prosecutors Victims Advocate.

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