When Seattle Police Capt. Mike Edwards says his department isn’t for everyone, he means it.
“It takes a very special person to do this work and they can only do it for so long,” Edwards said of the state's Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
The task force's investigations involve cases of trafficking, child pornography and grooming children for sex.
That content takes a toll on investigators. Compared to other police departments, the unit has a higher turnover rate. Training is also expensive.
The combination has put Edwards' unit in a financial pinch. He pushed the state Legislature for $3 million this winter. He got half of that.
The temporary boost will help in the short-run, but he says it’s not enough to monitor more than 15,000 active leads his unit could be tracking over the dark web.
“That is the thing that bothers me the most, that worries me the most, that keeps me up at night. That without the personnel, without the training, without the resources, there are cases out there we’re not investigating,” Edwards said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says these crimes are on the rise. Investigating these crimes can be extremely technical.
But Edwards says those they do solve — and the children they rescue — make them worth the effort.
“Those are very extreme emotional moments for the personnel on the scene as well as some of the best days,” Edwards said. “Getting a child, locating them, rescuing them, getting them out of that — that’s really what we’re doing this for.”
Without more funding, Edwards says he’ll ask police departments across the state to help foot the bill. But finding space in their budgets may prove difficult.