STUDIA IUR IDICA LX XII
University of Warsaw
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL
METHODS OF TEACHING CRIMINALISTICS
AT THE DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINALISTICS,
UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW1
Hallo, hallo! Police? I don’t know what has happened... My husband
is laying covered in blood and is not breathing... Please help me!2
1. CSI EFFECT. POPULARIZATION OF FORENSIC SCIENCE
Work of forensic personnel at the scene of crime got popularized by TV series,
such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin offs that started airing at the
end of the 20th/beginning of the 21st century. For more than a decade CSI franchise
was the most popular TV series worldwide3 that prepared audience for more spe-
cific series, such as Dexter, Bones and alike. Until than all the credits for solving
criminal cases got detectives investigating them. The vision of lonely genius solv-
ing the most difficult riddles has been awakening the imagination of general audi-
ence since the early 19th century novels of Edgar Alan Poe, than sir Arthur Conan
Doyle and later Agatha Christie to mention just those who have laid the foundation
of the crime novel genre. Detectives created by them (often civilians) were using
mostly their brains and logical thinking to solve cases labelled unbreakably by the
1 I would like to thank to all people that helped me develop my skills in teaching. Firstly,
all the students that I have met during last 12 years. Than, people with whom I worked. I can not
mention everybody therefore will just express my gratitude to Magdalena Tomaszewska-Michalak
with whom I have only good experiences in developing and teaching several different classes.
Thank you Magda!
2 CSI: Warsaw 911 call transcript.
3 N. Andreeva, “CSI” Lives On, Wins Most Watched Drama Series Award At Monte Carlo
TV Festival, Deadline. June 16, 2016, http://deadline.com/2016/06/csi-big-bang-theory-better-call-
saul-monte-carlo-tv-festival-awards-1201774233/ (visited: November 20, 2017).
310 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
police. Those so called “armchair detectives”4 forged the imagination of the police
and investigative work for more than next 100 years and still attracts imagination
of many people5. Even TV series that were produced through 20th century were
copying the scheme of the brilliant one or few police officers, private detectives
or civilians that working on their own often against the corrupted or incompetent
environment were cracking the case. No matter if it was homicide, sexual assault
or organized crime. Major change took place when CSI franchise (after success of
CSI: Las Vegas producers introduced spin-offs CSI: Miami, CSI: New York and
CSI: Cyber) got introduced in 2000. Hi-tech – some times Star Trek alike – equip-
ment used by detectives-scientists fit in the expectations of fair, just and unbiased
law enforcement personnel contrasting the shady and corrupt operations of both
real life and cops. Global popularity of CSI dramas resulted in so-called CSI effect6.
That is actually a group of different influences that exaggerated the picture of foren-
sic science. One of the expected effects is that jurors who watch such series expect
more scientific evidence, especially DNA during trials7. Several studies found that
CSI viewers generally have higher expectations than non-CSI viewers but the CSI
viewers have higher expectations about scientific evidence that is more likely to be
relevant8. One of the CSI “side effects” is the interest in the forensic science as an
occupation, establishing several academic institutions and education programs not
only in US9 and UK10 but also in continental Europe11, including Poland12. “Fruits”
of that interest in forensic science will be later discussed in this paper.
4 M. R. Sullivan, Armchair Detective, (in:) R. Herbert, C. Aird, J. M. Reilly, S. Oleksiw (eds.),
The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, Oxford University Press 1999.
5 P. Karasek, P. Waszkiewicz, Fotelowi detekty wi w XXI wieku. Sposoby angażowania społe-
czeństwa do rozwiązywania spraw kryminalnych oraz korzyści i zagrożenia z tego płynące [Arm-
chair Detectives in the 21st Century. How the Public Can Help Solve Criminal Cases: The Benets
and Dangers], “Archiwum Kryminologii” 2015, Vol. 36.
6 K. R. Roane, D. Morrison, The CSI Effect: On TV, it’s all slam-dunk evidence and quick
convictions. Now juries expect the same thing-and that’s a big problem, U.S. News & World Re-
port, April 25, 2005.
7 N. J. Schweitzer, M. J. Saks, The CSI effect: popular ction about forensic science affects the
public’s expectations about real forensic science, “Jurimetrics” 2007, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 357–364.
8 D. E. Shelton, The “CSI Effect”: Does it Really Exist?, March 17, 2008, “National Institute
of Ju stice Journal” 2008, Vol. 259, htt ps://ssr n.com /abstract=1163231 (visited: November 20, 2017)
9 A. Lemaine, “CSI” spurs campus forensics scene, U-T San Diego, September 13, 2004,
http://legacy.sandiegouniontribune.com/uniontrib/20040913/news_1c13csi.html (visited: Novem-
ber 20, 2017).
10 T. Dowling, The grisly truth about CSI degrees, The Guardian, October 15, 2009, https://
www.theguardian.com/education/2009/oct/15/csi-effect-forensic-science (visited: November 20,
11 S. Keuneke, H. Graß, S. Ritz-Timme, “CSI-Effekt” in der deutschen Rechtsmedizin Ein-
üsse des Fernsehens auf die beruiche Orientierung Jugendlicher, “Rechtsmedizin” 2010,
Vol. 20, issue 5, p. 400, DOI:10.1007/s00194-010-0668-2.
12 Katedra Kryminalistyki, http://kryminalistyka.wpia.uw.edu.pl/dydaktyka/ (visited: No-
vember 20, 2017).
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL... 311
2. FORENSIC SCIENCE < CRIMINALISTICS
Formal definitions of forensic science vary, depending on country and author.
The most popular may be describing it as “the application of scientific princi-
ples and techniques to matters of criminal justice especially as relating to the
collection, examination, and analysis of physical evidence”13 and the other refers
directly to the popularization by TV and its shortened form – forensics: “a fairly
new, all-encompassing term, it characterizes the scientific examination of evi-
dence. Owing to television and motion picture shows, the term is now generic and
part of the vocabulary of the average person (and, therefore, jurors)”14. In Poland
and several other countries, mainly from the middle and east Europe (Czech
Republic, Cyprus, Georgia, Serbia) the more often used term is criminalistics
(German: Kriminalistik, Polish: kryminalistyka). However the understanding of
what criminalistics is, again, may be very different depending on who and where
forms the definition. The author of one of the most popular textbooks Richard
Saferstein – “Criminalistics. An Introduction to Forensic Science” very clearly
uses those 2 terms interchangeably and understands criminalistics/forensic sci-
ence as: “the application of science to the criminal and civil laws that are enforced
by police agencies in a criminal justice system”15. It is than broader than the other
definition of criminalistics which limits it to the only a part of forensic science:
“the branch of forensic science concerned with the scientific examination and
interpretation of the minute details of physical evidence for the purpose of aid-
ing the criminal investigator or a judge and jury during trail”16. Definitions of
criminalistics (kryminalistyka) in Polish literature are much broader than those
just quoted. According to them it is “practical field of science that develops prin-
ciples of efficient operation, the use of technical and laboratory research methods
in order to preventing crime, detecting crime and establishing the facts which
are relevant as en evidence in criminal trail”17. To some extent it resembles the
crime science, term first used when The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science
was funded, that is still vaguely defined, however it is to “merge prevention and
detection under a scientific umbrella”18. Later in this paper by criminalistics I will
13 Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/forensic%20science (visit-
ed: November 20, 2017).
14 J. W. Osterburg, R. H. Ward, Criminal Investigation. A Method for Reconstructing the
Past, Anderson Publishing 2014, p. 624.
15 R. Saferstein, Criminalistics. An Introduction to Forensic Science, Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Pearson 2011, p. 4.
16 J. W. Osterburg, R. H. Ward, Criminal Investigation. A Method for Reconstructing the
Past, Anderson Publishing 2014, p. 621.
17 Z. Czeczot, T. Tomaszewski, Kryminalistyka ogólna, Toruń 1996, s. 16.
18 G. Laycock, Dening Crime Science, (in:) M. Smith, N. Tilley (eds.), Crime science: new
approaches to preventing and detecting crime, Cullompton 2005, p. 3.
312 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
understand the field of science that applies methods and tools from every field
of science in order to prevent, detect and gather the evidence relevant for the fair
trail, so combining classical forensics with investigative and legal aspects that
makes it very close to the quoted definition of Czeczot and Tomaszewski.
3. CRIMINALISTICS AT POLISH UNIVERSITIES
The emphasize on practical and legal aspects of criminalistics may explain
why, since its emergence at the end of the 19th century it is in the focus of law
school students and professors. The future prosecutors, judges and advocates
need to understand some principles of crime scene investigation in order to make
their work the most efficient, especially baring in mind that: “For some reason,
the forensic sciences have always had their fair share of charlatans”19.
In Poland criminalistics is taught at all law schools20 (both public and private)
and at departments of internal security and criminology21. At some law schools
it is one of mandatory courses (Katowice, Lublin) at others (including University
of Warsaw) it is one of the elective courses. It means that student may choose
between several different courses offered by the each law school in order to gather
the required number of credits for passed courses. Courses on criminalistics
offered at each university vary. At some the introductory course lasts 30 hours
(Olsztyn22), others 45 hours (Lublin23), up to 60 hours (Warszawa24). The duration
of that basic course determines also the form in which it is taught – in most cases
the course consists of lecture part (20–30 hours) and so-called exercises (ćwicze-
nia – practical part in smaller groups). At the University of Warsaw the introduc-
tory course into criminalistics is titled Criminalistics (Kryminalistyka ogólna)
19 K. R. Roane, D. Morrison, The CSI Effect…, passim.
20 Law schools in Poland are among a few other disciplines, like medicine, architecture, psy-
chology that are not divided into two stages of study. All other students start with undergraduate
3 year program that nishes with licencjat equivalent to the bachelor degree and postgraduate,
mostly 2 years nishing with master degree. Most of the law students start their studies directly
after nishing high school (18/19 years old) and taking A-level exam. They enter uniform 5 years
long program. More about legal education in Poland, see: I. Kraśnicka, Polish Legal Education in
the Light of the Recent Higher Education Reform, “Michigan State Law Review” 2012, Vol. 2012,
21 Since the main focus of this paper is on legal education only that topic will be explored
22 Se e: ht t p://w pia.uwm .edu.pl / kszta lcen ie/prog r amy-ksz t alc enia (visit e d: Nove mber 20, 2017 ).
23 See: http://download.prawo.umcs.lublin.pl/Download/Informator_ECTS2012.pdf (visited:
November 20, 2017).
24 See: https://usosweb.uw.edu.pl/kontroler.php?_action=actionx:katalog2/przedmioty/poka-
zPrzedmiot(prz_kod:2200-1CWPK21) (visited: November 20, 2017).
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL... 313
and is offered to the students who finished 2nd year of the law school, so they are,
among others, after the exam from Criminal Law and since that course is offered
during Summer term many of them are taking Criminal Procedure course.
The Department of Criminalistics at the University of Warsaw was estab-
lished in 1946 and its first chair was Professor Paweł Horoszowski. At that time
the methods of teaching were limited to lectures and seminars25. That was chang-
ing step by step and in 90s of the 20th century the formal settings of the Criminal-
istics course at the University of Warsaw were formed. Half of time (30 houres)
was devoted to lectures and half to the exercises. I had a chance to take that
course at the beginning of the 21st century. The exercises were taught at that time
by Monika Całkiewicz (Korneć) and covered several practical issues, such as:
fingerprinting, handwriting examination, facial composites preparations, interro-
gations. Those were one of the very few practical courses offered at that time to
the law school students. Professor Całkiewicz students in their evaluations were
praising her course as the sole practical one, offered at that time by the School
of Law26. The other very practical program, but with emphasize on contact with
the client and focus on helping in real cases was Law Clinic. Nobody needs to be
convinced that practical methods of teaching create WIN-WIN-WIN situation27.
First “WIN” means learning valuable and practical content. Interactive form of
education allows to actually learn to contrast it with the form of the even the most
interesting lecture. That is not only the “common knowledge” that the former way
is more efficient, but the evidence based across different disciplines28. Second
“WIN” is the the authentic interest of students in the course. They do not need to
be forced to participate in such a course29.Third “WIN” is the satisfaction for an
instructor. Doing something that is not boring for students and doing it on pur-
pose. Interactive way of teaching is still not the “golden standard” what probably
25 T. Tomaszewski, P. Girdwoyń, Tradycja i przyszłość w nauczaniu kryminalistyki na Uni-
wersytecie Warszawskim, “Problemy Współczesnej Kryminalistyki” 2008, Vol. 12.
26 M. Korneć, Nauka kryminalistyki w ocenie studentów, “Problemy Współczesnej Krymi-
nalistyki” 2002, Vol. 5.
27 J. Elkington, Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies
for Sustainable Development, “California Management Review” 1994., Vol. 36, issue 2, DOI:
28 Hake R. R., Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student
survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses, “American Journal of Physics”
1998, Vol. 66.
29 Since 2006 wen I started teaching Criminalistics by myself I am evaluating the course using
anonymous questionnaires distributed among students during the last class. It consists of several
open-ended questions to allow me to to nd out what actually students (course participants) found
interesting and valuable, what are their suggestions, what I should address during following years.
For seven consecutive years some of the classes were starting at 8 AM, time not popular among
students. Many answers were indicating that the fact that they were so early on time through the
semester at the elective course is self evident as how they evaluate the course.
314 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
everyone who studied or is studying knows. Students at the internet forums share
their experiences from the most boring classes30:
“However the subject seems to be interesting, the lecture is extremely boring.
I recommend this lecture only with a set: a laptop or a book and plugs (to prevent
the lecture from distracting you) and you will be fine, but without that equipment
do not go there, because you will die of boredom. I still have trauma. (...)
Classes with … rely solely on repeating the content of his textbook, case stud-
ies that we sometimes discuss are also from that book. Personally, I have learned
absolutely nothing, maybe except the ability to sleep with open eyes :)”31.
“The whole bench – 5 students, fell asleep on ... lecture. He did not interrupt
a lecture, did not react, nothing. At that particular lecture there were 8 people
present and in the room there are only 4 benches. We were sitting with eyes closed
like a meter away from him”32.
4. TEACHING CRIMINALISTICS BEFORE CSI: WARSAW
Unfortunately, the experience of falling asleep at the boring classes was also
shared by myself. Fortunately, I had a chance to participate in the interactive,
workshop alike courses at few different academic institutions, such as: Institute of
Applied Social Sciences University of Warsaw, Konstanz Universitat (Germany)
and those mentioned at the School of Law. That what I learned thanks to many
dedicated professors and how I wanted to be taught formed the way of approach-
ing teaching responsibilities. The goals identified were as follows:
1) to teach in the most interactive way in that I would like to be taught by
2) listening to the expectations of students and addressing them,
3) learning how to teach,
4) trying to develop the most effective way of teaching,
5) being interested by myself in what I teach.
In 2006 I started to teach Criminalistics at the University of Warsaw. Build-
ing on the experience from the classes taught by Professor Całkiewicz I have
prepared my own syllabus that consisted of detailed scenarios for every single
class. I have also developed teaching aids such as: multimedia presentations, sce-
30 Those are examples only from University of Warsaw, but it is, unfortunately, very easy to
identify several examples from literally any university of the world.
31 P. Waszkiewicz, (Inter)aktywne zajęcia na prawie? Nauczanie przedmiotów prawno-eko-
nomicznych, (in:) Czy współczesny uniwersytet potrzebuje nowoczesnej dydaktyki szkoły wyższej?,
32 Cogito. 2016, http://www.cogito.com.pl/for um/index.php?topic=13980.140;wap2 (visited:
November 20, 2017).
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL... 315
narios for different kind of exercising interviews and interrogations. The latter are
recorded on video and analyzed with the group after the exercise. Some classes
were actually quasi-experimental ones that put the students in shoes of eyewit-
nesses to help them to learn better what they are taught during lectures and what
they may learn from reading assignments. Since criminalistics encompasses also
traditional forensic science techniques important part of the course is securing
evidence in the field. Such classes as on: ballistics, shoe impressions, blood pat-
tern analysis are taking place outside the classroom – in the field or other places
that may accommodate the students and all necessary equipment.
Learning objectives of the course were that at the completion of this course,
students are expected to:
1) understand the principles and terminology of various sub-disciplines of
2) understand the role, value and necessity of Criminalistics for the Law
Enforcement and Criminal Justice;
3) be able to find, identify and secure the evidence on the crime scene; and
4) be able to evaluate the evidence and it’s quality from the procedural per-
As it was mentioned before the course consists from two parallel parts – lec-
ture by Professor Tadeusz Tomaszewski for all the students participating in it and
exercises which are organized for maximum 20 students in one group. However
it is elective at the University of Warsaw it is very popular course chosen every
year by around 140 students. Passing that course requires attending the lecture
and exercises, as well as writing own paper on the chosen topic related to crim-
inalistics. Some of the students in order to learn something new prepare their
own little experiments which in some cases develop into topics of their master
thesis or become the beginning of future academic career. Topics range from
ballistics, through fingerprinting, entomology, odorology, psychics, forensic psy-
chology, documents examination, to blood pattern analysis (BPA). As interest in
criminalistics was fueled by CSI series, the interest in BPA is largely due to the
Dexter series. It is hard not to mention here Kacper Choromański, former major in
chemistry who after attending the criminalistics and several other courses in this
field changed his major to law and after graduation continues his academic career
in BPA33. In his first project he was testing popular culture cliché of dissolving
bodies in the acid. That was one of several other projects that due to their signifi-
cance and sensitive nature were not publicized outside only the limited audience.
Dexter and Breaking Bad are another examples of a kind of a “pipe line” between
popular culture and university criminalistics – fueling interest in the field among
students who want to learn “how it is in real life”.
33 K. Choromański, Wstęp do analizy śladów krwawych. Zagadnienia terminologiczne,
“Współczesne Problemy Kryminalistyki” 2013, Vol. 17.
316 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
During following years (2006-present) the program was changing. I was intro-
ducing new topics and developing more efficient teaching techniques. It has been
also enriched by working with graduate students at the Department of Criminal-
istics that first took my course in Criminalistics (Kacper Gradoń and Magdalena
Tomaszewska-Michalak) and later were teaching it by themselves. Listening to
the expectations of students is implemented by anonymous evaluations. Students
at the end of the course are filling in the open-ended questionnaire. This allowed
me to adjust the form and content to their expectations. In 2013 my classes were
also subject to the external anonymous evaluation carried out by School of Law in
cooperation with the student association. The average overall rating of the course
was 6.0 (excellent rating in scale 1.0-6.0). Since the first course I have taught at
the first class participants are also asked about their expectations for this course
and what they want to learn. One class each time is reserved to address their ideas
expressed at the first class that I had not anticipated before.
In June 2008 as a special thanks for the best students participating in the
Criminalistics classes and kind of an experiment together with Kacper Gradoń
who that year started teaching Criminalistics we prepared additional class outside
the university. It took place in the abandoned lamp factory in Warsaw (Zakłady
Wytwórcze Lamp Elektr ycz nych im. Róży Luksemburg34). We have staged a scene
of crime – the body of a female victim with several blood traces around it, as well
as different other traces, including shoe prints, fingerprints and the weapon that
could be used to commit that particular crime. We also invited a couple of our
friends that students had not known before to role-play the witnesses and possible
suspects. The group had to organize itself, divide responsibilities, secure the crime
scene, proceed it carefully, secure the evidence and at the end present the possible
course of events. We observed it for the next several hours without influencing the
proceedings of our students only taking care of their physical safety, since some
parts of that factory where threatening it and making notes. That was something
that has influenced our thinking about teaching criminalistics. Students were uti-
lizing all the knowledge and skills they have gained during the semester. It was
unlike during course when they could have repeat securing their own fingerprint
in case they failed for the first or the second time. At the scene of crime they had
only one chance and they had no idea if secured evidence was actually relevant for
their case. They had to decide by themselves what kind of traces they are looking
for at particular item or area. Regarding witnesses they were again in charge to
organize their interviews and – in case of suspecting their involvement in that
crime. Staging that crime outside the university campus also played significant
role. Students were moved out of their “comfort zones” – known place and settings
– into real life. Those reasons as well as the satisfaction of students that partici-
pated in that event made as thinking how to utilize it in the future.
34 Buildings of this particular factory were demolished in 2011.
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL... 317
5. CSI: WARSAW
The idea to address the expectations of our students to learn more criminal-
istics in the most possible practical way was discussed with Professor Tadeusz
Tomaszewski, head of Department of Criminalistics. He was opened for such idea
and supported the application to University of Warsaw Innovative Teaching Fund
(Fundusz Innowacji Dydaktycznych Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego)35. The appli-
cation was called Crime Scene Investigation. Fiction vs. Reality. Only later there
was introduced informal short form – CSI: Warsaw. That was of course “tribute”
to all CSI series36. Eventhough I was the project leader we prepared the applica-
tion together with Kacper Gradoń. In December 2008 the project got funding for
the first two “seasons” of CSI: Warsaw. First “season” started in February 2009.
The objectives of the proposed course were as follows:
1) expending the educational offer of the University of Warsaw with a unique
interdisciplinary practical course in fields of criminalistics, law and natural sciences;
2) improving the education of students at the University of Warsaw through
the introduction of innovative investigative and legal activities;
3) providing participants with the ability to work at the scene, and critical
assessment of their own activities;
4) preparing students to work in the criminal justice system, and to increase
their attractiveness on the labor market by improving practical skills.
After completing the course the students were expected to:
1) have a comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of forensics and detection
2) know the practical aspects of securing and analyzing crime scene;
3) be aware of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of the
analysis of the scene;
4) know the state of art in science and technology to support the work of
detection and detention.
Since the course is very practical one there were also foreseen some practical
skills to learn, such as:
1) planing to carry out the crime scene investigation in a variety of terrain and
weather settings, and also at different times of the day and night;
2) preparing the interview and interrogation (including the specific categories
of witnesses, e.g. children, foreigners etc.);
3) securing various types of forensic traces at the scene;
35 That is special fund which is designed to promote innovative teaching projects at the Uni-
versity of Warsaw. Every year there is a formal call for proposals that need to be pre-approved by
the departments and later are evaluated. Only those that are ranked as the best get funding. See:
http://bss.uw.edu.pl/d-5/ (visited: November 20, 2017).
36 Term CSI: Warsaw was used for the rst time as the wordplay title of my paper at the
Festive of Science, September 2008: P. Waszkiewicz, CSI: Warsaw. Criminalistics in TV series.
318 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
4) on the basis of the information gathered creating possible course of events
(wersje śledcze), and planing further steps of law enforcement efforts;
5) ability to present secured evidence and to demonstrate its relationship with
the case, translating/transferring the results of investigative work on the formal
Course due to its’ nature was designed for a selected group of maximum 20
students of the final years. Prerequisites was successful finishing the “basic”
course in criminalistics. Since the number of students who participate in crim-
inalistics is several time bigger than the capability to organize specialized CSI:
War saw course the recruitment procedure was introduced. Students interested in
CSI: Warsaw were to prepare and submit CV and motivation letter. That is the
first filter of those who are really interested to participate in that time and work
demanding class. From the very beginning of that course the number of candi-
dates is higher than number of places. It is than not an overstatement that those
who were accepted were “hand picked”.
Semester is divided into four parts corresponding to four different events
(crimes but not always) staged by the lecturers with the active participation of part
of the students who are also divided into four groups. Every group is responsible
to develop the legend for the purpose of staging one event – the remaining three
constitute the Criminal Investigation Division/Department (CID). To make those
event as realistic as possible different settings are prepared and people who are
not known by students take active part in it.
Each of those four parts of the semester is composed of three phases: theoret-
ical preparation, practical and realistic simulation, and comprehensive evaluation.
In the first phase, students gain in-depth knowledge on crime scene investi-
gation, and got familiar with a wide range of forensic techniques used to detect
and secure traces. Since lecturers are aware of the coming event we try to address
in that phase the anticipated issues. During the next stage, the task of CID is to:
answer the 911 call, arrive at the staged scene, secure it and adequately proceed.
Students use the forensic equipment and techniques and adhere to the procedures
for determining the rules for carrying out their investigation. Particular attention
is devoted to the rules of procedure for securing the protection of evidence against
destruction, loss and contamination. Chain of custody and formal documenta-
tions are the key elements at that stage. Students among others, learn what kind
of procedures and algorithms are to be applied at the scene. Those in particular
include: securing the scene, proper documentation (sketches, forensic photogra-
phy and video), systematic exploration, disclosure, protection and describing the
evidence. The responsibilities of the CID encompass also interviewing witnesses
they may encounter at the scene or other places connected to it, as well as inter-
rogating suspects. In the latter case CID is also responsible for formal charges
against suspects. After the crime scene investigation is finished CIDs’ work is not
finished. It is to evaluate the gathered evidence and within 24 hours decide what
FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL... 319
is to be submitted to the CIDs’ forensic lab. Lab – constituted of lecturers and
group that was staging the event – has another 24 hours to deliver forensic reports.
Than CID is to prepare the most comprehensive story – possible course of events
with legal decisions regarding charges for chosen individuals.
The third stage is devoted to the presentation of CIDs’ work results. After
they finished the discussion of their work takes place. During those classes we
use footage documenting the behavior of the students at a staged scene. The main
focus is on critical analysis of the best practices and mistakes made when secur-
ing evidence. That is to emphasize that such situations in actual investigative
work may result in the destruction of elements that are of key importance for the
criminal process information.
The time spent indoors and outdoors during that class is more than 100 hours
without time spent on staging the scene, as well as out of class working on evi-
dence and lab work. After first three seasons I had a great luck to start work-
ing together with Magdalena Tomaszewska-Michalak, with whom we prepared
(“directed”) four next CSI: Warsaw “seasons”. That was time period when we
have introduced – one by one – several new ideas into the course. Among them
was one “night” episode in every “season” to confront students with the necessity
of working also during night. The other was formal lab with budgetary limits,
to make students being more careful while submitting evidence for the purpose
of evaluation. To limit any physical danger to participants we introduced for-
mal procedure to conduct any actions involving third parties. All of them paid
off. In the evaluations students were sharing their gratitude for what they could
learn. It is much easier for them to understand both investigative and prosecuto-
rial work. Many of them in the following “seasons” were helping to organize new
“episodes” for the benefit of their participants. Some of them develop their own
careers in criminal justice and law enforcement system.
CSI: Warsaw was first such university program proposed not only in Europe.
The closest resemblance to our project were bearing so called Crime Scene Houses
– facilities, mostly located at the police academies were crimes were staged for
purpose of training police skills. We were not aware of any course that was to
take place in the real settings and involve so many variables. CSI: Warsaw dur-
ing its first se7en seasons covered wide range of crimes, as well as events at first
resembling them – suicides, accidents. No event took place in the same location
or involved the same participants.
The number of benefits for students and teachers that participate in active
learning projects such as CSI: Warsaw seems to be obvious and to some extent
320 PAWEŁ WASZKIEWICZ
has been discussed earlier. What is not that clear are the downsides – possible
obstacles, costs, “side effects” and even threats that are to be taken into account.
I will try to list the main ones based on my own experience:
1. Large amount of work. Classes CSI Warsaw theoretically lasting 60 hours,
in practice last more than 120 hours including the days off. This applies to both
lecturers and students who are involved in the preparations and participation in
these classes may neglect other duties.
2. Many students are become accustomed to “traditional” teaching methods.
Classic lecture, even if it is some times a thrilling show does not require the stu-
dent activity. Interactive activities can not be spend while “watching movies on
the laptop”. Student from an audience (the lecture) becomes an actor.
3. The possible lack of understanding of those who prefer “classic” style. Indi-
cated a lack of understanding can occur both on the side of teachers as well as stu-
dents. In extreme cases, it may to lead to the abandonment of interactive methods
and adopting the dominant style.
4. A large number of uncontrolled variables. Interactive classes, especially
when they take place outdoors, are ongoing, to some degree, uncontrolled process.
The introduction of classes with a high degree of an authenticity often results in
authentic emotions that are not always expressed in a gentle way. One should be
aware therefor of opting for such a model.
5. Last, but not least the distinction between having fun and teaching. In some
cases that border may become blurred to the degree when neither teachers nor
students remember the original objective of such course. Spending with students
hundreds of hours in different, often demanding circumstances creates a bond,
sympathy, some times real friendships. The emotions that result from working on
staged crimes are very real. That however does not change the roles in which both
parties are. Teachers are to create save environment for teaching students. The
main goal is not to become their friend – it is nice and appealing though and some
times takes place. Forgetting about it results in devoting to much attention to the
“fun part” on the expense of the learning objectives.
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FROM CRIMINALISTICS TO CSI: WARSAW. PRACTICAL METHODS
OF TEACHING CRIMINALISTICS AT THE DEPARTMENT
OF CRIMINALISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW
Forensics and criminalistics at the end of 20th century won a lot of public attention
thanks to popular TV series, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It has fueled
new programs in forensics worldwide. Paper presents practical approach to teaching
criminalistics at the Department of Criminalistics, University of Warsaw. Brief
description of differences in defining forensics and criminalistics are followed by
presenting the development of hands on criminalistics class called CSI: Warsaw. Benefits
and downsides of implementing such approach are discussed.
criminalistics, forensics, CSI: Warsaw, investigations
kryminalistyka, nauki sądowe, CSI: Warsaw, śledztwa