[A] series of murders, false trails and a suspect with knowledge of specialist forensic skills meant 80 forensic, police and paramedic students at the University of Cumbria faced a real test of their skills as part of a major incident exercise (Feb 1 and 2).
The diverse grounds and buildings of the Ambleside campus were an ideal location to offer the kind of testing conditions students will face when they graduate and join the professional services.
“The fact that we can bring together all disciplines means we can offer real inter-professional learning,” Ashleigh Hunt, senior lecturer in forensic and investigate science, said. “They really look forward to these two days over the year as do all our staff and serving professionals. It’s a really big collaboration between the university, Cumbria Police and North West Ambulance Service. The scenarios are as real as we can make them in a safe environment.”
Operation Yardstick also involved members of the Cumbria Police dog unit adding to the realism and also offering serving professionals the chance of more training.
“I’ve always been interested in crime,” Natalie Knowles, a final year forensic and investigative science student, from Kirkby Lonsdale said. After working in accountancy she chose her course at Cumbria because of the chance to take part in the major exercise and will graduate this summer. ”I was an accountant for 11 years and just wanted to work in this field – why wouldn’t you want to help solve crimes?”
Held over two-days, the annual exercise gives students real-world insight into the high pressure environment of a real crime scene investigation. This kind of hands on experience helped secure accreditation by the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences last year
“As a result of the major incident component of the University of Cumbria’s course, the society has now embedded the need for such an exercise into the criteria for accreditation,” Ashleigh Hunt added.
A debrief of all those involved will now take place and thoughts are already turning to next year’s exercise where a night time scenario may also be included.
“It is a significant undertaking and planning starts as soon as the previous one finishes,” Ashleigh said. “We now have a rolling programme of three scenarios so that each student experiences three totally different cases. In year one, students will take role as CSI, in their second year as forensic scientists and in the final year as crime scene managers.”
For the forensic scientists, paramedics and police officers of the future, the intensive exercise in the grounds of the Ambleside campus will help equip them with the skills they’ll need in the years to come.