Brian Sims

Metropolitan Police Service invests £11 million in digital forensics

THE METROPOLITAN Police Service is investing the substantial sum of £11 million in digital forensics to help front line officers tackle and investigate serious crime more effectively and efficiently. An extra 100 specially trained digital forensic examiners will increase the Met’s capacity to access all digital devices on every Basic Command Unit across London, in turn speeding up the process for examination and analysis of any given device.

Over the next three years, the investment will provide an enhanced operational service to officers on three levels. The first level is an increase in the number of ‘self-serve’ kiosks where officers trained in basic skills can download and secure vital evidence. There are currently 93 such kiosks across 39 police buildings already in place. The extra money will see this uplift to 125.

As the technology is easily accessible to officers, it means the turnaround time for capturing the material is much quicker. It can then be returned to the victim sooner. Digital forensic examiners provide technical support to officers and will train and offer refresher training to 240 officers per year on how to use the kiosk. 3,000 officers have already been trained since 2016.

Digital hubs

The second level is all about locally placed digital hubs from where the forensic examiners work to provide enhanced support to officers in extracting evidence from a range of digital devices (including laptops, gaming devices, vehicle systems and even pacemakers and fitness trackers) from different vendors.

There are currently eight hubs across the Metropolitan Police Service. That number will be enhanced to 12 which means this ‘one-stop shop’ of highly technical and experienced examiners is accessible on the front line right across London to assist in supporting investigators and allowing them to focus on other aspects of their inquiries.

The final level is the continual development of skills and investment in equipment in the Centre of Excellence for ‘Laboratory Services’, where technically challenging audio and video cases, device repairs and extractions are required using expert and bespoke methods to tackle the most complex investigation of devices. With digital forensics constantly changing, it’s vital that the Metropolitan Police Service remains ahead of the criminals when it comes to advancements in technology.

Dealing with violent crime

Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Cressida Dick explained: “Extra staff and investment in the most modern and advanced technology and techniques will greatly enable front line officers to deal with violent crime. We are bringing the technology out to staff across London, which will mean a more efficient service for victims and faster results.”

The Commissioner continued: “Most crimes, including rape and child abuse and exploitation investigations, rely upon our expertise in handling and interrogating the data from the devices. It’s vital that we maximise the use of and also develop our technology such that we’re the best we can be in this fast-moving environment. This investment will allow us to maximise the potential of digital forensics, helping us to catch more criminals, speed up investigations, build more successful criminal investigations, reassure victims and heighten confidence in the justice process.”

In 2020-2021, 32,000 mobile devices were processed by officers via the kiosks, with over 6,500 complex case submissions made to the Met’s labs consisting of 11,600 mobile phones and other devices, each holding a huge amount of data and requiring a range of examination and extraction techniques which now take longer to conduct.

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