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Coping Strategies

Computer forensics discussion. Please ensure that your post is not better suited to one of the forums below (if it is, please post it there instead!)
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Senior Member

Re: Coping Strategies

Post Posted: Jun 26, 19 16:05


After the recent article in the news about West Mids Police asking for volunteers to grade child abuse images, I thought there was some more to this discussion.

Anyone taking up a digital forensics role in law enforcement WILL have to view this sort of material. In the past we have seen dedicated 'grading' officers in police forces employed to grade material, so the digital examiner just focusses on the provenance for that material.

Examiners and grading officers have typically been supported by professional psychologists, where police forces paid to have this service available. With cuts this practice has almost completely disappeared and there are now staff receiving no professional support at all but at least they are being paid for this work!

I would be interested to know how police forces would support staff who are grading material free of charge and what kind of risk assessments have been made around the impact this material will have on their mental well-being. What if a volunteer, an outsider to the organisation and where nobody working with them would see them often enough to notice a 'change', were to then commit a criminal offence? Or perhaps 'just' have a breakdown? With permanent staff we would see each other every day. We were mired in it all the time and we would watch out for each other. These volunteers won't have that camaraderie. They certainly won't be able to talk to anyone else about it.

There's one other point I wanted to raise and would be interested in people's thoughts. The layout of the digital units themselves. Again cuts have contributed to this. When I started out and was working in this area, the room was set up in such a way that we couldn't see anyone else's screens, we only had to look at our material. Now each room has twice as many people as before and from one desk you can see at least a handful of other examiners' screens. As an examiner, there are times when you can focus on artefacts and not look at any images in the job(s) you are working on. With the layout of many units now, there never really is a break. An 8 hour day means being exposed to child abuse material for 8 hours. Before you might have to look at it for 2 hours and be working on other artefacts the other 6.

So adding the packing in of more staff and a consequently less sterile working environment, along with the greatly reduced support for staff, is this a ticking time bomb? Organisations like the police keep talking about mental health but those exposed to this material all day and every day must feel this is nothing more than rhetoric.

Forensic Computer Examiner, London, UK 

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