From time to time there are coordinated arrests of child pornography offenders. <Here's a recent one from the UK >.
I've already argued that I don't think simple CP possession should be a criminal offense. What other benefits could come from these raids? The police congratulate themselves because they found a few people to charge with other offenses, and they remind us that some CP possession offenders go on to abuse children. Some do. But let's consider a "control experiment". Suppose the police simply did a raid on the houses of 660 random people in Britain. Surely they would find many who are engaged in some sort of criminal activity. But that's the sort of police activity that freedom-loving people detest -- it suggests a police state. In the public's view it's tolerable as long as it's pedophiles being investigated (a civil liberties travesty, but let's ignore that). Even within their values, they neglect what happens when things go wrong. Innocent people can be caught up in the web. In the UK's <"Operation Ore" >, many of the people were located on the basis of what others had done with their stolen credit cards, many totally innocent lives were ruined, and an estimated 33 people killed themselves.
Consider this quote from the recent raid: "More than 400 children across the United Kingdom have been protected from harm as a result". What that means is that the offending man was either removed from the home or else the child was removed. The attitude of law enforcement is that it's far better to disrupt 19 families unnecessarily than to let one child be abused by one man. No matter that the vast majority of pedophiles feel no attraction to their own children. No matter that the child in the home is a 6-year-old girl and all the video was all of 12-year-old boys.
Having a father removed from the house is a very traumatic event for a child Being removed from a home into foster care is even more disruptive.
And here's my controversial point of the day. Suppose we're talking traumatic abuse. The chances are very slim that the man is just about to abuse the child for the first time that night. Suppose the child has already been abused 10 times. Is it really going to be significantly more traumatic if they are abused an 11th time? This may sound terribly callous. The abuse is terrible and beyond defense. But here we are weighing competing risks in a child's life. I'm not comparing a child's suffering against some molester's satisfaction. I'm weighing the welfare of 19 children against one case where it's the 11th episode of abuse. Taking several days or even weeks to look in detail at the situation would be well worth while. If there is circumstantial evidence of abuse, ask the child in a brief, pleasant interview if anything bad has happened. If she says no, then leave the family alone. I would also expect that knowing a man is under investigation by the police would likely scare him out of any further illegal activity in the short term.
Police should not disrupt a family if the only evidence they have of trouble is the simple possession of child pornography.