Detective Eric Dobelmann and Datapilot 10

Detective Eric Dobelmann stands with a DATAPILOT 10 investigation tool June 10 at the Washington Police Department. The device was purchased with funds from a grant and from the Lloyd and Anita Jaeger Trust.

A device the size of a person’s hand has the potential to drastically change how the Washington Police Department is able to collect evidence, especially in crimes against children and child pornography cases. 

The police department recently purchased the DATAPILOT 10 handheld device, which allows police, with the permission of the phone’s owner or with a search warrant obtained through the courts, to access files from a person’s cellphone, laptop computer, tablets or other electronic devices, such as home security systems. 

To the best of their knowledge, Washington police officials say they are the first department in the county or region to have this device. 

“This is the latest thing out there, and it is popular because of its portability,” said Detective Eric Dobelmann, who has spent 25 years working in law enforcement. Dobelmann is currently being trained on how to use the device and said it has the potential to aid in thousands of investigations. The trainings are web-based, and he is undergoing a certification process. 

“With this device, it can do keyword searches in text messages and emails, find hidden apps, look for a specific person’s name, find deleted photos or videos and extract all of that information for us,” Dobelmann said. 

Before, Dobelmann said investigators would have to send the phone to a different law enforcement agency to be analyzed. It was a process that routinely took up to 9 months or a year to complete. With the device, Dobelmann is hopeful to have the analysis done in hours, not months. 

“The timeliness of this is amazing,” Dobelmann said. 

Washington Police Department Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes, who is the department’s public information officer, said last year the department’s investigators handled about 3,000 cases. 

“It could be in the thousands as far as the number of cases that this could be used in,” said Sitzes, who said the department’s priority will always be to use it when investigating child pornography or sex crimes against children. 

“The amount of child porn, child exploitation cases we are seeing has increased. We have been inundated with those types of cases,” Sitzes said. 

Sitzes and Dobelmann said the department also could use the device to aid investigations in a variety of other cases, including burglaries, as it has a USB-like port that can plug into a property or business owner’s security camera system and access the video. 

The device is produced in southern California and was purchased by the police department for $10,000 using funds from a grant and from the Lloyd and Anita Jaeger Trust. Last year, following the passing of the Jaegers, their estate bequeathed $140,000 — the biggest contribution in the city’s history — to Washington city government for the library and parks, police and fire departments. The largest portion of the estate’s gift went to the parks department, which used it to fund a portion of the construction for the new Agnes Nolting Aquatic Complex.

Sitzes said that without the funds from the Jaeger estate, the department would not have been able to purchase the DATAPILOT 10 or have a staff member go through the training for at least the next five years. 

“This is a huge asset for child crimes. It makes everything so much faster, which is a good thing because the thing about time is that the longer the suspect is out there, there is the potential for more victims,” Dobelmann said. He and Sitzes said sharing news of what the DATAPILOT 10 can do will likely not cause those who commit crimes against children to alter their behavior. 

Sitzes recalled how a recent investigation revealed that an individual was sending pornographic photos through the U.S. Postal Service, even though the individual knew that they would be caught by postal inspectors. 

“They try to hide it all the best that they can. I don’t think it is going to change anything about their behavior (to have this information out there),” Sitzes said. 

Sitzes said that, once trained, Dobelmann also will be able to assist other departments in the Franklin County area that might be investigating cases that would benefit from using the device.