Local law enforcement helps with students' exam

When training the next wave of police investigators, it never hurts to have a little extra help.

Along with instructors Chris Hall and Tony Horton, Lt. Lee Monahan of Sumter County Sheriff's Office was on hand to help with the forensics exam given on Tuesday at Patriot Park.

"It's always fun to help with things like this," Monahan said with a grin.

"Help" is somewhat of a relative term.

As far as the exam is concerned, Monahan was brought in to act as the initial deputy on scene for the scenario. He was the first to see the body and call it in to investigators. Once the teams arrived, he gave the initial briefing. Beyond that, it was up to the students as to what he did next.

"They can ask me questions about the scene and any evidence I might find," Monahan said. "I can't answer questions about procedures, though. I can give them information, but I can't help them make decisions."

Monahan got a chuckle when the team turned to enter the crime scene and nearly forgot to ask the most crucial question.

"They didn't ask me where the body was, at first," he said. "They're so anxious to get started. They did catch themselves, though, and asked me before they got to the woods."

Ultimately, Monahan was simply asked to hold the scene, meaning that if any unauthorized personnel approached the scene from the direction of his position, he would have to redirect them.

The longtime deputy said he's a big fan of the forensics program at Central Carolina and what it has accomplished.

"CCTC has done a great job of getting experienced law enforcement officers involved in this program," he said. "Horton spent 12 to 13 years as a deputy with us, working with investigations, and he's an arson expert. Chris Hall is a deputy with Richland County and has been running the criminal justice program so well at CCTC for more than a decade. And Julian Blair has decades of experience in law enforcement; he's one of the best we could have out here. It's a solid crew out here running the show."

Hall has been a Richland County deputy as well as a member of the Provost Marshal Detachment of the South Carolina State Guard for about four years. Before his stint as the criminal justice director at CCTC, he worked in S.C. Department of Corrections and in juvenile boot camps across the state.

During his tenure as a deputy, Monahan said conditions are always unpredictable. He was eager to see what the students accomplished in their two-hour exam.

"This is their first time doing something like this," he said. "Investigators do the best they can with what they have. You never know what's going to come up."

Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock was scheduled to come out and participate in the exam as well but was held up by a coroner's call. He said he was fond of being involved with the program and had given tours of the funeral home and has spoken to them about the duties of a coroner.

"This would've been the first exam I've helped with, but I was a bit busy with a call," Bullock said. "(CCTC) is doing a great thing with that program, and I love helping with anything I can. Horton is an excellent choice as an instructor."

Monahan said it's important law enforcement be as engaged as they possibly can with the public.

"That's especially true when it comes to students - of any grade level," he said. "These people here could end up helping us on the law enforcement front or just as members of the public. It always helps to have a better-educated public to work with in many scenarios."

BY ROB COTTINGHAM
- Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Date/Time Published:9/30/2014 17:11