Whatcom Students Learn to Solve the Grisliest of Crimes

by Ben Cripps

Horizon Reporter

On a relatively quiet Monday evening, 20 students file into Kelly 106 prepared to witness the scene of a murder. Crime Scene Investigation & Evidence Collection (ADMJ 206) is not your normal class. Students warm up by reviewing previous lectures or topics to get them ready for the evening’s lesson.

In a recent class, students begin by reviewing Case Study Discussion Scenarios where students are given photos from crime scenes, coupled with step-by-step analysis of the case from the initial call to case closed. Students have the opportunity to get a hands-on education by fingerprinting, creating and analyzing mock crime scenes and observing and studying case photography.

“It’s a combination of lecture, real life experience, and a hands-on approach that makes this class unique,” says instructor Ron Peterson. When Peterson first started teaching the CSI class there were seven students enrolled. Now, the average class is around 25.

The program often features guest speakers such as former FBI agent Dave Mceachran, who is currently serving as Whatcom County Prosecutor. Peterson describes Mceachran as “fair and impartial…a real gate keeper.” In addition, expert medical examiner and photographer Sam Gardner teaches students how to study photos in expert fashion.

Peterson focuses on the specifics on using photographs in criminal investigation. “Let the pictures do the talking without intervention,” Peterson said.

The class is not for the faint of heart. Pictures detail how gruesome criminal investigative science can be. PowerPoint slides show homicide victims with open chest wounds and torn ligaments. Students study a myriad of cases, from missing persons to homicide.

The midterm consists of reviewing a crime scene. Students analyze hair and fibers, study photos, cross-diagram and create sketches of suspects.

Getting involved with the Criminal Justice Program is very beneficial, said Samuel Tracey, 21, who is active in the Criminal Justice Leadership Program. Students have access to employment opportunities, ride-alongs, and K-9 training. The club has yet to meet this quarter, but Tracey notes that throughout the year there are many guest speakers, activities, and field trips. Spring 2011 boasted a trip to the Border Patrol station in Blaine and a trip to the Whatcom County jail in the summer.

Students interested in becoming involved with the Criminal Justice Program can visit www.whatcom.ctc.edu/admj, or contact advisor John Taylor at jtaylor@whatcom.ctc.edu

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