The NMU Public Safety Institute conducts annual training for evidence technicians, alternating between an intensive two-week basic course one year and a series of two-day refreshers the next. The refreshers being held on campus this month focus on death investigations because the institute partnered with NMU’s Forensic Research Outdoor Station (FROST) and Forensic Anthropology Research Laboratory. Both locations offer hands-on training to complement the classroom instruction provided with support from the Michigan State Police.
FROST Director Jane Wankmiller said participating law enforcement personnel are gaining practical experience in several areas related to basic crime scene and death scene processing, including fingerprint collection, photography, blood spatter documentation and presumptive testing, stages of decomposition and other postmortem changes, skeletal analysis and entomology.
“Teaming up with the NMU Public Safety Institute and Michigan State Police allows me to speak with the law enforcement community to better understand their knowledge and the areas they are interested in learning more about,” Wankmiller said. “It will help me develop relevant training in the future and give us ideas for research questions that our faculty and students can explore.”
Lt. Ken Love, director of the NMU Public Safety Institute, said about 20 local, county and state officers are enrolled in each two-day refresher.
“Because FROST is new, it was a no-brainer to make our focus death investigations and incorporate the research station and lab because they offer more realistic training simulations,” Love said. “We haven’t been able to work with deceased individuals in the past. Officers are getting some experience with bone identification, which is a big issue. People find bones in the woods and aren’t sure if they’re animal or human.”
Wankmiller said she showed officers some human bones and tested their ability to make the distinction, but encouraged them to call on her expertise or that of another forensic anthropologist in cases where bone identification is required.
“Jane has specific knowledge other instructors may not have, so we’re lucky to have her on campus and involved in our training,” Love added. “We will continue to incorporate FROST from this point forward.”
This year’s final two-day refresher is scheduled the week of Oct. 22.