Battle of the Badges bolsters law enforcement collaboration

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante

Two dead bodies in separate death investigations with a storm threatening to erase vital evidence. These were the scenes encountered by crime scene investigators at the debut of the Battle of the Badges competition.

Inspired by the competitive spirit of investigators and drawing parallels from the popular TV show, “Crime Scene Kitchen,” the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 104 at Eglin crafted the idea of replacing baking with crime scene processing. 

The event provided the opportunity for law enforcement professionals from different agencies to work together, exchange training, share ideas, and build new contacts within their community. 

“We fight like we train, and by training together we learn how to work in a more effective partnership,” said Ryan Patterson, AFOSI criminal indexing and investigation specialist. “With the various jurisdictions that encompass Eglin, it is important we work together as a team.” 

The competition pitted three teams in the heart of a mock crime scene that simulated real-world pressures of an investigation. The mixed-agency teams from the AFOSI, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Florida Inspector General were to meticulously analyze evidence and untangle the case. The challenge: One hour to process the crime scene due to a simulated impending hurricane. 

“It was new, fun and a great opportunity to collaborate," said Sydney Murphy, AFOSI Det 104 agent. “I think the best part was the camaraderie.”  

The participants needed to demonstrate proper techniques for preserving and packaging different types of evidence. Each team had standardized evidence kits for collecting molds of footprints, samples of blood drops, photos, sketches of the scene, fingerprints, hair fibers, and more.

 After the competition concluded, the teams presented their crime scene evidence and finalized analysis. The positive feedback from participants expressed interest in the unique approach and the opportunity to view the scene from different perspectives. 

“Some agencies historically only focus on the collection of evidence,” said Patterson. “The team’s ability to integrate with the investigators to gain new perspective, rendered beneficial for all involved. The information sharing leads to exchange of best practices, innovative techniques, and valuable insights across multiple jurisdictions.” 

With the success of the event, more Battle of the Badges are expected in the coming years with a greater range of law enforcement professionals. Patterson said he hopes the diversity enriches the training experience, encourages creativity, and promotes a more holistic approach to addressing law enforcement challenges. 

“We have to work together to be successful,” said Stephanie Vaughan, AFOSI special agent. “By being able to pull each other’s resources, we are a more effective law enforcement entity to protect the community.”