Plans proceed for computer forensics institute

By KATHLEEN JOHNSTON / Reporter Staff Writer

HOOVER – Congress approved $4 million in funds for the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover, according to a Thursday announcement from the office of Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia Hills).

Plans met a brief snag last month when members of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee raised questions over allocating an annual $9 million to the project.

The state, city of Hoover and Shelby County have all also pledged support. Hoover will lease 33,000 square feet in its Public Safety Center rent-free for six years. The state will spend as much as $5 million preparing the training center, and Shelby County expects to cover up to $250,000 in architectural and engineering expenses.

“Of course it’s an exciting time for us, being able to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service,” said Commissioner Corley Ellis. “It goes without saying what a tremendous resource [it will be] for our local law enforcement and agencies to have that right at their fingertips.”

One-week sessions begin in temporary classrooms Aug. 20 and Aug. 27 to train supervisors, according to the U.S. Secret Service. Regular classes begin in April 2008 when the build out of the current facility is complete.

Once finished, the institute will include classrooms, a computer forensic lab, an evidence vault, storage and server rooms and public education exhibit space.

Support for the center evolved under nudging from the Alabama District Attorney’s Association after it noticed an increase in the need to use and evaluate high-tech evidence in court cases.

“Juries today demand scientific and forensic evidence … but there is a bottleneck getting this valuable data into the courtroom,” Bachus said in a release. “What we don’t have is trained, qualified professionals to find, extract, analyze and preserve the data.”

Candidates in the program are nominated by their field officers and selected by the investigations unit