President Donald Trump signed a bill aimed at providing law enforcement with new tools for combating cybercrime into law Thursday. The bill, which was first introduced in March by U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, will ensure funding for the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover, Alabama, through the year 2022.
Rachel Stephens, communications director for Ratcliffe’s office, said the bill earmarks $13 million annually for the institution beginning in 2018.
“I’d like to thank President Trump for his strong support of my bill to ensure our state and local law enforcement officials are properly equipped to address and prosecute crimes in the 21st century — because we’re now in an era where almost every case involves some sort of digital evidence,” Ratcliffe said in a press release issued Thursday.
House Resolution 1616, also known as the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017, states the institute’s functions include training officers in how to conduct criminal investigations involving technology and computer forensics. The institute was founded in 2007 as a part of the U.S. Secret Service and officially opened on May 19, 2008.
The resolution passed the U.S. House of Representatives in an amended version in mid-May. The bill was presented to the president early last week and officially signed on Thursday. Prior to this iteration, a similar bill by Ratcliffe was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote in 2015.
In a March press release, Ratcliffe said the bill is aimed at keeping area law enforcement ahead of current trends in crime, detection and prosecution.
“We’ve all seen crime shows on TV where pieces of DNA evidence — a strand of hair or a drop of blood — solve the case,” he said. “But in today’s world, we also have to consider digital evidence. This could be an email that was sent, an online purchase, or geolocation technology that places an individual at the scene of a crime.”
The institute currently operates a 32,000-square-foot facility that includes three multi-purpose classrooms, two network investigation classrooms, a mock courtroom and operational forensics lab, among other features.
Since its inception, the institute has trained about 7,000 law enforcement officers, representing more than 2,000 agencies, from all 50 states and three U.S. territories. This includes agencies locally in the Fourth District of Texas.
“At the end of the day, getting the upper hand against cybercriminals will make our nation safer, and I’m glad that this critical piece of legislation has been signed into law to do just that,” Ratcliffe said.