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Source: Nancy J. Jackson, AAFS Director of Development & Accreditation
This year’s International Educational Outreach Program (IEOP) participants visited New Zealand from September 11-17. New Zealand (or Aotearoa — land of the long white cloud) is one of the most picturesque and historically interesting places on earth. The travelers were treated to spectacular landscapes, mountain ranges, steaming volcanoes, and, of course, sweeping coastlines.
By Sunday, September 11, everyone had arrived in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Jet-lagged travelers AAFS President John Gerns (General), Peter Ausili (Criminalistics), Stuart Caplan (Odontology), Laura Fulginiti (Anthropology), Kevin Miller (Criminalistics), Danielle Ruttman (Jurisprudence), Brian Kennedy, and I, along with traveling companions, arrived in Auckland in preparation for the week-long activities.
We were surprised and touched to see the local firefighters, along with visiting firefighters from the United States, hold a memorial service to the fallen of 9/11. Several hundred strong, they remembered the tragic day and named each person who had served and lost his/her life during the tragic attack on United States soil.
Speaking for myself, I barely slept as I remembered and wondered what other surprises we might encounter with our Kiwi colleagues.
On Monday, the group gathered and was greeted by our New Zealand hosts: Sarah Scott, Organizing Committee Chair, and Matthew Gittos, the New Zealand President of The Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS). Soon we were off to our first destination, the New Zealand Police Auckland Forensic Units. Here, Matt Taylor, Manager of the Digital Forensics Unit (formerly the Electronic Crime Lab) and Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Parkenham, Officer in Charge of the Criminal Profiling Unit, gave the group the grand tour of the facilities. The laboratories focus on digital forensics, fraud, counterfeiting, photography, criminal investigations, and more.
After lunch, we were treated to a tour of the Auckland War Memorial Museum where we learned of the Maori who settled in New Zealand from eastern Polynesia in the year 1250. It was amazing to learn that these adventurous settlers had traveled in boats that, to us, would be nothing more than a canoe, bringing with them native plants and items they needed to survive.
Throughout the week, we visited laboratories and universities and met with forensic science colleagues. It was interesting to learn that most of the forensic science evidence testing is performed by one government-owned laboratory, the Institute of Environmental Science & Research (ESR). The ESR is the sole forensic provider to the New Zealand police and also provides forensic services for other government agencies, including the New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force. The ESR also undertakes forensic work for other parties, including lawyers, commercial companies, and private individuals. The ESR laboratories, accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), conduct investigations and research in crime scene investigations, illicit drugs, trace evidence, firearms testing, bloodstain pattern analysis, and much more. A thank you to our ESR hosts, Drs. Keith Bedford and Jill Vintiner.
Another interesting stop was our visit to the University of Auckland and their Forensic Science Programme. The program was established in 1996 and is jointly run by the university and the ESR. Along with full-time faculty, the program features guest lectures from experts, including the Crown Prosecutors and independent forensic practitioners. Dr. Douglas Elliot, Director of Forensic Science and Associate Professor, and Deputy Director Gordon Miskelly provided the tour and treated us to a wonderful lunch.
Already Wednesday, we hopped a flight from Auckland to the capital city of Wellington. Along with visiting the ESR forensic laboratory in Wellington, the group had the privilege of visiting the Royal New Zealand Police Training College and Museum. The timing could not have been better, as the college was graduating a class the following day. The IEOP travelers, hosted by Mr. Julian Atkins, were ushered into the college’s Māori marae (meeting house). We were then introduced to the Māori traditions and influence at the college. We witnessed a performance of the traditional Haka welcome ceremony, the Pōwhiri, in which ancestors are remembered and asked to protect their guests. The ceremony concludes with the traditional greeting called the hongi in which each guest presses foreheads and noses with their Maori hosts to symbolize a welcome and joining of families.
After this wonderful introduction, we were permitted to watch the traditional Haka performed by the graduating class. In this ceremony, the class gathers on sacred ground and the elder remembers those police officers who have fallen in the line of duty and names those who have recently fallen. Because this is considered a sacred ceremony, we were asked not to release any of the photos or video. Similar videos and pictures can be found online and I would encourage you to view them.
A trip to Wellington would not be complete without a visit to the New Zealand Parliament. The guided tour teaches us about parliamentary processes and the New Zealand system. We learned about the history and architecture of renowned buildings. Before leaving, we were allowed to enter the visitors section and watch politics at work.
Returning to Auckland on Friday, the group was treated to discussions with several ANZFSS presenters. Mr. James Hannah, President of the New Zealand Society of Forensic Odontologists, and Ms. Anna Davey, Director of the Forensic Foundations and Vice President of the ANZFSS, hosted the event.
Saturday, we hopped the ferry to the Waiheke Island. Although it rained, it was a welcome day of rest and a chance to view the beautiful vineyards and sample some of New Zealand’s best wines. Sadly, all was coming to an end.
Some of the lucky IEOP travelers planned to stay and participate in the ANZFSS 23rd International Symposium, September 18-23.