East Tennessee high school students participate in CSI competition

Police tape marked off certain sections of sidewalks, officers in uniform were stationed throughout campus, and people were interviewing potential witnesses and performing traffic stops. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology was not having a security emergency, however. It was a test for the next generation of law enforcement.

High school students from across East Tennessee gathered at TCAT to participate in the annual CSI Competition, pitting their criminal investigations skills against each other.

Ryan Presnell, a criminal justice instructor at Elizabethton High School, said this was the eighth year they have participated in the competition.

“It is a really great opportunity to show off their skills,” Presnell said. “Our schools have always done well.”

Students from Sullivan County, Johnson County, Johnson City and more participated in a variety of different criminal justice related activities, from conducting a sobriety test on another classmate to laying out and analyzing a crime scene and even studying bones and blood splatters.

Presnell said this competition is different from most because of the students’ shared passion for the field.

“I tell my students their future partner might be in this room,” he said. “It adds a level of stress that is very realistic.”

This level of stress, he said, feeds into EHS’s CTE programs, providing hands-on experience before students even graduate high school. If a student is not cut out for this kind of work, often they find out throughout the competition.

“We had a student that is now in law school. She wanted to be a federal investigator,” he said.

He said the experience helped her realize this kind of work was not suited for her like she thought it was.

“That is one of our main duties as CTE educators,” Presnell said. “It is hard to make career decisions at 18.”

He said he loves working with students and giving them these kinds of opportunities they might not get at other schools.

“I love kids, law enforcement and baseball,” he said with a grin. “I got to see my kids display their efforts. This is my Super Bowl.”

He said the competition’s success is helping create the new generation of law enforcement.

“Your tax dollars are going to good use,” Presnell said.

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