FBI director aims to expand cybersecurity capabilities of local, state and federal agencies

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TOPEKA – FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a cybersecurity recruiting visit to Kansas on Friday that the computer investigative capacity of local, state and federal law enforcement officers must be extended to combat the increase in Internet crime across the country.

The federal agency director was in Lawrence with U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas to talk about the shortage of cybercrime investigators and to meet with law enforcement officers in Topeka about their ideas for moving forward. their work and to improve cooperation between the FBI and city, county and state officers in Kansas.

“We’re not going to be able to recruit out of this problem because even the private sector can’t recruit enough people who have a really high-end type of talent,” Wray said.

He said the FBI would continue to attract quality employees, but needed to identify and redirect personnel with the aptitude to excel in cybercrime investigations.

He said more local and state law enforcement officers should engage with FBI cybercrime task forces to broaden soft skills within the profession. In addition, the director said, victims of cybercrime should contact the FBI hotline to help the agency gather leads from criminal enterprises with a broad geographic reach.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has taken the first steps to building a cyber workforce, and separately the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center is working with the University of Kansas to further teach the skills needed to catch cybercriminals. . KU is involved in researching technologies that can improve law enforcement’s ability to thwart cybercrime, Moran said.

KBI Director Kirk Thompson said the Legislature recently provided funding to launch the operation, but more resources would be needed as the operational tempo increases.

“We’re still taking baby steps,” Thompson said. “It’s been a slow rollout.”

Wray and Moran met with several dozen Kansas law enforcement officials for about an hour in the KBI lab at Washburn University. Kansas officials raised questions about access to federal grants, which were sometimes awkwardly tied to geographic boundaries or offense-specific activities that didn’t make practical sense.

Moran said he would seek to refine the federal grant process to increase the chances of smaller rural departments getting additional funding.

Wray said the FBI was engaged in threats from abroad that often drew attention, but the bulk of the agency’s resources were still channeled into criminal cases.

“Whether it’s Ukraine, terrorism, a Chinese threat, or a cyber threat, you hear about a lot of things that we do from a national security perspective,” Wray said. “I don’t want you to think we’ve diverted attention from traditional criminal threats, which are still our bread and butter.”

Wray said the increase in violent crime, particularly homicide rates, in Kansas was also happening in the United States. Last year, he said, was the deadliest in decades in terms of law enforcement officers killed in conflicting situations, figures that exclude COVID-19 and traffic accidents. .

There are ramifications for deputies and officers working in stressful environments while dealing with horrific criminal behavior, he said.

“Mental health is a huge issue in our profession right now. Law enforcement suicides are on the rise,” Wray said.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said the department’s mental health challenge goes beyond a program designed to rely on peer support. Hiring advisers to work with department members requires resources that the FBI or Congress could provide, he said.

“If we’re not of sound mind and body, we’re not going to be useful to people,” Easter said.

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