The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 2, 2013

Local police are learning how to interview traumatized children

Dave Sutor

— Children cannot be talked to like they are little adults following traumatic personal experiences.

Investigators need specialized training to help navigate boys and girls through fear and confusion they might not fully understand.

Vicki Walker, an officer in East Conemaugh Borough’s police department, wanted to learn the skills required to communicate with youngsters during those difficult times. So she took it upon herself to attend the 25th annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas from Aug. 12-15. Walker collected donations and spent her own money to cover the costs.

The payback was gaining knowledge she can use to better serve the community.

“You’ve got to have special training to do this,” Walker said. “There is a huge need to have police officers as forensic interviewers.”

She attended several presentations about how to help victimized children.

Victim No. 1 in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, Aaron Fisher, spoke at the event.

Walker met Christopher Baughman, head of the Pandering Investigation Team and Human Trafficking Task Force in Las Vegas, who has regularly appeared on national cable television and written a true crime book titled “Off the Street.”

“It’s nice to be able to talk to other people about this,” Walker said.

She received financial donations from the Conemaugh Valley Lions Club, Cambria Roofing & Remodeling, Buster’s Sports Bar & Grill, Total Commitment Tattooing and East Conemaugh Borough Council.

“We wanted to be part of this. ... She felt it was something dear to her heart,” said Bob Nies, president of the Lions Club chapter.

Anybody interested in helping to offset Walker’s expenses can contact East Conemaugh Borough’s police department.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at