A few hours before Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to talk health care yesterday, he held a briefing in the Judiciary Committee hearing room to discuss "the human sex trafficking crisis." Among the invited speakers was Dallas Police Department Sgt. Byron Fassett, who, in 2005, created the department's High Risk Victim and Trafficking Unit and child exploitation squad, which is charged with ID'ing serial runaways and juvenile prostitutes and offering them shelter and counseling.
Wyden, who's introducing legislation that would create a grant-funded pilot program more or less based on the DPD's efforts, has posted the entirety of the hearing here -- it runs 77 minutes, with Fassett beginning his testimony at the 41:45 mark. But the senator gives the 29-year DPD vet a glowing introduction at the six-minute mark: "The more you learn about what the sergeant has done in Dallas, you get the sense that what he's accomplished in Dallas and Fort Worth is something you ought to take nationally and, in fact, internationally. As a law-enforcement official, he has been illustrative of the fact he wants to do this in a multi-disciplinary way, working with folks in the social service agencies, and to their credit, the folks in the social service agencies agency want to team up with law enforcement, because it's gonna take that kind of effort to get this right and send a message to the pimps ... that business as usual will be no longer."
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When it's his turn to speak, and he is indeed the "spellbinding" speaker Wyden advertises him to be, Fassett addresses the origins of the unit ("we weren't happy with our response") and pushes for the legislation. When it comes to "the forgotten children," he says, "no longer will we -- the system, society -- have a choice as to whether we're going to deal with them or what services we're going to offer to them."