Intake Process and Intake Officers
The Intake Officer starts the Title IV process with the receipt of a complaint. Framers of Title IV and those who train others in facilitating Title IV processes emphasize that handling the receipt of a complaint is one of the most critical, challenging, and important ways a Complainant may be heard. A complaint can come verbally, through the mail, in person, or it may be delivered by another person. It is vital that the Intake Officer understand all methods are of equal importance.
Diocese of Connecticut Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban has trained Intake and Disciplinary officers throughout the wider church and offered considerable research, writing, and training for the House of Bishops. She says an Intake Officer must have a thorough understanding of the entire Title IV structure and process. He or she must know boundaries of duty and how to listen. He or she must know what questions to ask without taking on the tasks that are to be done by an investigator. It is important to remember this step is an initial inquiry rather than a full investigation, and for the sake of the Complainant and others affected by the claim, it must be accomplished promptly.
The Intake Officer’s report becomes the basis of the decision to go forward in the process or to recommend dismissing the case, both in consultation with the bishop of the diocese. The decision to go forward is based on only one consideration: If the facts or incident reported to the Intake Officer were to be assumed true, does the Offense rise to a Title IV level? The Intake Officer does not decide if the complaint describes actions that are factually true. This is a determination made later in the process.
Of equal importance is the decision to dismiss. The Intake Officer has to be versed on the appeal process if an appeal is desired by the Complainant.
The Intake Officer’s report may lead to a dismissal because the alleged Offense does not rise to a Title IV level. However, the report can still be vital to a bishop’s decision to discipline a cleric or otherwise provide an appropriate Pastoral Response. A bishop has the authority to deal with non-Title IV offenses. The report might identify behavior that could develop into a Title IV offense if not corrected, or it could offer an opportunity to settle personality disputes that interrupt ministry but are not canonical Title IV offenses.
The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi of Utah says sometimes the Complainant’s main desire is to know that he or she is seriously listened to regarding a matter by the church. The opportunity for someone who is hurting to talk, along with the Intake Officer’s ability to listen carefully and take detailed notes, can serve to allow a bishop to handle a matter prior to a full process. Being heard is, in itself, consistent with the pastoral and theological foundation of Title IV.
The bishop holds the ability to present a resolution to a Title IV proceeding in virtually every step, including a decision not to proceed from the intake step (after consultation with the Intake Officer and viewing the report.) Therefore, longtime Title IV trainer Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban says best practices call for an arm’s-length relationship between the Intake Officer and the bishop. Canon Hammeal-Urban was once an Intake Officer and says it was difficult to be both on the bishop’s staff and to serve as Intake Officer. She also believes dioceses are well served by having several Intake Officers, including Intake Officers who are not on the bishop's staff and Intake Officers who are not clerics. This allows Complainants to feel a little more comfortable in the option to take a Complaint to someone of the same gender or other demographic affinities.
Canon Hammeal-Urban concludes that it is important that Intake Officers remain up-to-date on their training and have a support group for continuing education. She emphasizes such a group is not there to discuss specific cases, but rather the Title IV process.