A new partnership between a college and law enforcement agencies is helping police process more digital evidence and fight cybercrime in Vermont.

The Champlain College Center for Digital Investigation, which received a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, is enabling two new Champlain faculty members to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement investigators, performing digital investigations and adding capacity to law enforcement agencies in Vermont. Based at the Burlington Police Department, these investigators sift through digital evidence found on computers, cell phones, iPods, and other digital devices so that crucial pieces of evidence can be applied to criminal investigations.

The professors also share their professional experience as they teach courses in Champlain’s Computer & Digital Forensics program. And the grant enables the college to create online training opportunities that will be available to members of law enforcement in Vermont and across the country.

“Computer forensics and digital investigations have become an integral part of police work in the new millennium,” says Professor Gary C. Kessler, director of the new center. “Computers are now as much a part of the modern law enforcement officer’s daily routine as the baton, sidearm, radio, and handcuffs.”

Kessler says the center funds two part-time digital forensics examiner positions to assist Vermont law enforcement in criminal digital investigations. The positions, he estimated, increase the state’s digital evidence examination capacity by about 20 percent.

The part-time examiners also teach in Champlain’s three-year-old Computer & Digital Forensics program -- the first bachelor’s degree program of its kind in New England and the only such program in the nation offered online. These instructors teach on campus and online in positions that are funded for three years.

The grant also supports an online training initiative that allows Champlain to share its computer forensics expertise with law enforcement across the nation through the Vermont Police Academy, Vermont Internet Crimes Task Force, and two national law enforcement training organizations. These organizations currently conduct face-to-face training that requires officers to travel to major cities for training.

“We can reach 98 percent of American law enforcement if we create online training in appropriate topics, and it’s more cost effective when it is provided online,” Kessler says.

To learn more about the new center at Champlain College, visit http://c3di.champlain.edu.