Katie Hausfeld (Chicago) gives advice for enhancing trial advocacy skills to police prosecutors.
In early February 2017, I was fortunate to participate in one of the most meaningful projects in my legal career to date. I, along with my colleagues Alistair Drummond (Edinburgh), Kiera Gans (New York) and Rob Sherman (Boston), traveled to Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago to conduct a training session on trial advocacy skills for more than 20 police prosecutors from around the country. The training was organized and conducted in partnership with Joanne Richardson and Catherine Perkins from the National Center for State Courts, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Justice Sector Assistance Program, and funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the US Department of State.
During our first two days, Joanne, a native of Trinidad, organized an introduction to the judicial system in Trinidad and Tobago. This included tours of the jail, the courts, a meeting with the Chief Justice and a day of observing various police prosecutors in action. Due to a shortage of qualified prosecutors in the region, certain police officers are tasked with prosecuting a large number of criminal matters throughout the country, including assaults and batteries, robbery, and drug cases. While the police prosecutors are all immensely talented and smart, they receive little training on trial advocacy skills and struggle with an overwhelming case load, often being handed a case to try that day as they walk into the courtroom.
Over the course of three days, we worked with the police prosecutors, through a combination of lectures and smaller hands-on workshops, to provide them with tips and tricks to enhance their trial advocacy skills. Each police officer was videotaped performing the techniques they learned and received individual feedback on their performance. We also spent time discussing the unique challenges the police prosecutors face when preparing their cases with limited time and resources. While the training was focused on “best practices,” we brainstormed with the police prosecutors to address these limitations while still implementing the techniques they were taught.
On our last day, the police officers presented each of us with gifts and cards, expressing how grateful they were for the experience. The only “criticism” we heard was that the training wasn’t long enough! It brought tears to my eyes to hear the impact our training made. Their confidence in their own skills was bolstered and they were excited to utilize the techniques they had learned in order to provide the best possible advocacy to the victims they represent.
I loved every minute of my time in Trinidad and Tobago. Not only was the work with the police prosecutors incredibly rewarding, but Joanne ensured we had the opportunity to experience the food and culture of Trinidad and Tobago in the evenings. From a steel drum band concert to dinner with a top prosecutor over delicious local cuisine, it truly was a week to remember!