Officer Robert Church set up a mock crime scene, complete with blood spatter, this week for seventh-grade students at Clarkdale-Jerome School. Church is teaching the subject in Jeff Scroggins' science class
Robert Church, school resource officer, is taking his crime-scene knowledge into Jeff Scroggins' seventh-grade science class to help students see how science is used in the real world. They also may learn that the world of television isn't always a mirror image of reality.
"I'm able to give kids a more realistic view of how things work," Church said. "On 'CSI,' they get DNA results back before the end of the show."
In the real world, however, it may take up to six months or longer to obtain DNA test results. It depends on the priority of the crime being investigated and the size of the police department doing the investigation. Church said large departments have their own crime scene investigators and laboratories.
"Most of us have to rely on the state's lab," he said.
Church's position with the school is paid for by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education. "My job is to teach law-related education," he said.
In November the foundation held a course to teach forensic science within the science curriculum, Church said. The foundation's goal is to put officers into the classroom for something other than civil law.
Church, in turn, is teaching crime-scene investigation to seventh-graders. "I work a lot with the seventh grade," he said.
"In eighth grade, we'll do street law," he said. That course teaches students how the law applies to them. "Next year I want to do advanced crime-scene investigation."
For now, he is in the science class each week teaching a different aspect of crime-scene forensics. Last week, the topics were fingerprinting and blood-spatter analysis. This week, the students are using what they've learned in class to process a mock crime scene.
Church said each student has an assigned job while in the crime scene. Supplies and equipment that match what actual investigators use are provided for the students. They have access to evidence bags, flashlights, cameras, masks, gloves and most other necessary tools.
Although Church set up the crime scene with a body, blood spatter and bullet holes, he did not set up an exact scenario. Instead he set up a scene that could have multiple interpretations.
"I want to see what their conclusion is of everything," he said.
To make the mock scene more realistic, Church said he actually set up a bag of fake blood and then whacked it with a long board. The resulting spatter pattern will tell the students a lot about what happened.
Once at the crime scene the students will conduct a preliminary survey of the scene before gathering evidence in a manner similar to what they may see on any of the CSI television shows. Finally, the students will write up their conclusions in a report. Church said the students will be graded on their work and report.
Crime-scene investigation is only one part of what Church and the foundation hope to accomplish with his presence on campus and in the classroom. He said students are exposed to all aspects of the judicial system.
"If you don't want to be a police officer, you could become a lawyer or judge," he said.