Working in groups of four and five, students in Brian Carper’s Advanced Public Safety class at Burlington High School surveyed the scene laid out before them in a small storage area connected to their classroom.

On the table was a single plate, atop which sat an uneaten dinner, next to a glass with a bloody fingerprint. On the floor was the victim — a bloodied mannequin with an ID in her pocket.

The crime scene investigation required students to use all of the skills they had reviewed in the class thus far, things like lifting fingerprints, filing for warrants, witness interviews and following the chain of custody.

“They’re going to come in here, they’ve got to take pictures, take measurements, do a sketch,” Carper said before the first round of students for the day made entry into the make-shift apartment. “There’s a lot of different evidence here that will eventually show who the suspect is.”

If students failed to secure a warrant prior to entry, the evidence they collected would be thrown out.

“So if they don’t figure out they need that search warrant right away, I’m not going to say anything and their case is shot,” Carper said.

Carper is nearing the end of his first year of teaching following a 28-year career with the Burlington Police Department. His experience has served students well as he works to build up the Public Safety Career and Technical Education pathway, which was added this year in response to local workforce needs and student interest.

Carper has brought in a number of speakers — ranging from K-9 officers to detectives to correctional officers — to present to students. He’s also using those connections to get his students access to places they might not otherwise have, such as the Des Moines County jail, where he will take students later this trimester.

“With the corrections part, they’re going to learn some self defense and do three class periods of mental health,” said Carper, who was a crisis intervention officer and instructor.

Students have been enjoying the hands-on nature of Carper’s classes.

“We always have something to do, which is good,” said freshman Isaac Griesman. “The murder scene has taken everything we’ve learned and is putting it to use instead of just listening to lectures all day.”

Griesman and his teammates each were assigned a task while investigating the crime scene. Only one from each group would collect the evidence. Another conducted an interview with Carper, who acted as both the landlord and the first officer on scene. Another took pictures, another took measurements, and another lifted fingerprints.

Carper then evaluated the students based on their performance in each of five categories: Interview, Sketch, Search Warrant, Photos, Fingerprints, Legal Paperwork, and Phone App (related to a phone recovered from the scene).

The evidence gathered would lead students to a suspect, but it wouldn’t be until a couple weeks later that they would make an arrest.

“This has a wole theme,” Carper said on the day of the crime scene investigation. “So after this, there will be an OWI involving the suspect in this murder. They’ll have to learn how to do a field sobriety test, and he’s got evidence on him that links him to the scene.”

This, of course, came after students practiced doing field sobriety tests on each other with the help of drunk goggles.

Carper has more in store for the rest of the year, including a trip to the police and fire departments, where students will be able to get certified in CPR.

“It’s definitely been a more challenging class than the Introduction to Public Safety,” Griesman said. “You go deeper and more hands-on. It’s a fun class … I definitely want to take more crime or medical classes. I hope Carper will open up more classes and I’ll take those.”

There will indeed be more Public Safety classes available to students next year with the addition of two new offerings:

To view a complete list of next year’s course offerings, check out the 2024-25 BHS Course Catalog.

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