Eau Claire (WQOW) - When it comes to major investigations, like the Colorado shooting, it's up to law enforcement to piece together the details of what happened. Some police departments, like the Eau Claire Police Department, have specialized units whose job it is to investigate major crimes like shootings, homicides, or fatal accidents. And they need to train on those types of investigations, so when something major happens, they're ready to go.
"Unfortunately in, take for example, a homicide case, there's only a few people who really know what happened. That's going to be the person that committed the crime, and the victim. Obviously the victim isn't able to tell us what happened in a situation like that, and a lot of times the suspect isn't going to tell us," says Officer Kyle Roder.
That's where the Eau Claire Police Department's crime scene unit and crash reconstruction team come into play.
"A criminal investigation is a lot like putting together a huge puzzle. When we arrive on scene, there's lots of pieces scattered about, and it's our job, it's our crime scene units job to find where all those pieces are, to document all those pieces, and then to put them back together in the way that they belong," Roder says.
The 25 officers in the crime scene unit and the five in the crash reconstruction team have taken specialized training in processing and mapping crime scenes.
"A big aspect of processing a crime scene is not only just collecting physical evidence, a big aspect is also documenting the scene, so that's where the crash reconstruction team comes into play," says Lt. Matt Rokus.
And this past week, those officers came together for a quarterly training session at the police department's shooting range.
"We have a vehicle we fired some bullets through here, and what they're doing is they're doing bullet trajectory," says Officer Roder, walking through the police department's training crime scene.
"Typically both teams do work together frequently processing a crime scene, so by working together, each team has a better understanding of the other's capabilities and can work together when called upon to do a real life crime scene," Lt. Rokus says.
"We're trying to get our officers to do real world scenarios, so that when these things happen, we are as efficient as we can be, and that we have as much training and knowledge as possible," says Roder. "You can see where they're going through the bullet hole right now, and what we do is we run that line through there, and that shows us from different points, you can see where it ended up in the building over there, that's where the bullet ended up, this is where it went through the car, so what happens is we run that line through, and we can then determine the height of maybe the person firing that shot, where they fired it from, different things like that."
The department also uses what's called a total machine.
"It'll essentially map the scene for us. In the past, what we'd have to do is each piece of evidence, each piece of furniture maybe in a house, each vehicle out in a driveway, we'd have to go and hand measure those things," says Roder.
The machine provides a 3D map of the scene, so officers can piece together what happened. The police department's crime scene unit truck is another big help in major investigations.
"It kind of acts as our command post," says Detective Ryan Lambeseder. "All the way from lights, tools, markers to mark out different evidence that may be around the scene, fingerprinting, different powders and brushes, some more swabs."
Each piece of evidence has to be photographed and documented, so the case can be handed off to the courts for charges. And every aspect of the investigation also needs to be documented, which takes time.
"In law enforcement, that's one of the biggest things that we have to deal with is the public perception that cases should be taken care of within a half hour or an hour because that's what they see on TV, and that's just not the reality of it," says Roder. "We're going to spend as much time as we need to collect all the evidence that we can that's going to lead us to an arrest and hopefully a conviction of the individuals involved in whatever type of crime it is."
This past week was the first time the police departments' crime scene unit and crash reconstruction team trained together.
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