Criminology students Rachel Hassen (left) and Lila Bell at last week's mock crime scene.

Bulls Notebook: USFSM criminology students probe mock crime scene

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 26, 2018

Bulls Notebook LogoSARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2018) – The body was at the north end of campus. The USF Sarasota-Manatee students, aspiring law enforcement officers, tiptoed through “the crime scene,” placing numbered cards next to evidence: a doll, a blond wig, gold-colored beads, cigarette butts and more.

William Kemper, a retired homicide detective from Detroit, watched attentively. Each spring, his criminal investigations class heads to this patch of trees near the north parking lot to re-create a crime scene in preparation for the real thing.

Prof. Kemper, as he’s known now, isn’t shy about scattering evidence for his students to uncover. He wants them not only to be attentive to any objects linked to “the murder,” in this case of a young woman, but to understand the procedures for cataloging and collecting the items.

“Remember, you can’t touch the body,” he says.

For more than an hour last Wednesday, the students, working in pairs, carefully moved around the grisly scene. A crime scene photographer, former police officer Angeline Chromiak-Sears, snapped pictures as the students acted as detectives scanning the ground for evidence.

Sixteen objects were found. After they were photographed, numbered and identified, they were placed into evidence bags. One item caused the group to stop in its tracks. A white envelope addressed to “Ms. & Mr. Police Officer” had been attached to tree. Prof. Kemper called for a hazardous materials, or “haz-mat,” team to handle the envelope.

“It might have hazardous materials,” he explained.

The class just learned another lesson in the painstaking task of evidence collection. Like other students, Rachel Hassen, who aspires to be a child-abuse investigator, said she enjoyed the experience.

“I’m more of a hands-on learner, so for me this is great,” the senior criminology student said. “You can only learn so much from a textbook. This will definitely help me to remember the material.”

Prof. Kemper’s evidence-collection exercise occurs twice yearly. The second class is set for this Wednesday. To learn more about USFSM’s criminology program and the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, visit

Black History Month celebration comes to the rotunda

USFSM criminology students probe mock crime scene

Mayowa Lisa Reynolds

USFSM’s Multicultural Affairs Committee last Wednesday brought a unique presentation to USFSM’s rotunda in celebration of Black History Month.

Working with Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, coordinator for the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-integrated Teaching (PAInT), the committee presented a mix of education and entertainment.

Omari Dillard and Charles Cody performed a duet on violin and electric piano. Dr. Davis-Cotton read the Langston Hughes poem, “The Negro Mother.” And Mayowa Lisa Reynolds, a friend of Dr. Davis-Cotton from the Detroit School of the Arts, presented excerpts from her one-woman play, “Passing.”

The play is inspired by the story of Minerva Roulhac and written by her great-granddaughter, Dara Harper, a relative of Reynolds’ husband. The play tells the story of Minerva and her brother, Jordan.

Although African-American, the siblings were very light-skinned. While Minerva remained within her close-knit African-American community, her brother ran away and decided to “pass for white.” That decision caused Jordan to deny not only his own past but his relationship with his sister, as well.

“We all have histories and we all have stories to tell,” Reynolds said after her moving presentation. “These are the stories we leave our children. … Black history is America’s history.”

Later that night, she presented the entire play at New College.

Dr. Davis-Cotton performs as guest ringmaster

USFSM criminology students probe mock crime scene

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton (left).

Not only was Dr. Davis-Cotton busy on campus last week but she was busy off campus, too, and in a surprising way.

With a golden-colored jacket and top hat, Dr. Davis-Cotton took center stage last Monday as a guest ringmaster at Circus Sarasota Ovation behind the Mall at University Town Center.

“I’m so thrilled to be here,” she told the crowd.

She went on to explain how the Center for PAInT at USFSM supports the circus arts and that last summer, she and several USFSM student ambassadors attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the circus’ history in the United States.

Then she focused on the business at hand, introducing the circus.

“On behalf of our chancellor, Dr. Karen Holbrook, USFSM welcomes you today, on Presidents Day, as we honor the heritage and history of this great nation, under the big tent,” she said. “So ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, welcome to Circus Sarasota Ovation, right here in Sarasota, under the big tent. Let the show begin.”

Security expert meets with students, faculty

A special thank-you to Luke Bencie, managing director of Security Management International. After presenting Thursday at USFSM’s seminar, “Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now?” he returned to campus on Friday to meet with criminology and I.T. faculty, staff and students.

Bencie, who has a long history in security management for the federal government, talked about programs he’s been involved with over the years, how to carve out a career in the intelligence industry and about government internships and internships within his own company.

“We’re always looking for smart, hard-working students,” he said.

SMI, based in metropolitan Washington, D.C., provides security assessments to governments and companies.

At Thursday’s seminar, Bencie talked about his visit to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. After the storm, Bencie and his team brought medical supplies and crisscrossed the island with satellite phones to connect business owners, students and others with family on the mainland.

Bencie is the author of “Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler.”

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