Law Enforcement Connects With Growing Criminal Forensic Programs at State Universities
Universities across the state are harnessing a growing interest in forensic science often referred to as the “CSI effect,” by offering expanded programs in these fields.
The academic programs are uniquely positioned to offer strong job candidates to often-understaffed law enforcement agencies as science helps in solving crimes.
The growing popularity of these programs brought West Virginia State Troopers and a forensic instructor from the state police academy to Concord University in Athens on Tuesday.
Troopers offered tours of the State Police Mobile Crime Scene Unit and talked with students taking a criminology class. The state police officers explained that a good path for crime scene investigation is joining their ranks in law enforcement after graduation.
Inside, officers stood in front of a flat screen TV that displayed a crime scene as they spoke with students.
Many of the students were from Concord’s criminology program.
“He’s at this house, on the sidewalk dead, shot six times,” said Dave Castle, a forensic instructor and crime scene coordinator for the state police.
Castle is also an instructor at Marshall University’s Forensic Science program, and he said it’s important to get the next generation interested. Marshall’s program recently achieved the highest collective score in the nation on the Forensic Science Assessment Test.
“People love it mainly because of TV but when they get involved in it and they see that there’s actual science behind it, and that they can substantiate conclusions with science, a lot of people lose interest but a lot more people are like, ‘that’s for me,’” Castle said.
Castle has been investigating crime scenes, mostly murders, for more than 30 years. He takes on the work as his life’s mission.
“I don't know what else I would do,” Castle said. “This is just my identity. It's who I am. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I don’t lose sleep over the things that I have to see and do,” he added. “To me, it’s a problem that needs solved. And I might be able to help solve it, maybe not, but I’ll do my best. I really just want to help the family members that are surviving.”
Castle is working with the State Police to seek Crime Scene Investigation accreditation with the American National Standards Institute ANAB.
He said the standards will create a new level of consistency, and credibility across the state, where forensic programs continue to be in high demand.
Concord University currently offers a minor in Criminology and a Sociology degree with a Criminology emphasis. Other growing forensic programs include West Virginia University where bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees are offered in the field, and Fairmont State University.
While at Concord, Castle also demonstrated a system called Faro, a crime scene tool that takes millions of pieces of data to create a 3-D image. It can reveal initially unseen evidence.
“There may be bits of evidence that you didn’t notice,” Castle said, “while you were there actually at the scene that you see later in the Faro images. It’s very detailed.”