Investigating Cults

WEST LIBERTY – Witches, violence and rituals were common topics Thursday, as about 30 local police officers learned about the history and activity of cults.

Hosted by West Liberty State College’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Campus Safety, the program, which was presented in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex, offered eight hours of in-service training to police officers.

West Liberty Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Johnette McCracken said the seminar focused on the historical development of cult activities in the United States, provided police officers with general information related to cult activity, aided officers in the techniques utilized in the investigation of cult activities and exposed officers to laws that outline legal and illegal cult activities.

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“There’s actually been a new rise in cult activities,” she noted. “We’re calling them domestic terrorism. They’re doing harmful things to people in the U.S. and in other countries. We’re talking about historical accounts of cults, witchcraft, vampires and the gothic movement.”

Not all cults are bad or illegal, McCracken also pointed out. Many of them, however, involve illegal activity, such as animal sacrifices and pedophilia.

“Some of these stem out to terrorist types of activity,” she continued. “It’s a matter of knowing what you’re looking at with symbols and sacrifices.”

Another important element, she added, is the entrapment of individuals in cult activity.

“We talk about how people get into these cultures,” McCracken continued. “The police officers may be able to prevent young people from entering the cults.”

Also during the program, West Liberty State College police officer David McCracken shared his experiences of dealing with cult activity.

“Some of the things we worry about are blood and body parts,” he said. “You have to be careful not to be contaminated with blood-borne pathogens. When you walk into a crime scene, step back and say, ‘Wait, is this organized crime or just a bunch of high school kids?'”

David McCracken added that he was happy to be part of the program because officers in the Northern Panhandle rarely have the opportunity to attend in-service training in the area. They usually have to travel to Morgantown or Charleston to receive their training hours.

Johnette McCracken said police officers in West Virginia are required to have 16 hours of in-service training per year, while supervisors must have 24 hours of training per year.

Diana Crutchfield, attorney-at-law and assistant professor of criminal justice at West Liberty; William Goldbaugh, patrolman supervisor with the Wheeling Police Department; and Michael Marshall, professor of psychology at West Liberty, also made presentations during the seminar.

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Wheeling News-Register, USA
Nov. 5, 2004
April Leiffer

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday November 5, 2004.
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