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Working with indecent or extreme digital material

As technology advances, the nature of crime changes. Forces are having to adapt to this with limited resources, and more officers and staff are taking on responsibilities for digital examination of audio and visual evidence.

Viewing indecent or extreme material can often involve material covering distress and suffering, child sexual exploitation, and terrorism propaganda. This is not easy.

Here are some basic tips to help you, your colleagues, and your supervisors adjust and respond to this hazardous material.


Prepare and be aware.

  • Allocate specific time and take 10 minutes out each hour.
  • Remind yourself: this is to protect the vulnerable and that you can do it, safely.
  • Plan your focus: what do you need to note, assess and record? Stick to it.
  • Use digital or handmade filters to limit your exposure. Separate audio and visual material.
  • Consider wiping your monitor after viewing, or moving to a fresh desk afterwards.


Unease is actually OK.

This material is designed to sexually arouse, evoke fear, or even disgust.

Your brain and body may respond in uncomfortable ways. This is perfectly normal. The reactions will pass, so try not to identify with them. They are not you.

Try temporarily detaching from the material as if it were simulated or fake, if that helps you get through.

Think about all those doing this across the UK: you are part of a great wider team.


Be honest and reflect.

Ignoring or avoiding your reactions will only delay their impact. Talk to your colleagues.

Note down any personal triggers you may have picked up from the material: be aware and maybe share with those close to you.

Watch out for unhelpful coping mechanisms in yourself and others (drinking, starting smoking, over-exercising etc). Suggest time with colleagues.


Now sure how you are doing?

Check in with this handy online tool

When to seek further help and where to go

If you have been working with indecent or extreme digital material and would like to share your own tips and advice, or if you have any concerns for yourself or a colleague, you can:

  • Speak to your line manager
  • Seek advice from your force wellbeing team
  • Call the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
  • Call Occupational Health
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