The Stephenville City Council approved a request Tuesday by Stephenville Police Chief Jason King for the department to participate with the District Attorney’s Office and Erath County Sheriff’s Office in forensic examinations of electronic devices, and a Special Crimes Unit.
According to Study.com, a website that assists potential students in finding the right school for career training: “Detectives working in a special crimes unit might investigate cases involving sexual assault, domestic abuse, or crimes against children or the elderly.”
“This is something that’s been talked about for a long time and, if approved by the city council, we’ll be putting it all into place,” King said. “It’s a way to divide costs, better utilize manpower and in general, enhance our abilities.”
King explained in a memo to the council that the city, county and DA are all authorized to commission peace officers.
Regarding the forensic examination of electronic devices, King said, “This pertains to the use of an investigative tool known as Cellebrite for use in investigations involving cell phones. The Erath County Sheriff’s Department has previously acquired the device and associated hardware and software for approximately $10,000.
“To begin the program, the Stephenville Police Department has funded all associated training costs for one SPD detective and one Erath County Sheriff’s investigator,” King said.
Specifically, this means that:
• SO will provide Cellebrite Touch forensic examination equipment and access to equipment by a forensic examiner.
• SPD will cover costs for Cellebrite Certified Operator and Cellebrite certified physical analyst training as well as the recertification every two years. The certified operator will also be available to testify in criminal court proceedings for each agency.
• City, county and DA will share the annual licensing fee.
In terms of the creation of the Special Crimes Unit King said that agreement formally establishes a “cooperative operation of law-enforcement agencies within Erath County,” and went on to define specific areas of their efforts as:
• SPD will provide officers and supervisors to work full time at the SCU
• SO will provide officers and supervisors to work full time at the SCU
• The employees will be mutually agreed upon by SPD, SO, and the DA.
The city council approved both agreements and they will go into effect immediately after signing by Judge Tab Thompson, Sheriff Matt Coates, District Attorney Alan Nash, King and Mayor Kenny Weldon.