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Central Point crime lab gets national nod

CENTRAL POINT — A regional crime lab that started with a single officer in a closet-sized space has attained national accreditation and now serves some 30 agencies around the country with computer forensics and cyber-crime investigations.

The Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force, housed within the Central Point Police Department, completed accreditation requirements this summer for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Formal notice was received in recent weeks, said Central Point Police Lt. Chuck Newell, making the department one of just 54 same-type laboratories worldwide that adhere to specific standards in analysis of digital evidence and the only known stand-alone agency to attain the accreditation.

"We're extremely excited," Newell said. "It's very prestigious for us to have an accredited lab in Southern Oregon."

Newell said the department spent much of the past year meeting a series of 97 requirements toward the accreditation, which ranged from management practices and personnel training to evidence handling and lab security.

The task force traces its roots back four years when the idea for a high-tech crimes unit came about, largely because of a lack of resources in the region, said Newell.

The then-Central Point Police Department High-Tech Crimes Unit began providing computer forensic support and cyber crime investigations to various county and state law enforcement agencies.

Two years later, the addition of a full-time detective by the city of Medford created the regional entity. It now serves three dozen federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Justice.

The lab is staffed by two detectives; Josh Moulin of Central Point's department and Brandon Bloomfield, a Medford officer.

Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said the high-tech lab is "a great asset" for the region's law enforcement and a means for local detectives to obtain valuable training and experience.

"In years past, we had a detective assigned to computer crimes and computer forensics," Doney said. "When the high-tech crime unit started up and hit us up to partner with them, it was a good combination of resources.

"I look over the 22 years I've been doing police work and the way people commit crime has evolved and changed. Computers are part and parcel to a huge part of the crimes we investigate and there was a time when we'd be shipping stuff to the forensics lab in Portland.

"It can be labor intensive and a costly endeavor because both detectives are trained up to some pretty strict standards. This is one of the very few high-tech labs in the world that have met this standard, so we're lucky to have that."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.