Getting hands-on experience is emphasized for Rogers State University’s academic programs, but it can be difficult to provide real-life experiences for criminal justice students.
Thanks to a partnership with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, RSU students last week were able to walk through a simulated crime scene organized by investigators and the class instructor to test students’ observations.
RCSO Sgts. Wes Jones and Gavin Gatrell (AA ’07, BT ’13) were on hand April 12 to work with instructor Holly Cinocca and students from her criminalistics class as they walked through the crime scene, which was located on the top floor of RSU’s Prep Hall.
The area was set up as the scene for a fatal gunshot in a living room/kitchen area that included potentially relevant items such as a child’s bouncy seat, several empty cans and bottles, a half-eaten bowl of cereal, scraps of paper around the room, digital scales, a handgun, a cell phone, and several baggies of simulated illegal drugs.
A mannequin from the RSU Department of Health Sciences served as the deceased, with faux blood splatter to provide some evidence as to how the event may have unfolded.
“I think it’s important that our criminal justice students get real-life experience in what a crime scene might look like, and how they should respond if they were investigating the scene,” Cinocca said. “Those who graduate from our program are going to go out in the field, and it’s invaluable for them to have experiences that reflect what they’ll see in real life.”
Students were tasked with walking through the scene as if they were the investigating officer, taking notes on items that might require follow-up. To complete their assignment, they will write up a report detailing the scene, identifying important items for the investigation, and describing what actions needed to be taken in regards to those items from the scene.
Cinocca told the class that there were more than 20 items in the room that could be significant.
Both deputies noted that hands-on crime scene training would be invaluable for criminal justice students who go into law enforcement.
“It’s extremely important for students to know how to treat and investigate a scene,” Jones said. “Cases can be won or lost based on how officers handle potential evidence at the scene.
Gatrell, who earned an associate degree from RSU’s criminal justice program in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in applied technology in 2013, agreed the experience would help students better understand investigative procedures.
“You only get one shot at a crime scene, and it’s absolutely vital that the integrity of the scene is not compromised,” he said.
RCSO Chief Deputy Shane Rhames and Sgt. Kyle Baker also assisted with the planning of Tuesday’s scenario, and officers from the department also have spoken with the class earlier in this semester.
Through its Department of Psychology, Sociology and Criminal Justice, RSU offers justice administration degree programs that include a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree with options for Collegiate Officer Program (COP) or law/justice, and a minor. For more information, visit www.rsu.edu/justice-administration/ or call 918-343-7683.