As Detective Salcedo describes, “One case changed everything.” In 2007, he responded to a home invasion and sexual assault where the suspect had forced the victim to shower in an attempt to destroy evidence. In her interview, the victim provided information that seemed inconsistent with the crime scene. Detective Salcedo states that although officers and detectives were cynical during that era, and trauma-informed training was just emerging, they believed the victim and pursued every investigative lead. Because of their work, the perpetrator was ultimately identified, prosecuted, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison, plus 60 years.
During the evolving investigation, and prosecution, Detective Salcedo was struck with how easily he and the other responding officers could have dismissed the victim’s report during the very early stages of the investigation when the evidence seemed to be inconsistent with the information provided. He thought of how often this happens to survivors—that the justice system fails them because of misperceptions about inconsistencies, and how that information is often used to question or outright dismiss a victim’s credibility. This realization set him on a mission to completely revamp the sex crimes investigations training, not just for his department, but for the entire Central Florida region.
Since 2012, Detective Salcedo and this survivor have presented this case study at conferences and training academies to encourage system-level reforms. In 2015, Detective Salcedo created the Special Victims Response Team (SVRT) at the Orlando Police Department. The 32-member volunteer team is comprised of patrol officers with advanced training to respond to all calls involving sexual violence. All participants attending his classes, and all members of the SVRT, take a personal pledge that when they respond to a sexual assault victim, they will “Start by Believing.”
Detective Salcedo is not only a visionary changemaker within the criminal justice system, he’s also a valued member of his community. “He’s a rockstar. He jumps in wherever he can help, whether it’s mentoring new detectives, offering community trainings, or trimming the trees at the Victim Service Center,” says JoEllen Revell, Program Director for Victim Service Center of Central Florida. “Everyone knows he’s someone you can count on.”
Thank you, Detective Rick Salcedo, for being a force for good and a true Champion of Change.