Cool heads prevail even though the crime scene is gruesome. Blood is splattered across the walls and floor and a chalk outline of a body marks the spot where the victim died. Team Echo grabs their physical evidence recovery kits (PERK) and begins to meticulously document the crime scene by taking photographs, sketching the scene and bagging every bit of evidence they can find trying to solve the puzzle. But this isn’t a scene from CBS’s crime show CSI but an exercise in Central County Occupational Center’s new Forensic Investigation class.
The class is one of the latest additions to Central County Occupational Center’s wide variety of career-technical education programs for high school students. Instructor Gordon Sanford brings more than 30 years experience and teaches the basics of what Forensic Investigation is all about through plenty of hands-on experience during his two three-hour classes each day.
“I feel like I’m a fisherman using different bait to get the student’s attention,” Sanford said. He uses a combination of lectures, hands-on activities, guest speakers and field trips to teach students’ the nuts and bolts of Forensic Investigation.
During the first semester, students will learn the fine details of Crime Scene Processing which will prepare them for the second semester where they learn about Criminology (evidence/laboratory processing). Sanford said many of the students do not realize that forensic investigation is heavily based in chemistry, math, and science concepts. Students also have the advantage of utilizing the same technology used in the field, such as state-of-the art fingerprinting software.
The demand for trained Forensic Investigation Technical Assistants is high, Sanford said, especially from insurance companies who need to investigate claims for fraud and police departments who would rather use a CSI than a detective.
Due to the demand for CSIs and crime scene shows such as CSI, both sections of the class have a waiting list.
Willow Glen resident and West Valley College student Michelle Provasi finds the Forensic Investigation class exciting and a real eye-opener as to how crime scenes are documented.
“The classwork is really hands-on and the information we are learning is amazing,” Provasi said. “You never realize how hard being a CSI is because one little mistake on the CSI’s part could put the suspect in or out of jail.”
Marissa Morris, from Santa Teresa High School, echoes Provasi’s comments. “Details, details, details – it’s the little things that count.”
Morris, who was in CCOC’s Law Enforcement class last year along with her friend, Jane Deemer, from Oak Grove High School, has big plans for the future. With the skills they have learned at CCOC, they hope to become San Jose Police Department’s first female canine unit officers but if that doesn’t happen, then they plan to become CSIs.
“This class will help further my career in law enforcement because it will give me the skills I need to use as a police officer such as determining the time of death of a victim,” Deemer said.
Sanford adds that by the time students complete the 525 hour certificate program, they will have all the skills they need to work in the field, including a PERK kit assembled throughout the school year and required field and lab operation manuals.
CCOC – a unit of MetroED – provides career-technical education for high school students in six districts: Campbell Union High School District, East Side Union High School District, Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District, Milpitas Unified School District, San Jose Unified School District, and Santa Clara Unified School District.
MetroED is the largest career-oriented educational organization in Santa Clara County, comprised of high school and adult occupational, academic and community programs.
MetroED annually provides 70,000 diverse students with the skills to help them be productive, income-earning and tax-paying contributors to Silicon Valley.