Marc Trahan has seen a lot of things change in his 24 years with the Gainesville Police Department’s Forensic Crime Unit.
As a crime scene investigator and part-time instructor at the CSI Academy of Florida in Alachua, he knows the importance of collecting evidence that will hold up in court. To stay up to date with technological advances and new processes, he relies on cutting-edge training like the kind offered by the Florida Division of the International Association for Identification.
Part of the reason he does this is to give taxpayers their money’s worth.
“As a taxpayer I would like to think that my money is being well-spent and that when I call for the police to come out because I had a crime occur at my house, that I am going to get the best that I can get for the money I have spent in the way of processing and proceeding with the case through the court system,” Trahan said.
Trahan, who has been a member of the FDIAI for 25 years, will be among the forensic investigators and latent print examiners gathering in St. Petersburg this week for the FDIAI’s annual Education Training Conference.
The conference will help the investigators and examiners to keep their skills sharp in order to better serve the public.
Such training could be the difference between declaring a crime a homicide or a suicide, said Jon Wierzbowski, Region 3 president for the FDIAI.
“Well, you know this thing is a suicide since you found him with the weapon next to him, but is it true? Is everything consistent? How can you tell if you haven’t been trained or exposed to it?” he said.
Being prepared is the best way to tell the difference, Wierzbowski said.
This conference is just one of many resources that the FDIAI, the largest state chartered division of the organization, offers Florida forensics professionals.
The FDIAI offers up to 24 free training courses a year all around Florida for forensics professionals, keeping them up to date on the ever changing scientific practices in their field.
“The training they get from the FDIAI and its programs directly benefit local law enforcement agencies with their crime scene people,” Wierzbowski said.
Without the FDIAI, he said, there would be a lower standard for what are considered the best practices in the field of forensics. It also creates a networking resource for professionals to reach out to one another with questions.
This type of networking is a big benefit, according to Trahan.
“You also have a resource to go to, for a particular process, that you aren’t able to do because you don’t have the facility to do it,” Trahan said.
Trahan has seen the switch from film to digital cameras and the evolution of other cutting-edge processes in how investigators deal with evidence.
He said he learned alternative methods of processing for fingerprints with chemicals, which has directly led to convictions.
GPD has gone to other law enforcement agencies located in nearby cities, such as Jacksonville, to use equipment for processes that they cannot do themselves.
“You can give them a call and a lot of agencies will help each other out and will either loan the equipment to use or come down and do the process for you and supplement their report with your report,” Trahan said.
Wierzbowski said that attending the conference and other educational seminars is a struggle because of budgetary. He also said the public should push its police chiefs and sheriffs to send forensics professionals to training.
He points to the city of Sanford in Seminole County, which he said was a small town with a small law enforcement agency before the George Zimmerman trial, which was broadcast worldwide. With such an intense focus on that agency, he said it proves his point that all agencies should be well-trained.
“You never know when it’s your time, but eventually your time comes, so you have to train for those high-profile times,” Wierzbowski said.
“It also helps with your everyday, ordinary — we call them ‘garden variety’ — homicides and crimes. It can be so critical.”