KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s National Forensic Academy — one of the nation’s premier training grounds for crime scene investigators — will hold a ribbon “explosion” ceremony on Aug. 18 to open its new training facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The event will take place at 1:15 p.m. at the new facility at 1201 Oak Ridge Turnpike.
Participants are expected to include renowned forensic anthropologist William “Bill” Bass; U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn; past NFA class president and Texas Ranger Joe Haralson; and UT officials including President John Petersen, Vice President for Public and Government Relations Hank Dye and Vice President of Public Service Mary Jinks.
The new facility is housed within a building donated to the university by Guilford Glazer, a benefactor who formerly lived in the area but now lives in California. The building also houses other UT programs, including those of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC).
“Thanks to the support of the University of Tennessee, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Congress and private donors, the National Forensic Academy’s new facility is finally a reality,” said Don Green, program manager of the National Forensic Science Institute. “This dedication of resources to advance training in the specific area of investigative techniques will aid law enforcement nationwide.”
The NFA — a program of the LEIC’s National Forensic Science Institute, all of which are part of the statewide UT Institute for Public Service — is a 10-week, in-residence training program. Select crime scene investigators from law enforcement organizations around the country learn about evidence identification, collection and preservation. Three sessions are held each year, and each involves 170 hours of classroom work and 230 hours of field practice.
About 60 percent of NFA training involves hands-on field exercises. Participants watch vehicles explode and burn, analyze mock crime scenes and spend a week at UT’s “Body Farm,” where UT’s anthropological experts teach them to document post-mortem changes to human remains and practice burial discovery, recovery and mapping.
The new training facility includes a classroom, a laboratory, photography lab and a specially designed blood spatter room where CSIs can learn to better evaluate blood evidence at crime scenes. Those attending the Aug. 18 event will be invited to tour the facility and see demonstrations and exhibits in the various rooms.
“Our signature is that our training is very hands-on,” Forensic Training Specialist Nathan Lefebvre said. “Participants have an opportunity not only to hear about a subject and see demonstrations, but they also have an opportunity to practice the newest investigative techniques.”
Lefebvre attributes much of the NFA’s success to its highly qualified instructors who come from around the country to share their expertise.
“Our instructors are experts academically and as practitioners,” Lefebvre said. “That’s important. As working professionals, they understand the difficulties crime scene investigators face in the field, and that experience makes their instruction relevant and credible.”
Since the NFA began in 2001, 320 CSIs from 48 states, the District of Columbia and one foreign country have completed the academy. Participants have come from large agencies, including the New York Police Department, the Texas Rangers and the Alaska State Troopers, as well as from small towns like Belmont, N.H., which has a 20-member police force. There is a waiting list for admission to NFA.
“The NFA has raised the bar for law enforcement throughout the U.S. in terms of expectations and capabilities,” LEIC Executive Director Dan Baker said. “Today, there’s a higher expectation from citizens and community leaders that police will be more effective, use technology in a broader manner and work toward quicker, effective solutions to major crime situations.
“When police officers or CSIs return to their communities after completing the academy, the goal is to make a difference — solve crimes and further the administration of justice,” Baker said.
The NFA is funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
For more about the NFA, see http://leic.tennessee.edu/nfsi/nfa/.
Directions to NFA: From Interstate 40, take exit 376 for TN-162 N toward Oak Ridge. Merge onto Pellissippi Pkwy/TN-162 W. Slight left at Oak Ridge Hwy/TN-62 W. Continue to follow TN-62 W. Sharp right at Lafayette Drive. Turn left at Oak Ridge Turnpike/TN-95.
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