Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Director’s Take: Introducing the TEEX Forensic Science Academy

I have to admit that I am one of the millions of viewers that enjoy the CSI shows on TV. I have always been a technology junkie, so the use of fancy equipment and techniques to catch the bad guys is very compelling to me. Unfortunately, investigating a crime scene usually doesn't work that way in the “real world.”

First of all, high-tech forensics toys cost a lot of money, and most law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to afford them. Secondly, in most communities, the forensics “specialists” are the brave law enforcement professionals who are also responding to the incident. With the exception of larger police agencies, it is unusual to have a separate team of experts arriving at the scene to manage the evidence.

As you might expect, the amount of available practitioner-based training in forensics is inconsistent and fragmented, at best, leading to compromised management of evidence. A crime scene can be difficult to assess, resulting in two common challenges: improper collection and preservation of evidence. If "everything" at the scene is collected as evidence versus using a more selective collection process or protocol, these materials may present storage challenges for the police agency property room as well as backlogging problems for the crime lab used to process and analyze the evidence.
In addition, if the evidence is not collected properly, the prosecution of the crime could be seriously compromised.

About a year ago, the TEEX Public Safety and Security Division identified this gap in law-enforcement training and decided to take action to help address it. What emerged was the Forensic Science Academy, or FSA.
The FSA is a very rigorous program of training and technical assistance targeted at law enforcement professionals and civilian personnel responsible for processing crime scenes. The FSA will train and educate Texas justice system personnel in science-based best practices designed to promote proper crime scene investigation, evidence collection/preservation and courtroom presentation. This training will lead to the assurance of properly collected and preserved evidence, the relief of backlogged labs and a savings of tax dollars through a more efficient legal system.

Remember, the shows on TV may be entertaining, but the means of investigation on those shows is not practical.

If you would like to learn more about the TEEX Forensic Science Academy, please click