Bill Mitchell: Former Federal Agent Begins New Role in Service of the Church
by Jennifer Schack
Bill Mitchell is a former federal agent for the U.S. Department of Labor and a parishioner of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Delhi. He is also the new Safe Environment Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Mitchell considers his new role both a blessing and an opportunity for service. “I was blessed that the timing worked out for me to apply for this job. I see it as an opportunity for me to give back. After leaving my former career as a federal agent for 33 years, it has been a blessing to move into this role,” he said.
He continued, “My experience as a federal agent taught me to be objective and thorough, be able to ask the tough questions, review evidence objectively, deal with only the facts of each situation and render an objective decision based on the testimony and evidence.”
The safety of all of God’s children has been at the forefront of archdiocesan policy for decades. The Church first promulgated the Decree on Child Protection in 1993. The robust set of policies and procedures set forth in the Decree requires a full-time employee to ensure that all steps are being taken to protect children in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Mitchell observed, “I don’t think people realize all of the policies and safety checks in place at the archdiocese. And, in addition to my role, there are more than 360 safe environment coordinators in parishes and schools throughout the archdiocese working to ensure safety each day.”
Responding to the hundreds of safe environment coordinators is just one of Mitchell’s many responsibilities. He also oversees the required background checks on all clerics, employees and volunteers; the ongoing training for clerics, employees and volunteers to recognize the signs of abuse of children; and the means and procedures for reporting suspected abuse. He ensures the immediate reporting of all allegations of abuse to civil authorities. He also serves as an ex-officio member of the review board that assists the archbishop in responding to allegations of abuse. Mitchell is also involved in training children at Catholics schools and in religious education programs about the warning signs of abuse. He also coordinates the yearly United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) independent audit of policies and procedures.
According to Mitchell, the annual independent review has favorably assessed the archdiocese’s efforts towards maintaining a safe environment. “The Archdiocese of Cincinnati takes safe environment procedures very seriously,” he said. “We have been compliant in every audit by the USCCB since 2006.”
Anyone who suspects abuse can, in addition to reporting it to civil authorities, make a report directly to the archdiocese. In recent years, two new online reporting systems have been implemented: EthicsPoint and CBAR (Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting). Both systems alert the archdiocese of new reports immediately. The Report Misconduct link is available at catholicaoc.org.
Once someone makes a report of abuse in EthicsPoints, Mitchell is notified immediately and tasked with ensuring that the matter is thoroughly addressed.
“The first thing I do is make sure the report was made to the local authorities. That is the first thing we do with any abuse allegation. We want to make sure the local authorities have the report of the issue. Quite often, an investigation has been started at the school or parish, but, in addition, the local authorities will often want to begin an investigation. My role is to stay on top of the situation. I’ll talk to Children’s Services or the police detective assigned to the case. If we do find an allegation that has been substantiated, we are going to make sure the individual doesn’t work anywhere in the archdiocese, not just at that particular location,” Mitchell said.
If you see something, say something. Report any concerns you have about the abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult to the civil authorities. Under the new leadership and direction of Mitchell, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati remains committed to ensuring a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults and committed to continuing to support victims with assistance and prayer.
Detailed information about the Decree on Child Protection, VIRTUS certification, background checks and the Review Board can also all be found on the web page: www.catholicaoc.org/restoring-trust