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Sheridan Curiosities Blog

Sheridan College Investigations students at a conference

When thinking about investigative work, it’s hard not to conjure up images of dramatic interrogations and stealth stakeouts that are so often portrayed on TV and in film. But according to Gary Galbraith, program coordinator of Sheridan’s Public and Private Investigations program, the field is really about understanding the perspective of the “possibilistic.”

“People and organizations must be resilient in the face of a range of threats,” Galbraith explains, especially given the constant change in the types of threats that our societies face today. Cyber-crime for example has added a new element of technological sophistication that wasn’t part of investigations twenty years ago. Having the security infrastructure and tools in place to be prepared to manage those threats is essential for investigators. “Criminals are going to continually change the way they go about things. Investigators need to be prepared to as well,” he says.

Sample Investigations exercise by Sheridan College students

An example of the I2 data visualization tool used by Investigations students to organize information

In addition to appealing to inquisitive, curious minds, the Investigations program nurtures creativity, which is an important skill for analyzing intelligence. In order to make meaningful connections from a mass of information and data, creativity is central to linking pieces of evidence and developing timelines through a critical lens. To help organize this information, students learn how to use a data analysis tool called I2 to plot information in time and space. Using historic criminal cases to test the technology, students plot information and then identify gaps in knowledge to further research.

Galbraith stresses the importance of ethics when it comes to exploring a range of investigations. “We expect our students to be able to go into the field and collect information while respecting the privacy of individuals,” he says. “Strict government legislation around investigative practices makes it a legal obligation, but students are required to bring ethical responsibility to the profession as well.” Students exercise these aspects as part of a course on surveillance.

“Our vision of public safety at Sheridan is one that looks to empower individuals and communities” – Gary Galbraith

While a commonly-held belief is that investigators are focused on helping to prosecute and resolve criminal activity, Galbraith notes that today’s thinking emphasizes a local, participatory approach to safety and security through building community capacity. “Our vision of public safety at Sheridan is one that looks to empower individuals and communities,” explains Galbraith. It’s this type of systemic approach that he believes is required to address the complex world of investigations today.


Pictured at top of page: Students at the Canadian Security Expo in November 2014

Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan.

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