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|Youth learn 'real' investigation techniques|
Thirteen-year-old Jaci Freeman has no doubts about which profession she would like to pursue and with help from the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office, she's getting some advanced training.
Freeman and other young law enforcement enthusiasts joined Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office officials this week for a two-day crime scene investigation camp.
Freeman talked excitedly about the time when someone broke into her house where she was afforded an opportunity to meet a crime scene investigator.
"He came to our house to investigate and I told him, 'That's what I want to be,'" she said.
Freeman plans to attend the University of Louisiana-Monroe to pursue a career in law enforcement, eventually becoming an investigator herself.
For the past three summers, the sheriff's office along with the Monroe Police Department and the West Monroe Police Department facilitated a one-week cadet academy for local youth.
This summer, Sheriff Royce Toney wanted to do something a little different, said OPSO's Marky Tucker.
This year's course was designed and limited to past cadet graduates who had shown an extra interest in learning about police investigation.
The two-day event was held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office Rifle Range. Instructors included OPSO crime scene commander Lt. Renee Smith and Sgt. Darrell Johns and deputy Staci Morrison. Fourteen local youth ages 13 to 17 participated in the camp.
Smith enjoys working with youth and hopes their time with local law enforcement officers will provide positive memories.
"This is one thing that I do enjoy doing because you never know what kind of seed you plant … it's better to plant one of the good ones, than another kind of seed," Smith said. "We try to instill the knowledge and give them an avenue and let them proceed from there."
During the camp, Smith taught teenagers the basics of crime scene investigation from the importance of properly collecting evidence, fingerprinting, blood and DNA collection and how to manage a crime scene.
"Lt. Smith is probably the best in her whole field," Tucker said. "She has assisted in many major crime scenes with other northeast Louisiana law enforcement agencies and served as an expert witness in court pertaining to crime scene procedures."
Tucker said youth who participated in the camp were among the "best of the best" in Ouachita Parish. They all understood that crime scene investigation was not the glamorous, fast-paced chain of events depicted on popular television programs.
"We've had most of them for one year, and several for three years (in previous cadet academies), so they already know and have had it drilled into their head that this is not television," Tucker said. "Their biggest question is about equipment because they see all that cool stuff that snaps up information. So we've explained some of the stuff that we actually use, such as the national databases that spits out information and provides a profile on an individual."
"But, it's not like TV," Tucker added.
Smith elaborated on Tucker's remarks.
"Most people think those three shows on TV are exactly how it is, but that's not the case," Smith explained. "We can't solve crime in an hour. Sometimes we can, but most often, not. We don't have all those tools and sometimes we have to do it with good ole fashioned police work."
Tucker hopes to see these youth pursue a career in law enforcement since many are interested in the profession.
"I would love that," She said. "They have great qualities. These kids were picked because of their values, ethics, and community involvement."
"They are the best of the best," Tucker added.