Bill introduced to increase data access during probes

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) on Friday introduced bipartisan legislation to help police officers learn how to access digital evidence, including data and online messages, during investigations.

The Technology in Criminal Justice Act, which is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would create a new office at the Department of Justice to educate state and local law enforcement agencies about how to sift through digital evidence — on phones and computers — in a way that does not flout the law.

The legislation would also create a federal center to serve as a central clearinghouse providing training, tech expertise and legal assistance on gathering digital evidence. The so-called Center of Excellence for Digital Forensics would maintain a library of analytic and forensic tools to help police officers during criminal investigations, and it would offer advice on how to lawfully request any digital information.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen first-hand the importance of digital evidence as we work to keep our communities safe and hold people accountable,” Demings said in a statement. “Digital evidence has been crucial in cases ranging from financial crimes to child endangerment.”