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McCamey Crime Lab Provides Leading-Edge Opportunities for Students

June 3, 2019


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From the Winter/Spring Issue of Western: The Magazine for Western Illinois University Alumni

By Darcie Dyer Shinberger '89 '98

The late Bill McCamey '80 MA '82, Western Illinois University law enforcement and justice administration professor emeritus, was considered a "forward thinker," always looking for new ways to recruit students and promote his department, as well as staying up to date on trends to enhance his students' education.

That forward-thinking ... and McCamey's legacy ... lives on at WIU in the form of the new School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) McCamey Crime Lab. The premier state-of-the-art crime lab, which is located on the fourth floor of Tillman Hall, is the result of a sizeable donation from Jody '85 and the late Toby McCamey to honor their husband and son. McCamey was a professor within the School of LEJA from 1982-12. He passed away unexpectedly Nov. 19, 2013.

The McCamey Crime Lab officially debuted for classes in January. The lab houses alternate light source equipment with magnifying lenses and interchangeable barrier filters to examine hair, fibers, semen, dust, prints, blood and palmar oils, as well as other physiological fluids. The lab also features an optical comparator, which examines tool marks, fingerprints, palm prints, footprints and glass fragments; a forensic workstation; a ductless dry safe and numerous evidence recovery kits, including a liquid silicone casting kit, latent print kit, digital mobile device kit and blood spatter documentation kit.

"The addition of the crime lab affords students experience in cutting-edge and best practice techniques taught by exceptional faculty who have real-world expertise in the field," School Director Jill Myers said. "The hands-on lab offers the link between academics and application of the theories to real world events. Plus, it makes the learning exciting, entertaining and purposeful. This is such wonderful gift for our students."

Additionally, the crime lab is equipped with movable walls, props, cameras and mannequins so the room can be transformed to stage working crime scenes.

McCamey joined the WIU faculty after earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Western and his doctorate from the University of Iowa. Within the School of LEJA, McCamey taught courses in criminal justice management, fire administration and policing. He also taught and developed fire courses for the National Fire Academy.

His colleague, WIU LEJA Professor Emerita Gayle Carper '73 MS-Ed '80 spoke at the lab's dedication ceremony in Fall 2018, recalling how McCamey was a great role model for new faculty.

"Thirty years ago, I had my first article published in a refereed journal, my initial step to becoming the first woman tenured full professor in the LEJA department. That's important today because that article would not have existed without my co-author Bill McCamey. He came up with the idea and asked me to join him," Carper said. "I would have had a hard time getting tenure without Bill. He spent a lot of the time explaining the process and helping me. Bill didn't have to be asked for help; he was always available."

Carper also shared how McCamey investigated several cases for her when she was a criminal defense attorney.

"His reputation for thorough investigation and credibility changed the course of several of my cases, even getting one dismissed—a rarity in McDonough County—because he found evidence that showed incorrect police reporting," she explained. "He was universally admired by students. His experience, knowledge of, and interest in his subject matter were obvious, and his enthusiasm was evident out of the classroom as well."

While at Western, McCamey helped certify 1,800 police as juvenile specialists and served as the department's graduate school coordinator.

WIU Office of Public Safety (OPS) Acting Director Derek Watts '96 MA '15 said he remembers walking into the first day of a 32-hour Illinois Juvenile Officer course in Summer 1997 and meeting McCamey for the first time. Immediately, the two began talking and McCamey began touting Western's LEJA graduate program to Watts, who had earned his bachelor's in law enforcement from WIU.

"A year later, I was hired by OPS, and it wasn't long after I joined the department that Dr. McCamey tracked me down and asked me again about pursuing my master's degree. I remember him telling me, ‘You might not think it will be beneficial now, but it may provide opportunities in the future,'" Watts said. "I kept telling him I didn't have the time, but he kept persisting … and I ended up getting my master's.

"The last time I talked to him, I saw him in the LEJA department office and told him I owed him an apology for not completing my master's degree. He told me I didn't owe him anything as long as I finished the program," he added. "Unfortunately, I did not get to shake his hand when I crossed the stage to get my degree, but I knew he would've been the first in line to congratulate me. As fate would have it, I met Jody (McCamey) and had the honor of sharing how Bill influenced me. He was right."

In addition to teaching, advising and recruiting, McCamey co-authored four law enforcement textbooks, published numerous peer-reviewed articles on fire science and criminal justice and was the editor of the Journal of Security Administration.

McCamey's professional experience included serving as a Canton (IL) firefighter, police officer, investigator and paramedic.

"Bill was a firefighter, then a police officer, then an investigator for Fulton County. When he got to Western, he found himself. I think these are the best tributes I can give Bill," Jody said. "I know he is looking down smiling. Every time he taught juvenile justice classes he would wear his WIU shirt to reinforce how important Western's criminal justice program is to their profession. This new lab adds to Bill's legacy and will provide an outstanding hands-on learning experience for LEJA students at Western."

Jody said Bill was always a "forward thinker," constantly bringing up some of his unsolved cases, and remarking that additional investigation and crime-solving techniques would further enhance the student's educational experience. The new crime lab embodies his desire to increase student capabilities in meeting the challenges of modern investigations, she added.

McCamey's legacy is apparent, not just through the thousands of alumni who had the benefit of his knowledge and the new lab. In 2015, Jody and Toby first established the William P. McCamey Public Safety Memorial Educational Scholarship in the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations