by Rachel Hammons
Hello everyone! My name is Rachel Hammons and I am a recent graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona majoring in Forensic Biology.
The summer after my graduation (2022) I had the opportunity to be an intern at the Phoenix Police Department. During my time at the department, I was fortunate to work under many advisors in numerous departments including the Community Engagement Bureau, the Phoenix Police Crime lab and the HR fiscal department. In total, I was working alongside officers, office workers and forensic scientist IV supervisors.
Coming into this internship, I had a better understanding of the forensic science aspect of law enforcement but I was able to gain more knowledge about the fieldwork that goes into responding to calls. During my time shadowing different departments, I was able to go on a helicopter ride along, patrol ride-alongs, shadow each specialty in the lab, conduct preliminary analysis of evidence, participate in community events and the POPAT, and shadow dispatch stations. I learned more about the whole process of a call in place, protocols in the lab and how evidence is properly handled. I am incredibly honored to announce as well that I was the first intern back in the laboratory since COVID (roughly 2 ½ years).
Overall, my education at Embry-Riddle has benefited me in this internship greatly. Classes that I felt were a significant help to my success in this program were Investigation Methods, Analysis & Trace Evidence, Forensic DNA, Courts & Criminal Justice and Intro to US Legal System. Each of these courses had a significant impact on my success. I felt that the law classes were beneficial when conducting ride-alongs and for handling paperwork and the science-based classes have been very helpful when touring the labs because I was provided with a basic understanding of each of the processes and how they impact each section.
This internship has had a positive impact on my choices for future career aspirations. Prior to the internship, I did not have an interest in the law enforcement/sworn side of investigations. During the internship, I was able to work with recruiters and partake in the POPAT that is required to enter the academy. Since I was an intern and college graduate, I was part of the first group of applicants to be tested using a traveling POPAT exam for recruiters to take on the road to test applicants. I was also able to take the standardized POPAT, and once I noticed I passed both, I knew this was a career I could lead into.
My top priority, though, is to still enter and work in the crime lab. I have been able to make many connections with forensic scientists and learned that many of them were volunteers themselves prior to being hired in the lab. This has provided me with reassurance that I am on the right track to being an official employee of the department.
With my major, I am confident in either of the two choices I have at hand since I have been prepared for success from Embry-Riddle.