Twenty-two officers with the Kentucky State Police have come to West Virginia University with murder on their minds.
The officers are taking part in an intensive, two-week seminar conducted by WVU s landmark Forensic Science Initiative.
WVU faculty in the initiative and the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program are working the Kentucky officers through all facets of police work, from evidence gathering and blood spatter analysis to the reconstruction of events at murder scenes and other places where bodies are found.
This is a very thorough program,said Curt Hall, a veteran police officer and former detective who is now a drill instructor at the Kentucky State Police Training Academy in Frankfort.
Were very impressed with your facilities and your people,Hall said.A lot of our guys who came up here to West Virginia do have experience in the field. Theyre out there, working the murders and the rapes. But you dont want to say no to training opportunities, especially when youre looking at facilities like these.
Making up those facilities on the Evansdale campus are twocrime scenehouses and a forensic garage, where WVU students in forensic classes work through a range of scenarios depicted by life-size mannequins: everything from husband-and-wife quarrels gone horribly wrong to drive-by shootings and poker games that suddenly turn lethal at the drop of stacked deck.
It all makes foran effective learning environment,said Keith Morris, who now manages research projects at the facilities after coming to WVU last November from South Africa, where he headed that countrys national crime lab system.
Before our WVU facilities, the only experience officers could get was through on-the-job training,Morris said.The first time the aftermaths of sudden, violent crimes were encountered was when the officer arrived on the scene.
The stress and chaos of those encounters dont always make for solid police work, said Michael Bell, a former crime scene analyst with the New Mexico State Police who manages the crime scene facilities with Morris.
Thats why its good to go through it all in a learning lab situation, said Bell, who often draws on his own memories as a crime scene investigator to craft the scenarios here.
Its still chaotic in this environment,he said,but its a controlled chaos. If you make a mistake here, you get to retrace your steps. You come away learning something. Mess up out there, and youve compromised an investigation.
Were just here gaining more knowledge,said Hall, who is also gearing up to train an incoming class of 80 new troopers in Frankfort next month.This is going to make us better when we go back home.
The officers from the Bluegrass State will be here through June 17.