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Ex-New Kensington police officer avoids 'CSI effect' in law enforcement class

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 1:33 a.m.
Retired detective Dennis Marsili of New Kensington explains case laws at Apollo-Ridge Middle School on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, to 17 year-old Michaela Polka of Lenape Heights, 18 year-old Stephanie Shearer of Kittanning and 18 year-old Jennifer Hepler of Apollo (from left), who are all Lenape students enrolled in a law enforcement information technology class. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

After 27 years as a police officer, Dennis Marsili has a vast amount of knowledge that he wants to pass on to prospective officers.

That's why Marsili decided to start teaching a law enforcement class as part of the Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation's Everyday Enrichment program.

“This is a class for anyone who wants to know what police officers really do, or is interested in starting a career in law enforcement,” said Marsili, a retired New Kensington police officer who is the program coordinator at Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Criminal Justice Training Center.

“We hope this attracts people who have some interest in what law enforcement is and want to know the basics,” said Chris Kostiuk, the head of community engagement for the Apollo-Ridge School District. “This is a great opportunity for our community, considering most of the people who attend classes like this live right in the Apollo-Ridge School District.”

Kostiuk said that all ages are welcome, but a couple of high school students who are considering a career in law enforcement have already signed up for the class.

Marsili's class meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Registration is $50.

Marsili said he hopes the class will clear up some common misconceptions about what a police officer does in real life versus what TV shows portray.

“Part of this is the ‘CSI effect,' ” he said. “You have a good, professionally investigated criminal case brought to trial, and the public has this perception that everything should be proven to an absolute. That there is so much certainty, there is very little doubt left in a case.”

Marsili said the “CSI effect” causes people to think that if DNA isn't used to prove a case, then officers did something wrong and the case can't be proven.

“You're not always going to be able to get DNA at a scene,” he said. “Sometimes, weather conditions or something else just don't allow you to obtain it.”

Marsili's name is most likely recognizable to folks in the Alle-Kiski Valley because of the novel he wrote and released in 2011 titled “Excessive Forces: A Pittsburgh Police Thriller.”

Marsili is working on his second book, a nonfiction history of organized crime in New Kensington.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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