Lessons to my younger self: insights from 40 years in law enforcement

3 October, 2023

By Jon Rouse, founding partner at Onemi-Global Solutions

Lessons to my younger self: insights from 40 years in law enforcement

As I approach nearly four decades working within the field of Law Enforcement, I can’t help but reflect on the journey that has brought me here today.

From starting in general police duties to transitioning into the challenging field of criminal investigation, my path has been filled with experiences that have shaped not only my career but also my perspective on law enforcement. Below, I’m sharing some of the most significant lessons I’ve learned, and the insights that I wish I’d known earlier.

The importance of embracing change and technology

Our responsibility as law enforcement officers is to embrace technology to prevent abuse. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, adaptability and forward-thinking strategies are essential.

In the 1980s, I embarked on my journey in law enforcement, where I worked on a whole host of cases, from homicides to drug-related crimes and offences against individuals. This helped me prepare for a career filled with challenges and changes at a time when technology was limited.

In 1996, I was promoted to the role of detective sergeant and joined the child abuse unit. At the time, I had a one-year-old daughter, which added a layer of complexity to my work. It became a psychological challenge for me, but it also became a driving force behind my commitment to protecting children.

During this period, I found myself developing a passionate interest in technology. HTML coding and building PCs became more than just a hobby; they positioned me well for the significant changes the internet would bring to our field. It was in 2001 that I was tasked by the management team to set up an online capability to combat emerging online threats. What began as a team of four grew over the next 18 years to 40 dedicated professionals targeting offenders across every online platform.

Forging networks and seeking alternative strategies

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned is that it takes a network to defeat a network. Establishing and maintaining a global network has been crucial throughout my journey. The fight against worldwide abuse demands collaboration and information sharing on a global scale.

Also, arrests alone are not always enough to combat certain types of crimes, like those that can be easily spread online. I’ve come to understand and truly appreciate the need for a multitude of intervention methods. Education, prevention, engagement, disruption and programs like the UK’s Stop It Now initiative are excellent examples of new highly effective preventative techniques.

The impact on non-offending partners

Another unexpected lesson I’ve learned is the profound impact on non-offending partners when arrests are made. Often, these partners are left to grapple with the aftermath with little-to-no mental support, challenged financially, and without any offers to talk through this devastating event in their lives.

Moving forward, we must make more of an active effort to ensure that, once an arrest is made, we take the time needed to ensure that those left behind are supported.

Investigating online child exploitation as a network

Investigating online child exploitation has its unique challenges, especially in international cases. How do we gather information when offenders operate in different parts of the world? This was a recurring issue, so I started collaborating with organisations like Interpol and their specialist network. These connections proved indispensable in addressing the global nature of online crimes.

It’s also so important to invest in our people, ensuring that people who want to dedicate their lives to this work are supported to do so.

Working in this field requires a unique combination of resilience, an ability to compartmentalise disturbing content, lateral investigative skills, strong communication, networking abilities, and above all, passion and commitment. People who have these skills and are willing to commit to this challenging speciality should be encouraged and nurtured to do so.

The need to be proactive

One pivotal moment that profoundly impacted my perspective was a phone call from an abuse survivor. This heartbreaking conversation underscored the urgency of our work and the need to prevent future abuse. It made me realise that we need to address these issues as early as possible to spare others from such suffering.

I’ve learned that the need for proactive, preventative measures is profound.

Advice for aspiring investigators – and to my younger self

If I could offer advice to my younger self and aspiring investigators, it would be to find balance.

Understand that you won’t be able to save every victim, and it’s crucial to invest time in your personal life. Maintain your interests, friendships, and family relationships; they will be your pillars of support in challenging times.

It’s also essential that you continually stay informed on the latest innovations in the field, and there are many ways that you can do this. To this day, I keep my law enforcement network alive, set up Google alerts, stay updated with the news, read research papers, follow tech companies in the space, and keep connecting with colleagues.

Anyone dedicated to this mission should have the same unwavering passion for staying connected.

Committed to safeguarding those most vulnerable

My career in law enforcement has been a journey of growth, learning, and adaptability. The lessons I’ve shared here underscore the importance of continuous learning, resilience, and empathy in the field of law enforcement.

As we move forward, I hope that these insights inspire and guide those dedicated to safeguarding those most vulnerable. Our collective commitment to making a difference in the world remains unwavering, no matter the challenges we face.

To learn more about Onemi-Global Solutions, and to get in touch with their team, visit their dedicated site today.

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