Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd said his office has been preparing for the training since earlier this year and he was pleased with the interest.
PICHER – For two weeks local law enforcement investigators from 14 different agencies near and far including Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nevada, and the British Virgin Islands attended Crime Scene Investigator Academy at the Quapaw Marshal's training facilities in Picher.
Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd hosted the class taught by crime scene expert and Crime Scene Investigator for the Oklahoma City Police Department Everett Baxter Jr.
Baxter has written two books on Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and travels across the U.S. training law enforcement officers and investigators, making the specialized training more available and affordable for smaller agencies. Baxter offers the CSI training through his own consulting company.
“He teaches all over the country, and he's testified in many, many cases. He has tons of experience,” Floyd said.
Floyd said his office has been preparing for the training since earlier this year and he was pleased with the interest.
“If you think about law enforcement across the United States, there's 21,500 law enforcement agencies in the US, and 80 percent are 20 persons or smaller, so who's dealing with most of your physical evidence? Officers and deputies just like what's in this class,” Baxter said. “This particular class takes the various aspects of crime scene investigations, how to photograph, how to sketch, how to take notes, how to process the evidence, how to find the evidence and take it from there and document their scenes and then submit it for analysis. So this is essentially teaching them and giving them the tools so they can take more control over a lot of the investigations within their community.”
Baxter said teaching these specialized investigative skills improves law enforcements’ ability to solve crimes and bring about criminal prosecution.
“These investigators, especially the ones in here going through this class, they're very intelligent,” Baxter said. “They do a very good job. This provides them some valuable training to even do more at their crime scenes. They're going to take this stuff back to their communities, and they're going to use it. This isn't stuff they will use in six months or once or twice a year. This is stuff they will use every single day.”
Many smaller agencies lack the extra training key to solving crimes provided in the CSI Academy, according to Baxter. These classes teach investigators not to overlook important evidence and give them tools to collect such vital clues in solving and convicting crimes.
“This is a very advanced class, and this is a very different way of looking at things. There’s a lot of physical evidence out there,” he said. “Sometimes it's not just that you missed it, but that you didn't know it, or that evidence is out there. There is a large amount of physical evidence that we're just overlooking, and that’s what this class gives them”
Baxter gave an example of using inexpensive alternate light sources enabling investigators to see and document bruising or DNA stains.
“So you have a domestic violence case where somebody has been beat up, and they don't have visible injuries, I can use a light source to go into the skin, go below the layers of skin and photograph that discoloration to help prove the case,” he said. “We can also use it on fingerprinting or semen stains, there are a lot of instances where an alternate light source can help.”
The training was offered throughout regional and national law enforcement CSI resources.
“His classes usually fill up pretty good. He's an excellent instructor and the graduates, in which we have three investigators for the (Ottawa County) Sheriff's Office, plus one deputy that was in the class, once they graduate they will be crime scene certified,” Floyd said. “They will be able to testify and actually have the knowledge and tools to work crime scenes.”
Having local investigators specially trained helps with criminal investigations due to their familiarity and knowledge of the area and people in the community. The Sheriff said he wanted his three investigators to get the training to give them even greater crime scene investigation skills and tools.
“You want as much training as they can receive in order to work something, especially on high profile cases, so when they do testify they are known to be certified and trained in that,” Floyd said. “That always helps tremendously. I’m proud of the men and women that have attended. It puts more tools on their tool belt per say. The more knowledge and more training and experience we put on our guys and gals the better agency we will be. It’s important to me to continue our training efforts across the board, and the sky's the limit when it comes to training – the more the merrier.”
The investigators received hands on, real world training during the classes.
“They've learned everything from photography, and night photography and how to use different lights. They learned about blood splatter analysis, different types of fingerprinting, impressions and foot impressions, collection of DNA, blood – anything that the officer or the investigator is going to come against at the crime scene, that's what they learned," Floyd said. “From this class, we will kind of give them an idea of what they want to specialize in, so we'll probably bring Mr. Baxter back in the spring, and we'll probably do more of an advanced ballistics and blood spatter analysis.”
Floyd said he was pleased with the training and the dedication of the deputies and staff in his office for manning things while the investigators were training.
“In this particular class we have 21 students,” Floyd said. “We've even got one student from the British Virgin Islands. He is a crime scene investigator."
Graduates of the CSI Academy are Pryor PD - Justin Allen, Sherman Texas PD- Morgan Ard, Delaware County Sheriff's Office – Travis Baker, Michael Bouziden, Jason Hutcheson, Quapaw Tribal Marshals – Brad Barnard, Travis Eby, and Donald Leamon, Montgomery County, Ks. Sheriff's Office – Christopher Bishop, Claremore PD – Brant Bruner, Elk City PD – Robert Chaney, Ottawa County Sheriff's Office – Rocky Ferdig, Holli Goforth, and Justin Keller,Carson City Sheriff's Office – Kolby Hicks,Miami Nation PD – Klyle Lankford, Craig County Sheriff's Office – Michael O'Dell, Vinita PD – Jeff Prack, Beckham County Sheriff's Office Brandyce Rozell, and Royal Virgin Islands Police Force – Lesroy Simmons.
Royal Virgin Island Police Force Investigator Lesroy Simmons stayed with Floyd during his stay here in Ottawa County. Simmons joked during the presentation of certificates at the end of the two weeks that he had Googled Floyd reading about the Sheriff before traveling to Oklahoma.
“At first my wife was a bit scared,” Simmons said, which brought a big laugh from his classmates. “He picked me up, took me shopping, he fed me, he clothed me, roofed me and everything and I just want to thank him for the opportunity. Thank you to everyone. I'm very grateful. It was nice being here – it feels like home.”
Each participant received their certification last week and agreed the training would help them in their work,
“We got really, really good training,” Ottawa County Sheriff's Investigator Holli Goforth said. “It will prepare us better for our scenes now. We learned a lot about blood stain pattern and all kinds of things. It's going to just better us in our jobs. Mr. Baxter was a great instructor, and we're all going to take a lot away from this training. It was a very good experience and I'm glad we got to do it.”
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.