Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions regarding general information on the Cold Case Program. Individuals with further questions can contact us on our Contact Us page.

  • What is the Cold Case program?

    The WMU Cold Case Program with the Michigan State Police is an immersive program that equips students with the essential skills required for careers in law and law enforcement by allowing them to work with investigative materials in order to review cold cases. Partnering with MSP allows students to be given comprehensive training in forensic science, criminal investigation tactics, and law, while giving MSP the assistance they need to solve cases. 

  • What do students do?

    Students accepted into the program work alongside the Michigan State Police detectives to review cold homicide and missing person cases.  By offering fresh perspectives to the case, suggest forensic analyses, make connections buried inside the case material, examine social media, ancestry, create detailed timelines, family trees and maps, examine advances in scientific methodologies and practices and help to determine the feasibility of DNA testing, students are able to conduct research to support detectives in their investigations. Students work directly with case materials in order to review, add, or clarify key aspects of investigation.

  • Do students work with police, evidence, etc. directly?

    Yes. Students accepted into the program work directly with the Michigan State Police, and have access to specific case materials necessary to contribute to investigations. Students are required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement upon acceptance to the program. 

  • How do we choose cases?

    The Michigan State Police decides which cold cases are opened. The CCP does not have influence over the cases that are chosen or the cases that we work on in any given semester.

  • What jurisdictions do CCP cases come from?

    The CCP only works with the Michigan State Police and their cases. However, local law enforcement occasionally works with the Michigan State Police on a case. In those circumstances the CCP may end up working a case with a police department or sheriff's office.

  • What does the typical day look like for a student investigator?

    A typical day as a student investigator involves a team collaboration working on various case-related tasks that have been given by the detectives working on each case.  These tasks could involve library research, case organization, making timelines, a people index or researching backgrounds of people of interest. 

  • Are students paid for their work?

    Students can get class or internship credit for their work in the Cold Case Program. There are also paid opportunities with the Michigan State Police. MSP offers two different job tracks: student cadets and student assistants. All students hired can work 32 hours per week total.

  • What does a typical week look like for a student cadet?

    A typical week for a student cadet will be comprised of at least twelve hours spent in the Cold Case Program and at least four hours spent at the MSP post of their choice. Specific tasks will vary by week.

  • What does a typical week look like for a student assistant?

    A typical week for a student assistant will be comprised of at least twelve hours spent in the Cold Case Program and four hours spent job shadowing and touring various MSP labs. These experiences will be tailored to each individual student’s interests and the hours for these opportunities will be dependent on availability for these outside opportunities. Some weeks may not have these opportunities available.

  • What is the time commitment?

    The Cold Case Program time commitment is 140 hours a semester. This averages about 12 hours a week.  

Students

Universities and Police Departments

  • My state is considering creating an identical/similar program. What kind of equipment will we need?

    Here is a brief list of must haves:  

    1. One desktop and one scanner for each student.  The scanner must have the ability to utilize Adobe Creative Cloud (like this:  Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Color Duplex Document Scanner with Touch Screen)
    2. Encrypted share drive for data management
    3. Physical space for a secure file room
    4. Physical space for confidential meetings between detectives and program participants

     

  • Our police department is concerned about security of materials. How can my university ensure police files are safe?

    Probably the best way to ensure that the file material is protected is to develop a Memo of Understanding (MOU) between your university/college and the police department you’ll be working with.  This document can outline the roles of each, paying particular attention to the management of confidential files and confidential educational records.  The one we developed specifies that the Cold Case Program reviews and analyzes cold case files provided by the Michigan State Police (MSP) and will work to assist the detectives in whatever capacity they determine (based on the case). The only material that students will access outside of the encrypted computer system would be public access material (census bureau records, death records, military records, or old news articles on people of on people of interest or similar cases of interest, etc).

    MSP has sole and final authority to select which files or cases should be examined by the program and my university has the sole and final authority to select which students are accepted into the program.  

    My university has also developed many policies to ensure the safety of sensitive information, both technologically and logistically. Students accepted into the program sign a Confidentiality Agreement that classifies student participants as “volunteers” in the program.  Specifically, it ensures that the students understand they cannot disclose to anyone outside of the program any information whatsoever to anyone who is not a part of the program.  Drop me an email if your university does not have such an agreement in house.

  • Should my university offer this program as a class or a service learning project?

    We have worked with dozens of states and there are typically three different models other schools have used; a class model, an internship opportunity, and independent study credits for students.  

    The most common model so far is to offer this up as an internship opportunity (typically 3 credits for each semester); students can then be required to “clock” in approximately 10 hours a week working on the case that they have been assigned. This makes it easiest in scheduling regular meetings detectives and the students, too.