Criminal Justice Students on the Case at Central Campus

Students standing near a squad car

Students in the criminal justice program at Central Campus on on the case solving a mock murder.

The bad news: the victim of a mock, repeat mock, homicide at Central Campus Thursday morning was a DMPS security officer. Evidence at the scene indicated that the perpetrator may be a clown. With the nation-wide creepy clown hoax on social media, an appropriate suspect for a mock crime.

The good news: the Criminal Justice program, now in just its second year at Central, is on the case. The program has more than doubled in size, from 16 students to 40, with a waiting list of more than a hundred.

Two retirees from the DMPD – Captain Kelly Willis and forensics technician Greg Gourd (“Tech Gourd”) – direct the innovative program that stages mock crime scenes and uses them as the basis for semester-long units of study that delve into all areas of the criminal justice system.

Not only do students earn college credit in the curriculum, they also gain insights that help to bridge gaps between police departments and the communities they serve.

And speaking of bridges, it was a return to the scene of last year’s crime on Thursday when the mannequin body of a DMPS security officer was found beneath the bridge that runs over the parking lot behind Central Campus. He’d been shot multiple times while on overnight patrol. The crime scene was splattered with blood. Also found were a clown mask and some cash.

During the course of the day six student forensics teams took turns investigating and gathering evidence before heading back to their classroom for debriefing.

Three members of the “Charlie” team passed the time waiting for their crack at the crime scene by checking out the inside of a DMPD patrol car like kids in a candy store. They were champing at the bit.

“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was three years old,” said Ivan Apolino, a senior at East. Already enlisted in the National Guard, Ivan yearns for a career in public safety.

So do Steven Huynh and Jesse Luangaphayvong, seniors at North and Hoover, respectively.

“My course background so far has been more in engineering,” said Jesse, “but I have an uncle who’s a retired police officer and I want to follow in his footsteps.”

Steven’s curiosity about the criminal justice classes was piqued by the rising tensions between police departments and minority communities around the country.

“It’s not enough to just complain and protest – that’s too easy,” he explained. “I wanted to see another perspective on law enforcement.”

All three agree that the selective and increasingly popular program (they had to apply and were admitted based on their grades and character) fosters a camaraderie that is an aspect of the training they hadn’t necessarily anticipated.

“Captain Willis and Tech Gourd – they both make us all feel like family,” said Ivan. “They care so much about all of us.”

Asked to explain the rising popularity of their class, Captain Willis and Tech Gourd demurred.

“The kids make us look good. They are great to work with,” said Gourd.

Willis agreed, adding “All of these students are just outstanding kids.”

And in many cases, the stuff that outstanding public servants are made of – with the proper training and role models.

Photos from the Central Campus Crime Scene

Central Campus On The Case – DMPS-TV News

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