Northwest Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory Earns Prestigious Accreditation
The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) has awarded the NWRCFL certification for how it manages digital and multimedia evidence. This designation—certified by an independent and internationally recognized body—signifies that the NWRCFL meets recognized standards in the criminal justice system for how it operates. During the course of the accreditation process, auditors did not document a single “finding” or error in the process and procedures that the NWRCFL utilizes. This is a rare honor, and it is one that only about 2 percent of ASCLD/LAB accredited labs can claim.
“We are very proud of the work we do here, and to receive such high marks during this rigorous accreditation process is a great honor,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jennifer Burnett. “It really gets down to the people we have. They are exceptionally well-trained, and they come to work every day with a mission to make this community a safer place.” SSA Burnett also serves as the director of the NWRCFL.
Each FBI-certified forensic examiner must undergo an intensive training and certification process that generally can take 18-24 months. Every examiner must adhere to strict standardized operating procedures to ensure consistent, accurate, repeatable and verifiable results.
The NWRCFL is one of 16 FBI-affiliated digital forensic labs across the country. This network of labs, staffed by FBI employees and others representing a variety of local participating law enforcement agencies, is charged with the scientific examination of digital evidence in support of cases at the federal, state, and local levels. The forensic examiners examine evidence from many types of investigations, including murders, kidnappings, child abuse and child pornography cases, white-collar crimes, and terrorism matters.
“It is hard for a federal agent or local officer to work a case—any kind of case—without running into digital evidence. That evidence often includes cell phones, laptops, and even gaming systems. Our job is to find the truth that can be hidden in those devices. Many times that evidence is instrumental in leading to a conviction. Sometimes it leads to an acquittal. Our goal is that, in the end, it always leads to a fair and just court process.”
Partner agencies for the NWRCFL include the FBI, Oregon State Police, Hillsboro Police Department, Portland Police Bureau, Beaverton Police Department, Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Canby Police Department.
While the FBI is the conduit for RCFL funding—which includes training and equipment for the examiners—individual participating agencies are required to pay an officer’s base salary and guarantee a three-year commitment.
Overall organizational control of the NWRCFL is vested in an executive board comprising representatives from each member agency. “I have high regard for the employees at the NWRCFL. Law enforcement cannot continue business in this day and age of digital forensics without the services provided by the NWRCFL,” said Commander Shawn Fischer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, who currently serves as NWRCFL board chair.
“We couldn’t do this without the support of our partners, which includes our executive board. We have long-standing relationships with a number of agencies, and we are looking to add more resources every day,” said SSA Burnett. “Bottom line—our people provide a level of service to our shared law enforcement community that is hard to beat.”