SRO Gives Forensics Class Some Real-World Experience

POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie High School forensics classes received a taste of real-world experience when School Resource Officer Jonathan Geuss visited for fingerprinting presentations.

The students in classes taught by Sien Fernandez-Moore and Candace Robinson were shown how to lift prints using the fingerprint powder, brushes and slides utilized by the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department.

Geuss also spoke on collecting DNA evidence and allowed students to put on a full hazmat suit, explaining how one’s own skin cells can ruin an investigation by obscuring results.
“Students were able to fully immerse themselves in the lesson,” Fernandez-Moore said of the visit.

“I hope they gained just some basic practical knowledge regarding what it takes to do this kind of work,” Geuss said, “namely, attention to detail and patience.”

The longstanding course in the high school is one example of the Poughkeepsie City School District’s focus on career pathway learning, with coursework that could translate directly to use in future employment.

“We want to start kids thinking about different careers,” said Dr. Janety Encarnación, Director of College Readiness and Workforce Education. She noted there are many jobs in addition to police work that would benefit from forensics training, including healthcare workers, pathologists, lawyers and others. “We want students to develop the skills they will need – observation skills, writing, critical thinking, problem solving.”

The classes in the winter focused on DNA, using case studies to inform their learning. After reading about a situation in which babies were accidentally swapped in the hospital, Fernandez-Moore said her class used gel electrophoresis, a test in which molecules are pushed through a gel to separate mixtures of DNA, RNA, or proteins, and matched DNA alleles. Last month it did experiments with blood splatter, measuring blood droplets from different heights and angles, and drawing conclusions. Dr. Shannon Considine, chair of the science department, said the class covers such other topics as handwriting analysis, toxicology and bones.

Geuss is a certified Crime Scene Technician and is also a part of the city department’s forensic science crime scene unit. He fielded questions from students about career opportunities in the department.

“I informed the students that if they were interested in becoming crime scene technicians full-time, then seeking a degree in a core science – chemistry, biology, physics, etc. – would be beneficial. We also talked about how to become a police officer, my own work and educational background, and what crime scene technician school was like.”

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