It’s Time to Put the “Body Farm” to Rest

You may have seen the flurry of media recently regarding a forensic training field at our Public Safety Training Center (PSTC). The concept of an outdoor forensic training field may make for a tempting headline, but it is far from being anything final.

I’m sure you may be wondering about this development, so I’ll attempt to provide some clarification about this proposed aspect of the overall facility.

First, the concept of an all-season forensic training field has been included from the very beginning through all planning and referendum communication phases of this Center. The very first rough drawings of this facility included this potential outdoor lab, as did early conversations with community leaders in 2009.  As the project progressed, we often addressed questions about it, but this part of the Center wasn’t highlighted because it’s by no means the primary focus of this new facility. From the beginning, it was considered a longer-range project for possible development in the future.

Right now, the forensic training field is only a concept, an idea, a possibility for further consideration.  We are nowhere near actual implementation.  Before any action is taken, we would need to address regulatory requirements, reporting standards, and operational processes, let alone the research and development our staff would need to undertake.  We have many more critical priorities than this, both in getting the PSTC up and running and across the College overall.  Ultimately, we may determine that it simply isn’t worth pursuing if the regulations are prohibitive and/or costly.

Looking back, it’s important to remember that public hearings were held to provide information and answer any questions on all of our referendum projects, which were widely supported by the public in 2012.  FVTC delivered more than 125 community presentations, our web site included detailed information on the projects, and communications were sent to municipalities, planning commissions, the DNR, and many other agencies.  We sent letters to the adjacent property owners to inform them about the PSTC and invited them to contact us with any questions or concerns.

We were also required to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for the PSTC development.  In that report, the forensic training field was specifically referenced in terms of secured access, visual appearance, and odors.  This was made available for public review and feedback, and a public hearing was held specifically on this report.  The final document has been posted on our website since it was published in September 2012.

Our local media sources have really gotten ahead of themselves on this one; perhaps some of our own exuberant and well-meaning staff has as well. I find it very interesting that all of this media attention has generated a number of inquiries from people about donating their bodies for this type of research, as well as contacts from several universities worldwide interested in working with us at this facility. They, too, are perhaps getting ahead of themselves.

Is there merit to the idea of creating the nation’s first all-season forensic training field to support forensics education, training, and research?  Absolutely.  But, as I’ve tried to convey, there’s a lot more homework to be done.  And if this moves forward at some point, it will need to be done with respect for process, laws and regulations, neighbors, and communications that are appropriate and timely.

2 thoughts on “It’s Time to Put the “Body Farm” to Rest

  1. Merlin Gentz

    Greatly appreciated both your leadership and that of Chris on the Forensic Outdoor Lab issue. Merlin Gentz

    Reply
  2. Sharon Ann (Cricket) Kendrick

    Good afternoon President May, I for one am totally in favor of the “body farm.” We as one of the most advanced Technicol Colleges and leading the way for our students to be advanced and stable in their professional fields are on the “cutting edge ” no pun intended, in professions such as C.S.I. and NCIS; which is what our Forensic Science Program is preparing our students to do. This is going to be huge component in bringing to justice the “Bad Guys” and maybe with God’s help put to rest some of these Cold Cases and bring some peace of mind, if there is such a thing, to the families. I am so proud of our college and how we are into everything, and not only into it, but blazing the trail for others to follow. Thumb’s up ! President May, for being courageous and running the gauntlet to make us one of the best, and my gratitude to all those that work with you and stand strong so you can lead. Thank you, Cricket

    Reply

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