the high-tech training of officers.

Interns in the CSL and NW3C programs work on worthwhile projects, and the work they do is critical to the agencies in which they work, according to DeCarlo.

"We like to make sure that the student is given a very substantial project to complete or work on," he said. "We don't want the student to be Xeroxing or faxing, or doing that kind of work."

Hopper said practicality counts when putting interns to work, even if the student isn't working on a high-priority case. For instance, when training police for high-tech investigation, NW3C equips classrooms around the country with 30 computers for officer use. Each computer must have all the course materials and information the officer will need for that class. That preparation is the intern's responsibility.

"We call it 'blowing out images,'" Hopper said. "So that image has to be configured and copied to 30 machines. It's got to be done right every single time. If it's not done right and you get a group of machines out there that you just shipped out to say, Albuquerque, N.M., and that intern didn't do it correctly, then you have 30 police officers in a class the next week that won't have the right stuff.

"Internships, if they are practical," Hopper continued, "are a wonderful thing."

After the internship, DeCarlo asks the student to produce a report, such as a PowerPoint presentation, that the CSL uses on its Web site and at educational seminars.

The NW3C strives to ensure interns leave with more than just a few bucks or credit for an internship, according to Hopper. "We really feel like they walk out of here with a skill set."

One engineering student with a minor in biometrics from the University of West Virginia completed an internship with NW3C, and as a result, stepped immediately into a full-time job with the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) program. RISS is a federally funded program administered by the Department of Justice and comprises six regional centers, each tackling drug trafficking and cyber-crime, among other things.

"We gave her some great skills that she didn't have," Hopper said. "She can tear a computer apart and put it back together, load multiple operating systems, do things that people she graduated with wouldn't have a clue how to do. One of the things they [RISS] really liked about her skill set is she didn't just graduate with a degree, she graduated with some really usable skill sets."

Hopper called the internship programs a good deal for all parties involved, adding that when RISS interviewed the West Virginia intern, they could be confident in her background.

"They knew we wouldn't allow an intern to work here unless they had a good background. They trust that we're not going to allow somebody in the program that couldn't pass a background [check], for example."

Background Checks

Students are aware that a background check, sometimes a lengthy process, is required for an internship.

"The work they are doing is not, by and large, classified or anything like that," DeCarlo said. "But they need to be prepared, especially if they are going to work for the Secret Service, to take an extensive background check, and that could take a while."

It's an agency's responsibility, once it hires an intern, to ensure the student doesn't compromise an investigation by mishandling evidence.

"The cop shops would never give them access to something that might spoil the investigation," DeCarlo said. "It's up to the individual law enforcement agency to abide by that. There's an awful lot of work that can be done in support that wouldn't interfere with that."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor