Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver announced that Sheriff’s Office Investigator Brian Gilliland completed a four-week course at the United States Secret Service National Computer Forensic Institute (NCFI) in Hoover, Alabama, last week. Investigator Gilliland graduated the course and is now a certified mobile device examiner.
Although best known for protecting presidents, the United States Secret Service is also mandated to investigate and fight financial and other cyber crimes. The National Computer Forensic Institute was born out the need for more trained law enforcement to assist in combating the ever-growing problem of cyber crimes. The state of the art facility located in Hoover is where students, including local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges, are instructed on the current avenues of investigating and prosecuting cyber crimes and examining electronic devices. The instruction mimics what the agency teaches its own special agents. The tuition is paid for by the Secret Service and they equip the students with tens of thousands of dollars in technology and equipment to set their own forensic labs at their local agencies. A law enforcement officer must be sponsored by their local Secret Service Field Office and nominated to attend the NCFI. The waiting list to attend this training may take up to 3 years.
The institute opened in 2008 as a partnership between the Secret Service, the Alabama District Attorneys Association, and the City of Hoover, which contributed space and money for its construction. At the time, few state and local law enforcement agencies had the capability to process digital evidence found on computers and cellphones, even as it was exploding in volume and importance. That left agencies heavily reliant on the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for processing and created years-long backlog in many cases. The Secret Service reasoned that it would be critical to the future of its mission, not to mention the effectiveness of local and state law enforcement, to try to change that. The program remains the only one of its kind and scale in the country.
According to Chief Investigator Josh Summerford, having Investigator Gilliland complete this difficult training and receive the equipment and forensic programs will allow the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Major Crimes Unit to better combat, investigate, and ultimately prosecute cases here locally. In today’s world there are very few crimes committed that do not have some type of electronic device involved, whether it be a cell phone, tablet, or actual computer.
Sheriff Shaver said, "We are proud of Investigator Gilliland and proud to be able to add this tool to our investigative efforts."