Thankful for my time in ICAC…
Looking back at my time in ICAC I am thankful for having been associated with such a remarkable program. I was honored to work with some of the most dedicated and self-motivated individuals in law enforcement. The group included sworn and civilian working as investigators, forensic examiners, prosecutors and analysts.
I am thankful to have worked with patrol officers and investigators who recognized the primary goal of ICAC was to rescue the children and end the nightmare of sexual exploitation they were living. It never ceased to amaze me the number of hours these officers would work to complete their investigations. They would attend briefings for enforcement action at four-thirty or five in the morning and work ten or twelve hours to complete their tasks. During one operation the investigators had to work in hazmat suits, complete with self-contained breathing apparatus, due to the decay at the primary scene. Upon completion of the search, the residence was condemned and torn down forty-eight hours later. The only concern voiced by those investigators was wanting to know if the evidence they found would stop the victimization.
I am thankful for the forensic examiners and their need to work the data and solve the puzzles to find the corroborating evidence. Many of the forensic examiners were civilians with a background in Information Technology. Most understood their field as it related to computers, networks, and encryption but not the sexual exploitation of children. They were quick learners and became invaluable members of the investigative teams. I witnessed examiners spending a day or a week working to crack the security protecting the data, and ultimately gaining access. This allowed them to begin the process of finding the necessary images, videos, text documents or rebuilt webpages that would identify victims and convict the offender. I saw how they would get lost in that search and not give thought to their own needs or safety. In one case, the examiner accompanied the team to a remote location and began the search on scene. The location did not have adequate lighting but she setup her equipment and started working. After a little while sunlight poured into the room and she was able to see some of the furniture in the room. About this time something crawled across her shoes, but due to the limited lighting there was no way to tell if it was a cat, a small dog or some other pet. At this time she saw about a dozen clear plastic boxes stacked on the desk. Each box contained one snake, and suddenly she realized what must have crawled across her feet. The only request made was to move to another location so they could continue the search. We moved the examination to the local sheriff’s department.
I am thankful for the prosecutors who were assigned to work our cases. Some of the prosecutors came from traffic court, some from property crimes and others from crimes against the person. Most thought they knew what prosecuting crimes of child sexual exploitation would entail, but they learned these cases and these offenders went far beyond the depravity most prosecutors expected. It is not unusual for prosecutors, investigators, and forensic examiners to have a confrontational working relationship where the best prosecution is born out of that confrontation. In the ICAC world I saw this relationship grow from confrontational to collaboration. Prosecutors attending trainings, observing the service of search warrants, learning operating systems, networking protocols and computer forensic procedures. Armed with this new knowledge the prosecutors provided invaluable assistance in drafting search warrants, identifying key points to prove knowledge and intent to commit the crime. I had the pleasure of watching prosecutors as they examined and cross examined witnesses. In addition to their work on search warrants and court appearances, our ICAC prosecutors were instrumental in drafting new legislation. They helped reconciled laws from the sixties, seventies and eighties with the technology of today’s world.
I am thankful for the analysts and their need to understand the how, why, when and where of thousands of Cybertips. Their organizational skills that made it easy to track the status of each tip as it made its way through the system. Our analysts also helped deliver our Internet Safety message to students, parents and teachers. In the beginning one person working Internet Safety as a part time assignment could handle all the requests, but as the Internet grew and became an everyday necessity for children so did the popularity of this program. Today it takes two full time Internet Safety Specialists to keep up with the demand which at times has them being requested to teach eight to twelve months in advance.
Looking back, I am most thankful for my time in ICAC because I was fortunate enough to be associated with some of the most inspiring people in law enforcement.