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Q&A: Peel’s new bloodstain pattern analyst sees ‘worst of the worst’

Last Updated Sep 21, 2018 at 3:13 pm EDT

Michelle Pflug is one of three bloodstain pattern analysts with Peel Regional Police, and one of about 30 across the country. She received her certification from the Ontario Police College in June 2018. HANDOUT/Peel Regional Police

Peel Region’s newest bloodstain pattern analyst, Sgt. Michelle Pflug, is a smart, accomplished forensics expert who, yes, watches Dexter.

What is it about forensic identification you find so interesting?

It’s different cases every single day. There’s always something new, and you’re always trying to figure out things. So, it’s always (solving) puzzles. You’re always trying to give that little bit to help in an investigation.

But it’s only the science side of things, and not the people and the interviews and that kind of thing. It’s very different from the investigative side. Just dealing with physical evidence. I enjoy that part of it a lot because it’s one of those things that can’t really be disputed in court.

I’ve always had a very mathematical mind and I’ve always liked science and math. So, it kind of made sense.

Why did you decide to become an officer?

I’ve always had an interest in the forensic side of things. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was just starting to become popular back when I was in high school. My father was a retired police officer with the RCMP, so the whole policing world wasn’t new to me, but I didn’t think at the time that I wanted to actually be an officer. However, when I did my internship in my last year of university with the (forensic identification) section in Peel, I really, really enjoyed the work that was happening here. So, then I decided to go the police route.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Probably the long hours. As much as it’s fun to have the unexpected every day, that can be a negative as well because you never know if you’re going to leave work on time, if you’re going to work a 24-hour shift, or if you’re going to miss your kid’s next soccer game. The shift work can be very, very difficult.

We always see the worst of the worst all the time, and that over time can get a little bit frustrating, as interesting as it is.

And the most rewarding?

At the end of the day, you want to solve the case, get the bad guy in jail and help someone — the victims that can’t, in a lot of cases, speak for themselves — and trying to be that voice for them.

What are the key things you learned from your course of study at the Ontario Police College?

There’s just so many different things involved in terms of the math and science that goes behind it, understanding the fluid dynamics involved with blood, how different bloodstain patterns are created and how being able to recognize them can help tell the story after the fact. So, we’re basically going into a scene in which we have no idea how something happened and tracing that backwards.

Have you used any of what you’ve learned since you were certified in June?

Yeah, although I was only qualified in June, I’d been doing a lot of scene work before that … so, I’ve been attending a lot of blood scenes. Since the certification, I’ve already done several.

What kind of cases are they?

It would be most often homicide scenes, and that’s usually just because in the case of a homicide, obviously, the victim can’t speak. So, you really need that interpretation. You don’t have somebody that can tell you what happened. But it can be any case in which there’s blood that would be able to tell somewhat of a story.

Do you watch Dexter (the TV series about a Miami forensics expert who is also a serial killer)?

Yes, I watched the entire series of Dexter. Excellent entertainment value, but obviously very unrealistic. And the extent of what we can do — we’re a lot more limited in the sort of conclusions that we can offer. Everyone understands that is TV, but there is some truth to what is being done. We can determine an area of origin for an impacted blood source, and they’ll do that on Dexter.

What do you do to decompress?

I like to cook — That’s my artistic escape. I like to cook and travel. And if I can’t physically travel, I like to travel with food.

Other than cooking, I usually decompress by walking my dog Tyla, a Boston Terrier, and (taking) the occasional yoga class.