Top-Secret Forensic-Science.Australian Federal Police at the Australian Science Festival May 4 – 6, 1998.
The scenario: Tom Stoewer, criminal, breaks into the house before our very eyes, is discovered and challenged inside. Three shots ring out. A phone call is made to Emergency 000, but Tom escapes before the police can reach the crime scene.
Tom removes his balaclava and returns to his post, manning the AFP display in another part of the exhibition, while the school students are shown the crime scene by Petra Clissold; study the fingerprints found at the scene with David Reece and Hilary Fletcher; compare the shoe prints down to the slightest detail with John Doyle; put together the photofit image for the media release with help from Wendy Griffiths; and learn how to use ultraviolet and infrared photography equipment with Phil Turner.
How much can they learn about the crime and the criminal from the forensic evidence? Not enough in an hour to convict, perhaps, but certainly enough to realise what a painstaking task forensic science is and to see how crucial this evidence may be to finding out the truth.
Top-Secret Forensic-Science is not ordinary theatre, though it uses theatrical elements to set the scene. It is a good example of experiential education, however, and I discovered from coordinator Keith Howard that the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society has been using the scenario method since the early 1990's for competency based training of police officers in forensic techniques. They have two houses at the Majura driver training centre where they can set up full scale crime scenes which will test the trainees to the limit - both AFP and other State police are trained here.
Theatre is experience deliberately removed from reality into a special frame, which we enter through the foyer and leave as we go for coffee after the show. Forensic scientists have discovered, out of the necessity to train police properly, that a fictional scenario - a little bit of theatre - can be the source of learning as good as the real thing. Even better, perhaps, as details can be included which might be rare occurrences on the job. Theatre is emotional experience; here is theatre serving science.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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