Digital forensics help officers solve crimes

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EAU CLAIRE, WIS (WEAU)-- Digital evidence is becoming more important in police investigations.

“Technology is volatile we've seen technology advancements in last 5 years probably like no other period in time,” Eau Claire Police Department Investigator Paul Becker said.

Becker says many of the cases the ECPD investigates have some sort of digital component. He says officers need to look at anything related to a crime whether it’s a text message or photo posted online. To help investigators look at digital evidence the department utilizes the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory.

The CVRCFL is a joint effort between ECPD, Eau Claire Sheriff’s Department and Altoona Police Department.

“Our focus is a regional focus, we understand that our communities are close and these perpetrators affect everyone no community is immune,” Chief Deputy Jerry Staniszewski said.

Most recently the lab was used to help officers arrest five area men for child sex crimes.

"It’s very unique that the Eau Claire community has this. In order to sustain our lab we've formed partnerships with the sheriff's department and Altoona and we work together to provide personnel and share the costs of the lab," Staniszewski said.

The lab's technology allows specially trained investigators to analyze and collect digital evidence free of outside influence-- making any evidence in court hard to refute.

“We remove the hard drive and put into our system to a locked environment so that we are not introducing anything to the meeting just reading data off of it,” Becker.

“Credibility and expertise is very important when we are talking about the digital world as far as evidence. It’s important to be able to explain how the whole system works and that's part of the challenge we have with technologies changing from year to year. We have to continue that training so that officers are qualified and have that training to do that,” Staniszewski said.

The Eau Claire Police Department says this is the only forensics lab in the area and they hope to continue to expand it. There is a fund set up through the Eau Claire Community Foundation where people can donate to help support the lab.