David Smalley,
Digital Forensics Manager

Most digital forensic narratives start with a time and hour, but for the purposes of an introduction – my entrance into the digital forensics space was all a big blur. I worked for a local law enforcement agency directly outside of Philadelphia, and as expected we were a remarkably busy department. Classified as a HIDTA, or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, our shifts were different with new challenges and interesting first-hand experiences daily. Senior members of my agency were not wrong when they defined my adventurous career in law enforcement as the “best show on earth.”  

When I joined the department, I quickly uncovered a wide array of technical challenges.  This will not come as a surprise to most of you, but my start in Law Enforcement in the early 2000s brought me into a world of operational and investigative challenges. First, the way in which the department handled departmental tasks was in the process of evolving. Like many of you, I was pulled into investigative work, and anything else related to technology, including record automation, intelligence updates, and statistics – all of which positioned our team for success and growth. I needed to address these tasks before diving into actual forensics work because departmental operations were a priority.  Eventually, autonomous tasks were in full effect and many responsibilities that once took weeks or even months to accomplish were handled through technology. My role in this departmental overhaul unintentionally opened new doors for me in the digital forensics space, and I am forever grateful to my superiors in the department for recognizing my impact and inviting me to fill their void in digital investigations.  

Technology challenges can sometimes become opportunities 

My start in the forensics space preceded the smartphone era, but there was already a digital forensics toolbox in use within forensic labs throughout the country.  As the new forensics kid on the block, I was eager and proposed the purchase of the latest and greatest tools to my command staff. The problem that most of you face within this space is having supportive command staff and resources to set up a local computer lab capable of forensics investigations. And like many of you, I needed to prove to other members of my department that these tools were a necessity and provided critical value to the organization. We were beginning to see an influx of cases that involved some form of digital evidence and needed a solution immediately. Baby steps…we had to crawl before we walked before we ran. The introduction of the smartphone and its dominating role in investigations was something senior members of law enforcement never imagined.  My proposals for advanced forensics equipment finally came to fruition once the digital future of policing and investigations was realized. Not only was I handling extractions and analysis of evidence, but also, I was shifting the way in which my department handled their investigative workflows – thinking outside of the box about people AND devices that were in use that could impact cases. After talking with local law enforcement about the progress our department was making, it became abundantly clear that those agencies needed technical resources, which opened my team to forensics work for outside agencies, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force operations, and a teaching circuit across the United States. I also discovered a passion for speaking at law enforcement conferences about all things technical and hosting small-setting training. 

After over a decade of local law enforcement work, I started to reflect on my career as a Digital Forensic Examiner.  While I deeply appreciated the opportunities I was given, I still wanted to make a larger impact and spread my wings a bit wider. I accomplished so much, and yet there was so much more to do. This led me to the private sector, specifically the e-Discovery or Electronic Discovery Space, which in turn allowed me to grow and do more, through the management of people, processes, and specific casework that I would have never been involved in.   

Fast forward to today…I am fortunate enough to work alongside a group of truly groundbreaking professionals, who are committed to law enforcement and passionately support Grayshift’s mission to “set the standard in providing lawful access to modern digital devices to promote justice, solve crimes, and protect victims.” My personal mission of helping law enforcement aligned perfectly with the mission of the company and my colleagues. I’ve personally experienced technological roadblocks in digital forensics and I wanted to make a significant difference in the Law Enforcement community. Joining Grayshift was the best decision I have ever made. We have a talented group of people of all different backgrounds but share one common goal, to make the world a better place. 

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