The Charger Blog

Police Recruits Gain Hands-On Experience Training at the University of New Haven

Police academy recruits recently investigated mock crime scenes at the University, building their skills working in world-class facilities, receiving support from educators with extensive real-world experience, and, even, students who are also learning how to be crime scene investigators.

February 8, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Recruits investigate a mock crime scene at the University of New Haven.
Recruits investigate a mock crime scene at the University of New Haven.

Anissa Dellaripa ’24 M.S. laid the final touches on the crime scene before her. Drugs and a scale sat atop a kitchen table, and yellow police tape marked the outside as a crime scene. The police would be inside shortly.

A lab assistant in the University’s Forensic Science Department, Dellaripa helped set up the mock crime scene so that police academy trainees could gain hands-on experience. While the drugs and the money at the scene were fake, the opportunity to use the latest investigative techniques and technology was very real.

“Observing this particular training was a great opportunity because we learn from each other,” explains Dellaripa, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in forensic technology. “I can observe and understand how the first responding officers handle a scene when they get there. Having them understand what needs to be done on our end helps them to handle the scene on their end, and vice versa.”

‘An immersive, realistic environment’

As part of the training, 19 recruits visited the University’s new crime scene facility as well as the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. The training was part of a collaboration between the University’s Forensic Science Department and the Bridgeport Police Department, which 16 of the recruits represented.

Timothy Leonard, a Bridgeport police detective, says the University’s crime scene facility offers a “great venue for hands-on training.” A strong believer in the importance of gaining hands-on experience processing a crime scene, he says he’s grateful the Bridgeport Police Academy has been able to use it. He believes the opportunities they have had to train with University of New Haven professors Maria Torre M.S. and Peter Valentin, Ph.D., have been invaluable.

“Many of the professors at the University of New Haven have prior law enforcement experience and they combine theory and practice,” he said. “Being able to draw upon the experience and knowledge of Prof. Torre and Dr. Valentin has helped advance the crime scene processing course and allows the recruit officers to learn best practices.”

Chargers helping stage the mock crime scenes.
Chargers helped stage the mock crime scenes.

University forensic science faculty have many years of industry experience. Prof. Torre, who has worked with police in Waterbury, Conn., and Yonkers, NY, has investigated a variety of cases, including deaths, sexual assaults, and burglaries. She was grateful for the opportunity to enable her students to gain unique experience while playing a critical role in training the recruits.

A retired Connecticut State Police detective, Dr. Valentin is a member of the Federal Government’s disaster forensic team. He has investigated homicides, suspicious deaths, and helped identify human remains following disasters.

“Having access to the Forensic Science Department's crime scene facility allows academy instructors and University faculty to create an immersive, realistic environment while providing cadets with on-the-spot instruction and feedback,” said Prof. Torre, coordinator of the University’s M.S. in Forensic Technology program. “This ongoing collaboration between the University and the Bridgeport Police Department serves our shared goal of stronger, more effective criminal investigations.”

‘We have a great facility and staff’

Mackensie Abela ’24 M.S., who is a candidate in the University’s graduate program in forensic technology, also helped set up the crime scenes and assisted the recruits as they worked. She says it was a great way for the trainees and the Chargers to learn from each other.

“Being a part of the training was beneficial because we saw how sworn personnel are taught to process a scene, versus what we are taught in our two-year graduate program,” she said. “It's always good to see how it is taught, whether you are a police officer or maybe a civilian CSI.”

Dellaripa, Abela’s classmate, says the crime scenes were very controlled. That, she says, helps officers training to respond to a crime scene understand what to do and how their work might impact the crime scene technicians who arrive afterward.

“Preserving and recognizing evidence is such an important part in this field,” she said. “I think as technology is advancing in the forensic field, police officers can benefit from more training, and we have a great facility and staff to fulfill those learning opportunities.”

Police tape marked the outside of the mock crime scene.
Police tape marked the outside of the mock crime scene.