Student Spotlight: Thomas Doggett

Thomas Doggett

Thomas Doggett
Major: Criminal Justice/

Photography
Hometown: West Chicago

Not many people can incorporate a personal interest into a career, but Thomas Doggett has managed to do just that.

Doggett is a full-time police officer who uses his photographic skills on the job as a crime scene investigator. He earned degrees in both Criminal Justice and Photography at College of DuPage, but he never planned on a career that combined the two. In fact, while he was in the Army, he took a few Criminal Justice classes and decided to follow up at COD once he left the service.

"I was hired as a Police Officer in 1990 and earned my A.A.S. degree in Criminal Justice in 1992," he said. "A lot has changed in law enforcement since then. When I initially started, very few officers had college degrees of any level. Now most have a bachelor's and many a master's degree. Back in 1992, I was working as a deputy sheriff at the DuPage County Sheriff's Office, and having the associate's degree in Criminal Justice definitely helped when I was interviewing for an internal job as a death investigator at the DuPage County Coroner's Office."

It was there that he began to apply his knowledge of photography, an interest that developed while he was in the Army.

"In 1985, I had bought a small compact Kodak Disc camera that I carried in my cargo pocket, and I would take photographs of the other soldiers in my unit," He said. "Many of those images still remain my favorites. I liked photography but was not technically proficient and never really saw photography as an income source."

While at the Coroner's office, Doggett received his initial training as an Evidence Technician (now referred to as a CSI), which required a solid knowledge base of 35mm SLR photography. In 1997, he transferred to the Batavia Police Department and, because of his experience at the Coroner's office, was assigned the ancillary duties of CSI with both the Batavia Police Department and Kane County Major Crimes Task Force.

He then began photography courses at College of DuPage, where he already was taking a variety of classes of personal interest, including woodworking and real estate. He eventually took enough photography classes to earn an A.A.S. degree in Photography Technology in 2002.

"I can't say that I was aiming for another degree but simply following a personal interest and taking advantage of the COD darkroom facilities," he said. "I came from a family that had a strong visual arts influence. My dad always had a video camera out, and my sister followed him and eventually earned an M.A. degree in Video Arts and actually teaches at COD.

"The skills I learned at COD transferred very easily to the crime scene investigation work I was doing. Professionally, I have succeeded more in the area of forensic photography than that of my personal interests. It is important to mention that 20 years ago -- and in some cases even less than 10 years ago -- we were still shooting film. Crime scene photography was an important skill in the field. There was no LCD screen on which you could check the shot and, after leaving a scene, there was no going back. Because I had been self-teaching in addition to formal instruction in the classroom, my photography skills were developing quickly."

Doggett said most duties are routine, with the more exciting cases being the homicides that he worked at the Coroner's office and with the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force. He cites the 2004 Linda Duchaine homicide in Batavia as one of his most interesting cases.

"I was on it from the very beginning when it started as a simple battery report until the very end when she was found dead," he explained. "During the scene investigation, the case kept unraveling until we realized we had a second kidnapping victim and eventually a homicide. There were multiple crime scenes in Batavia, Aurora and Kane County. During the investigation, I photographed scenes from a cherry picker, airplane, the interior of an attic, cistern, and the small confines of a bloody vehicle, just to name a few. It happened over Easter weekend and there were so many officers from multiple local, state and federal jurisdictions who left family holiday events to help work the case. Unfortunately, Duchaine was found murdered but most people will never know the amount of work and lack of sleep that was put in by so many officers over that weekend."

Since earning his Photography degree, Doggett has obtained a B.A. in Business Management from Benedictine University. He is an EPIC certified Evidence Photographer, IAI Certified Crime Scene Investigator and Illinois licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B). He holds ancillary CSI duties with the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force and maintains the Photo Lab for the Batavia Police Department. He occasionally instructs classes in forensic photography with several accredited institutions.

Such marriages of career and personal interest are not common, but Doggett has made it work and enjoys both aspects of his job. He appreciates everything he's learned at College of DuPage.

"Initially, it was my community college of residence," he said. "Later I really liked the availability of classes that fit around my schedule."

More about the Criminal Justice program
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