TORRINGTON – Officers from around Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado attended a 40-hour training session hosted by the Torrington Police Department Monday, March 29, through Friday, April 2.
Forensic Pieces, a Florida-based forensic training company, provided entry-level investigations training to a class of officers from different agencies throughout the tri-state area.
Dr. Michael “Doc” Berkland and April Crichton provided instruction for greater than 20 students throughout the week. Doc is a former medical examiner, while Crichton works for the city of Anaheim, Calif. as a forensic specialist.
Crichton has been with the city of Anaheim for the past 13 years, where she has worked as a self-proclaimed “jack of all trades.” She has been involved with evidence collection, fingerprints analysis, blood spatter analysis and crime scene work.
In addition, she has experience working with a wide range of major cases, such as officer-involved shootings, homicides, death investigations, domestic violence investigations, breaking and entering investigations, burglaries and much more.
“I’ve seen one of everything,” Crichton said of her experience as a forensic specialist.
Crichton acquired a bachelor’s degree and was then certified as a crime scene investigator in California when she was hired by the city of Anaheim.
“This is a basic crime scene class. It is here to give everybody the crash course, who may not know how to handle a crime scene,” Crichton said. “A lot of the people here in are in an investigation role, now, and they are fairly new in it. So, they want to make sure they can preserve the scene, and they can preserve and collect the evidence properly, document the scene, everything, so that it is reproducible and verifiable.”
During the class, officers were provided sample crime scenes and directed to diagram the scenes. The goal was to obtain as much information as they could while preserving the scene.
After the officers did this, they would have other officers come to their mock crime scene to attempt to reconstruct the crime scene, based on the original officer’s notes and documentation of the scene.
“A lot of it is measurement and math,” Crichton said.
Officers were later provided with samples of simulated blood spatter which they were required to measure to determine the angle of trajectory for the blood.
During the blood spatter analysis portion of the class, officers were also instructed on the proper way to test red-colored spots or stains to determine whether the spots or stains were blood or something like nail polish or dried barbecue sauce.
“It’s very important for officers to be able to distinguish whether something is evidence or not,” Berkland said. “As part of this class, we teach officers to check for the viability of certain pieces of evidence, such as blood. We then test the officers to ensure they are able to determine whether or not there is blood present on a swab; some swabs have blood on them, some have dried barbecue sauce.”
After determining whether the red-colored spots or stains are blood, officers are then required to document the spots and stains so they can begin to understand what occurred at the location.
“When somebody, sadly, gets bludgeoned, there’s standing, there’s castoff, there are all sorts of things,” Crichton said. “When that blood hits that wall, we want them to know what direction it’s going, why it is going this way, what to expect. Crime scene work is a lot of measurement, a lot of math.”
The officers were provided mock crime scenes, complete with simulated blood spatter, on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We have the officers set up the scene and create a scenario,” Berkland said. “Other officers will then be required to diagram the scene and use what they have learned to determine what happened in the scenario created by the first group.”
Berkland said this is one of his favorite parts of the training as the officers try their best to challenge one another.
“The officers setting up the scenes will swipe the blood here, and swipe the blood there, to try and mislead the officers who are investigating the scene,” Berkland said. “It’s a really good time.”
After the conclusion of the training, many of these officers will use what they learned and immediately apply their education to ongoing and new investigations. Additionally, there are other courses available for the officers to progress further and learn more about crime scene investigation.