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Campus death investigation

Criminal justice students participate in forensics lab

By Juana Jones
On April 27, 2018

Photo by Jeff Sigmund. Criminal justice students listen to instructions from local law enforcement crime scene investigators as they attempt to solve a mock death scene on Friday, April 13. Mike Brown, Kirkwood student system support coordinator, played the part of the deceased.

Students at Kirkwood Community College participated in a mock crime scene on Friday, April 13.

According to Joe Schmitz, criminal justice instructor, “The mock crime scene was the start of a three week practical application of concepts which students have learned in the Criminal Investigation course.”  

Schmitz added,  “The crime scene provided students an opportunity to work with professional crime scene investigators in order to identify, preserve and collect evidence which would become important in the rest of the project.” The scene was staged through a collaboration of the Linn, Cedar Rapids, Marion and Tipton police departments.  

Students were divided into groups of four and led through the scene where they were provided with information and asked to gather details.   

The students were also given pointers as to how the mock investigation would differ from a real scene, including blocking off a much larger area and working outside first then inside. Throughout the scene, the police highlighted the evidence for students.  

“This hand’s on activity gives students a strong foundation to use critical thinking, organization, and investigative skills while working with investigative and legal professionals in a simulated investigation,” said Schmitz. 

According to Nicole Frantz and Tamika Jack, two students who participated, the exercise was helpful because it pointed out things they should have noticed but didn’t.    

While this scene was staged, law enforcement, Kirkwood faculty and staff involved tried to make it as realistic as possible. Officer Wilson, with the Marion Police Department, stated, “All crime scenes are different.” 

After each group was done observing the scene, they returned to the classroom to organize their notes and discuss different theories as to what may have happened.  

As the course continues, students will be provided with additional information to represent the progression of an investigation. 

At the end of the course, Schmitz said students will make an official report and turn their documents over to area attorneys who will review and critique their work.

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