Going behind the crime scene tape is generally forbidden territory for the general public.
For 15 students who graduated from the CSI Academy of Florida this summer, they learned how this could become their future workplace.
The academy’s general manager, Debbie Mongiardo, said her staff trains many law enforcement officers and also civilians.
“To be able to start at the lower level like this with high school teenagers, it’s pretty exciting because that just goes to show that our future is going to have a lot of qualified people in forensics,” Mongiardo said.
Located in the city of Alachua, the school was licensed in 2012 by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education. This is the fourth year the academy has organized a crime scene investigation camp for high school students.
The course allows them to acquire forensic knowledge and skills through more than a dozen crime scenarios, documented by police reports.
“One of the doors it says the child was missing, and (the suspect) said the room was always clean,” said 15-year-old Deion Bright from Miami. “So when we came in, a child is missing but everyone is completely messed up, then you can assume that it could probably be kidnapping or burglary.”
The camp’s lead instructor Jimmy Watson is also a detective sergeant with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. He said he hopes the students will develop an appreciation for forensics and, if possible, a pursuit of forensic investigation as a career.
“I would just start explaining something that I would process to my peers and I realize, no some of these students are as young as 12 years old and I really need to change the explanation of that into something they can relate to and understand,” Watson said.
In addition to lectures, Watson taught them hands-on and investigative skills, ranging from taking crime scene style pictures, lifting prints from different surfaces, and analyzing footprints and blood spatter patterns.
The students also underwent a mock testimony and cross-examination with a local attorney before they graduated.