Volume 47, Number 7 - November 16, 2009

About the Reporter

Alexandra de Armas
Alexandra de Armas
North Campus Bureau Chief

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Picture of girl making imprint
Crime scene investigation student poures plaster into a foil plate filled with sand and a shoe imprint in order to practice making a shoe print casting impression. Photos by Paula Omana.

CSI: Miami Dade College

By Alexandra de Armas

Move over CSI: Miami; CSI: Miami Dade College could be the next hot thing.

This fall, thanks to a collaboration between the department of science and the school of justice, MDC jump-started a new associate in science degree program in crime scene investigation.

Professionals currently working in the field will train students in the program. Students will be educated on everything from collecting crime scene evidence to analyzing samples in a laboratory.

For people like 21-year-old Mike Calderon, the courses will allow him to live out his dream to be a crime scene investigator.

“I always used to see police officers walking around and I remember thinking to myself: ‘I hope to be one of them one day’,” Calderon said. “And taking these classes at MDC really brings me closer to my goal.”

Dr. Heather Belmont, chairperson for the biology/health and wellness department, believes the program will be popular. However, she warns that it’s not all glitz and glamour like television projects.

“I think a show like CSI: Miami and CSI: Las Vegas are what drives students interested in our program,” Belmont said, “then they find out rather quickly that it is not like it is on television.”

Adlin Gomez, a 20-year-old public safety management major, said her curios nature is what sparked her interest in the program.

“I like this program because I have always been someone to question things and want to find out the unknown,” Gomez said.

Debbie Goodman, chairperson for the school of justice, said the program gives students a real taste for what the industry has to offer.

“We want our students to develop all the skills needed for this field,” Goodman said. “We want to infuse reality into the classroom.”

To do so, students will do hands-on activities in the state-of- the-art laboratories at the new science complex. The techniques will be taught by veterans in the field such as Sharon L. Plotkin, a crime scene investigator in the North Miami Police Department.

Among the tasks students will learn: shoe print casting impressions, and finding fingerprints.

“What I teach my students is exactly what I do at a crime scene,” Plotkin said, wearing her police department polo. “That is why I love to teach it. The students are absolutely getting the realistic view. I like to call it training rather than an education because they are getting trained while getting an education at the same time.”

During a recent class session, Plotkin cheered her students on.

“Keep going, you can do it,” Plotkin told her students as they poured plaster into a foil plate filled with sand, and a shoe imprint, in order to make a shoe print casting impression.

The students seem to be enjoying the instruction. “I love this class because we do more hands-on activities then lecturing,” said Karla Funkhouser, a 36-year public safety management major, as she finished her casting impression.

Crime scene investigation is a very specialized field, but it’s generally divided into two areas: crime scene or forensic science.

Forensic science consists of analyzing evidence in laboratories while crime scene investigators are charged with collecting evidence from crime scenes. But a caveat is that jobs in the criminal justice system are always in demand.

For students like Calderon-who are eager to live out their dreams and contribute to their community-that is good news. 

“I want to serve my community, by serving and protecting the citizens of this country,” Calderon said.

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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin,
ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, or genetic information.
Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.