NC State takes lead in crime scene investigation training

October 09, 2008

North Carolina State University researchers are launching a new project that will standardize forensic crime scene investigation training throughout the state, decrease the cost of providing the training to law enforcement personnel and forensic scientists, and hopefully contribute to the establishment of nationwide standards for death investigations.

A team of NC State scientists, led by Dr. Ann H. Ross, has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) tasking the researchers with the development of a multimedia training course that will allow law enforcement and forensics personnel to learn how to properly identify, collect and preserve physical evidence from the scene of a crime through podcasts and online coursework.

The multimedia approach being developed under the NIJ grant will allow law enforcement officials to train from their home agencies rather than traveling to distant training sites - saving the agencies a significant amount of money and ensuring that they do not have to operate with reduced personnel during the coursework training period. The multimedia training sessions would be followed by approximately two and a half days of hands-on fieldwork, in order for trainees to apply their online training in a practical setting.

"It is important for law enforcement agencies to be adequately trained in protocols that can help bring death investigations to a successful close," Ross says. "We seek to narrow the gap in training across all counties, while at the same time providing a standardized training program to optimize state agency responses in the time of need."

The research team covers a wide variety of forensic specialties. Ross, an associate professor of anthropology, provides expertise on forensic anthropology, the analysis of skeletonized remains. Dr. David Hinks, associate professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science, is an expert on fiber and color analysis. Dr. Wes Watson, associate professor of entomology, is an expert on insects that may be found at a crime scene. Dr. Billy Oliver, adjunct assistant professor of anthropology, is an archaeologist who specializes in recovering human remains. Dr. Jason Byrd, a forensic entomologist at the University of Florida, is also part of the grant team.

Ross says the NC State team will begin developing the online coursework and manual in January, and plans to run a pilot of the training module in December 2009. The final course format should be completed in September 2010.
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North Carolina State University

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