Evidence Technicians Collect Details In Police Investigations
Besides their regular duties as town police patrol officers, Paula Wickman and Stephanie Thibodeau have specialties in another law enforcement task in which police collect the hundreds of physical details that are then organized and interpreted by detectives in complex criminal and motor vehicle investigations.
The two patrolwomen are the police department’s evidence technicians, trained in the techniques of evidence collection for felony cases and major motor vehicle accidents. The two women have worked as evidence technicians for the past two years, with the Police Commission formalizing their forensic role through a police department policy that was approved last September.
Besides her work as an evidence technician, Officer Wickman, who joined the police department in 2011, also is a “drug recognition expert,” having received advanced training regarding legal and illegal drugs, as they relate to law enforcement.
Evidence technicians most typically handle the collection of physical evidence in criminal cases such as burglaries and auto thefts, Ofc Wickman said. “I like the ‘detailed’ work,” she said, noting her affinity for gathering the specific pieces of evidence to be used in a criminal case.
In cases such as auto theft, evidence technicians collect physical details for a prosecution, including photographs of stolen vehicles, the recovery of latent fingerprints from automotive surfaces, and the retrieval of DNA samples from within those vehicles.
Ofc Wickman said she has been to Waterbury many times in connection with the Newtown police’s recovery of vehicles stolen from Newtown, which are often abandoned in Waterbury by the thieves.
“The more training I have, the better,” Ofc Wickman said of the skills she has acquired as an evidence technician.
Ofc Wickman said that through her work as a police officer, she seeks to demonstrate the positive aspects of law enforcement, including professionalism and respectfulness.
Officer Wickman has an extensive emergency services background. She has worked as the assistant chief of Newtown Underwater Search And Rescue (NUSAR), as an assistant instructor for Applied Rescue Technique LLC of Sandy Hook, as a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) for the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and as a canine handler for Connecticut Canine Search & Rescue.
Training, Experience, And Public Relations
Ofc Thibodeau, who joined the police department in 2014, said that in the future, she would like to expand her investigatory work and become a detective. Evidence collection is one of the basic skills used by detectives in organizing their probes into criminal offenses and serious motor vehicle accidents.
The police officer said her interest in investigations was sparked at an early age as she watched with interest episodes of the television program CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The program focuses on the forensic aspects of criminal investigations.
Ofc Thibodeau is a member of the police department’s community policing unit, a group of officers who promote good relations between the public and police. In December, that unit sponsored “Coffee With A Cop,” during which police officers socialized with members of the public at a local coffee shop with the goal of positive public-police interaction in a relaxed, casual setting.
An aspect of police work that Ofc Thibodeau finds rewarding is “de-escalation,” or the ability to calm people who are involved in emotionally charged situations.
Police most often are summoned by the public to handle negative situations, she noted, adding that she seeks to convert what is negative into something that is positive.
Before becoming a police officer, Ofc Thibodeau worked at Kids In Action of New Milford as a childcare teacher and also has worked as a youth counselor.
Of the police department’s use of evidence technicians, Police Chief James Viadero said, “It’s a way of providing quality police services to the community.” He added, “It gives officers the training and experience to do other functions out of our patrol division.”
Chief Viadero said, “These young officers are the future of the department, and the more training and experience that they are exposed to, [the more it] benefits the agency and the town.”