PEMBROKE — Tori Carter’s heart raced with excitement as she stepped inside her Criminal Investigation class at UNC Pembroke.
The second-floor room in Sampson Hall had been converted into a mock crime scene complete with foot prints, overturned furniture and a mannequin covered in fake blood prone on the floor.
Carter was pumped. Detective work is her calling.
Professor Robert McDonnell selected Carter as the leader of her group. As lead detective, Carter doled out assignments, including photographer, evidence marking, latent print searcher, and sketch technician.
After snapping on plastic white gloves, the budding detectives were given 30 minutes to process the crime scene. They collected and identified evidence, including blood swabs and ballistics. The items were bagged and delivered to another classroom set up as a crime lab.
The exercise was spread over two class periods, followed by a review.
“Young adult learners, from my experience, like hands-on learning,” McDonnell said. “We studied the proper way to process a crime scene in the textbook, but I wanted to put together a practical exercise that would tie in the readings with them processing a crime scene.”
Carter, a senior from Charlotte, said she benefited from being exposed to a “real-life experience.”
“I really liked it,” she said. “It taught us how to look for certain things, how to decide what needs to be sent to the lab, and ultimately what happened to the victim.”
Carter is completing an internship with Lumberton Police Department. She hopes to land a job as a detective specializing in sexual assault.
The exercise reaffirmed Joey DiMartino’s plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. The junior from New Jersey led his group during the assignment.
“This was a great experience,” he said. “It gave me practice. We were not necessarily trying to solve the crime, but learning more about the steps that lead up to solving the case.”
McDonnell plans to incorporate additional mock exercises later in the course. He sees hands-on activities as a recruiting tool for the Sociology and Criminal Justice program.
Before coming to UNCP in 2010, McDonnell spent 27 years as a federal criminal investigator with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He specialized in violent and property crime, complex fraud, narcotics, bombs, and antiterrorism investigations.
Mark Locklear is Public Communications Specialist at UNC-Pembroke.