Crimes don’t just occur outside the walls of a prison; they take place in correctional facilities as well. To assist officers in investigating crimes behind bars, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Office of the Inspector General (TDCJ-OIG) recently provided specialized forensic training to 10 investigators from five regions across Texas. Key topics included evidence screening for biological materials, improvised explosive device awareness, and evidence collection and documentation.
“This training will provide additional skills to help develop investigative leads that may not typically be discovered, especially in the case of sexual assaults,” said Captain Nathan Ward, regional manager of TDCJ-OIG. “The techniques our evidence custodians gained during this training will help confirm details up front that we may have suspected, but might otherwise take weeks or months to confirm through the forensic laboratory,” added Captain Ward.
The two-week program was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance and delivered by instructors from the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC), based in Largo, FL. NFSTC brought instructors and all materials to Huntsville, Texas to deliver an in-depth training experience at the agency’s headquarters. Participants completed courses in the following subject areas:
- DNA Biological Screening for Law Enforcement – determination of whether evidence may contain biological evidence that could be examined for DNA information.
- Improvised Explosive Device Awareness (IED) for Law Enforcement – current trends in IED design, identification of IED components and circuitry, and remote-controlled IED threats.
- Essentials of Crime Scene Investigation – techniques to recover high-value items of evidence, photography techniques, and evidence packaging and preservation protocols.
- Intermediate Crime Scene Investigation – advanced fingerprint processing, footwear and tire track collection, field testing, forensic light sources and more.
“We were very impressed with the knowledge of the instructors. I was particularly impressed at how they were able to create a two-week crime scene course onsite, bringing everything with them to provide an effective hands-on training experience,” said Ward.
“Our instructors were top notch,” said Jill Blake, an Evidence Custodian who has served with the Office of Inspector General for five years. “They were all very knowledgeable in their field of expertise and I learned a great deal in the past two weeks.”
Providing training to these key professionals across various regions of Texas will help disseminate these forensic techniques throughout the Office of Inspector General. This training promises to improve the overall quality of the evidence submitted and provide for a better understanding of laboratory requirements and processes.
“By ensuring the evidence that is submitted is of the highest quality, it will help us better convict for these crimes and ultimately improve the safety of the prison environment for other offenders and staff,” said Ward.