The men and women who chase child killing monsters
OFFICERS of the Child Protection Investigation Unit are the torch for abused children, helping them navigate the darkness.
The men and women form the crack investigative unit hunting the monsters who have plagued little lives and ruined childhoods.
The CPIU is tasked to work through the most deeply disturbing and confronting cases on the Gold Coast, tackling horrific incidents of child abuse that can shake experienced detectives to the core.
There are things the average person cannot comprehend, the depravity of sexual abuse against a child and the images that circulate in the deep, dark web. Innocence is lost at the hands of a fiend.
The officers have to deal with recurring images that come and go following an investigation into the death of a child, a baby who drowned in a nappy bucket, or a child killed by the people who were supposed to care for them the most.
Forty-four Gold Coast detectives work through these cases on a daily basis and they are busy, on average receiving upwards of 100 mandatory reports from the likes of the Department of Child Safety, Education and Queensland Health. That's not to mention the criminal investigations and sweeping through hard drives investigating allegations of child pornography.
Detective Senior Sergeant Troy Penrose leads the CPIU on the Gold Coast.
He says it can be difficult dealing with the monsters.
"There is a certain element in our society that engage in this type of behaviour, which to the ordinary, rational person seems abhorrent, because it is," he said.
"The skill for the investigators is to put that aside, that is a challenge within itself, because we are dealing with someone who is that way inclined. It can evoke and stir up your emotions and the challenge for us and in the future is to manage that, because there is a bigger end game and that is securing the safety of a child.
"Dealing with these types of people is challenging."
Sen-Sgt Penrose said it could be a harrowing job and took a special kind of person to be a member of the team.
"There are some jobs that will deeply shock you," Sen-Sgt Penrose said.
"In any day you could be confronted with a range of child protection issues. You might be on a shaken baby today, a drowning tomorrow and a child exploitation job the following day.
"One of the traumatic or the difficult parts of the jobs is engaging in interviews with children. It takes a certain personality to be able to extract a narrative from a child that is able to be used in a criminal proceeding.
"The skill is to elicit information without being suggestive or putting words into the child's mouth. It's very important that our staff are trained well.
"It can be very, very disturbing, it can be deeply personal. It is one thing to read about a case in a report, but to hear a child talk about it, that's something completely different.
"Often the detectives are dealing with things that could impact the victim for the rest of their lives."
He said working cases in which child abuse had occurred could be very difficult, with the victims often not realising that what had happened to them was wrong.
"It's a shock when you deal with children who have for a long period of time thought that behaviour was OK. It's only when they reach a certain age, or a certain amount of awareness that they realise it isn't OK. That's why it gives rise to historical reporting, because often there is contact over a large period of time, there is an understanding and a realisation that this isn't right,'' he said.
"It is very difficult for them to speak up. They are relying on others to speak up for them.
"In terms of child abuse, most of it does occur between people who know each other. Sexual abuse, in the majority of cases, occurs where there has been an element of trust.
"The biggest weapon we can use is empowering children who it is they can and can't talk to about various things."
But despite the often traumatic nature of the work, officers in the unit took a lot of satisfaction from their job.
"A lot of the detectives are very positive and do like to work in the area. It's rewarding when they get a positive result,'' he said.
"It's a very meaningful part of the policing sphere.
"It always has and always will be an area that resonates closely with the vast majority of the community, because I think the majority of people want to see kids protected.
"In that sense it is a positive place to work, that just deals with some very, very horrific and deeply disturbing stuff.
"And our guys do get upset by it. It's not the case that our officers aren't affected by it, because it does."