For Jim Jabbour, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Forensic Science Program and Training Center at Mount Ida College, teaching is a natural extension of his years of experience as a police officer, crime scene investigator, detective and inspector.
Jabbour began his career at age 20 when he joined the USAF security police. “I became interested in investigations after my first temporary assignment and later transferred to the Office of Special Investigations.” When he separated in 1985, he joined the Connecticut State Police later becoming a polygraph examiner and detective. From there, in 1994, it was on to the Chief State Attorney’s Office as a police inspector, where he stayed until retiring, but not before earning his Master of Science in Forensic Science and Advanced Investigations.
Determined to continue to share his knowledge and passion for investigation, he joined Mount Ida in 2007. “My goal has been to teach classes not so much from a theoretical point of view, but to present a practical approach to crime scene processing and the forensic analysis of evidentiary items.”
Jabbour has seen the interest in the program grow over the years, in no small part due to the emergence and huge success of such television programs as “Law and Order” and the different versions of CSI and NCIS.
The theories and technology we use are the same as many shows on TV, but our students learn that there is a long, careful and thorough methodology needed to process a crime scene.”
Students who come to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Forensic Science learn that it could take upwards of two hours to get a victim or witness’s statement, another two hours to search a database, and between two to 10 hours to properly process a crime scene, to look for evidence. “The biggest challenge is although you know how to recognize and preserve evidence you may not know exactly what you will find at each crime scene. “So the process has to be meticulous and you have to investigate the crime scene exactly as you find it.”
The Forensic Science Training Center at Mount Ida continues to acquire more tools of the trade to make learning as real-world as possible. “We have traditional microscopes, have added comparison microscopes that allow us to analyze two samples at the same time, a ballistic comparison microscope, and stereo-zoom microscope to examine items too large to put on a slide. We also have two auto-magnifiers to examine larger items such as tire tracks and foot impressions, a fuming hood that allows us to process for fingerprints and a recent addition of a mass spectrometer that allows us to examine minute particles of solids and liquids and make comparisons of their chemical makeup.”
In one exercise in class, the students analyze white powder, and through analysis learn exactly what it is. I could be sea salt, cream of tartar or baking soda. Charted on a graph on the computer, such analysis can compare traces of evidence found at a crime scene and confirm what they are.
Jabbour is rightfully proud of the program, the Forensic Science Training Center, and the ability to properly prepare his students for careers. “We expose students to as many varied situations and scenarios as possible. Our students are prepared for a multitude of positions, including local, state or federal sworn law enforcement officers, crime lab criminalists as well as investigators.”