The Citizens Police Academy is a 12-week series of classes held by the Marion Police Department on Wednesday nights at the Marion City Hall, teaching participants about recognizing counterfeit money, handling crime scenes, narcotics investigations and firearms.
On March 28, the class learned how to investigate a death crime scene, including the collection of witness testimony and key evidence. Lt. Stephen Dorsey with the MPD was the class instructor.
Dorsey explained the evening’s class would have the students solving a mock murder case in groups. He then went into talking about evidence and its importance in solving a case before distributing a paper with the “Three ‘Rules’ police must have to obtain a conviction.”
As Dorsey went through the handout, the class of 30 jumped as the crack of gunshots came from an adjoining room behind the class room moments before an individual ran through the classroom and out the front door.
“What did you see and hear?” asked Dorsey, immediately demonstrating what he had just taught the class about interviewing witnesses.
Three students gave their testimonies, telling Dorsey the number of shots they heard and describing the individual’s apparel and stature.
“How many shots were fired?” asked Dorsey. Answers ranged from three to five. Six shots were fired.
Dorsey then explained that the claims of witnesses aren’t as reliable as evidence. He also said men and women tend to identify a situation differently, noting that men more often describe colors in general terms like “blue,” while women are more likely to name a more specific color, like “teal.”
After a short break, students divided into three groups to investigate a mock murder scene. A written murder scenario established the scene of the crime in detail, and students were told to note items as potential evidence.
A victim lay on the floor with a gunshot wound. Blood was on a computer chair and on the wall. In the wall was a bullet hole. A gun sat on the desk, with another on the floor next to a toppled chair. There was a large bottle of Bud Light on the desk and a pair of women’s undergarments lay on the floor next to an overturned trash can. A wallet dangled on the edge of the desk.
Students were then allowed to choose one item to analyze more closely. After that, they were escorted out and were to work as a group to figure out the reasons for the crime. The groups weighed each piece of evidence, along with the scenario they were provided to ultimately solve the case.
The CPA program shows students what police face by providing demonstrations and examples of their line of work. Just one class can show a lot about the work of these everyday heroes.