A countywide police task force that has investigated hundreds of child pornography cases, identity theft and other digital crimes since 2005 is disassembling.
The Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force, made up of officers from seven local and national law enforcement agencies, announced today it will disassemble its Central Point hub, but that officers will continue to collaborate on cases.
Central Point police Chief Kristine Allison said the task force is not disbanding and will continue its partnership with the FBI.
"I think it's better described as a reorganization," Allison said. "They will still have this common goal. They will still have the same standards. There is no reason that just because they're not in the same location that they are not doing the same work because, in essence, they are."
Recent decreases in the cost of technology and specialized training mean agencies can best investigate their own cases in-house, she said.
"In the past few months we were able to really look at the financial structure of the lab," Allison said. "We can do the same thing for less money."
An exact cost savings was not available, but Allison said she anticipates it will be significant. The agency's proposed 2014-15 operating budget has about $38,000 dedicated to task force operations. The task force's 2011-12 operating budget was $511,630, which included salaries for task force officers from Central Point police, several federal and state grants, IT and training costs, electricity and other categories. Task force officers from other departments were paid for by their agencies. The future of the task force's former meeting space, located upstairs at the Central Point police headquarters, is not known.
The task force began in 2005 under the direction of Central Point police. It handled 12 cases its first year, a number that shot into the triple digits within five years. Officers from Central Point, Ashland and Medford police departments joined representatives from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Jackson County District Attorney's Office.
Josh Moulin, a former lieutenant with Central Point police, founded the task force. In February, Moulin was indicted on charges of computer crime and official misconduct alleging he knowingly altered or damaged a police computer or software in 2012.
Moulin, who now lives in Nevada, has denied any wrongdoing and said he has passed three polygraph tests with questions similar to the charges against him.
Allison wouldn't comment on the Moulin case, but said Moulin's departure did allow for a new perspective on how the task force should be run.
"Any agency is looking to have fresh starts and have a new set of eyes looking at things and still do the great work that they do," she said.
Different police agencies will handle the full-time retrieval of their officers in different ways. A statement from Ashland City Administrator Dave Kanner said Detective Mike Vanderlip of Ashland police will devote additional time formerly devoted to the task force to sexual assault cases in the city.
Lt. Mike Budreau of Medford police said Detective Brandon Bloomfield will continue to investigate high-tech crimes full time, and that clearance of Medford cases should be expedited. Before, task force cases did not have priority, and were simply added to the list.
"We (got) in line behind other agencies that contract with the unit," Budreau said. "We won't see any deterioration in services as it relates to computer crime."
— Ryan Pfeil