Once the evidence arrives at the heavily secured lab, it is bagged in bright pink plastic bags, sealed and assigned to a forensic examiner, reports The Oregonian. Examiners aren’t looking for fingerprints, blood patterns, or DNA profiles. They are combing through computer hard drives, extracting call lists, text messages, and photos from suspects’ cell phones, or enhancing screen grabs from videotapes of crime scenes.
The work of the 10 digital evidence examiners at the Northwest Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory — one of 16 in the U.S. — has helped law enforcement agencies solve everything from homicides and child abuse to eco-terrorism and fraud cases. Their high-tech expertise, equipment and training fill a void for local and state police departments who lack the resources and technical know-how to handle the ever-changing technology employed by crooks. The three-year-old lab has handled several high-profile cases. Examiners decoded e-mails of Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front members prosecuted on eco-terrorism charges, and examined three dozen hard drives, CDs, and memory sticks in the unsolved 2001 killing of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales.