Crime scene expert - Berryville Officer Crawford nears completion of Institute's technician training
BERRYVILLE -- The city of Berryville will soon have another trained investigator on the force as officer Daniel Crawford prepares to finish his crime scene technician training from the Criminal Justice Institute.
The institute, which is part of the University of Arkansas, takes a maximum of 20 students per year for the program, and Crawford has been on the waiting list for a few years now. This will be the 14th year since this course was established.
To be a part of the course, Crawford's name was submitted by Berryville Police Chief Dave Muniz in a letter of recommendation. The department had to commit to purchasing the material and equipment required for the course. "Thanks go to Mayor Tim McKinney for his support for this as well." added Muniz.
"It is going to be very helpful to have a second investigator to help Detective Robert Bartos." Muniz said, "Daniel has been a valuable member of our force and has excelled since he started as a reserve officer in 2001."
Crawford just celebrated his ninth anniversary as a full-time officer. He started in May of 2003.
Officer Crawford explained the training so far. "It is very involved. Very information intensive. There are six, week-long sessions in the course, and most of what we do is hands on, practical field exercises."
"We enter a recreated crime scene, with dummies, but with real blood. It sounds bad, and it is, but it is important to see how real blood reacts in crime scenes." said Crawford.
Crawford said the instructor spent more than 30 years as a crime scene investigator for the Illinois State Police, and really pushes the importance of procedures. He added that no matter how obvious a case might seem, or how good a piece of evidence might be, not taking the time to follow procedures can be like handing someone a get out of jail free card.
"Many people have gone free because someone didn't follow the rules." said Crawford.
When asked if he enjoyed crime scene and police television programs, Crawford was very direct. "I can't stand them. I don't even like to watch "Cops".
"First," he said, "there are so many things that just aren't done in the field. Stupid mistakes all the time. Second, shows like CSI paint an unrealistic picture of how things work for the public."
"There isn't a police force in America that can put a whole team on a single case. Usually you have a single investigator trying to work through a pile of cases on their own."
"Also," he continued. "people think that DNA makes things easy. Your DNA may end up in a crime scene somewhere you have never been because you picked up a baseball bat at a store and put it back down."
"DNA is great, but it isn't perfect. There still needs to be a case, and evidence to support it."
Fingerprints, blood splatter, impression evidence, trace evidence, hair, DNA, it all works together to build a case. "There are no perfect crimes." said Crawford, "there is always something left behind at a crime scene. The key is not missing it. When someone gets away with something, it is not because there was no evidence, it is because something was missed, or what was found wasn't enough to build a strong enough case."
Crawford added, "That is another place where television had hurt the process. people have come to expect every case to be air tight like on the shows. Most aren't."
"People are innocent until proven guilty." said Crawford. "A good investigator doesn't think about the case at first. They think about the evidence."
"We gather the evidence, follow procedures, maintain the integrity of the scene and of the evidence. Once that is done, we leave our opinions out and let the evidence talk to us. If we do our job right, the evidence will solve the crime for us. It will tell us who is guilty, and who isn't."
Crawford completes his training in June when he passes his final exam which he said will be tough. "It is a lot to learn, but it has been great. I love a challenge."