Champlain College and Law Enforcement Team Up on Digital Investigations

A ground-breaking 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,” said 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.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) helped secure the federal funding and he recently met with Champlain College and area law enforcement officials on campus for a press conference. “Local, state and federal law enforcement officials have seen an explosion of complex electronic crimes,” said Leahy, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees federal anti-crime programs. “In a time when computers hold the key to everything from terrorist plots to accounting scandals, understanding e-crime and digital forensics is crucial for today’s federal, state and local law enforcement officers and our civilian cyber security personnel. The digital forensics education curriculum that Champlain College has put together is right on point in helping law enforcement professionals succeed in countering cyber criminals.”

Champlain President David F. Finney said, “We’re thrilled that the federal government is supporting Champlain’s efforts to both educate professionals in computer forensics and directly support law enforcement activities. Senator Leahy and his staff have been extremely helpful in furthering our outreach. It’s clear that our country needs innovative programs to fight crime today, and Champlain is well-positioned to deliver leading-edge programs both face-to-face and over the Internet.”

Kessler said 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.

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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 – which 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 said.

Currently, Champlain’s Computer & Digital Forensics program enrolls approximately 150 students – nearly half are traditional, on-campus students and the rest are enrolled online from as far away as California and Texas. Some of the online students are already members of the law enforcement community and they work their online education around their careers.

This is Champlain’s second federal grant for computer forensics education. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice awarded Champlain College a $185,000 grant to further develop the college’s digital forensics program. Champlain’s program was hailed as the national educational model for undergraduate computer forensics education.

To learn more about the Champlain College Center for Digital Investigation, log on to

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CONTACT: Kris Surette, Champlain College Media Relations, and 802/865-6432

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