Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators Training Conference - 2017

From April 18-21, 2017 the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators (WAHI) held its annual training conference in Kohler, WI. Specifically, this year’s event was held at The American Club. The American Club is a beautiful 5-Star hotel with two world class golf courses set nearby just off the coast of Lake Michigan. In fact, The American Club is one of the country’s top golf destinations because of its golf and accommodations. Please see The American Club Resort for greater details. Kohler, WI is also the home to Kohler plumbing bath and spa fixtures.

As an association, we generally try to stay somewhere central within the State of Wisconsin for our training venues. Kohler is in that defined area, however we have never explored that venue for our conference in the past. Typically, we have chosen The Wisconsin Dells area for a major portion of our conferences due to the wide array of places to stay and the numerous family activities including the many indoor water parks. While in the Wisconsin Dells area we have stayed at Chula Vista and most recently at The Kalahari Resort. When not in the Dells area we have chosen places like The Paper Valley in Appleton as well as The Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan and The Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, WI.

This past year, our Conference Committee has decided to explore The American Club in Kohler, WI for our association. My, what a job that committee has done. Not only was the venue a good draw for us regarding attendance, but our attendees appreciated the hotel and area amenities. I know some of them had taken in 18 holes of championship golf and others had taken advantage the many spa amenities.

Much like our venue, each year our association’s training committee changes up the training theme. In years past we have focused on many different topics such as, drug-related homicides, kids that kill and killers of kids, and death by fire and explosion. This year’s topic was mostly related to current crises affecting law enforcement during death investigation.

This year’s training topics included:

Radicalization, Ideology, and Terrorism in the Middle East

One speaker was Ghada Wahdan who is the Lead Criminal Intelligence Analyst at the Colorado Information Analysis Center. She provided a special presentation regarding the radicalization, ideology and terrorism in the Middle East and how it is impacting Law Enforcement here in the United States.

Ghada Wahdan’s past and resume is quite impressive and extensive. She and her Palestinian Sunni Muslim family immigrated to Colorado a few years before Desert Storm. She is fluent in Arabic in ten different dialects. She is currently a Counterterrorism Intelligence Analyst for the CIAC and a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on international terrorism. She has been instrumental in gathering intelligence on international threats, providing monthly classified secret briefs, and creating strategic intelligence products to inform partners of international threats and possible implications to global and U.S. homeland security. Her strategic intelligence products are distributed across the nation, with two documents requested internationally. These documents have received positive feedback and requests for further distribution. Her training and outreach included over 20 states, approximately 700 agencies from federal, state and local level, and more than 8,500 professionals in law enforcement and emergency management.

Wahdan’s presentation introduced the radical ideology that exists in the Middle East and its nexus to terrorism, to include an understanding of radical Islam, sectarian division, Shari’ a law, the ideology of Jihad in Islam and the global influence, regional control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Shaam (ISIS), and current unrest in Europe. Her presentation also explores the underlying ideology, leadership, structure, and funding of certain Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and radical groups, such as ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Wahdan’s presentation also examines the radicalization process for both domestic and foreign-born extremists, and how propaganda, social media and other non-traditional forms of messaging are influencing the next generation of terrorists specifically women and children. I must say, her presentation was very interesting and intriguing.

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (or SAKI as it is now known) provides funding to law enforcement through a competitive grant program to support the jurisdictional reform of approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory. SAKI is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and aims to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases through a comprehensive and victim-centered approach, jurisdictional capacity building to prevent high numbers of unsubmitted SAKs in the future, and by supporting the investigation and prosecution of cases for which SAKs were previously unsubmitted.

SAKI is critical to enhancing the criminal justice response to sexual assault and ensuring justice for victims. SAKI funding will not only help link victims to advocates and needed services, but also help jurisdictions implement best practices and comprehensive reform to help bring perpetrators to justice and increase safety in communities by preventing future sexual assaults.

Unsubmitted SAKs can be attributed to many factors, including poor evidence tracking, outdated and ineffective investigation practices, lack of resources and personnel, misunderstanding of crime lab case acceptance policies, and lack of understanding among law enforcement personnel about the value of testing SAKs. Resolving these issues is critical to providing justice for victims and preventing such a backlog in the future.

Other presentations were centered around the Aurora Colorado movie theatre shooting, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the East Area serial rapist from Sacramento, CA.

In all, the week ended with some fantastic training at a 5-Star Hotel Spa Resort and convention center in beautiful Kohler, WI. Many of our guests left anticipating our 2018 conference to be held at Kalahari Resort, Waterpark and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the world.

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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.