JANUARY 14, 2004

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Northern Oklahoma College investigates forensic science


Forensic Science Investigation instructor Russell Busby (right) discusses a crime scene with a student. The class attracted a number of individuals whose interest was triggered by television shows and criminal cases highlighting forensic science.

Northern Oklahoma College’s first Forensic Science Investigation class is proving to be a real eye-opener for students.

The elective course attracted a number of students whose interest in the subject was triggered by television shows featuring forensic investigation techniques. Others wanted to determine whether they would enjoy a career in forensic science and some wanted to understand the techniques and the science underlying the subject. Approximately two-thirds of the students were not criminal justice majors. About 30 percent of the class were past 40 years old and about 60 percent of the class were women, two of whom now plan to take criminal investigation and criminal photography classes.

Taught by Russell Busby, chief investigator for the 8th District Attorney’s Office of Oklahoma and a court-recognized expert in blood pattern analysis and crime scene reconstruction, the class explored forensic science investigative techniques, saw how forensic analysis solves crimes and learned basic crime scene reconstruction and blood pattern analysis techniques. Busby’s 22 years of criminal investigation (a homicide case on which he worked was aired on Court TV’s Forensic Files last September) enabled him to impart a real life understanding of techniques to his students.

After learning the fundamentals of some of the basic disciplines, students spent the final three weeks analyzing actual blood patterns from cardboard exemplars and practicing crime scene reconstruction techniques. Since Forensic Science Investigation was an overview class, the students did not have time to create their own blood patterns, Busby said. For the two crime scene reconstructions of stabbing homicides, Busby acted as a detective, giving photographs and specific forensic information about the cases to five-person teams and asking each team to give its best analysis of the most probable events. “Everyone enjoyed that,” he said.

“There is an enormous amount of public and student interest in forensic science today, which is being generated as forensic science is highlighted in high profile criminal cases that are in the media and from TV shows such as CSI, Court TV and The New Detectives,” Busby commented. “People believe CSI is real. CSI science is good but the way the functions of a criminal investigator are portrayed is not valid. Nobody does crime scene work the way CSI does.” Since his students have learned forensic science investigative techniques, they criticize the popular show so much that their families don’t enjoy watching it, he reported.

Not limited to “debunking CSI,” the course added value to the college Criminal Justice Program by providing a strong academic forensic base for students entering the criminal investigation class, Busby noted. Northern is one of a few colleges and universities “that teach this curriculum in the surrounding five-state area,” he concluded. “We are engaging our students in the newest and most challenging ideas and courses we can develop. We want to keep them in on the leading edge of what’s really going on in law enforcement.”

The class was so well received, the college is expected to offer it again next fall.

Contact: Marjilea Smithheisler, 1-580-628-4444