Students Clued into Forensics by FBI

On Friday, May 29, the high school forensics class received a visit from Supervisory Special Agent John Davidson, United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and three members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD), including Sergeant Satoshi Arimatsu who had just returned from extensive training the New York Police Department. The ASIJ Forensics class, 21 students strong, spent the 2015 spring semester learning the science and critical thinking skills required to solve crimes. However, this was the first day they got to hear from a special agent and real crime scene investigators. As Cole Hahn (Grade 12)  stated, “we got actual time to interact with the official people.”


Supervisory Special Agent Davidson, FBI Assistant Legal Attaché, has been with the FBI for 12 years. He was assigned to the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, three years ago, where he specializes in international crime investigation and works directly with the TMPD on affairs involving foreign nationals. Agent Davidson is also an ’89 alum as well as a present parent.

Davidson began his presentation with an introduction on what an Evidence Response Team is faced with when they get to a crime scene. “Chaos” was a key, recurring word when talking about first-response at crime scenes. Students began to understand when Davidson showed pictures of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The scene was filled with pedestrians, emergency response teams, police, FBI and casualties. As he explained and Neale Oghigian (Grade 12) related later, “It’s not like the movies.”

Davidson shared other stories and photos of his FBI training and the protocol that the Evidence Response Team follows. These included first taking care of any wounded and insuring your own safety, followed by securing the scene and then looking for evidence. He introduced the different roles that investigators take on, including lead officer, photographer, sketch artist and a wide variety of forensics specialists. Once the safety of the scene has been secured and the type of crime scene identified, the forensics experts arrive. The forensic experts called onto crime scenes could be those with expertise in the fields of fingerprinting, ballistics, hair and fibers, blood, DNA and forensic anthropology.

Once the scene has been investigated, most evidence is sent to their forensics lab headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. There it is analyzed by over 500 scientific experts and special agents. Similar to the work the students did in the forensics class this year, these scientists analyze fingerprints, DNA evidence, blood spatter and numerous other types of crime scene evidence.

Davidson then entertained questions before introducing Sergeant Satoshi Arimatsu, who facilitated a lesson by agents from the TMPD CSI.

CSI Agent Tomonori Yamada donned an official TMPD crime scene investigation uniform including full hairnet and facemask, as to not contaminate the scene. During the summer months these uniforms can be extremely hot and as Emma Takahashi (Grade 12) stated, “They wore a lot of layers for sure!” As the students gathered in close, he demonstrated different crime scene investigation techniques.

Inspector Yoshihiro Ushijima first showed the students a chemical test to see if a substance he found was blood. Then he showed the students how, using a chemical called luminol, latent blood stains can reveled. All of the students were extremely interested in seeing the bloody t-shirt glow blue after it had been sprayed with luminol, “My mind was blown when the luminol started glowing on the fabric where there had been real blood,” exclaimed Nicole Ras (Grade 11). Finally, with the help of the students, he showed how the TMPD uses aluminum powder to dust and extract fingerprints, debunking the myth that fingerprint analysis works like it does in crime shows. “I thought that learning what goes on behind the scenes in investigations was very interesting, especially when we learned that things shown in dramas or tv shows are not accurate—such as the fingerprint matching machine which doesn’t actually exist,” explained Maya Cannon (Grade 12). 

After another round of intense questioning from the students, the FBI and TMPD released the ASIJ Forensics class.  They left the room with a much deeper appreciation for forensic science and a realization of the seriousness of such occupations. In fact, Daisy Bell (Grade 11) stated, “It is interesting to learn theoretically about forensic science but when you hear the real situations that they are in it is way more intense and they have to really pay attention to details as the lives of real people depend on them.”

It was great to see that so much of what we do in the forensics science class is actually being used in the real world. We enjoyed the professionalism of both the FBI and TMPD even in the relaxed atmosphere of our class. (Brendan Madden, HS Science Teacher)

For more information about the ASIJ Forensics class please visit their blog at