January 25, 2022

Supervisors authorize IT director to take digital forensics courses

Certification important for evidence used in court cases

After more than nine years of exemplary volunteer work with various law enforcement agencies throughout the county, information technology director Ryan Eaton is now seeking his certification in digital forensics to further expand his volunteer role with the sheriff’s office.

“I’ve been volunteering as a reserve deputy with the sheriff’s office to help them sort through all kinds of information dumps from cellphones and computers,” Eaton said. “I’m very proficient and thorough with my work, but I’m not officially certified. The sheriff, county attorney and I all agree that my lack of certification could become an issue in the future. So I’m asking the county to cover the cost of me becoming officially certified.”

During the Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting, it was shown that since he began volunteering Eaton has worked throughout the county to help not just the sheriff’s office, but all the local police departments, to help them sort and interpret large amounts of photos and data from suspects.

By depending on Eaton the county has saved not just time, but also a large amount of money by not having to send devices to the single state-run lab in Des Moines.

“Without Ryan we would have to depend on the state, and if the case isn’t a homicide we usually can wait a few months to get a report back,” supervisor Brandon Talsma said.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty also praised Eaton’s skills during the meeting.

“During his time volunteering with the department Ryan has proved to be a massive help. He has provided critical, time sensitive information to our officers that helps them do their jobs much more effectively,” Halferty said. “Having someone local has been incredibly useful in helping the department pursue, especially drug-related, cases.”

Recently however, both law enforcement and the county attorney’s office have begun worrying that Eaton’s lack of official certification might cause issues in prosecuting cases in court.

“This might become a sticking point for defense attorneys, who can argue that the evidence Eaton gathers is inadmissible due to his lack of credentials. So my office is very interested in Eaton becoming certified as soon as possible,” Jasper County Attorney Scott Nicholson said.

Eaton would receive his certification through DMACC, which offers courses where people can become certified by Cellebrite, the company that trains all the state-certified digital forensic specialists.

The cost of Eaton becoming certified will only consist of the course cost, which, in total, comes to $3,850.

“It seems that if we didn’t have Eaton the county would be stuck. His services are incredibly valuable and could make him a lot of money if he did this full-time, so to show how thankful we are I recommend that we agree to pay for his training,” Talsma said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the payments for Eaton’s training.

Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-4687 ext. 6531 or aknipfel@shawmedia.com

Abby Knipfel

Abby "Adler" Knipfel

Journalist at Newton Daily News. Currently covering Jasper County and writing passionate opinion pieces. They/Them