BYLINE: Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Newswise — CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Starting in 2023, all police recruits in the state of Illinois must take a Wrongful Conviction Awareness and Avoidance course as part of their training. This course was first developed by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Police Training Institute director Michael Schlosser with leaders of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The course impresses upon new recruits the importance of carefully gathering and analyzing evidence in investigations and not jumping to conclusions about potential suspects. It offers real-world examples of the harm that accrues from wrongful convictions, including a presentation from an exoneree.

In 2016, Schlosser added the course to the roster of available trainings for new police recruits in the Champaign facility. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board was initially dubious about the need for a class on this subject, but this year the board embraced the concept, Schlosser said. The course is now a mandated part of the training for all new police recruits in the state.

A highlight of the course each semester is the guest appearance of an exoneree, someone who was wrongfully convicted and then later found to be innocent of the crime for which they spent 15-25 years in prison. This year’s speaker is Kristine Bunch, who was wrongfully convicted of setting a fire that killed her 3-year-old son. Bunch spent more than 17 years in prison before being exonerated. More information about her ordeal is available here.

On March 31, Bunch will speak to this year’s police recruits at the Police Training Institute on the U. of I. campus. 

Editor’s notes:  

Members of the news media are invited to attend the exoneree presentation to the training on March 31. Journalists from established media outlets are welcome, with some restrictions. Several individuals will be available to be photographed, videotaped and interviewed (Schlosser and Bunch have both agreed to this arrangement). Schlosser and Bunch also are available for interviews between now and then.

The March 31 class will be held at the Police Training Institute, 1004 S. Fourth St., Champaign. The class will be 1-5 p.m., with Bunch beginning her presentation at about 2:30 p.m. Registration to attend the class as a media representative is required.