I’ve been in law enforcement for over 20 years and have been with the VT-ICAC for over 10 years. My assignment to the ICAC has been part time, in that I use to be able to dedicate part of my time to ICAC related functions. In a way this has allowed me to stay active in the ICAC for as long as I have been, due to being able to work on other investigations that have nothing to do with child exploitation. Giving myself a mental break and time away from all the horrible that is child exploitation. I retired from that job in December 2015 and took job with a full time assignment to the ICAC task force.
My new assignment is much different. I am assigned full time to the ICAC- and will hopefully keep the assignment for years to come. With that being said, longevity is key. If I burn out, then I am no longer able to work effectively at my new assignment. I need to think of the impacts this assignment will have on me over time and be smart about how I work. Before I took the job I had some discussions with the other detective I would work with to get a feel for the support we would receive. He let me know that the office administration recognizes that an assignment to the ICAC is difficult in that the subject mater is so horrible. With that, the position has significant flexibility to allow me to take care of myself. For example if I’ve had a tough day I have the ability to leave early without question. Also our (ICAC) mental health professional has said time and time again that this work is intense, both mentally and emotionally and if i didn’t pace myself it would be unrealistic to expect to remain effective in this position long term. the ugly word…”burnout”. It can be short term, as in “I am fried crispy because of that last case”. With the proper support a person can bounce back pretty quickly. Left unchecked and unwittingly allowing a series of smaller “burnouts” pile up it will be harder to shake it off, potentially leaving a lasting mark on the person. Having been there once in my career I have no will or want to ever return there. He said that with the flexibility that my new position offers and I should take breaks through out the day, among other things. That I should recognize the intensity of the work and make sure that it doesn’t consume all of my resources.
The shift between my old job and new job has been challenging at times, as I am surrounded by child exploitation investigations. If my new position didn’t have the flexibility I may not have taken the job, as it’s that important to me. It allows me to take control of the situation without having to feel like I need to explain it or justify it to someone, take a more proactive approach. It’s vitally important for people investigating/prosecuting child exploitation to recognize the demands of the assignment. It’s even more important for their supervisors and administrators to recognize this and give their investigators, digital forensic examiners, prosecutors, victim’s advocates, and anyone who touches a child exploitation investigations the ability and flexibility to take breaks, whether they are short or long.