For Brown County Sheriff’s investigator Jason Benefield, experiences on the job have ranged from traffic stops that led to major drug trials to undercover work — and lately, to a good bit of computer work.
That’s because Benefield, 36, received training last year on computer and digital forensics, qualifying him to investigate crimes that typically involve the use of computers, digital cameras and other electronic storage media.
Even when sequestered in his office extracting evidence from a computer’s hard drive, Benefield said, catching “the bad guy” is the ultimate goal.
Benefield grew up in Plainview, and spent nine years in the Air Force. He went to work as a dispatcher in 2003, and that experience fueled a desire to become a law enforcement officer.
He joined the Sheriff’s Office in October 2005 as a patrol deputy, and began working as a detective 13 months ago.
In 2007, sheriff’s officials learned that Sam Houston State University in Huntsville was offering free digital forensics courses to law enforcement employees. He attended three weeklong sessions and has been certified as an expert witness in the field.
Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Office used a $9,500 grant, combined with seizure funds, to buy specialized equipment for investigations involving digital forensics.
Benefield said he’s used his forensics training to investigate crimes involving child pornography, narcotics white-collar fraud.
Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said Benefield’s expertise gives his department that ability to analyze digital evidence rather than waiting for an agency such as the FBI to do so.
Benefield isn’t the only investigator with an office at the Law Enforcement Center who has expertise in digital forensics.
At the Brownwood Police Department, digital forensics is one of detective Larry Owings’ specialties.
Owings testified extensively in a 2001 trial involving child pornography. Owings’ testimony helped then-Assistant District Attorney Micheal Murray win a conviction on 34 of 35 counts.