Any investigator faced with an alleged occult crime must be prepared to face these barriers and to devise some sort of strategy to overcome each hurdle as it arises.
The Law Enforcement Role
So just what are the law enforcer's roles in regard to occult crime? The major occult-related law enforcement roles can be logically placed into two functional categories of policing: maintaining order and enforcing the law.
* Maintaining order - law enforcers may be called upon to provide a protection role to maintain the public order.
* Enforcing the law - law enforcers may be involved in an investigation role to enforce the law and help bring a suspect to trial.
As bizarre as it may seem to some law enforcers, they may be called upon to provide security for an occult ceremonial gathering if members have been threatened, persecuted or intimidated by other citizens. Such requests are rare primarily because most occultists - especially Satanists and Cultural Spiritualists - generally meet in secret locations which are rarely known to either the general public or law enforcement.
It is somewhat more common for law enforcers to provide such protection for Neo-Pagan festivals which sometimes are held in communities where citizens are radically opposed to the belief and behavior systems of the celebrants. In these cases, it becomes the law enforcer's job to protect the peace of the greater community by "keeping the lid" on any potential confrontations between participants and citizens who may misunderstand and fear the event and what it represents.
The protection role can and does present a real problem for some law enforcers.
First, if they are unfamiliar with the belief systems of the particular group, their law enforcement role and possible actions may be tainted by personal perceptions, and perhaps, by the misunderstanding and fear shared by other citizens.
Second, if they are familiar with, but morally and / or spiritually opposed to, the group's belief system, their actions also run the risk of being subjectively tainted.
At least one recent study examined police perceptions of persons with occult belief systems as well as the perceptions of such practitioners about the police, finding that "we have a situation in which two antagonistic groups are perceiving each other through a morass of expectations and associated legends. Their preconceptions of each other consequently influence their actions in regard to the other, and their interpretations of the opposing group's behavior." (Guinee, 1987:16.) The accompanying box provides an example of how such misinterpretation and misinformation can be blown out of proportion, thus becoming a major law enforcement problem.
So what should law enforcers do in this situation? The options presented below are strikingly similar to those available to law enforcers involved with any gathering of activists --Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, or gay rights activists whose belief systems and behavior may cause the greater community to react fearfully and perhaps criminally.
First and foremost, if a law enforcer's personal religious convictions conflict with those of the group he or she is assigned to protect, then it is his or her professional obligation to decide whether they can objectively handle the case.
Second, if the assigned officers have enough lead time prior to the event, they can learn about the group's beliefs, behaviors, symbols, and rituals. Such information can be quickly gained from several sources: another officer in the department who has attended an occult training seminar; a phone call to a law enforcement specialist in another jurisdiction or to a specializing organization (see the resource section at the end of this chapter for such individuals); or direct but friendly contact with a member of the group in which the officer states his or her educational rather than enforcement mission.
Third, again if time is available and if the community is one in which this approach would "work", the department can sponsor a community meeting inviting interested members to learn and ask questions about the group's belief system, activities, symbols and rituals to try and dispel fears and possible confrontations, as well as contain rumors.
Since occult crime has only recently become a specialized area of criminal activity, law enforcers are gradually learning how to approach an investigation. Thus, there are some important points to keep in mind prior to conducting any investigation.
First, investigators are obligated to address the issue of the perpetrators occult affiliation only if it is clear that the crime was committed in direct relation to his or her belief system.
Second, as veteran investigator Sandi Gallant says, there is really only one thing that "has become abundantly clear" about occult crime investigation: Traditional investigative responses have not provided clear cut answers in these cases." (Galiant, 1988.) In other words, if traditional methods of investigation are used, law enforcers get locked into traditional responses. Officer Gallant suggests that law enforcers have to