An Evidence Search Training Day
The morning started with coffee. Not my personal thing, but most of the participants in the course appreciated the morning java fix provided by the Saskatoon Police Service – especially the searchers from Regina who’d left Regina at 6:00am to make it on time.
The classroom part of the training was hosted at the spiffy new SPS Headquarters building. Spiffy in the sense that it’s new but also that it doesn’t feel like you’re in a police station.
Then we were introduced to our first speaker, Dr. Ernie Walker. Had I not met him before on a real search I must admit I would have probably been a little…worried. I would have worried that he was going to be a terrible university-style professor who talks in monotone for 3 hours and then asks, “any questions” in a way that lets you know there are no questions. But I knew we were in for a treat and I was not disappointed.
Dr. Walker’s presentation was both very interesting and very educational. It is a rare treat to be able to hear someone who is an expert and so passionate about a subject speak on that subject. Dr. Walker provided a whole bunch of relevant stories and examples. I can’t go in to details here, both because of length restrictions and for reasons of confidentiality. Suffice it to say, we all learned a lot. I think the key thing we were supposed to take away from the class was that the smallest of things can matter, so be very careful. A single bone or tooth can make a case.
Following Dr. Walker we had a presentation from Sgt. Pete Garvey from RCMP “F” Division. Pete tried to lower our expectations after Dr. Walker’s presentation, saying how he’s such a hard act to follow. But if you ever hear a presentation from Sgt. Garvey, you’ll learn that he’s a fine follow-up “act.”
Sgt. Garvey spoke about search techniques and the importance of taking detailed notes. Shelley was thrilled to have someone else telling us how important good notes are (and just so you all know, I’m writing this without my notes, so I’m surely forgetting some important stuff).
Sgt. Garvey described various searches that he’s been involved in and some general theory for organizing and running a search. He explained to us that no two searches are ever the same, and that common sense and quality are the most important things in running a search – and taking good notes.
We broke for a tasty lunch provided by Safeway and then headed to a training site west of the city. There we ran three scenarios starting with a detailed evidence search along the side of the roadway. Good job Team 1 (my team) on its excellent performance – finding shell casings isn’t exactly an easy task. The other two tasks were fairly close to a normal search that we might do – looking for people and/or clues, but our spacing was tightened up and our ability to maintain focus was tested. Also, we took notes, I promise.
Our day ended with a quick debrief and everyone thanking everyone else for coming or inviting them to come. As a searcher I know felt privileged for the opportunity to learn from such experts. And I would also like to extend my thanks for all the hours that everyone put in to organizing the training opportunity – it was most worthwhile.
While we always hope incidents don’t happen that require us to be called to use our training, I feel that with the training we will be more useful if we are called upon.
Written by Mark Wells
Editor’s Note: This training was hosted by Saskatoon Search and Rescue and attended by 43 participants from SSAR, the Saskatoon Police Service and SARSAV (Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers) chapters from SAR Regina, North Corman Park SAR, Big River SAR, Porcupine Plain SAR, Prince Albert North SAR and Hwy 55 SAR.
Thank you to the Saskatoon Police Service for providing classroom space and coffee, to the University Heights Safeway and Manager Henry Rolheiser for providing lunch, and to Curtis Sambrook for once again letting us use his land as our outdoor training area.