Forensics class in high demand here and abroad
SFU is the first university in North America to build a state-of-the-art analysis lab
Ryan Prox’s forensics class at Simon Fraser University is so in demand that the waiting list is double the capacity. And that’s just in the Lower Mainland.
There’s interest, and a need for the course, in other parts of the world as well.
“I just got back from the Europol (the European Union’s law enforcement agency) conference, where I was the keynote speaker,” Prox recently told The Sun. “I was marketing some of the stuff we were doing at SFU and some of the work at the VPD (Vancouver Police Department), and they were lining up at the door, asking, ‘ How do we get you to teach the course in Europe here?’ ”
Prox, an RCMP constable and adjunct professor, teaches the Crim 449 course in forensic analysis at SFU’s Surrey campus. There, he has access to a virtual forensic analysis lab, which includes industry standard software and tools previously reserved for law enforcement and intelligence agency personnel only.
SFU is the first university in North America to build and offer such a lab, which includes software such as the Esri with ArcGIS Spatial Statistics Tool.
“If you watch the news or the weather channel and they show projections of how the weather is moving, ArcGIS is running in the background,” Prox said. “Things like typhoons are modelled using the GIS software. As well, it enables us to do some crime-mapping hot spot analysis.”
Many of the police agencies who are sending their people for this training are what we would consider leading edge.
SFU ADJUNCT PROFESSOR
Due to the licensing of the various software, as well as the expense, Prox is limited to teaching the course where he has access to that software: at the moment, SFU’s forensics lab. So, in conjunction with the school, he is in the process of making the software cloud-based. This would allow for a virtual classroom he could access from anywhere in the world.
“With a cloud environment, I simply plug into the SFU infrastructure and teach the course,” he said. “All I would need is a computer with an Internet connection.”
In the meantime, he’s continuing to teach versions of the course to both SFU students and what he calls “law enforcement industry practitioners,” a term that encompasses everyone from RCMP officers to CBSA customs officers to Fisheries and Oceans Canada employees.
“There’s organized crime in Fisheries and Oceans in terms of smuggling things like bear bladders and paws,” Prox said.
For students wanting to leave school with some practical skills, the course opens up myriad opportunities. His forensics course gives them handson experience in data analysis that qualifies students for jobs with the Department of Homeland Security (if the student has U.S. citizenship) and with third-party defence and security contractors.
As well, SFU is using its position as a leader in crime studies to organize a policing conference this June, to be held at the Wosk Centre.
“Many of the police agencies who are sending their people for this training are what we would consider leading edge,” Prox said.
“Not every police force is intelligence-led, which is where you’re analyzing information, collating it, putting it together, looking for the trends and patterns, and using evidence-based decision making. Some law enforcement agencies follow a more reactive policing model. We’re trying to use the conference as a beacon to show other agencies that it is possible to move in this direction, and here’s a model of how to actualize that.”