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Local deputy trains in forensics

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Mike Hill has had a passion for forensics for as long as he can remember.

Hill has been in law enforcement since 1985 and said he enjoys most all aspects of his career, but forensic investigations rank right at the top, so when he had the chance to attend a 10-week training course with the National Forensic Academy this past fall, Hill jumped at the chance to become professionally trained in that area.

Training at the National Forensic Academy, which is the world’s top crime scene investigation (CSI) training school, is very exclusive and not something every officer gets the chance to participate in.

Hill said the class lasted from Sept. 6 – Nov. 10 and was conducted at the National Forensic Academy’s facilities at the Law Enforcement Innovation Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

During the training, Hill said he was able to receive hands-on experience in bloodstain pattern analysis, shooting reconstruction, fingerprint science, arson investigation, forensic photography, explosives, forensic mapping and death investigations.

“We were given the chance to spend time at the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office where we observed an actual autopsy,” Hill said.

“Doing this allowed us to more fully understand how the cause, manner and mode of death are determined.”

Hill said they were also given extensive training in forensic anthropology through the week-long study at the University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology’s Anthropological Research Facility, also known as the “Body Farm.”

“This experience was definitely surreal,” Hill said.

“At this facility, there are actual human bodies in various stages of decomposition that have been buried in clandestine graves.

“The bodies are excavated and we learned how to determine things like the time since death based on different factors.”

The facility is the only one of it’s kind in the world and was established 30 years ago by renowned anthropologist Dr. William Bass, who Hill was able to meet during his time there.

“I really feel like I benefited so much from my time at the National Forensic Academy and from the things I was able to learn,” Hill said.

“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

After completing the 10-week course, Hill graduated on Nov. 16 and is now a board certified crime scene analyst through the International Association for Identification.

Hill said he pursed the certification as professional development but also to better the law enforcement agency he works for.

“For years when I have been on a crime scene, I’ve loved to just see how things were run and what all they did to gather forensic evidence that could ultimately be what puts a criminal behind bars, and now I can actually help with that whole process,” Hill said.

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver agreed that Hill’s training would be beneficial.

“It will be good to have someone who is trained in these specific areas to help in investigations where that kind of training is necessary,” Oliver said.

“For court purposes, we will now have crime scenes worked by someone who is certified so that will make our cases stronger.”

“With CSI-type shows that are so popular on TV, juries have come to expect forensic evidence at trial, so when you don’t have it, it can really hurt a case,” Hill added.

“This is a skill set the sheriff’s office didn’t have before so I hope this will be beneficial to the county as a whole so we can ultimately serve the people of Franklin County better.”