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The Learning Curve of Digital Evidence

There is no doubt that digital evidence on cell phones and mobile devices is changing the landscape of the U.S. legal system. Though the depths of this impact have yet to be fully understood or measured. In 2015, the Institute of Justice (a branch of the Department of Justice) collaborated with the Rand Corporation to determine the needs of law enforcement agencies in regards to digital evidence and how it impacts solving crimes and preparing for court cases.

The question “what are the needs of the criminal justice system in relation to digital evidence collection, management, analysis and use?” was posed and resulted in a 32-page report chronicling the current state of digital evidence and highlighting some of the expressed and immediate needs of law enforcement agencies.

Behind the Curve

Entitled Digital Evidence and the U.S. Criminal Justice System, the report raises concerns about law enforcement agencies being behind the curve in data collection and analysis of digital evidence. It also raises concern and general awareness to the need of technical education and training of law enforcement officers.

As a result, this new frontier of digital evidence is creating a backlog with our law enforcement agencies inundated with too many devices to analyze and not enough trained personnel to do the work. Cases are taking longer and are lacking potentially large pieces of key evidence.

Alternative Resources

Currently, only a few high-profile agencies have access to the equipment and have properly trained staff. In addition to their own digital evidence needs, they are also receiving requests from lower profile agencies resulting in an over-taxation of a scarce resource.

The authors suggest one possible solution could be to utilize private sector resources. Because of the specialized training and equipment required, there is value in utilizing an expert – having dedicated personnel that can focus on digital evidence and not be juggling other agency duties. The private sector has the potential to focus their efforts on digital forensics and seek out the training and tools to be at the forefront of the changing digital landscape.

Ahead of the Curve

At Hawk Professional Investigations, our Digital Evidence team is ahead of the curve. They have the same tools and training that are employed by top-tier law enforcement agencies like the FBI, CIA, State Department and Secret Service. These skills are in high-demand and not usually readily available.


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