Full Access to Retired ICAC Commanders:
John Pizzuro &
Alan Flora

Episode 4

Full Access to Retired ICAC Commanders: John Pizzuro & Alan Flora
Episode Summary

Listen in as former Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) commanders John Pizzuro (New Jersey) and Alan Flora (North Carolina) grant you full access to what the ICAC program is, its mission, and how it works.  

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Today on Full Access we’re discussing topics related to child sexual abuse material, also known as CSAM and child pornography. We’re addressing these topics as they pertain to law enforcement and other organizations combatting this horrific crime. We are informing you now that there is discussion of graphic content during this episode of Full Access. We hope you choose to listen and learn with us but understand if you choose not to do so. Let’s begin…

Show Notes

[02:10] Meet former North Carolina ICAC Commander, Alan Flora.

  • Flora informs listeners how he started out as a marketing major with the goal of making commercials before switching to law enforcement and taking a job with the Sherriff’s department in his hometown.
  • Flora takes listeners on a brief journey through his career from DARE officer to North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation from 1998 to 2021 when he retired.
  • Flora states he found his calling rescuing children and can’t imagine not being a part of the ICAC task force or supporting its mission.

[07:15] Meet former New Jersey ICAC Commander, John Pizzuro.

  • Pizzuro tells listeners how one day he was taking business classes and the next, his father, a retired police chief, suggested he go take a test and the next thing he knew he was New Jersey State Police.
  • Pizzuro talks about his path through law enforcement from patrol to organized crime to corruption, during which time he had a contract out on him by the Genovese crime family. Pizzuro explains why in the podcast.
  • Pizzuro explains that 19 years into his career, he was transferred to ICAC, and whatever impact he felt he’d made up until that point, paled in comparison to the mission of protecting and rescuing children.

[09:37] Debbie Garner and Pizzuro discuss how it feels to find your tribe in law enforcement.

  • Pizzuro touches on the importance of finding a mission/career that resonates with you and the role it plays in the people you work.
  • Garner talks about the last eight years of her career in the ICAC space and how, in addition to the mission, the nerdiness of that task force made her feel like she found her tribe.

[10:40] What’s ICAC and how does it work?

  • Flora explains how the national programs work, how many task forces there are, and who manages things like that.
  • Garner calls out that some task forces are being managed by state law enforcement, some are managed by sheriff’s offices or police departments, and some are managed by prosecutor’s offices.

[15:16] Pizzuro explains how each dynamic is different based upon the laws or the geographies of the state.

  • Pizzuro continues the conversation by discussing the differences between working reactive cases and proactive cases as part of ICAC.
  • Pizzuro reveals working proactive cases requires a special skill set.

[17:49] What is CSAM?

  • Flora gives listeners the ICAC definition of CSAM.
  • Garner and Flora explain that laws vary across the country defining what CSAM is and how the language changes from state to state.

[20:08] What is a cyber tip?

  • Pizzuro jumps back in to explain what a cyber tip is, where ICAC gets their cyber tips, and what the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) does.
  • Pizzuro says that flagged material often comes through NCMEC first before it’s given to state police to investigate.
  • Garner talks about the increase in cyber tips in recent years. Pizzuro states that despite the massive volume of tips, it’s important to keep in mind that Apple doesn’t report, and iOS devices make up almost 50% of mobile devices used by people in the United States.
  • Flora describes the massive uptick in cyber tips when COVID19 hit

 

[27:16] Dealing with 12,000+ cyber tips?

  • Pizzuro notes “What keeps you up at night, are the things you miss, because you physically can’t get to everything, and you have to prioritize.”
  • Flora recalls taking over as commander in NC and sending a memo to headquarters about the need for more cyber tip analysts
  • Wilton Cleveland comes into the conversation about how the handling of NCMEC tips changed right before the COVID uptick that added to the overwhelming amount of information law enforcement agencies were left to deal with on their own

[33:15] The progression of electronic devices.

  • Flora recalls what it was like to see the progression of roles from desktop to laptop to smartphones in CSAM cases
  • Cleveland recalls his shock the first time executing a search warrant for a phone, no computer, and the realization that the mobility of this type of crime had changed
  • Garner explains that it’s not uncommon now for an ICAC commander to go out and conduct a search warrant and the only device involved is a mobile phone
  • Both hosts and guests discuss shifting thinking and revising search warrant language based on the progression of electronic and mobile devices

[35:49] Cleveland asks Pizzuro to discuss some challenges he faced as an ICAC Commander in New Jersey.

  • Pizzuro discusses responsibilities of the position
  • Pizzuro talks about getting personnel from 71 different law enforcement agencies to all row their boats in the same direction
  • Flora echoes Pizzuros statements and adds the challenge of dealing with turnover as part of the job

[39:35] Digital Forensic Investigators and ICAC.

  • Cleveland asks the guys if their digital forensic investigators were sworn or non-sworn and if they were assigned to ICAC cases only or not
  • Pizzuro and Flora talk about their lab setups, data extractions from mobile phones, and working through backlog
  • The guys discuss the biggest challenge(s) of digital forensics
  • Garner and Cleveland explain their digital forensics lab setups and experience in Georgia and Tennessee

[50:05] Garner brings the conversation back to prioritizing cyber tips.

  • Garner discusses the mental wellness aspect of what it’s like to deal with an overwhelming number of cyber tips relating to internet crimes against children
  • Garner explains that it’s not only the content but the workload itself that contributes to some mental wellness issues when doing this job
  • Garner and the guys talk about SHIFT; what it is and how investigators can get training from it

[59:27] Pizzuro and Flora close out the episode discussing what they’re doing now that they’ve retired, they’re passion for mental wellness, having fun, and where you can connect with them.

 

For additional information about SHIFT – Supporting Heroes in Mental Health Foundational Training, please click here. 

How do I report a Tip?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has specific programs that can intake tips directly from individuals. Tips can be made by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or through their CyberTipline.

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