Federal probation agents train at Crime Scene Investigation House

Black-clothed officers with “FEDERAL AGENT” stamped across their backs in yellow block letters swarmed the Crime Scene Investigation House repeatedly last week as part of training exercises. 

            Federal probation officers from the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services district offices in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., spent two days on campus searching the CSI House for perpetrators, drugs, laptops, guns and other evidence. While agents searched, trainers watched from the CSI control room in order to conduct “real-time” performance evaluations. 

            Within minutes of each scenario ending, agents gathered with trainers in the control room to review DVDs and critique procedures.

            As part of monitoring federal parolees, the agents conduct two to three home searches each month in the Western New York district, so while they get regular practice, exercises such as those conducted at Pitt-Bradford allow them to refine their techniques.

            Conducting searches is one of the most dangerous tasks for agents, and watching on the monitors, it’s easy to see why. As agents searched and cleared rooms, the trainers’ eyes darted to closets still unchecked where more perpetrators could have been hiding.

            David Bovard, deputy chief of the district, said that most of the searches his teams conduct involve violations of drugs, guns or child pornography. The district trains for searches twice a year, often in abandoned areas, offering none of the realistic advantages of the Crime Scene Investigation House.

            Pitt-Bradford provides access to the criminal justice program CSI training facilities to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Dr. Tony Gaskew, associate professor of criminal justice and director of the program, works in collaboration with the agencies assisting in the preparation of crime scene scenarios, along with operating the state-of-the-art electronic recording equipment.

            Opened in 2008, Pitt-Bradford’s CSI House provides criminal justice students a realistic setting in which to learninvestigative processes and skills, including locating and lifting latent fingerprints, learning forensic photography and documenting evidence. Closed-circuit audio and video cameras allow instructors to see and communicate with students as they investigate crime scenes set up in the house.

            During the exercise with the federal probation agents, several criminal justice majors served as “perpetrators” for the scenarios. “I’ve been doing this 21 years, and this is as good as it gets,” said trainer Thomas Langelotti.

            The students benefitted also, Gaskew said. “It was a great opportunity for criminal justice students to observe first-hand the type of professionalism required to work as a federal agent.”

Students also got to meet an important member of the team for them – the agent who coordinates internships – setting the stage for continued opportunities for them to work with federal professionals.