BOZEMAN, Mont. — Just how technology has inundated our everyday lives, information from various types of electronic devices has become vital as law enforcement investigates crimes.

“As more and more people became tied to electronics, more and more of our cases started to involve them,” said Cory Klumb, captain of the Bozeman Police Department’s detective division.

“They live on that cellphone,” Klumb said. “That’s where the information is stored.”

To help law enforcement gather evidence stored on those phones, tablets, computers and more, the Bozeman Police Department recently added a digital forensic analyst to its ranks, a civilian position to help support officers as they investigate crimes.

It took more than a year of planning and work to get the position created, approved and filled. At the beginning of May, Mike Gurzi, who most recently served as the evidence tech, stepped into the new role.

From cellphones and computers, thumb drives and CDs, Gurzi uses specialty software to extract information officers are looking for on a host of electronic devices. Gurzi then creates a report and gives them to the officers to use as part of their investigations.

Gurzi, who retired after a career with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, was involved in high-tech crimes during his days with law enforcement. And after his retirement, he spent time in the private sector as a high-tech crime consultant.

“I used to do this, so I know exactly what the cases are looking for,” Gurzi said.

Since starting in May, Gurzi has analyzed electronics for 34 cases, all but a handful involving cellphones.

The types of crimes Gurzi helps investigate aren’t strictly internet-related. They range from thefts and drug distribution, to stalking and sex crimes.

“It really runs the gauntlet,” Gurzi said.

For the last few years, when officers needed electronics forensically analyzed as part of their investigations, they either sent them off to law enforcement computer forensic laboratories in Billings and Helena, or it fell on the workload of sworn officers.

Now with a dedicated civilian position, the state has a third digital forensic unit to support southwest Montana law enforcement agencies.

And, Klumb added, “it’s freed up a lot of time” for sworn officers and been “a very worthwhile endeavor” for the department.

The position is jointly funded by the city of Bozeman, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri River Drug Task Force. Equipment was provided by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

In addition to investigations for Bozeman police, the sheriff’s office and the drug task force, Gurzi has received requests for his assistance on cases from the Belgrade Police Department, Park, Madison, Broadwater counties and the National Park Service, among others. And the department expects that list will continue to grow as word gets out that Bozeman has these kinds of investigative capabilities.

Gurzi’s position is one of nine paid civilian positions in the Bozeman Police Department. In addition to Gurzi, civilian employees include a crash investigator, an animal control officer, a code compliance officer, three police information specialists, an evidence technician and a police fleet mechanic.

“At the police department the skill set and contributions provided by our civilian positions can’t be overstated,” said Deputy Chief Rich McLane. “By focusing certain areas on a civilian employee, it frees up officers to be available to emergency call response. This particular position calls for specialized training and focus that our sworn officers can’t easily provide.”


Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com