When the Yellowstone County (Montana) sheriff told Detective Shane Bancroft the department could not afford to send him to the UT National Forensic Academy (NFA)â„¢, Bancroft did not let that stop him from pursuing his dream to attend the academy.
He decided to the raise the money himself, seeking donations for his tuition to the academy and his travel to Oak Ridge. The community of Billings supported his fundraising efforts, and a year and $11,000 later, Bancroft is one of 24 students in the current session of the NFA.
â€œI work part-time for Shields, a regional sporting goods chain, and they donated money, and a local car dealership gave me a donation. After the first week I had raised $3,000,â€ he said. â€œIf it werenâ€™t for a quick start, I donâ€™t think it would have worked out.â€
Bancroft, who has no fundraising experience, put together a packet of information for potential donors. He made copies of the NFA video that is on the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC) website, and loaded the video on discs that he also handed out to potential donors. In addition to donations from the sporting goods store and the car dealership, he received donations from Optimist, Rotary and Breakfast Exchange clubs, funeral homes and individuals. Bancroft said because Billings has seen violent crimes over the last five years, citizens and businesses may have seen the importance of sending him to the forensic academy.
â€œI only heard â€˜noâ€™ from two places â€“ one of them was the mall. The mall manager told me they get so many requests that they canâ€™t donate, but she said she is from Knoxville, she is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, and she would ask her parents to have me over for dinner to help me save some on my costs.â€
Bancroft first heard of the NFA when he worked in the coronerâ€™s office in Billings, and the medical examiner was familiar with the work of Dr. Bill Bass. He said his experience so far has been greater than he expected.
â€œThe instructors are off the charts, the administration is great and all of my classmates, who are all smarter than me, have been great,â€ he said. â€œI am going to sell this to my administration. We have six detectives on staff and I
think they all should come to the academy.â€
Following completion of the 10-week academy, graduates are eligible to become certified as a crime scene investigator. Bancroft said he hopes to pursue that certification.
â€œI feel like I owe it to the people of Billings to become certified,â€ he said. â–