The Advanced Investigative Workshop (AIW) is a rigorous 2-week training for a select group of police officers, in the investigation and handling of cases of online sexual exploitation of children.
In preparation for the AIW, which is now typically held once a year, police officers representing various law enforcement units around the Philippines are carefully selected and vetted.
The program takes on an immersive approach, in which police officers are assigned actual cases. “Instead of being simply a training event, AIW is a workshop,” says Bill Maddox, ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) specialist at IJM.
Investigators bring real, active OSEC cases with them and spend two weeks applying what they learn during the training sessions to their actual investigations. Each investigative team is assigned a mentor, who stays with the team for the full two weeks and helps them to apply the training to their casework.
This real-world experience effectively increases the knowledge and skills of participants. One of the key objectives is for workshop casework to eventually lead to actual victim rescue, and perpetrator arrest. Many cases in past AIWs have continued beyond the workshop, leading to successful rescues and arrests.
Last September 11 to 22, 2023, was the 5th Advanced Investigative Workshop conducted by IJM and its Investigations and Law Enforcement Development (ILED) Pillar, in partnership with the United States Homeland Security Investigations, Australian Federal Police, National Police of the Netherlands, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Twenty-four officers from the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police, various units of the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council successfully completed the training.
The first-ever AIW was conducted in 2018 at Camp Crame. The second and third were held in March and May of 2019 in Cebu. The fourth AIW was held in two batches, in September 2022 in Clark, Pampanga.
Mentorship. Participants are mentored by experienced local and international law enforcement partners. In 2023, the AIW welcomed mentors and speakers from Chainalysis, the United Kingdom National Crimes Agency, Nordic Liaison Office, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Philippine Department of Justice.
“In addition to learning new skills and techniques, investigators spend dedicated, focused time investigating cases involving the exploitation of children. This often results in our police partners conducting arrest and rescue operations as a direct result of their work during AIW," says Bill Maddox. "Also, as mentors assist and observe their teams, they frequently see investigators running into new problems and coming up with creative solutions in real time. Mentors are then able to share these new lessons with the whole group, resulting in effective training that not even the course instructors could have foreseen.”
International collaboration. “OSEC is a global problem that requires an international, cross-discipline response,” says Bill Maddox. Demand (from the abusers, also referred to as “customers”) originates from countries such as the US, Australia, the UK, and other parts of Europe. Coordination and shared resources and information with law enforcement agencies in these countries are critical.
“No single government can effectively fight OSEC alone because the offenders are connecting with one another from all parts of the globe and do not care about laws or borders. Government can’t effectively fight OSEC without cooperation and partnership with the private sector (telecom companies, financial industry, internet intermediaries, etc.). Law enforcement can’t truly make child victims safe without meaningful relationships with social workers and aftercare institutions.” Bill says.
“The instructors and mentors are not only from IJM’s ILED teams, but also come from law enforcement agencies in the Philippines, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. This gives participants access to a deep pool of investigative experience, as well as direct connections to many of the foreign countries involved in eliminating this global problem."
The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) is an organization formed to support the global law enforcement collaboration necessary to combat OSEC. The PICACC is a joint initiative between the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, supported by the Australian Federal Police, U.K. National Crime Agency, National Police of the Netherlands, and IJM. These PICACC members play a large part in each Advanced Investigative Workshop.
Along with professional training, the perspective gained from learning from the experiences of the victims, or as we would refer to them, survivors, gives the police officers invaluable insights.
“None of the involved organizations will effectively meet the needs of children without learning from the experiences of survivors, such as the leaders at the Philippine Survivor Network. This is not a fight for lone-wolf heroes, but one that requires all of us to partner together,” Bill says.
Survivor leader Tessa (not her real name) speaks at the 5th AIW. A powerful experience for participants, as this is the first time a survivor addressed the cohort in person.
Real-world experience. AIW delivers undeniable results. With real-world casework, investigations have led to actual rescues. For example, the 2019 AIW led to the arrest of an abuser and the rescue of his two-year-old victim in Cebu. This story is featured in this video. In 2022, the AIW led to 16 rescued victims and 7 suspects arrested.
In 2022, the AIW led to 16 rescued victims and 7 suspects arrested.
With real-world experience, police officers gain significant exposure and confidence in working on OSEC cases.
In law enforcement training, there’s often a big difference between what the investigator is taught in the classroom and what he or she actually experiences in real-world casework. People who commit crime do not follow any rules or guidelines, which means every investigation will be unique. It is impossible for any training curriculum to cover every possible scenario.
Following AIW, the ILED team monitors the progress of the cases handled in the workshop. Typically after the workshop is completed, law enforcement units would already be preparing for operations.
Such was the case with this 5th workshop, with teams reporting their progress in preparing for operations just a few weeks following the training.
The AIW workshop continues to be refined and improved each year, as it prepares and equips police officers for the rigorous anti-OSEC work.
“IJM has many partners in law enforcement, prosecution, aftercare, and the tech and financial industries who contribute to the event to give participants a thorough and holistic view of OSEC,” says Bill Maddox.
We thank our collaborators and congratulate Philippine police officers for advancing the work of justice and continually transforming the Philippine criminal justice system.
Learn more about IJM’s approach to fighting OSEC in the Philippines. Download our Brochure.