Policing child pornography is a tough and often grisly job, from cataloguing thousands of horrific images of child abuse to juggling an almost overwhelming caseload.

RCMP officers say that when people find out they work on child exploitation cases, they are often asked the same questions.

Here, they answer those questions in their own words.

RCMP Cpl. Jean-Marc Paré

RCMP Corporal Jean-Marc Paré

'I guess you put the investigation first, right?' RCMP Cpl. Jean-Marc Paré, operations NCO, J Division, Internet Child Exploitation Unit, says about dealing with child porn suspects. (CBC)

How do you control your anger when you meet suspects?

"I guess you put the investigation first, right? It does make you angry, but I mean acting out on your anger isn't going to help your investigation. If we act on that anger, if you let the anger take over and you let your emotions get the best of you, you're not going to help your investigation. We learn to deal with that."

How have suspects explained their actions to you?

"They don't often have a lot to say about it. Generally if I've heard them say anything what they'll say is I didn't mean to hurt the child, I actually love the child and this is how I show them my love."

How do you cope with the images investigators see?

"We talk, we communicate, you just lighten the mood if you will. Sometimes it helps to share your feelings or share what you've seen with a colleague and you know, then we discuss it and move on and realize it's for the greater good of the investigation in order to save children. There's yearly followup with the members through the RCMP as well."

Sgt. Darren Parisien

Sgt. Darren Parisien

Sgt. Darren Parisien of the Saskatoon Police Service says the typical child pornography offender is a male between the ages of 15 and 80. (CBC)

Who are these people?

"Just think about 10 houses that are around your home. In one of those 10 houses is the typical offender, which is a male between the ages of 15 and 80. The only commonality that they have are two things, that they're male and they have access to the internet. Other than that, it's every aspect of society. You have young and old, you have people who are wealthy or poor and you have people who are educated and uneducated."

Is anyone who looks at these types of photos likely to become an offender?

"There are two categories of people — those who are repulsed by these images and those who are excited. And those who are excited about it will continue to go down that road until they have the opportunity to offend against that child. I have no doubt every single person who looks at child pornography is going to be a hands-on offender if given the opportunity."

RCMP Const. Tonia Williams

RCMP Constable Tonia Williams

RCMP Const. Tonia Williams, investigator, J Division Internet Child Exploitation Unit, says a lot of offences related to child pornography "are occurring in our backyards." (CBC)

How do the families react when you arrest someone?

"In shock. Definitely in shock...and hurt, for sure. Sometimes you have spouses who are in disbelief that their other half is involved in these activities. There's others who don't seem so surprised and don't really say so much in regard to being aware of what was going on behind closed doors or even in the same room."

The children in these pictures … things like this happen in Moncton? In Canada?

"I've been in this unit now for six years and from my experience, I have witnessed that a lot of these offences are occurring in our backyards and our local children are being sexually abused."

Det. Const. Chris Purchas

Detective Constable Chris Purchas

"The normal reaction is people break into tears when they look at images we see every day," Det. Const. Chris Purchas of the Toronto Police Service says about how people react when they hear about his work. (CBC)

How has the exchange of child exploitation images changed over time?

"Years ago I had a case where an individual was identified. I got a call from a bank where they cut open a safety deposit box and they found all this written child pornography. This individual had been doing it since the 1960s, and he had all these printed letters and printed material in the safety deposit box in a bank.

"We eventually tracked him down and executed a warrant on his house and many, many years later he was doing the very same thing in the digital world. Years ago, to get this material, they had to mail it. They had to go to great lengths to exchange it.  But now with the internet it's just so easy. With the click of a mouse, you can type in a few keywords into a specific forum and you can instantly identify somebody that is like-minded, has the same sexual interests in a matter of seconds."

What's it like when you meet people who don't want to hear about your work because they find it disturbing?

"Yeah we get that all the time, but you know that is the standard, that's good. That's what keeps us normal because we get so used to it that it's very good to see what the normal reaction is. And the normal reaction is people break into tears when they look at images we see every day. And sometimes we forget that is really the human reaction."


Next week on CBC's The National

CBC News was given unprecedented access to an online child exploitation investigation in Moncton, N.B. You can see Alison Crawford's in-depth report on The National on Monday, June 23.