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UNH grant to help sex abuse investigators

DURHAM (AP) – A research center at the University of New Hampshire is getting a federal grant to support police officers and others who investigate crimes involving child sexual abuse images.

Officials say a surge of such images online and new technology designed to intercept them means more investigators are being hired to review such material, but doing so can have toxic effects on their mental health. The university’s Crimes Against Children Research Center will use a three-year grant to interview police and forensic examiners across the country to identify best practices for workload, counseling and debriefing.

The center also will use its findings to develop a screening instrument to help agencies assess whether candidates are suitable for such work.

The $886,000 in funding comes from the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. It was one of five recent grant awards totaling $3.9 million related to three topics: the impact of fatigue and stress on officer performance, managing stress, burnout and vicarious trauma experienced by forensic workers and improving officer interaction with mentally ill individuals.

The other recipients were the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, the Fund for the City of New York, Washington State University and the Research Foundation for SUNY. Their projects include a study of how police officers’ atypical work hours affect their health and an evaluation of a program to divert individuals with mental illness away from jail and toward treatment.