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KNOXVILLE – Law enforcement specialists who hunt clues at crime scenes like those at Tuesday’s terrorist attacks will improve their investigative skills in a national program at the University of Tennessee.

UT’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center will launch its National Forensic Academy in a ceremony at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in the Knoxville Police Department Training Academy, said Michael L. Sullivan, center director.

Larry Wallace, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, will keynote the gathering, and Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe and Police Chief Phil Keith will be principal speakers.

Twelve crime-scene investigators from Tennessee and one each from North Dakota and South Carolina will make up the first class in the academy’s 10-week residential training program, which starts immediately after the event, Sullivan said.

“These students are the specialists who come to the crime scene to identify, bag, tag and preserve the evidence and transport it properly to the crime lab,” Sullivan said. “They ultimately end up testifying in court about the evidence collected at the crime scene.

“Essentially they can make or break a case.”

Because of legal chain-of-custody requirements, crime-scene professionals need advanced training in collecting and preserving evidence from the full spectrum of the forensic sciences. The program also will include training in search patterns and sequences. New developments in technology and scientific discovery demand increased focus on training for crime-scene professionals, he said.

“Defense attorneys and other court officers are becoming much more sophisticated about evidence, and science is offering investigators much more sophisticated tools,” Sullivan said.

The training will draw on the resources of UT’s College of Law and its forensic anthropology department, including the outdoor anthropological research facility.

The Knoxville Police Department, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the TBI and the state’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs are cosponsoring the academy, and the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will participate in specific training exercises.