Captain trains to be Girard’s first digital investigator

GIRARD — Police Capt. John Freeman is training to become the city’s first digital evidence examination investigator.

Freeman, a 14-year Girard officer with 17 years in public safety, said he was awarded a scholarship from Canada-based Magnet Forensics. It will provide him 12 months of fully funded unlimited training and a year’s license for the company’s AXIOM software, which will provide the police department with access to the Magnet Forensics computer system.

“That lets us do previewing, imaging, analyzing and storing digital evidence from hard drives, mobile devices and portable storage mediums,” he said.

Freeman said the training includes eight to 10 classes on being able to operate the software and analyze digital video evidence.

“This will provide the department with a variety of abilities such as being able to examine mobile devices such as cellphones, remote storage devices, portable hard drives and laptops to see if there is any potential evidence on it. We can analyze the storage on a cellphone and see if there is any potential sources of evidence,” he said.

He said he is taking digital video classes to better analyze the videos and prepare for testimony and evidence submission.

“We will be able to analyze the devices a little better compared to what we do now in manually analyzing them and shipping it off to the state lab.” Freeman said.

Freeman said through the training, he will learn how to process, analyze and store digital evidence, which is important because almost every case has a digital component.

“This will help increase the efficiency of our caseloads, assist our officers in processing digital evidence better and lead to their ability to more efficiently clear their cases,” Freeman said.

Freeman was one of six global winners of a Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award. As a result, the Girard Police Department will receive the technology it needs to set up a laboratory free for 12 months.

Freeman says trails of digital data from crimes such as robberies and hit-skips are more prevalent today.

Each class costs about $3,000 to $4,000 with eight to 10 to be taken online. Freeman said he will have the majority of core classes done by the fall. Licensing costs of $8,000 were included in the scholarship.

Mayor James Melfi said he gave approval for Freeman to attend the classes. Freeman also received permission from police Chief John Norman.

“It takes an ambitious person in any profession to want to take on this additional training while working and raising a family. He is willing to take this on. It will not only be a benefit to him, but the police department,” Melfi said.

After the training, Freeman will be certified in digital forensics examinations, digital video examinations and specialization in various operating systems. He said after the training, he would like to get other officers involved.

He said long-term plans are to get digital forensic lab equipment installed at the police department — hopefully through some grants — later this year.

After the first year, Freeman said he hopes to subsidize the cost of the software with state and federal grants.

Freeman said he hopes to be able to offer his digital evidence skills in the future to other police departments that may need it.

Through the scholarship program, Freeman also received an educational opportunity for additional training with the master’s degree program through the Naval Postgraduate School in California.


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