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In Harm's Way: Duty of Care for Child Exploitation and Pornography Investigators

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 78 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2009 Pages: 20-29
Meredith Krause Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2009
10 pages
This article examines the features of the stress experienced by police officers who investigate online child exploitation and pornography and offers recommendations for procedural and organizational safeguards that can help these officers cope with the various stressors associated with the investigation of these crimes.
Officers who investigate cases of child exploitation and pornography are repeatedly exposed to images of the abusive sexual treatment of children as they collect evidence, close investigations, and prepare for trial. This adds to the demands of law enforcement that they regularly experience, thus posing a significant risk for psychological stress and occupational dysfunction. Due to the rapid growth in the number of officers engaged in child exploitation and pornography investigations, law enforcement agencies have seen an increase in tragic personal, professional, and familial outcomes among these officers. In response to these concerns, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program (SCLEAP) has adapted the peer support framework to meet the needs of State and local law enforcement personnel engaged in the State’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The initial team of 12 investigators and attorneys will receive ongoing training in the peer support method, complemented by administrative and clinical support from SCLEAP members. The team offers confidential and voluntary assistance to officers under personal or job-related stressors. The team plans to engage in proactive outreach efforts (e.g., task force meetings and informal social gatherings) intended to increase awareness of stressors involved in the work and encourage help-seeking, camaraderie, and cohesion among ICAC members. Among the recommendations offered in this article for dealing with the stress of this ongoing specialized work are the management of the amount of time spent online or otherwise viewing disturbing images of child sexual abuse and facilitation of transfer to a new assignment. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 22 notes