Tech Training at FLETC - A New Direction

As criminals learn to use new technologies to their advantage, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center examines ways to train federal officers to face this new law enforcement challenge

by / August 31, 1995
Sept 95 Level of Government: All Function: Law enforcement Problem/situation: Local law enforcement must know technology to catch criminals using computers for fraud and other offenses

Solution: Center offers training for catching high-tech criminals

Jurisdiction: All Vendors: None Contact: FLETC Public Affairs Office 912/267-2908 By Justine Kavanaugh Staff Writer The rapid advance of technology has not only provided new ways to find information quickly, it has also inadvertently provided new opportunities for criminals to commit computer-based crimes. For instructors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, located in Glynco, Ga., technology has forced a reevaluation of their training programs to include instruction about how technology is being used to commit crimes, who is doing it and which emerging technologies will provide tools for new crimes to be committed

"It's a constant struggle to figure out what technology is emerging, which one shows a future and which ones are just something glamorous that's going to die on the vine," said Carlton Fitzpatrick, branch chief of the Financial Fraud Institute (FFI). The FFI is one of 10 training divisions at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, also known as FLETC (pronounced FLET-See)

The center, established in 1975 on the former Glynco Naval Air Station, is the focal point for training most federal law enforcement personnel in the United States. Prior to FLETC, each agency attempted to train its own personnel. This meant that the quality of officer and agent training varied greatly from agency to agency, and inadequate facilities and duplication of effort were prevalent

Today, the center provides structured training programs for an average daily student population close to 2,000. FLETC also conducts or coordinates training and provides technical assistance for international law enforcement personnel in areas such as anti-terrorism, money laundering and financial crime investigation

The Financial Fraud Institute The FFI is the division most affected by the rapid emergence of new technologies. The division has developed 13 training programs devoted to training federal law enforcement officers in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of complex financial and computer-related fraud

The goal of the FFI - and of FLETC overall - is to arm officers with specialty skills and techniques they can use to develop solid, prosecutable cases in a broad range of crimes, including crimes involving government contracts, procurement fraud, illegal tax shelters, complex financial transactions, terrorism and criminal conspiracies, asset removal/seizures, money laundering, insurance fraud, electronic funds transfer fraud, employee embezzlement, unauthorized access to government data systems and complex fraud cases using or involving computers

"The goals of the program," said FLETC senior instructor Bob Gibbs, "are to gain an understanding of the individuals that are involved in technology-related crime and to understand the vocabulary of it. We also want to learn how they are using it in whatever criminal activity they are involved in." Tech Courses This has led the center in recent years to concentrate on preparing officers to deal with these kinds of crimes by teaching them how to use technology against high-tech criminals. As Fitzpatrick explained, "You can't really investigate these kinds of things unless you understand the technology involved with them." The center now has 18 fully-equipped computer classrooms and has put together several training courses to prepare officers to combat the growing number of computer-related crimes. For example, the course entitled "Computer Investigations in an Automated Environment" teaches officers to investigate technology crimes. The course also includes an examination of legal issues such as privacy, search and seizure, and communications privacy

A one-week computer evidence analysis training program looks at various types of hard drives, various types of controllers and how DOS filing structure works - from the partition tables to the file allocation tables

Officers also learn how to look at non-file areas on a disk where pernicious information can be stored. Most technology-related FLETC courses also provide officers with software tools they can take with them to use at their home offices

The "Telecommunications Crime Investigations" course teaches officers about hackers, crackers, Internet fraud and abuse and how to work with phone companies to investigate these types of crimes. Several other computer-related courses are now under development at FLETC. But what courses are developed in the future will depend on what happens in the world around us as each day goes by. "The courses undergo metamorphosis constantly," said Gibbs. "As we become aware of new techniques and pieces of technology we attempt to add them to the program to stay as current as we can," he said

State and Local Training The National Center for State and Local Training was established at FLETC in 1982. Today, more than 40 advanced training programs are offered for state and local law enforcement officers. These courses are designed to meet the training needs not readily available to those agencies and to promote networking and cooperation in the entire U.S. law enforcement community

State and local officers who would like to attend a course at FLETC can do so fairly easily. "They would simply tell a supervisor that they were interested in a particular training program," said Fitzpatrick. "Then the supervisor would have to recommend them for admission at FLETC." The staff at FLETC continually looks for the most efficient and effective ways of operating the interagency training facility to meet the changing requirements and demands of federal law enforcement operations. This sometimes means playing an intense game of catch-up when and if someone breaks through the technological barriers and gets away with a new type of computer-based crime

"Law enforcement by its very nature is a reactive profession," explained Fitzpatrick. "We don't go out and make new rules. All we do is respond to cultural and social trends. We wait until the technology is mature most of the time before we get involved in it." To keep pace with the rapid increase in training requirements, FLETC has developed a plan which calls for more then $100 million in improvements and new facilities construction. "FLETC is very dynamic," said Fitzpatrick. "We are always striving to improve our training and to keep up with what's going on in the tech world."