DNA lessons learned by local officers

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ROD GUAJARDO | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Tim Schade, investigator with the Knoxville Police Department, right, examines bags of evidence they prepared on Monday for testing.

VIDALIA — DNA evidence never lies.

That’s why police officers from various parishes across Louisiana and Natchez, learned a variety of new DNA collection techniques Monday and Tuesday at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

Thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Justice, the University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Innovation Center offers five courses specifically to rural communities.

Other courses include survival Spanish and preventing domestic violence.

Emily Miller, training specialist, said all the law enforcement communities they’ve visited have been very receptive to the programs.

“This grant is great because in a time when training dollars are being cut, this gives us an opportunity to travel across the country serving the communities that especially need this kind of training,” Miller said. “It just helps them get an inside look at the new trends and technologies and how they can be more effective on the crime scene by ensuring they can collect quality evidence.”

Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis said he’s glad to see so many different law enforcement agencies coming together and knows they will all benefit from the course.

“This is going to be a tremendous asset to our department and the officers who have to do these things,” Lewis said. “We’re a small department, so it’s going to help each and every officer that is enrolled in this class.”

VPD Public Information Officer Miranda Clifton said the course will help all officers properly collect evidence at the scene of the crime.

“Plus with all the departments training the same way, because we have Concordia and Natchez, we can walk onto a crime scene and help each other out instead of hindering the investigations,” Clifton said.

Mike Campbell with the U.S. Attorney’s Office worked hand in hand with Clifton and the University of Tennessee to bring the class to Vidalia.

“It’s a win-win situation because you’re providing training, so that we can actually do better cases which makes the prosecution end of it more efficient,” Campbell said. “So I think it’s a win-win for the community, law enforcement and prosecution side.”