This fall, the classroom became a crime scene as students studied cardboard cutouts of bodies lying among prop guns and knives to learn about the behind-the-scenes of crime scene investigation.
Professor King Charles Brown teaches the Crime Scene Investigation class and other forensic science classes at PBA while working as the crime scene supervisor for the West Palm Beach Police Department. He often brings stories from the field to give students a new perspective about the world.
“It opens a student’s mind to look at a different avenue,” Brown said.
Carolina Torres-Tello, a PBA junior majoring in psychology, says that while she has always watched TV shows about the subject, she never comprehended how it was someone’s reality to wait for a call day and night to report to a crime scene.
Over five years of teaching at PBA, Brown has seen the class transform students' mindsets and career paths. Last spring, one of his students graduated and started working for the Delray Beach Police Department. Two students from PBA who graduated the year before he started teaching with him now work on crime scenes with him, and two students from this term recently informed him they would be switching their majors to forensic science.
Sarah Jore, a PBA sophomore majoring in communications, never watched crime shows, so she felt like the class taught her the basics of police investigations. Learning how much work goes into submitting evidence has given her a new appreciation for the police department.
Brown says that in his 37 years in forensic science working with different police departments, he has been exposed to a lot of “Mumbo Jumbo.” This refers to the excessive expression of hatred towards the police based on false or overgeneralized narratives. Brown wants to remind students that the police are there to help, not hinder them.
“There’s been a lot of hate centered around the police with currents, and I just don’t think that’s justified to say of every police officer because the majority of them do really great work,” Torress-Tellos said.
“The biggest thing in our neck of the woods in crimson scene investigation is that we work for the victim,” Brown said.
The nature of Crime Scene Investigation often makes Brown meet people on the worst day of their lives. It’s a people-oriented field because of the interaction he has with victims and their families in the process of documenting crime scenes. He has been exposed to the aftermath of extreme acts of violence but maintains professionalism by remembering he is working for justice for the victim.
To Jore, the hardest part of the class is not getting too emotionally involved with the crime and learning to look at extreme scenarios objectively. She admires how investigators can separate themselves from traumatizing incidents to accomplish their work.
“I never put that much importance on that kind of working till taking this class and realizing it brings so much closure to the families to know what happened,” Jore said.
Brown thinks even if a student is not interested in going into the field, they can still learn helpful information that may apply to their future career. For instance, a business major may start their own company, which may get robbed, broken into or even hacked. Learning about the process of solving crimes can help the potential victim remember evidence that may be vital to an investigation or even prevent the incident from occurring at all.
Brown hopes all his students will be able to walk away from the class with a beginner’s comprehension of forensic science, an awareness of what happens in the field and the knowledge the police are there to assist them.
By Sarah Gale