Special to The Sun
UCO’s Forensic Science Institute will welcome close to 100 area law enforcement and forensic science specialists to campus Thursday for a seminar on infant death investigations.
The seminar, featuring Kathleen Hargrave, chief forensic investigator for the Medical Examiner System at St. Louis University in Missouri, is evidence of the growing relationship among what is fast becoming the region’s premier crime-fighting community, officials said.
Dwight Adams, director of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said the infant death investigation seminar meets a specific need in a growing area of concern for the law enforcement community.
According to the ME’s office, the number of deaths recorded for children age 2 and under in Oklahoma totaled 186 in 2009 and 175 in 2010. Among those deaths, 141 are classified as “undetermined” in cause.
“We’re working together to give those in the field the tools they need to successfully complete an investigation using the latest technologies and techniques,” Adams said.
Officials said UCO’s Forensic Science Institute and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation have increased collaboration and sharing of resources since each opened new facilities across the street from each other in Edmond. They will soon welcome a new neighbor to the block.
The state medical examiner’s office plans to relocate to the UCO campus, next to the Forensic Science Institute, pending approval of legislation to fund the project.
But the ME’s office is already working closely with the institute, helping to bring Hargrave in for the seminar.
Hargrave, a respected leader in forensic science, is a Fellow member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a contributing author for the “Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Training” text. Hargrave is a faculty member for all five of the National Sudden, Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Train-the-Trainer Academies sponsored through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is a prime example of the benefit of each of our facility’s operation in close proximity to each other. It’s transforming forensic training and education,” Adams said.
“Together, we can create opportunities to enhance skills of those investigating crimes in our area, while using our resources to prepare future leaders in law enforcement and forensics for success. The ultimate beneficiaries are the citizens of the communities where those we train investigate crimes. This training will help them find the answers that make their corner of the world a safer place to live.”
Adams said, “We truly have an innovative learning community at Central, and we look forward to broadening our relationship with the Medical Examiner’s Office as they plan to relocate.”
The UCO Forensci Science Institute’s reputation as one of the top forensic science programs is also growing as a result.
“Last week, prospective students visited UCO from Colorado, Illinois, Arizona and, of course, Oklahoma, and when I ask them why they are considering Central, they all say the same thing, ‘You are a top 10 school,’” Adams said.
FOR MORE information on the UCO Forensic Science Institute and opportunities for training and education, call 974-6911 or visit www.uco.edu/forensics.