by Joe Bollig and Olivia Martin
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The initial report of abuse in the church could come from many sources: a concerned teacher or coach, a parent, a pastor or even the victim.
Regardless of the source, however, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas’ response begins with Jan Saylor, report investigator for the archdiocesan office of child and youth protection (OCYP).
Plying her hard-earned skills on behalf of the church since 2015, Saylor is no stranger to investigations.
She has 35 years of experience in law enforcement as a city police officer, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper and a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“When I was an FBI agent in St. Louis,” said Saylor, “I was designated the Crimes Against Children coordinator, so I worked many different cases that involved children — including kidnapping, murder, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.”
Additionally, Saylor oversaw investigations involving the internet exploitation of children while the supervisor of the FBI Cyber Crimes Task Force in the Kansas City field office for over three years.
The investigation procedure
“[My] duty is to investigate allegations of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by employees, priests, clergy, volunteers or anybody who works for the archdiocese,” said Saylor.
This includes suspicions of abuse, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct.
“Anytime I get a phone call, even if it’s not an allegation of abuse, I record it, and it will always be documented for future reference,” said Saylor.
“There are protocols that we follow,” she continued. “If I receive an allegation of abuse directly, I notify Father Riley, the OCYP director, and then ensure the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and law enforcement are notified as required by law. Typically, DCF contacts law enforcement, but we have done both.”
Saylor begins her investigation with whoever made the initial report. She interviews the reporting party and/or victim, as well as the person who has been accused.
Once her investigation is complete, Saylor gives the case file to Father Riley, who facilitates the convening of the Independent Review Board.
The board is an independent body of persons appointed by the archbishop that reviews policies and procedures, reviews allegations of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and consults with the archbishop.
After the board reviews and discusses the case file, it makes recommendations regarding the outcome of the investigation and any further action which may be taken by the archdiocese to the archbishop.
“If an allegation is proved true, believed to be true or, if after our investigation we believe the allegation to be credible or substantiated, the individual against whom the allegation was made is permanently removed from his or her position or ministry within the church,” said Father Riley.
“The most important thing is to protect the child,” said Saylor. “Everyone is given the presumption of innocence, but the church always puts the welfare of the child first.”
While abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult is a crime, not all misconduct is criminal.
In some cases, persons are accused of violating archdiocesan safe practice measures or canon law, but not civil law.
“If it’s not criminal, law enforcement wouldn’t be involved,” said Saylor.
Saylor is limited in the sense that she does not have law enforcement powers. She cannot subpoena records or gain access to police reports (unless the person involved gives it to her), or force people to talk to her.
But she is free to use public information.
“For example, let’s say I learned a suspect had been allegedly investigated for sexual abuse 10 years ago at a public school,” said Saylor.
“I can’t go to that school and say, ‘Give me the records of that person,’ and I can’t go to the local police department and ask for the report,” she continued. “They wouldn’t give it to me unless I got permission from the victim.
“But because of my experience, I can put together at least an understanding of credibility to an allegation and get the information that either substantiates it or not.”
She also cooperates with law enforcement authorities as their investigation allows.
A transparent system
“An important part for us, too, is to show transparency,” said Saylor.
“That’s part of the problem,” she added, “that people believe the church is sweeping things under the rug.
“I don’t know that the current crisis could have been avoided, but I do know that, since I’ve been here, I have great confidence in Archbishop [Joseph F. Naumann] in his adherence to the zero tolerance for abuse of children.”
Saylor further emphasized the importance of not hesitating to contact her with allegations, suspicions or questions.
“It doesn’t mean we will have to investigate, but if people have questions and see something they think could be considered grooming or signs of abuse, they can always call me,” she said.
“They will be heard,” she continued. “It will be addressed and documented. Protocols will be followed.”
“I want people to know that whether they report online, through the confidential report line or other means,” said Saylor, “their allegations will end up with me — someone who is independent, trained to take information and investigate it objectively, and has the requisite skills and experience to do so.
“Because that’s what I’ve done for 35 years.”