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SUNY Canton Law Enforcement Day wows students

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CANTON — They are sweaty, tedious, monotonous and often in uncomfortable and unsanitary places.

That is how Thomas L. Martin, a retired state police senior investigator, described real crime scenes during SUNY Canton’s fourth annual Law Enforcement Day.

Mr. Martin, the keynote speaker, said that Hollywood sensationalizes criminal investigations in order to keep TV shows exciting.

“People wouldn’t watch television shows about real crime scene investigations,” Mr. Martin said. “... It’s not something that people would sit and watch, so Hollywood has to dress it up and make it viewer friendly.”

The way it does that, Mr. Martin said, is to take something that has an ounce of truth to it and “plant it, water it and fertilize it, and they let it grow into something sensational.”

“Most of what they put on TV might be based on the truth of actual events,” Mr. Martin said, “but they are going to change the script to make it exciting.”

Mr. Martin used slides of crime scenes as well as scenes from his classes, which he said were hands-on.

“We actually use animal blood, and we splatter blood, and we drip it, and we let it dry, and everything you would see at a crime scene, we do firsthand,” Mr. Martin said.

Traveling throughout the country, Mr. Martin teaches 20-hour blood-stain classes and 20- to 40-hour homicide crime-scene classes, and students at SUNY Canton were privy to the condensed version of that seminar Tuesday afternoon.

He said he wanted to give students who are aspiring to go into criminal investigation a true sense of the day-to-day life and work in the field.

Mr. Martin reminded students that criminal investigation is about victims.

“Crime scene investigators essentially, during the course of a case, become the voice of the victim, a victim who can’t talk to you whether they are injured or murdered,” Mr. Martin said.

When a victim can’t tell a story, investigators let the scene tell the story.

SUNY Canton senior Karen M. Campo, 21, is a criminal investigation student. She said the annual event helps her get familiar with the field that she plans to work in.

“It’s a real-life view of people in the community or around the community who can give us insight about what we are learning in our books,” Ms. Campo said. “I’m graduating in May, so this is what I am looking forward to.”

Both Ms. Campo and 22-year-old junior George R. Lawrence, also a criminal investigation student, said they can study from their books all day, but Mr. Martin was giving them the opportunity to experience real-life events.

“It affects me because I want to be in this field,” Mr. Lawrence said, “and it gives me great experience to understand what they went through in their careers, the cases they worked on and the things that intrigue me.”

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