Kyra Wood – The Corsair
The Criminal Justice program set the stage April 22 with mock murder scenes on PJC’s Pensacola campus.
Assembled by the program’s all-star faculty, with a little help from the Collegiate High School’s Art department, the scene provided the vocational training needed by the Criminal Justice students as well as shined some light on the program’s potential.
Students were given a basic briefing of the situation before being unleashed onto the scene where art students provided some realistic finishing touches, such as fake blood patterns.
Both real clues and simulated clues were left for students to observe, record, identify, collect and preserve as if they were working a real crime scene. This was an official law enforcement exercise.
Hank Shirah, school resource officer at the Collegiate High School and lead instructor of the program, has huge hopes for the future, but believes that “lack of awareness” is the main contributor to the problem of proper work space and funding.
The mock murder scene was an exercise not only to showcase its practical existence, but to help the instructors evaluate the progress of students and their own teaching methods.
“The bottom line is it served as a measure of the program and provided us with a marker to tweak the program to provide the law enforcement community with a better employee,” Shirah said.
26 students are officially enrolled with the program, three of which transferred from Troy University and UWF because PJC is the only college in the area that provides a CST (Crime Scene Technician) Certification program. All instructors have extensive experience in law enforcement in several different areas.
Shirah served not only as a sergeant in Vietnam and a lieutenant in charge of major crimes, but also as a state trooper for seven and a half years and with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years.
Teamed with Nadia Attamincuh and Jim Wilburn, who handle the more technical courses, the three provide what they can with limited space and technology.
Attamincuh specializes in Crime Scene Photography and worked as a Crime Scene Technician for Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. Wilburn is a retired West Palm Beach police officer that is a certified Crime Scene Investigator who also teaches at the George Stone. He has worked with the FBI’s serial crime scene profilers and is a fingerprint specialist.
“We ordered supplies that gave us all the tools needed to simulate a working crime scene unit,” Shirah said.
Items on the list included cameras, demonstration kits, collection tools, measuring equipment and a metal detector.
“Our goal was to train students and provide them with the skills and a portfolio to present to a potential employer that will demonstrate that not only do they have the book knowledge; they have the foundational skills to be an excellent employee,” Shirah said
A buried body simulation was in the works with help from Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office.
“The more equipment we get, the more we can do,” Shirah said. “There is already a plan being worked out with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office where we would be able to simulate a buried body, use ground penetrating radar to find the site and do the archeological dig and evidence recovery.”
Until the program is granted a more personal space for growth, instructors will make the best out of Building 11’s T.E.A.L Room.
“As our course grows, I would hope to supply a lab with much of the equipment used in a forensic lab,” Shirah said. “We are a young program; we have some exceptional instructors, a truly interested and committed group of students, and an administration that is committed to providing quality education and training that is current and relevant.”