OSWEGO — The state has approved a new online graduate certificate program at SUNY Oswego in behavioral forensics, a multidisciplinary field that relates human behavior — from violence to bizarre conduct — to the criminal justice system.
Pamela Brand, associate professor of human development, coordinates the post-baccalaureate certificate program, which will provide opportunities for law enforcement, court, corrections, mental health counseling and other professionals to advance their knowledge about the signs and motivators of behavior in those within or headed toward the criminal justice system.
“Behavioral forensics studies how the condition of being human relates to the legal system,” she said. “How do people behave and think? As humans, we do all sorts of things that don’t always make sense.”
The turf of behavioral forensics is broad, and students will have opportunities to customize their coursework under advisement, Brand said, though all participants will need to complete a field internship.
Courses in human development, communication studies and counseling and psychological services are available online.
Two new courses developed specifically for the behavioral forensics program include ways to identify sources of human error in forensic evidence analysis, describe types of mental illness and psychological disorders most relevant to the criminal justice system, and the societal, cultural and individual factors influencing mental health and criminal behavior.
“There’s no ‘profiling’ in this,” Brand said. “I know that it makes good TV, but research on that is that it doesn’t work, at least with regard to case closings and convictions.”
Yet the news, she said, is full of reasons that criminal justice and social services professionals need to have a keen understanding of behavioral forensics, such as police officers slain, police who have shot suspects and brutality in prisons.
Brand credited an advisory board that includes members from the community and the college with helping in the certificate’s launch: Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd, St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Abigail Hind, New York State Trooper Rob Burke, licensed social worker Mike Sacco, counseling and psychological services department chair Michael LeBlanc and the advisory board’s chair, Margaret Ryniker, who also chairs the college’s public justice department.
“They’ve really been crucial to developing a strong program,” Brand said.
The program will help law enforcement and mental health professionals better understand human behavior and to adopt a healthy skepticism.
“Question things and know what questions to ask,” said Brand, who has 30 years of experience studying and teaching in fields related to behavioral forensics, such as exploring people’s attitudes about violence.
For more information or to apply, visit http://www.oswego.edu/gradstudies or contact Brand at [email protected] or 315-312-3464.