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Prince William County Police detectives chosen to work for a higher cause

Detective Matthew Newbauer works in the Prince William County Police Department Special Victims Unit
Sponsored by the Prince William County Police Department, this is the first of six stories in our series that will examine the unique assignments within the Prince William County Police Department.

Special Victims Bureaus aren’t just creations of Primetime TV.

In the Prince William County Police Department, Detective Matthew Newbauer works with a group of detectives dedicated to the public they serve. These are the detectives of the Special Victims Unit, trained to solve cases ranging from sexual crimes against women and children to physical abuse of the elderly.

Newbauer, who has been in law enforcement for nine years, said that while his job is not TV style police work, it isn’t a boring nine-to-five, either.

There is a lot going on in the Special Victims Unit. In addition to the cases reported by patrol officers, reports may come in from Child Protective Services or a mandatory reporter, such as a caregiver or medical professional.

Newbauer has already assisted in 40 cases of his own this year. The detectives in Newbauer’s fast-paced unit work together in every aspect of these sensitive cases, including the collection of evidence, writing search warrants and interviewing witnesses.

“Each detective handles their own assigned cases and also assists others in the same manner,” Newbauer said. “It’s truly a group effort to ensure that each case is properly and thoroughly investigated.”


Forensic interviews are different

The Bureau has 20 detectives and four supervisors working these challenging cases, and they are cross-trained to work in both the Special Victims Unit and Physical Abuse Unit of the Bureau. Criminal justice training of all types is utilized including cyber crime and domestic violence investigation to forensic child interviewing. Newbauer aids his co-workers, using his skill as a child forensic interviewer.

Forensic interviews are different from other types of interviews, such as those for property crime cases. The interviewer must connect with the victim, and ask questions like, “Can you help me understand what you remember about your experience?” With children, who are interviewed in a special room with more comfortable chairs and a flip chart with markers to draw with, the approach must be even more subtle. Being questioned by the police “is an event they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Newbauer said. “There’s a weight to that that goes beyond a nine-to-five job.”

These detectives don’t do this work for any fame or the thrill of carrying a badge and a gun. These detectives have chosen to work for a higher cause.

According to Newbauer, “There is a sacred responsibility to anyone who enters this profession to maintain the highest standard of ethics while working harder than they ever thought they could to serve their community. This is not a profession for those who feel entitled to recognition. This is a profession for those few people who desire to commit their lives for the highest cause of service and to protect people from those who prey upon the innocent.”

Part of a professional family

In return, the Detective and his colleagues are rewarded by being part of a professional family fighting together to help victims during what might be the most difficult moments in their lives.

When asked to give an example, Newbauer shared pieces of his most memorable case. While he could not reveal specifics, he spoke of one witness’s bravery.

The witness looked past the “personal ramifications” to make sure the child victim was identified and treated. “I wasn’t the hero of this case; that witness was. We should all aspire to be that person and do the right thing even when it’s scary. That’s true courage.”


The capacity for compassion and empathy

The Detective had a few words of advice for those interested in the profession: “I would tell them that first of all, you have to have the capacity for compassion and empathy for those that have endured abuse. You have to shake off any victim-blaming mentality that our culture supports and be prepared to truly listen to the story of a victim.”

Detectives must get over the shock of what comes along with the investigations.

He also shared the need for a bit of Zen.

“Because of the nature of these investigations,” he said, “it is vital that you come to work prepared to uncover “Because of the nature of these investigations,” he said, “it is vital that you come to work prepared to uncover truth, and you leave work prepared to rediscover yourself. Work-life balance is essential; it will help you be the best investigator at work and the best parent/spouse/partner at home.”

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I complete an investigation and I know that the hard work and countless hours I’ve put into the case has helped a defenseless person escape their abuser and find a little bit of justice,” Newbauer said. “If that’s something that motivates you, then this is your calling.”

The Prince William County Police Department continually seeks qualified applicants for Police Officer I and Certified Officers. Apply today at

Read more from our series

How a love for animals and a vet degree spawned a career as a Prince William County Police officer

Prince William on patrol: ‘This Job is About Integrity’

Prince William County Police Digital Forensics team puts heart, soul, and mind into solving cases

How a love for animals and a vet degree spawned a career as a Prince William County Police officer


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