Crime scene investigationDead bodies littered the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-Superior campus Thursday.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Dead bodies littered the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-Superior campus Thursday.
One had been bludgeoned to death with a dumbbell. Found wrapped in a tarp and dumped near the parking lot as a stabbing victim. A drug deal gone bad led to the shooting death of one male. A daycare accident led to the death of a 4-year-old. A body hung from a ceiling in a classroom.
Teams of law enforcement officers gathered around each crime scene wearing blue booties and carrying clipboards. They took photographs, notes, then tagged and bagged available evidence.
Corpse-riddled scenarios were the final step in a weeklong training course on crime scene processing offered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“It’s just not an evidence tech class, per se,” said Nick Stahlke, forensic science training coordinator for the state. Along with teaching the basics of collecting, preserving and submitting evidence, the class teaches officers how to determine what could be evidence at scenes to develop a strategy for collecting it.
“It’s not just the evidence handling part of it. It’s also identification of, collection of, processing of and then ultimately submitting to the crime lab,” Stahlke said.
The first three days of the week offered presentations by members of the crime lab. The law enforcement officers learned about DNA, latent print development, tire tracks, firearms, tool marks, questionable documents, trace evidence, drug identification and toxicology.
“It’s all helpful,” said Brad Wyss, a deputy with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputy Jason Janecek with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department said the course covered the gamut from refresher items to advanced training on how to better collect minute or trace evidence. And it has definitely enhanced their photography skills.
“Probably the biggest thing we’ve learned is just the limitations to what the lab can do and what they need from us in the field,” Janecek said.
“It’s an eye-opener,” Wyss said.
The intent of the training is two-fold, according to Kevin Jones, director of the crime lab bureau for the Department of Law Enforcement Services. It increases the quality of evidence sent to the state’s three crime labs, and it keeps the experts at the lab instead of in the field collecting evidence.
“That’s the intent of the whole course is to keep people at the lab working case work,” Stahlke said. Currently, crimes against persons have a 45-day turnaround time at the state crime lab, Jones said.
In prior years, the state provided this type of training only twice a year, once at Fort McCoy and once in the Milwaukee area. This year, four courses were added including the first ever in northern Wisconsin. Response to the regional training has been overwhelming.
“There were more applicants than we had spots,” Jones said. Twenty-seven law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the area, including Ashland, Douglas, Manitowoc, Marinette and Washburn counties as well as Chetek, Crandon, Bad River, Clear Lake and Iron River, attended the weeklong training.
Increasing training sessions statewide has led to a drop in the number of calls for crime lab techs to process scenes, Jones said. However, the most helpful part of the training has been the connections forged between DOJ staff and law enforcement. They now have someone they can call for advice.
“We’ve been getting less calls for service and more calls for consultations,” Jones said. “When you’re out at a crime scene at 12:30 at night it’s just nice to know you can call somebody and get some advice.”
The scenarios Thursday were tailored to fit the available rooms at WITC while pulling from actual scenes the crime lab has processed, Stahlke said. Each included a dead dummy.
“Each one of these scenarios has a body as part of the scene,” Stahlke said. “I figure if they can process a homicide scene, they’re going to be able to process anything else.”
The training streamlines the evidence collection process and strikes a balance between efficiencies at the lab and out in the field, Jones said, for a “better product all around.”
He said he hopes to expand on the training by offering future classes in more advanced fields like blood spatter analysis and photography.
The training is free to law enforcement officers and each department receives a crime scene kit at the end of the class. The cost to put on the course, paid by the justice department, is about $10,000.