Crime Does Pay (for Forensic Science Students)

A crime was committed in an Eastern Kentucky University-owned house on University Drive. But local police didn’t seem the least bit concerned.

 Maybe it’s because it was all to their ultimate benefit.

 EKU’s Forensic Science Program recently obtained the old house on the northern periphery of campus in order to stage crime scenes and better prepare its students for real-life scenarios.

“While our forensics program curriculum completely covers essentials to prepare a student for a lab career in either forensic chemistry or forensic biology, we had not focused on assistance at crime scenes in the past,” said Barbara Wheeler, who teaches in the program. “In reality, some forensic labs do respond to crime scenes when necessary. Because of this, providing the instruction on crime scene actions (scene documentation, processing, correct collection and packaging of evidence, and writing crime scene reports) will help prepare the student who may be required to respond to a scene in the future. While it is easy to lecture about the necessary steps to take at a scene, it is better to teach this area with examples. Having a house will allow us to provide this type of instruction.”

The idea, Wheeler, is to provide EKU students with a “complete forensic experience, taking them from the very beginning of an investigation, at the scene and all the way through evidence testing and testimony. Students have learned how to collect evidence, but to detect and correctly collect and package takes skill. Documentation is also something that requires a lot of critical thinking and detail. This will give them the opportunity to develop those skills.”

All events are staged with non-hazardous materials and require very limited chemical use, since all analysis will be conducted in the New Science Building. No controlled substances or weapons are used as evidence or stored in the house.

Established in 1974, EKU’s Forensic Science Program is one of the oldest in the nation, and one of only 18 undergraduate programs in the U.S. accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Its forensic science chemistry option is also nationally accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, and the University will likely apply for accreditation for the newer biology option in 2016, Wheeler said.