from the Fbi to the IRS—Alums Discuss CSI Success
For people who love the TV show CSI, criminal justice and forensic science are one in the same, both represented by institutional-yellow CSI tape and its screaming black lettering, all surrounding a crime scene. It usually is a scene with at least one dead body and, often, plenty of blood.
Then, when the "investigators of death" arrive, they craftily pick up on evidence that nobody else notices and quickly solve the crime in just an hour, including commercials. But, in real life, people with degrees in criminal justice don't always deal with dead bodies. And, they almost never solve the crime in under an hour.
But what if crime scene investigations aren't what you're interested in, dead body or not, blood or not? The reality is: a degree in criminal justice can write you a ticket to dozens of different types of jobs in various branches of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies, correctional institutions, probation departments, and courts.
Mike and Sharon (Yates) MacDonald earned their degrees in CRJ at TSU in 2001 and 2000, respectively. Mike is a regulation officer with the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Sharon is a Michigan State Trooper working undercover in narcotics.
TSU's CSI classes, along with lessons on criminal law and procedures and U.S. Constitutional law, provided valuable preparation for her move from road patrol to recruit school to forensic protocol training to what she does now, Sharon says. Besides his CSI courses, Mike credits his English composition classes and their much-dreaded report writing for making his job easier.
"I'm assigned to the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit," Mike says. "It's my job to conduct investigations and make sure the casino is run properly. I also do patron disputes, dealing with the public quite a bit. Basically, when patrons think they've been cheated by a casino, communication skills are very important. The CSI training applies in that. When I'm doing inspections, I have to take control of a limited space, make sure everything's hooked up and functioning properly, and that the machines are set correctly for a certain payout percentage. Then, I have to write a two-page report on the inspection. I also write 10-page reports on a regular basis. This is a big part of my job and, although those English and report-writing classes weren't as fun as the CSI's, they're still one of the biggest parts of my job."
In jobs where crime scene investigations do occur-with or without dead bodies and blood-TV merges criminal justice and forensic science just a little too much, says TSU forensic science major Greg Gorbett. Gorbett is a fire and explosion analyst with the John A. Kennedy Association in Sarasota, Florida.
The two areas don't really merge, he says: rather, they work as companions to each other. However, in the gathering of evidence, that criminal justice training and forensic science must work closely together.
"The detectives must use proper evidence-gathering protocol to keep the scene 'pure,' so the forensic scientist can do his or her job," Gorbett says. "There also are a lot of myths on TV, where the investigators and prosecutors rely on a single piece of evidence, such as having financial trouble or something like that, to solve a crime. And that's just not always the case. In my job, that's where we come in to a fire scene and point to the real cause."
As a past district investigator in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) with the Indiana State Police, Rob Wiley teaches CSI classes at TSU's Fort Wayne campus. And, the real-life class focuses on real-life scenarios so that students can learn the difference between TV drama and real life.
"Before I went into the BCI, I was in undercover drug enforcement," Wiley says. "From a forensic standpoint, lab analysis in that job is really important. You also have the opportunity to lift fingerprints off the bags the drugs were in to help build the case."
As the district commander for the BCI, Wiley worked felony crimes that included homicides, bank robberies, burglaries, and rape, all of which require expertise in forensic crime scene investigation techniques.
"In that respect, from fingerprints to photography to blood and other sample collections, CSI and forensic science go hand-in-hand," Wiley says.
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