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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Outside Activities Report

On September 18th, 2018, at 7:18 PM, I had the opportunity to interview the medical examiner and forensic scientist from Cassia County, Idaho. His name is C R and he was able to open my eyes to many aspects of the life of a forensic scientist. According to the National Institute of Justice, “forensic science is the application of sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering to matters of law.” Forensic science can help investigators predict how a blood distribution pattern is formed, hypothesize about the identity of a controlled substance, or even determine the identity of an anonymous suspect.

Forensic science provides scientifically based information through the analysis of physical evidence. During an investigation, evidence is collected at a crime scene or from a person, analyzed in a crime laboratory and then the results are presented in court.

Mr R did not have a specialty. He would approach a scene, determine the basic death information such as cause of death, manner of death, and approximate time of death, and then send the cadavers to Boise, Idaho to have autopsies performed. Mr R also offered me the chance to shadow him if he was called out during the weekend of October 18 to October 21, 2018. There was not a case during that weekend, but I got to feel the stress and the excitement of possibly being called at any hour of the day or night. The Cassia County Coroner’s office functions on a weekly schedule. The employees are on call 24/7 for one week, then they have one week off.

During my interview with Mr R, he told me the requirements for becoming a forensic scientist or medical examiner in Cassia County. The required education is a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a specialized field such as anthropology (bones), automopology (teeth), pathology (diseases),or other similar fields. Another recommended field of study is anatomy and physiology, which pertain to the body and the mind.

Idaho is a coroner state, where there are 44 counties and therefore 44 coroners. As previously mentioned, the coroners do cause, manner, and time of death. The coroners function as medical examiners, and therefore they are also death investigators. They go back in time to when the death occurred and try to piece together the puzzle from the evidence they have. They are speakers for the dead, as they can no longer speak for themselves. They are expected to treat the dead fairly and to try to solve or figure out the case they are presented with.

I enjoyed this experience because it opened my eyes to the dirtier and darker parts of crime investigations. I was told about the cases where the victim was injured to the point that they were almost unrecognizable. I truly appreciate the experience I had in interviewing Mr C R, the forensic scientist, medical examiner, and coroner for Cassia County, Idaho.

Another experience I had was the opportunity to volunteer at the Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus for cadet training. According to the SLCC website “The Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) is an authorized satellite academy of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The academy is overseen and regulated by Utah POST providing satellite academies with the same learning objectives and training. Graduating students will receive certification as a Utah Peace Officer…

The SLCC satellite academy is for those who wish to gain a Law Enforcement Officer certification as a self-sponsored student by attending two training modules as a SLCC student. I only went twice, but my eyes were opened to how stressful and confusing work as an officer could potentially be. My first time going, I was part of a traffic stop/runaway scenario. The driver of the car would speed around a corner and once the car was stopped, she would take off running. I was able to see how different people deal with the same situation. It was obvious who had paid attention in classes and who hadn’t. We ran this scenario a total of eight times and each one was different.

In one run, both of the cadets ran after the driver, leaving the police car and the suspect car unattended. In another run, neither of the cadets pursued the driver and they cleared the car of its occupants. I was able to listen to the commentary about the situation and what the cadets needed to work on.

My next time going, I went as a replacement for someone who was unable to attend.

During that time, I was a dead body. My scenario was that I was involved in gang activity and that I had been shot in my place of residence. My cousin called a welfare check as he had a key to my apartment.

As the cadets were running through this scenario, many of them allowed my “cousin” to run through the door first, thus ruining evidence. In one case, he was able to pick up all of the casings and reorganize the room before the cadets even got into the room. Out of eight, only two pairs were considered acceptable at that scenario by the moderator. They had secured the scene, asked my “cousin’ to wait outside, and called the appropriate people to deal with the scene.

I enjoyed my time volunteering at the SLCC Miller Campus because I could have a jumpstart on how to deal with certain situations. I now know the basics of conducting a welfare check and how to deal with a runaway driver. I was able to learn from the mistakes of others and not have to experience them myself.

I was also able to interview C O, a law enforcement officer on Antelope Island. We mainly talked about her department’s views on non lethal weapons. As I was looking at her belt, I noticed that she was missing a Taser. All that she had was a handgun, a rifle, and her asp. Most departments use non lethal weapons. The U.S Department of Defense’s Non Lethal Weapons Program says that “Current non-lethal weapons are fielded and in use. A number of non-lethal weapons are currently being fielded to give our men and women in uniform alternatives between “shouting and shooting”, while reducing the risk of fatalities and permanent injury to non-combatants. These devices have been and continue to be extremely valuable to troops involved in current operations. Non-lethal capabilities are available for use in a variety of conflict scenarios, from humanitarian and peace operations to combat operations. Currently available non-lethal capabilities range from non-lethal munitions and acoustic devices to non-lethal optical distractors and vehicle stopping devices. Non-lethal weapons are multi-capable, with the ability to strike single or multiple targets. These non-lethal capabilities give warfighters a variety of options in situations where traditional weapons are not the best solution.”

We also discussed the negative effects of using non lethal weapons. A study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that “Less-lethal weapons have been accused of causing unnecessary injuries to and deaths of civilians. CEDs (conductive energy devices) and OC spray are routinely used by police officers and have been the focus of these accusations. Police officers in more than 7000 law enforcement agencies in the United States now use CEDs, and use of OC spray is nearly universal. Medical research indicates that most deaths associated with these weapons are the result of positional asphyxia, pre-existing health conditions, or drug-related factors. CEDs appear to be relatively safe when used on healthy individuals in clinically controlled research settings, but these weapons are not risk free. For example, CEDs may increase one’s chance of secondary head injuries from falls. Because of a lack of rigorous epidemiological studies, it remains unclear whether less-lethal weapons produce harmful effects among individuals at risk for police use of force, such as persons intoxicated by illicit drugs and physically struggling with the police. A review of police and medical records of suspects exposed to a CED shock during a 2-year period found that less than 1% received moderate injuries, and only 1 suspect (0.1%) received severe injuries.”

While discussing the issue of non lethal weapons, I was reprimanded for a moment on my terminology. Non lethal implies that there is not a risk of death in using them. They are more of less lethal weapons than non lethal.

Talking to C about this subject helped me see how, even though all officers are supposed to uphold the same responsibilities, there are different ways to do it. The responsibilities of an officer, according to the Britannica are “maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities.” Although the responsibilities are the same, the methods of achieving them are different.

Doing all of these experiences really opened my eyes to all of the intricacies of the Criminal Justice System. Coming into this class, I thought I knew the basics of the justice system. Now I realise that I have even more to learn, and I am excited to do that. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

“The reason I like the criminal justice system is there aren’t Republican or Democrat victims or police officers or prosecutors. It’s about respect for the rule of law!” This was said by Harold Watson “Trey” Gowdy III. He is an American attorney, politician and former federal prosecutor serving as the U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district since 2011.

As I have learned more and more about how the criminal justice system, I have realized that there is more to it than the media puts out. I have also realized that I have so much to learn about this subject and my interest in this has gotten even more intense.

Sources

“A Quote by Aristotle.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/526642-the-more-you-know-the-more-you-know-you-don-t.

“Criminal Justice System Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/topics/criminal_justice_system.

Kelling, George L., et al. “Police.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 Feb. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/police.

MacDonald, J. M., PhD, Kaminski, R. J., PhD, & Smith, M. R., JD,PhD. (1999). The Effect of Less-Lethal Weapons on Injuries in Police Use-of-Force Events. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775771/.

National Institute of Justice. “Forensic Sciences.” National Institute of Justice, www.nij.gov/topics/forensics/Pages/welcome.aspx.

“Non-Lethal Weapons Program > Current Non-Lethal Weapons.” Non-Lethal Weapons Program, jnlwp.defense.gov/Current-Non-Lethal-Weapons/.

“School of Applied Technology and Technical Specialties.” SLCC, www.slcc.edu/satts/programs/law-enforcement-academy.aspx.

“Trey Gowdy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Nov. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trey_Gowdy.

Reinhart, Craig, 18 Sept. 2018, 7:18 PM

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