One of Thomasville’s finest has earned a national award from the United States Secret Service (USSS). Detective Lisa Maxwell, a crime scene investigator with the Thomasville Police Department, has been named the Top Computer Forensic Examiner in the United States for 2016 based on size of agency and USSS Office size. She was notified of the award last month.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be recognized for this award by the Secret Service,” said Maxwell. “Not many law enforcement officers get the opportunity to work with the Secret Service or to receive training from them. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and to participate in solving so many cases.”
Detective Maxwell started taking the classes back in 2011. She said that it took a great deal of tenacity on her part to be accepted into the courses that are offered by the USSS through their National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI).
“The NCFI only offers two classes per year, and each class is limited to 24 participants,” said Maxwell. “That means that only 48 people each year have the opportunity to receive this advanced training. After I learned about the training program from a law enforcement colleague, I made it my goal to become accepted into their program.”
Detective Maxwell has since completed eight training classes through the NCFI. She joined the USSS task force in 2013 and began working with the Albany field office. In this capacity, Detective Maxwell works to cover an area that covers all of Southwest Georgia, from Perry to the north, Eufaula to the west and Waycross to the east. It is due to the large territory that she covers that has allowed her to become the top forensic investigator for the USSS since 2013.
“The Secret Service sends out information to show how the forensic detectives rank by caseload,” she said. “I’ve maintained the top position since 2013. The first award was given for this distinction in 2016 so while I had an idea that I would be recognized, it was still exciting to earn such a prestigious honor.”
Detective Maxwell has processed more than 300 devices annually since she began working with the USSS as a forensics investigator. She said that many people are unaware of the digital footprint they leave behind on smartphones, computers and other devices.
“There is always a trail, even when you think you have deleted all of the information that may leave evidence behind,” Maxwell explained. “Most of us walk around with what is essentially a mini computer all day long with our smartphones. When you use them in wifi, it is also possible to determine where you’ve physically been through the information that is stored on your device.”
While the work is often dark and involves crimes that include harassment, stalking, assaults, child exploitation, child pornography, vehicular homicide and murder, Detective Maxwell knows that the work she does and the evidence she uncovers makes a difference.
“There are very few happy endings in this line of work,” she said. “I recall one case that involved a locked iPhone. The suspect claimed to not know the victim and in fact, lived hours away from the scene of the murder. The evidence I uncovered showed that not only had he Googled the victim’s name and address, but a text that gave the victim’s exact location was also recovered.”
She also recalls another case that involved a GPS system. In this case, while there were attempts to destroy the device, she was able to uncover the evidence that helped tie the suspects to the scene of the crime.
“I’ve assisted with cases that involve many local law enforcement agencies as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigations,” she said. “In each one, I find it very rewarding to be able to uncover the specific evidence that helps bring justice for the victims. The training I’ve received has not only benefitted the citizens of Thomasville, but other communities as well through my association with the Secret Service and the training opportunities that have been available to me.”
In addition to being named the top computer forensics examiner, the USSS has also appointed Detective Maxwell and six other law enforcement officers to their national technical advisory council. She will serve in this capacity for a term of two years, through May 2019.