Human Recovery Training Offered to Law Enforcement

Photo of officer and instructor over crime scene with bones.
A police officer practices mapping a crime scene.

The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility at Sam Houston State University is offering a three-day training for law enforcement officers on the surface recovery of human remains on Aug. 20-22.

“The overall goal of this training is that when law enforcement is called out to a scene -- for example if a civilian calls police to say they have found skeletal remains -- that they are able to properly recover all of the remains and as much evidence as possible,” said Dr. Joan Bytheway, Director of the facility.

STAFS is only one of four willed body facilities worldwide that does research and training to advance academic and technical knowledge on forensic science applications to crime scene and criminal activities, particularly on human bodies. In addition to some classroom instruction, the training will provide intensive, hands-on experience with real human remains.

Dr. Joan Bytheway and crime scene investigators measure a bone in the classroom.
Dr. Joan Bytheway (l) teaches crime scene investigators how to measure femurs to determine the victim's height.

The training is open to law enforcement agents only. The cost of the course is $450 before June 30, with a late registration fee of $500 after that date.

The classroom instruction will include information on identifying human remains and different types of search methods. Officers will learn how to tell the difference between human and animal bones and briefly discuss determining the sex, age, and stature of the victim. The class also will address the difference between contemporary and archeological remains and focus on the use of taphonomy to determine the postmortem interval.

An officer examines a bug through a microscope.
A spider is examined under the microscope at the lab.
Dr. Sibyl Bucheli, a forensic entomologist at Sam Houston, will provide information on entomology and the proper techniques for identifying and collecting insects that may offer vital forensic information in the case.

During the recovery process, officers will learn the proper mapping techniques for the crime scene, including the use of baseline, triangular or polar coordinates. The course also will provide training on the use of mapping equipment.

A belt buckle is discovered when sifting dirt from a crime scene.
A belt buckle is discovered when sifting dirt from a crime scene.
Finally, the course will stress how to recover all the evidence at the scene and its critical importance in the case.

STAFS is a state-of-the-art research and training facility. In addition to providing research opportunities in anthropology, toxicology, criminology, geology, chemistry and microbiology, the facility provides training for students, teachers, forensic specialists and law enforcement. Officers who participate in the course can earn credits from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education.

This summer, STAFS is also offering training for high school teachers in Pattern Evidence and Advanced Crime Scene Investigations.

Member of The Texas State University System