Police Cyber Liaisons

Studies have shown that Americans are increasingly being victimized by online abuses, such as cyber bullying, cyber stalking and cyber impersonation.  When individuals are abused online they are often left to their own devices to resolve the problem.  A common criticism among victims is that when law enforcement is approached with an Internet related complaint, law enforcement is unwilling or unable to help.  Lack of training, lack of technological know-how and concerns over resources are often provided as reasons for law enforcement inaction.

Several states have already taken proactive steps to ensure both that their citizens have a venue to file Internet related complaints and to ensure that those complaints are properly investigated and prosecuted.  Massachusetts, for example, has instituted cyber-crime training for cadets in its police academy, developed common operating procedures for the investigation and prosecution of cyber-crimes and developed a forum for information sharing among local law enforcement agencies.

In New Jersey, local law enforcement’s response to cyber-crimes is inconsistent, largely dependent upon a particular department’s size and resources.  Several low-cost steps could be taken to dramatically improve the experience of cyber-crime victims.  Suggestions include the following:

  1. Institute cyber-crime training into the Basic Course for new police officers. This would provide all new police officers a minimum level of cyber-crime knowledge.  All New Jersey judges and prosecutors should also receive training on cyber-crimes and emerging technology.
  1. Designate at least one officer as the cyber liaison for each police department. The cyber liaison would be tasked with the intake and coordination of investigating the complaint.  The officer would also be the contact person for the sharing of information and experiences among local law enforcement agencies.  By designating a single cyber officer, the appointed officer could obtain continuing education training on cyber-crimes and remain up-to-date on the latest technologies. It should be noted that training would not require additional costs as many online programs offer cyber related training to law enforcement officers free of charge.
  1. Require all police departments to maintain statistics on cyber-crimes and to provide the compiled data to the New Jersey State Police. Without data on this emerging issue, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of the problem and whether complaints are being properly addressed.

The Privacy Initiative of New Jersey aims to pass legislation requiring a cyber-liaison in every New Jersey police department.  Until legislation is achieved, we encourage police departments to designate a cyber liaison themselves to proactively address this emerging criminal area.