Mock crime scene teaches students evidence collection

ALPENA — One victim lay on the floor, a gun near his right hand. The other sprawled in a chair, mouth agape, blood spatter on the wall behind him.

Three students, armed with clipboards, camera, and measuring tapes, stepped carefully over a shell casing, looking for evidence that might tell the story of what had happened.

Their instructor, Larry Thomson, knew exactly what had happened. Four hours of work on his part had turned the stage of Granum Theater on the Alpena Community College campus into a mock crime scene, carefully staged to give students in the criminal justice program an opportunity to practice the investigatory skills they’ve acquired in the classroom as they prepare to exit the program and head toward further training and positions in law enforcement.

The Criminal Investigations class moved through the scene in groups of three or four, heeding reminders from their instructor as they carefully documented the scene. The students took photographs, gathered precise measurements, and labeled evidence to be able, if necessary, to exactly recreate the scene.

Thomson, drawing from his 35 years of experience in law enforcement, gave the students pointers as they worked, urging them to talk to each other and to think creatively to gather the information they needed. The evidence they gather on the job needs to stand up to questioning in court, he reminded them, focusing the students on not only the task at hand but also their futures as law enforcement officers.

A shell casing under a table gave the students pause as they tried to figure out how to accurately document its location with a body in the way of their measurements. Outside-the-box thinking solved the problem: The students threaded the tape measure carefully under the victim’s legs to access their measuring baseline that ran across the center of the room. more

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