The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Digital Forensic Laboratory recently has been awarded accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation making it and its’ mobile forensic unit, the first non-federal digital forensic crime laboratory in the state of New Jersey and only county prosecutor run lab to be accredited.
“This coveted accreditation places the Ocean County Prosecutor’s High Tech Crime Unit Forensic Lab capabilities and evidential findings at the pinnacle of digital forensics,” said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, director of Law and Public Safety. “We are very proud of the efforts of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato and his staff in achieving this accreditation which is a several year process.”
Digital forensics is the application of science to the recovery of digital evidence in a legally acceptable method. Examiners use digital investigation and analysis techniques to determine potential legal evidence by applying their skills on a variety of software programs, different operating systems, varying hard drives sizes, and specific technologies.
Examiners are capable of locating deleted, encrypted or damaged file information that may serve as evidence in a criminal or terrorism investigation. In addition, they perform video, computer, mobile device and cellular phone forensic examinations when the devices are submitted to the laboratory.
“The examiners serve as subject matter experts on all matters related to digital evidence,” Coronato said. “We serve all law enforcement agencies within Ocean County, the State of New Jersey and Federal agencies upon request.
“The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Digital Forensic Laboratory is the first digital forensic laboratory in the state and this is the first time we or any other state level agency has received accreditation in digital forensics,” he said. “This accreditation is the result of solid teamwork by my staff and that of the Board of Freeholders. It shows what can be done when everyone works together for a common goal.”
The only other digital forensic laboratory in New Jersey to be accredited is the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory located in the New Jersey State Police complex in Hamilton.
The accreditation was a several year process that involved training, certification of examiners as well as upgrading of equipment and facilities to meet the standards.
The processes, policies and procedures are audited to ensure that they meet ISO 17025 standards by A2LA upon completion of the application which specifies the general requirements for the competence to carry out tests and/or calibrations, including sampling. It also covers testing and calibration performed using standard methods, non-standard methods, and laboratory-developed methods.
Coronato noted the lab received support from the NJRCFL and the Baltimore County Police in Maryland through this process.
“The accreditation ensures that these standards are kept in order to maintain this accreditation,” he said.
“It is with great pride that I commend my High Tech Crime Unit Supervisor Sgt. James F. Hill and his staff for tenaciously striving to achieve such a high level of forensic excellence,” Coronato said. “I wish to thank and recognize the Ocean County Freeholders, Administrator’s Office and Building & Grounds – specifically Freeholder Jack P. Kelly, County Administrator Carl W. Block and Assistant Administrator Michael J. Fiure, and Buildings & Grounds Superintendent Joseph J. Meyers.
“It was with their support and firm commitment to our efforts that truly helped make this ambitious quest a reality,” Coronato said.
“A lot of work and a lot of effort went into this,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said. “We know this standard will continue for years to come.”
This award conveys to potential customers and to judicial and regulatory authorities that the Prosecutor’s office has confidence in its work product, and that this confidence has been confirmed by a third party, non-profit organization.
“Most importantly, being inspected and accredited by the Forensic Examination Accreditation Program instills public trust by assuring OCPO’s Lab meets regulatory and statutory requirements that ensure a robust system of quality assurance and control,” Coronato said.
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