‘Start by believing:’ UCF police sex assault detective learned from mistakes, teaches others

Police detective teaches classes on how to respond to sexual assault cases

ORLANDO, Fla. – When it comes to sex crimes, the University of Central Florida Police Department doesn’t mince words: victims come first.

That might seem obvious, but some police departments have had a history of not taking sexual violence survivors seriously.

At UCF police, a veteran sex crimes detective was hired in 2016 to set the culture straight after he learned from his own mistakes.

Detective Rick Salcedo said sexual violence is the most underreported crime.

Salcedo is called out to a sex crime scene on the UCF campus surprisingly only about four times a year.

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“This is one of the largest universities in the country, it has to happen,” Salcedo said. “It’s got to happen, it’s just not reported. They [victims] think they’re not going to be believed so they do not report these cases, not as often as they’d like for them to report it.”

Salcedo was hired by the UCF Police Department in 2016 by then-Assistant Chief Carl Metzger to make sure that never happens at UCF.

[INSIDER EXTRA: Hear more from Detective Rick Salcedo]

Before that, in his quarter-century career at the Orlando Police Department, Salcedo learned how it did happen.

“In the past when people didn’t remember all the details of a case or they couldn’t tell us a story in chronological order, we might not believe that they’re being truthful with us,” Salcedo. “Because who wouldn’t remember details about what just happened to you an hour or two ago.”

As the crime scene detective in a 2007 Orlando rape case, Salcedo said he didn’t believe the victim at first because she claimed she was forced to shower after the assault and the shower wasn’t wet. Salcedo soon discovered the victim was so traumatized she forgot to explain she’d also been forced to dry the shower.

What did he learn from that?

“That we need to start by believing,” Salcedo said. “But keep in mind none of us received any type of training on how to respond to sexual assault cases.”

Since then, Salcedo has been teaching advanced courses on sexual violence cases at three local police academies.

He’s being honored this year by the advocacy group End Violence Against Women International as a “Champion of Change” specifically for that 2007 case.

And Salcedo has been mentoring and sharing learned lessons with other UCF police detectives and officers, having them all sign a pledge that every time and in every case, they will start by believing the victim.

“I’m also teaching them the mistakes I’ve made,” Salcedo said. “Because we learn from what we did wrong rather than what we did right.”

Salcedo wants students and staff to know that the Victim Services building just down the road from the UCF Police Department will assist 24 hours a day if they have been through something traumatic. The first thing advocates will do is explain the philosophy at UCF that they believe the victim first.

Last year, 400 people went to Victim Services but only a fraction ever ended up at the police department to report what happened to them.

Salcedo said every cadet in Florida is now required to get trauma-informed training when they go through a police academy.

At UCF PD, every new officer gets that same training directly from Detective Salcedo.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.