What is IPC?
IPC stands for ‘Intervene to Protect a Child’ and is part of Mentor’s ‘BeAware’ initiative in collaboration with Durham Constabulary. 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’.
The training 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 notice particular indicators that might prompt them to explore a situation further in order to establish whether a child may be at risk.
Dr Joe Sullivan gave an interview to BBC Radio 4 about IPC which is available here.
Who can benefit from IPC?
Any frontline worker who has contact with members of the public in the course of their work will be better able to identify indicators of sexual exploitation as a result of IPC training. IPC training in the US has led directly to the recovery of hundreds of missing or sexually exploited children and dozens of criminal investigations, and early outcomes in the UK are equally positive.
Police officers, social workers, teachers, council workers, health workers, GP receptionists and professionals in numerous other roles benefit from IPC.
What is the history of IPC?
In 2008, officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS) attended Mentor Forensic’s training with Dr Joe Sullivan, which focuses on understanding offender behaviour through forensic psychology. Using this new understanding, the officers (Department Director Steven McCraw, Lieutenant Derek Prestridge and Texas Ranger Cody Mitchell) realised that it could be applied to the day-to-day duties of their traffic officers, enabling them to more closely notice and assess potential threats to children during the course of their duties:
An FBI press notice dated 10th February 2015 states 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.”
In 2009 the 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 consider child exploitation whilst on their patrols.
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 possessions or adornments 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.
Durham Constabulary and IPC
In 2014, Chief Constable Mike Barton indicated to Dr Sullivan that he was keen for Durham Constabulary to learn how this new training might benefit children in the force area. Subsequently, DC Michel Bostock of Durham’s PPU travelled to Dallas and underwent IPC training with Lieutenant Prestridge, Texas Ranger Mitchell and Dr Sullivan, who delivered the behavioural analysis element of the training. On her return to the UK and in partnership with Mentor Forensics, DC Bostock developed a UK version of IPC.
In December 2014, this new training was delivered to two pilot groups of approximately 12 people. Shortly afterwards, a PCSO who had attended the training identified a child at risk during an unrelated enquiry. The individual concerned was brought to the attention of Children’s Services and the child was safeguarded.
Due to the success of this initial pilot, larger IPC training sessions for 300+ frontline professionals have been held in different locations in the UK. These are multi-agency events, encompassing social workers, probation officers and health visitors, since the training benefits anyone who has contact with members of the public in the course of their work.