Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WPA 2015 - Thursday

I did actually make it to the Writers' Police Academy this year! I know I say I'm going every year, but then something always comes up and I can't make it. Instead, I end up as a sponsor. Finally, all of the stars lined up and I flew into Wisconsin. In years past, WPA has been hosted by GTCC in Greensboro, North Carolina, but we've outgrown that facility.

Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center is the new site of WPA and what a phenomenal facility it is. Since I work at a career college, I might appreciate their facility a bit more than others. I would love to be able to build a similar facility in my area of expertise, so in addition to learning a lot, I did some serious day-dreaming about what my "dream campus" would be.

"River City" - complete with houses, motel, gas station, and bank
I flew in on Thursday, in time for registration, orientation, and the first session: 3D Crime Scene Mapping presented by Dr. Joe LeFevre.

The technology available to law enforcement is astounding. Using a Leica scanner, a 3D map of a crime scene can be generated.

I was surprised to learn that the technology is not actually new - it's been around since the 70s! However, it was not used a law enforcement capacity. Geological survey crews were using these scanners and a brilliant state patrolman saw the opportunity to use it at car accidents to recreate the scenes.

It's essentially a giant laser range finder that takes 50,000 measurements a second and can complete a scan in as little as 2-3 minutes or up to 15 minutes, depending on the settings.

The scan takes the error out of mapping a crime scene; nothing is overlooked or mis-interpreted. Fox Valley was instrumental in developing a new technique in which still crime scene photos can be overlaid into the scan, which is helpful if the victim has been removed from the scene. Overlaying the crime scene photos on the scan helps juries "see" exactly what happened in instances where the scan wasn't done until much later in the investigation.

Though the scan takes just a few minutes, working with the raw data to make a file to work with can take several hours.

In fact, a 3D scanner (different manufacturer) was used by the FBI to collect evidence in the recent Aurora Theater Shooting. Eight days with the scanner ensured that the scene was properly mapped and nothing missed. I have to think that it played a small part in putting the bastard away for the rest of his (hopefully short) life.

No comments: