Getting a Clue: Students Gravitate to Law Enforcement Club
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
Few if any professors at GCU ask their students to move a lifeless body.
For Cornel Stemley, it’s a request that marks the beginning of fall and a return to coaching criminal justice students through the Lopes Justice Society Law Enforcement Club.
The club introduces students to the fundamentals of everything from crime scene evidence management to firearms and self-defense. This year, the club’s focus is on competing in a mock crime scene investigation tournament through the American Criminal Justice Association.
GCU’s group is expected to be the only Arizona collegiate team to compete at the event in San Antonio in November, Stemley said.
At the beginning of a recent after-school session, Stemley asked about moving the body — a dummy, actually, complete with a wig and blood-stained clothes — as he listed things students must understand about securing a crime scene. At the competition, judges provide zero leeway for students who fail to clearly identify potential evidence and establish the proper methods for securing evidence.
“Someone go into that room there. You’ll find a body sitting on top of that thing…” Stemley told one student. “Go outside and sit him up against a tree out there.”
Students then broke up into teams. One team came up with a crime scene scenario that the others, acting as police officers, would play along with to understand the general flow of those initial moments of a reported crime. In this case, the dummy was a transgendered victim who suffered fatal stab wounds after an altercation with multiple suspects outside a Victoria’s Secret.
|Law Enforcement Club|
|For more information, try the club’s Facebook page. Membership is open to all students, though most GCU Lopes Justice Society Law Enforcement Club students are criminal justice majors.|
Stemley, a former federal narcotics investigator and police sergeant who also moonlights as a bounty hunter, said students now are learning more sophisticated procedures than were available to him when he was a student. As more communities bolster their civilian crime scene investigation units, crime scene specialists and forensic analysts have become some of the most popular entry-level government positions available. Others find similar work through private firms.
Stemley said he’s pleased to help students find their way in a job force the federal government believes will continue to grow over the next several years, according to reports. Learning about professional standards through events like national or regional competitions helps prepare students for the real world of investigating serious crimes. If one piece of evidence is not properly documented, prosecutors can lose a case in court.
“They have to properly identify evidence in the crime scene and explain how they go about processing the crime scene on top of that,” Stemley said. “We’re preparing to meet the standards of (the American Criminal Justice Association competition).”
The Lopes Justice Society includes the law enforcement and forensic science clubs. While the forensic science students are focused largely on the science of the evidence, the Law Enforcement Club students focus on crime scene management and other skills that contribute to building viable criminal cases that hold up in court.
“It’s a great way to meet friends, plus for me it’s what I want to do, working in crime scene investigations,” said sophomore club member Yesenia Bradley, whose team helped concoct the Victoria’s Secret tragedy for the recent class exercise.
Chris Rogers, the Law Enforcement Club president, said he hopes to earn his degree and land a job with a federal agency like U.S. Border Patrol or the FBI.
With his experience as a Marine and veteran of Iraq, Rogers helps train other Law Enforcement Club students on firearms and physical agility. The early-morning runs and exercise routines around campus emphasize the need for discipline in a field where there is little room for error.
“So far I’ve been taking it easy on them, not going on any death-defying runs just yet, but it’s coming,” he joked.
Rogers and other students traveled to Cincinnati for the American Justice Association competition last year. He hoped student membership and attention to meeting standards for the competition would increase this semester.
The Law Enforcement Club has taken outings to a nearby shooting range for firearms training and plans to ride along with Tucson Police this fall.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or [email protected].