KNOXVILLE — Trigonometry, anthropology and chemistry may not be on students’ minds this summer, but they were hot topics for the 17 law enforcement officers who recently completed the University of Tennessee’s National Forensic Academy (NFA).
NFA Class of 2006Law enforcement personnel apply and wait more than a year for a place in the academy that offers 10 weeks of hands-on training and classroom instruction with some of the country’s leading authorities on crime scene investigation. The NFA has trained officers from Florida to Alaska, from the Texas Rangers to the New York Police Department. The recent session was the 15th held.
During academy training, investigators learn to use mathematical equations and scientific measurements to study bloodstains and bullet trajectories — information often used to validate or refute the testimony of a victim or a suspect. Through such scientific analysis, investigators may be able to determine whether a struggle occurred, whether the victim was standing or sitting and from which direction the attack came.
At arson reconstructions and vehicle bombings, academy students gather, analyze, document and process evidence using the latest forensic techniques. Academy instructors demonstrate and explain weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombings, booby traps and fire scene fatalities. The victims are “dummies,” but the bombs and fires are real.
Investigators who attend the academy work with nationally renowned forensic anthropologists and state medical examiners to research time since death, cause of death, and fingerprinting of the deceased. Dr. Bill Bass, who helped create UT’s Anthropology Research Facility or “Body Farm,” and Dr. Arpad Vass, one of the nation’s leading authorities on time of death, are among UT’s anthropology experts who teach at the NFA. The investigators also visit the “Body Farm” where they learn to scientifically document post-mortem changes to human remains and study skeletal biology.
This session, investigators also traveled to Jamestown, Va., where they helped map artifacts at the original Jamestown Settlement. The students used laser/robotic mapping equipment to plot artifacts at the settlement, honing their skills in burial discovery, recovery and mapping.
The academy is a program of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, an agency of UT’s Institute for Public Service. Open only to law enforcement personnel, the academy has trained CSIs from 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Graduating from this session of the NFA were:
• Pat Cicero, La Porte County (Ind.) Sheriff’s Office
Cicero received the Dr. William Bass Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Forensic Investigation, an esteemed recognition from his classmates for his contributions to the class.
• Richard Robertson, Ludowici (Ga.) Police Department
Robertson received the Michael L. Sullivan Forensic Trailblazer Award, a recognition of his personal commitment to attend the academy and take its lessons home.
• Cory Rodivich, Wichita (Kan.) Police Department
Rodivich was chosen to lead NFA Session XV as class president.
• Scott Baker, Jonesboro (Ark.) Police Department
• Rick Baldwin, Bedford County, Virginia
• Ron Blackburn, Georgia Bureau of Investigation
• Paul Chavez, New Mexico State Police
• Shane Clark, Cleveland (Tenn.) Police Department
• Tim Coulter, Sevierville (Tenn.) Police Department
• Kenneth Freeman, Chattanooga (Tenn.) Police Department
• Jason Harvison, Brentwood (Tenn.) Police Department
• Doug Hedrick, Henrico County, Virginia
• Rick Mathews, New Mexico State Police
• Mason McDowell, Dyersburg (Tenn.) Police Department
• Beth Murphy, Vonore (Tenn.) Knoxville Police Department
• Bret Richardson, Johnson City (Tenn.) Police Department
• Bobby Shainline, Chattanooga (Tenn.) Police Department
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