For Siobhan Shannon, life is not all about catching the bad guys but about finding their vulnerable victims 🚔
As one of the force’s two victim identification officers, Siobhan spends her days trawling the web looking at thousands of explicit images, chats and downloads in a bid to track down the children being exploited by some of the world’s most vile criminals 📱
The role has changed life quite dramatically for the 50-year-old mother-of-five, who previously worked as a support officer at Greater Manchester Police and was on duty the fateful night of the arena attack.
She now spends more than 90% of her working hours online using some of the most sophisticated technology in policing – despite having no prior digital qualifications.💻
She said: “It’s a difficult role sometimes because of the nature of what you’re looking at but you have to remember that you are doing it for a purpose and as a team we have had some great results.
“It’s great when we find who we are looking for but it’s just the beginning - an officer has to take that difficult job and go knock on the family’s door and change their lives forever. I never know the effect it’s had on the child and their family in the long run – but at least I know I did my part to help bring the abuse to an end.
“I don’t think anyone working in this area of policing has the time to reflect on what a great job they do and what a real difference they are making.”
For the Manchester native, helping people to transform their lives is what it’s all about – changing her own quite drastically following the death of her sister.
She added: “My sister was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 49 so for me, that changed everything. It inspired me to go university and I did a degree in criminology and sociology – alongside my daughter – because you have to make the most of your life.
“I would quite like the opportunity to talk the victims we identify and them and tell them they are not alone, they’re not stupid and they’re not the only ones who’ve been through this.
“We need to tell children it’s OK if someone doesn’t like you. We need to empower them to take back that control –kids don’t realise they have the power and if someone doesn’t like you because you won’t send them a photo or talk to them when they’re making you uncomfortable, that’s fine.
“Parents think their kids have all the knowledge and skills when it comes to technology but what they don’t have is the emotional intelligence or the life experience to know when something isn’t right or when someone is coercing or grooming them.”
As part of the force’s busy Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) Siobhan and her colleague Mark Reade identify images from all over the world and believes we all share a responsibility to make the internet safer.
“The POLIT and our digital forensics unit work tirelessly and I definitely couldn’t do my job without them. The nature of what we do, what we have to see and read each day can be very disturbing, but my team are fantastic and give me so much support.
“But, we can’t do this all by ourselves, we all have a role to play so please, if you see something disturbing report it to the internet watchdog foundation, they have the power to remove images. Check your child’s devices- don’t let these paedophiles into your lives and homes – don’t let them see that world.”
This is the most recent instalment of Northumbria Police's #ProudOfOurPeople campaign that looks to shine the light on officers and staff across the Force.
For more details of the campaign, visit our website or search the hashtag #ProudOfOurPeople on social media.