Cybercops Class Under Cover,4164,2588873,00.html

By Lewis Z. Koch Special To Inter@ctive Week, Inter@ctive Week
June 15, 2000 2:24 PM PT

The claim was made at a March 21 news conference celebrating a gift of
goods and services worth $250,000 from Microsoft and computer
manufacturer Omni Tech to the College of DuPage's Suburban Law
Enforcement Academy.

Naperville, Ill., Police Detective Mike Sullivan waxed confident about
how the gift - establishing a new Computer Crimes Lab - would aid in
teaching Illinois police officers to catch cybercriminals, Internet
con artists and pedophiles.

As Kirk Heminger, marketing manager at Omni Tech, recalls, Sullivan
said that in "every class they've ever held, they [police
officer/students] actually catch someone in an act of perpetrating a
crime and, so far, every class that they've had, one of the students
has been able to catch a criminal doing what they're doing and convict

Heminger enthused: "Where can you go to a class where you can get real
hands-on experience like that? You're actually convicting criminals in
a classroom!" He added that Sullivan and Randy James, the academy's
director, "admit to you any time that if you're a supersmart
hacker-type guy, they're probably not going to catch you. Randy told
us: 'We just want to catch the dumb ones.' "

Sullivan, who teaches the computer crime class, told those gathered at
the celebration that his police officer/students would pose as
children and log on to pornographic Web sites or chat rooms where
Internet pedophiles prey on the young; once the predators reveal
themselves, they can be investigated and arrested.

Catching those who use the Internet to victimize children is a worthy
cause. So, too, is protecting children from being tortured, even
murdered, by their parents or caretakers. In a world of limited police
resources, should cops be patrolling cyberspace for "dumb" pedophiles,
or real space, stopping parents who, by the hundreds of thousands each
year, maim and murder their own children?

Show me

I wanted to attend class and see what the students did, what they were
taught - exactly - so that I could inform the public where its
resources are going and to what ends. If the public wants to hunt down
the "dumb ones," so be it. But the public should know a choice exists
between catching the dumb ones and the more difficult task of catching
the smart ones - the hackers capable of wreaking havoc on the
Internet, using computers to steal millions, if not billions, of

When Sullivan claimed that it was easy to track someone down - as easy
as checking on a license plate - I wanted to see him do it, or see
someone in class do it. And I had other questions: What was being
taught about the legal concept of entrapment? What about maintaining
the scientific validity of the computer forensic evidence to ensure
its admissibility in court?

So, can I attend school?

No. No civilians allowed; only "sworn police officers."

Finally, I was told I could come to class - for one hour on one day,
and four hours on another. That wasn't satisfactory. If I was going to
write fairly about the class, then I had to attend all the class
sessions. I wouldn't review a book without reading it in its entirety,
nor would I critique a class having only attended part of it.

I changed my tack: I asked to see James' and Sullivan's curriculum
vitae. Would anyone refuse to provide his or her educational and
professional background on the grounds of competency or excellence?
James and Sullivan refused.

Student evaluations of previous classes? No.

Oh, yeah, and those student-caught cybercriminals Sullivan had bragged

Naperville's Chief of Police, David E. Dial, Sullivan's boss, didn't
know of any such arrests, nor did Dial's second-in-command. According
to Dial, Naperville's serious crime rates "are incredibly low when
compared to the national average." Dial noted the department does
receive complaints "about the way we handle parking enforcement."

What's more, the DuPage County prosecutor's office couldn't cite any
arrests or convictions stemming from the work of the Academy's
cybercrime class, nor could the Illinois Attorney General's office.

College President Michael Murphy listened to my requests for
information for more than half an hour and said he would get back to
me that day. He didn't. He hasn't.

The entire Illinois education bureaucracy refused to answer any
requests for information about the college or the Suburban Law
Enforcement Academy, all the way up to and including the governor's
office. The College of DuPage Board of Trustees? Five of seven members
failed to return a phone call; they still hadn't called a week later.
One had an unlisted number. One returned the call, and said she would
investigate and have Murphy call me back. Never happened.

Who's overseeing the classroom teaching, the curriculum? No one at the
college - no one in the state, it appears. This cybercrime course
seems to be accountable to no one.

Finally, one who gets it

James L. Fisher is a world-class educator who writes about leadership
and organization in higher education. His book, The Power of the
Presidency, was nominated for a Pulitzer and his latest book,
Presidential Leadership: Making a Difference, was hailed as a
must-read for college presidents and boards of trustees. Fisher's
writing is also published in The New York Times.

Fisher and five others from across the country did a review of the
College of DuPage, which, since its founding in 1967, has become the
largest single-campus community college in the U.S. It has graduated
more than 0.5 million students and has a budget of more than $124

The review was tough, but fair, and included both praise for and
scathing denouncements of the college, which the authors felt had the
potential to be first-rank, but was instead vacillating between
excellence and mediocrity.

I told Fisher that I had wanted to sit in on the cybercop class. There
was absolutely no equivocation, no hesitation, when he said: "I think
it's something worthy of investigation and reporting. I don't disagree
at all with what you're doing. I think it's appropriate."

When I recited the efforts the college and the bureaucracy had
undertaken to stymie me, he had a one-word response: "Ludicrous!"

Yes, that's exactly the word for it.

main page ATTRITION feedback