• IPC (‘Intervene to Protect a Child’) helps frontline professionals spot signs of sexual abuse and exploitation
  • IPC has seen demonstrable success in US
  • IPC is part of Mentor ‘BeAware’

An innovative child protection training programme that has prompted more than fifty criminal investigations in the United States has been delivered in the UK for the first time this week, 4 April 2015.

‘Intervene to Protect a Child’ (IPC), delivered as part of Mentor Forensic’s ‘BeAware’ initiative, sensitises frontline professionals to potential child exploitation by applying the principles of forensic behavioural analysis to their routine interactions. It enables police officers, social workers, teachers and others to explore a situation further in order to establish whether a child may be at risk.

Durham Constabulary is the first UK force to adopt IPC, bringing police officers together with more than 250 multi-agency frontline professionals from across the North East to undertake the training.

The concept of ‘Intervene to Protect a Child’ originated in 2008 in Texas, United States, where it is known as ‘Interdiction for the Protection of Children’. In 2009 the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS) launched the first IPC training course. The aim was to encourage officers who were already alert to the possibility of firearms, drugs and other criminality to also be more alert to possible child exploitation whilst on their patrols.

The FBI notes that these officers “envisioned the need for a new course to teach troopers how to observe suspicious behaviors associated with missing children and child abduction offenses. While TXDPS troopers were well-trained and highly proficient in making observations of suspicious behaviors leading to arrests and successful interdictions of illicit drugs, weapons, and currency, they lacked training and experience in working child victimization cases.”[1]

Through the training, officers become sensitised to behavioural and physical indicators of child exploitation.

These indicators can be global or specific to a particular locality. For example, certain types of tattoos, photographs and literature which may not immediately have triggered concern previously are now being interpreted by officers trained in IPC as symbolising a sexual interest in children.

Similarly, IPC training enables officers to identify behaviours which might prompt them to consider questioning an individual about their relationship with a child in their care, for example, even if that individual had been intercepted for a completely different reason.

The US training has led directly to a significant number of successes, including fifty criminal investigations involving the possession of child abuse images, sexual assault of a child, human trafficking, enticing a child, and abduction; it has also led to the recovery of 160 missing, exploited or at-risk children. Early successes in Durham following pilot training sessions in December 2014 and February 2015 indicate that it will have the same impact in the UK.

Mentor Forensic Services recognised the potential to extend IPC training to support not only UK police officers but also frontline professionals from a range of sectors in which child protection expertise is vital. These include education, social care, the NHS and probation. Mentor then partnered with Durham Police to offer the first UK-based IPC training event.

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Durham Constabulary is leading the way in adopting this pioneering training delivered by Joe.

“As a result I’m convinced that my officers on the frontline will be better equipped to spot the vital signs which may protect a child from harm.”

Dr Joe Sullivan is Mentor Forensic’s co-Director and renowned expert who has assisted police forces internationally with investigations into the sexually motivated abduction, murder and assault of children. He said:

[1] FBI 2015. Press noticed dated 10th February 2015: http://leb.fbi.gov/2015/february/interdiction-for-the-protection-of-children

“The ‘Intervene to Protect a Child’ training empowers frontline professionals who are not child protection specialists to view their everyday, routine interactions with members of the public through a different lens. Whether they work in a medical setting, in a school, in law enforcement, in a library or with children in any capacity, it’s about igniting a professional curiosity that could ultimately lead to a child being safeguarded.

“April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States and it feels particularly appropriate that this training has been delivered here in the UK at this time.”

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