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No secret: Service lauds Post Falls detective

by MADISON HARDY
Hagadone News Network | February 23, 2021 1:00 AM

POST FALLS — Out of more than 1,700 policing digital forensic examiners across the nation, Post Falls Police Department’s own Detective Neil Uhrig was ranked in the top 50 by the U.S. Secret Service for 2020. 

Every year the U.S. Secret Service’s National Computer Forensics Institute recognizes leading state and local law enforcement agents for their proficiency in media, E-tech, and hard drive digital detective techniques. Uhrig was ranked 49th in the country. 

“It’s quite an honor to know I got the award. In the work that I do, there is probably no higher honor for forensics,” Uhrig said. 

Uhrig has worked in the PFPD forensic department for almost a decade but dove into the niche detective style in 2017. Uhrig was drawn to forensic work with a personal passion for fighting crimes against children, which have expanded in the digital realm. 

During the 2020 fiscal year, Uhrig examined over 75 terabytes of data, breaking down to around 256 computer or cellphone hard drives. Or, as Greg Ligouri, the USSS Spokane Office Resident Agent in Charge put it during Uhrig’s recognition in front of Post Falls City Council on Tuesday, one or two investigations per day — on top of his other duties as a detective. 

“This is the highest number that I’ve put out over the years,” Uhrig said. “Honestly, that would be a tough thing to top, as I do forensics as part of the normal cases I get assigned as a detective. There are large agencies that do forensics from start to end, so their output will be a lot higher.”

In 2016, by the nomination of Post Falls Police Department Chief Pat Knight and Captain Greg McLean, Uhrig was picked up for training with the U.S. Secret Service’s National Computer Forensics Institute. Since then, the PFPD and Uhrig have strengthened their relationship with the USSS and forensic detective divisions across the Inland Northwest, Ligouri said.

“Without a doubt, my office and staff who have worked with Neil have benefited from his expertise,” Ligouri said. “Most importantly, I think, I hope, and I do believe, that not just the Post Falls community but North Idaho and even eastern Washington communities have benefited from this partnership.”

Digital crimes have become increasingly prevalent over the last several decades, Uhrig said, with more examinations linked to low-level crimes like shoplifting, and felonies like murder and child pornography. 

“About 75% of my work is child-related,” Uhrig said. “However, I get all different types of cases from different agencies. The USSS has a lot of financial-related cases like credit card fraud. Other agencies ask me to examine things on murder cases, shootings and drug offenses.”

As a result of Uhrig’s training, the USSS has provided thousands of dollars worth of training and equipment to the PFPD and USSS Spokane Office. 

“I know you are very successful, and I know the training you’ve been provided has been very beneficial to the city,” Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson said to Uhrig. “We can’t extend enough appreciation to you and the department for the work you have done for this community.”

Last July, Uhrig was honored by American Legion Post 143 as Post Falls Officer of the Year for the detective category.