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Author Q&A Session: G. Clark Davenport

CRC Press is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with G. Clark Davenport, author of Remote Sensing Technology in Forensic Investigations: Geophysical Techniques to Locate Clandestine Graves and Hidden Evidence.

Q&A with G. Clark Davenport

Congratulations on the publication of your book Remote Sensing Technology in Forensic Investigations: Geophysical Techniques to Locate Clandestine Graves and Hidden Evidence. What would you like your audience to take away from the book?
This book was written to provide law enforcement personnel with understandings of the capabilities and limitations of commonly used Remote Sensing systems that can assist them in their investigations.  Chapters present information on Ground Penetrating Radar, Magnetic, Electromagnetic and FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) systems field operations, data nterpretation and presentation of results for court.
What inspired you to write this book?

I have been using remote sensing systems to locate clandestine graves and hidden evidence since 1985 on over 200 cases in many States and foreign countries.  In doing so, I have come to the realization that, although law enforcement agencies do excellent work, they are not often aware of how remote sensing techniques can provide cost-effective and time-efficient results in the often difficult “needle in the haystack” investigations.
Why is your book relevant to your field of study in the present day?
Law enforcement agencies and personnel are becoming increasingly aware of how remote sensing technologies, such as ground penetrating radar and FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) can be applied to investigations.  However, the capabilities and limitations of these technologies is often misunderstood (often due to the “CSI [television] effect”).  This book was written to overcome the “CSI effect”.
What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
The audience I have in mind for this book is the Investigator.  Remote sensing techniques will not be applicable to many investigations, however for investigations that can benefit, the Investigator will benefit from an understanding of how these techniques can be applied, and perhaps more importantly, how to manage the personnel involved in utilizing them.

What makes your book stand out from its competitors?

The book is not written as an academic explanation of Remote Sensing, it is written for the lay person, and written to be guide. The book discusses the limitations, not only the capabilities, of each method. A questionnaire is provided to help an Investigator organize information such that a specialist in remote sensing should be able to determine the applicability of each system.  The book also provides a Consumer Reports-like evaluation table of the applicable methods to use when searching for specific evidentiary methods.

Is there one piece of research included in the book which surprised you or challenged your previous understanding of the topic?

I really do not do research, although a group I co-founded, NecroSearch International (NecroSearch) does applied research on a number of techniques, ranging from the effect of bleach on soils, developing software to analyse and resolve differences in pre- and post- incident aerial imagery, and determining time effectiveness of Luminol and/or Blue Star in outdoor environments.

What did you enjoy about writing the book?

I have written a number of papers, but never a book, so the process was very educational.  I never felt lonely!  I had excellent guidance from CRC’s staff.  The process from producing a draft, editing, attaching illustrations and finalizing was explained up-front, and adhered to.  I particularly enjoyed working with an editor, who, much like a defence attorney, asked a myriad of excellent technical, and editorial questions, which required scheduled and thoughtful responses.

About the Author

What is your academic background?

I have a Geophysical Engineer degree from the Colorado School of Mines (1964), and an AS degree with a speciality in Criminal Justice from Red Rocks Community College (1997).

Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style?

I am currently enrolled as a second-year student in a 4-year Education for the Ministry program through the University of the South, Sewanee Seminary.

My teaching style was (now retired) to promote discussion among students to develop strong analytical thinking techniques.  The first class consisted of asking students to break into groups and then answer a number of questions about a “prop” – a car windshield with 9 bullet holes.  They were asked to provide their analysis on which way the bullets entered the windshield, could the calibre of the bullets be determined? and in what order did the bullets impact the windshield.?  The first crime scene investigation I gave students, at a Jesuit University, was the Crucifixion of Christ.  Students were asked to develop a listing of all evidence associated with the crime scene, and explain how that evidence would be processed and analysed today.

What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher in your field?

In my world, there are two types of research; a) the development of new technologies to solve existing problems (e.g. advances in DNA), and 2) the application of existing technologies to new fields of investigation (e.g. advances in FLIR applications)

Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?

My next book is in its formative state.  For the past 6 years I have been working, with an international team, 2-3 weeks each summer in Perm, Russia searching for the remains of Grand Duke Mikhail Romanov.  The Grand Duke was the brother of Tsar Nikolas, and upon the Tsar’s abdication in 1917, Mikhail became the last Tsar of Russia.  He was murdered near Perm in 1918.  It will be an interesting book covering history, politics (historical and current), religion, forensic sciences and real-life conspiracies.

I have thought about writing a book for elementary school students grades 4-6.   The book will be an introduction to various forensic sciences with the objective of interesting students to consider further readings in forensic science.

What do you feel has been a highlight for you, in your career?

Learning how forensic science can provide valuable outcomes for society.  Through forensic science being able to help families and relatives obtain closure -- “There is no statute of limitations on murder, nor is there on grief”.

What do you see yourself doing in ten years' time?

At age of 76, I am not sure!  I will continuing to work with NecroSearch and provide advice to other groups, such as InForce, History Flight, The Bent Prop Project, and groups searching for missing warriors..

What is the last book you read (non-academic)?

The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan.

Clark Davenport
's career spans 37 years of planning, managing, and performing remote-sensing surveys for criminal, environmental, groundwater, geotechnical, mining, and archaeological investigations on six continents. Since 1986 he has pioneered the use of remote sensing in criminal investigations and has assisted on investigations in more than 25 states and in 6 countries. Davenport is a recognized expert in the utilization of remote sensing and geophysical techniques to locate clandestine graves and hidden evidence. He has testified in criminal cases as to the applicability of these techniques. He is one of the founding members of NecroSearch International, and is an active participant in on-going applied research studying physical and chemical changes that occur after interment of a body. Since 1987, Davenport has served as a consultant to law-enforcement agencies including the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Guatemalan Forensic Foundation, and the New South Wales Police. He is a past instructor at the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy, and is an invited instructor at the FBI Academy. Davenport is also a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, a member of ASLET and a faculty affiliate, Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University. He has a degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines (1964) and an AS in Criminal Justice (1997).

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