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Training in Law Enforcement

Written by Bev Nutter

Digital forensics as a profession is still comparatively new. Only in the last ten years has the industry really grown in size, fuelled by the increase in technology available to the general public. Within law enforcement, every UK force has some digital forensics capacity, but this differs greatly between forces with regard to staff levels, resources and organisation.


Training needs for digital forensics have some obvious differences from those in the ‘traditional’ forensics arena (e.g. fingerprints, DNA or firearms analysis). The techniques of traditional forensics do not change at the same speed, as digital forensic analysis must. A new technique could be developed to examine a version of a smartphone operating system that will only work for three months until a new operating system version is released. As a result, it is difficult to maintain up-to-date knowledge and competency in the field of digital forensics and this creates unique demands on training.


Adequate and ongoing training of digital forensic staff working in law enforcement is crucial for three reasons. Firstly, to ensure quality work is done, and that the best possible evidence is provided to the justice system. Secondly, to ensure staff have the skills to research and document new technology, to make sure that as soon as new devices are released the agencies have the ability to examine them. Thirdly, to enable digital forensics to be considered as a forensic science, equal to other forensic disciplines, staff working in this area must undertake the appropriate professional development.


However, the current state of digital forensics training in many agencies is ripe for improvement. There are a number of challenges to overcome.


1. Different backgrounds – Digital forensics staff often come from different professions with varying levels of knowledge. They may be IT professionals, recently qualified in computer science, electronic engineering or even digital forensics itself, or investigators who are moving into a technical arena. Some forces employ only police officers; others may employ only civilian staff or a mixture of both. Tailored training must account for these different starting points to ensure that employees complete the training to a common level of competence.


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The full article appears in Issue 5 of Digital Forensics Magazine, published 1st Nov 2010. You must log in with a valid subscription to read on...


 
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