County Sexual Assault Interagency Council wins state award

The Isanti County Sexual Assault Interagency Council won the 2012 Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association (MN/SCIA) Department of the Year Award.

Isanti County Victim Services Coordinator Brenda Skogman presented the plaque and explained the award to the Isanti County Board during the meeting Oct. 17.

The Isanti County Sexual Assault Interagency Council won the 2012 Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association Department of the Year award. Pictured, from left, are Megan Hawkinson, Lynn Zierden, Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager, Casey Casper, Cambridge Police Department detective Vern Johnson, Cheryl Terhaar, Isanti County Assistant Attorney Stacy St. George, Victim services coordinator Brenda Skogman and Isanti County Sheriff’s Department investigator Lisa Lovering.

The Isanti County Sexual Assault Interagency Council won the 2012 Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association Department of the Year award. Pictured, from left, are Megan Hawkinson, Lynn Zierden, Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager, Casey Casper, Cambridge Police Department detective Vern Johnson, Cheryl Terhaar, Isanti County Assistant Attorney Stacy St. George, Victim services coordinator Brenda Skogman and Isanti County Sheriff’s Department investigator Lisa Lovering.

“I was very excited,” Skogman said about how she felt when she found out the council won. She attended the MN/SCIA Fall Conference award banquet dinner Oct. 3 at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn., to accept the award.

“The Isanti County Sexual Assault Interagency Council is a multi-disciplinary team that was established in 2000 and has been instrumental in the implantation, development and improvements to our protocol and providing education to others on the team,” Skogman wrote in the nomination form. “Our multidisciplinary team consists of law enforcement, child protection, probation, victim services, therapists, ER staff and advocates.”

The team meets monthly to discuss issues that need to be addressed within the community. Their mission is to build a safer community by utilizing a best practice protocol to improve the response to victims of sexual assault and child abuse.

“We’ve worked very hard since 2000,” Skogman told Commissioners.

The team from Isanti County that Skogman nominated includes Assistant Isanti County Attorney Stacy St. George, Isanti County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Lisa Lovering, Cambridge Police Department Investigator Vern Johnson and Isanti County Family Services Child Protection Workers Lynn Zierden and Mary Holada.

“These people are very involved in their team and have had a large impact on the development and implementation of the current protocol and investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases in Isanti County,” Skogman wrote. “They are truly a team and are passionate about these cases and assisting the victims through the process.”

The Isanti County Sexual Assault Interagency Council has focused on community development and programming to enhance their response to child physical and sexual abuse.

In the past two years, the team has:

• Developed peer review for the forensic interviews in the county
• Rewrote protocol to include chapters on child abuse and sexual abuse
• Designed a new, child-friendly interview room which includes the interview room, observation room and waiting room
• Successfully advocated for a new law enforcement position for Internet crimes investigator
• Worked closely with Cambridge Medical Center to change their response to sexual assaults and child abuse that enter into their ER
• Obtained money for the equipment for the hospital to utilize in sexual assault cases such as a dryer, storage cabinet, clothes for victims and refrigerator to store the sexual assault kits

“Thank you so much for what you do,” Commissioner Susan Morris said. “Protecting children is so important and it’s one of those parts of county government that’s invisible. Nobody knows that it’s there, but we do appreciate your work. Thank you so much and congratulations.”

On behalf of the Isanti County Board, Chairman George Larson thanked Skogman and the entire council for their work.

In other action, the board:

• Approved updating the Century Link contract to improve the 911 system for a total of $54,709. “We’ve had the system for about five years,” Sheriff Russ Monson said. “It’s time for the upgrade so we can move forward with the new technology that’s coming in.”

• Accepted a grant of $2,298 from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. Veteran’s Service Officer Jim Rostberg said the grant is designated for community outreach and must be spent by May 31, 2013.

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