CSI camp shows different side of law enforcement

Published 8:33 am Monday, July 13, 2015

While the outlandish characters and scenario may be pulled right from a primetime crime drama, the lessons that children attending last week’s CSI Academy were anything but phony.

Held last week at Southwestern Michigan College, the weeklong summer education program brought together sixth through eight grade students from Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Brandywine and Marcellus school districts. The annual criminal justice seminar has been organized for the past 10 years by the college’s Educational Talent Search program.

Beginning the week with some instructional courses on police investigation methods taught by actual law enforcement officers, the week concluded with the group of junior detectives attempting to solve a staged murder. Like an episode of “Law and Order,” the students begin by processing the crime scene, where they undercover evidence and examine the mannequin posing as the victim’s corpse.

After that, they interview witnesses to the crime, portrayed by ETS staff and local law enforcement volunteers. The week concluded with a mock trial held at the Cass County Law & Courts Building, where one group of students attempts to try and convict their chosen suspect while another tries to defend the suspect’s innocence.

Volunteers say the event is a tremendous amount of fun for the participants, who get to act out their own version of a crime procedural.

Underlying the entertainment portion of the program is a strong educational proponent, though.

As mentioned earlier, the students learn about things like evidence processing, interviewing, fingerprinting, and other techniques used by law enforcement officers, directly from police themselves. In addition, they also learn about the rules of the courtroom, including the role of prosecution and defense attorneys, how objections work, etc.

The program is also yet another way that Cass County’s law enforcement officials humanize themselves to students. The students get to see a different side of the men and women tasked with their protection.

As we’ve mentioned in previous editorials, other communities across the country suffer from a massive disconnect between police and citizens. Through friendly engagement activities such as the CSI Academy, the bridge between the two sides is slowly built, which will hopefully lead to a healthy relationship when the students become adults.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.