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Profiles
Random Acts
Improv Troupe Assists with
Detective Training
R
etired Massachusetts State Trooper
Bill Powers was about to embark on an
intensive new training program, designed to
help teach detectives the tools of their trade,
and decided he needed to make the interview
and interrogation portion of the two-week
program as realistic as possible.
For that purpose, he needed the detectives,
who hail from dozens of departments across
Massachusetts, to feel like they were doing a
real-world interview with a suspect or
a victim who could truly test their skills.
But where to find a bank of volunteers to
fit that role?
Enter Middlesex Theater and Performing
Arts students specifically Random Acts,
MCC's improvisation group. Random Acts
brings attention to issues prevalent in our
community by the use of improvisation.
Students provide their audience with
scenarios that help to empower individuals.
By the techniques of both long- and short-
form improvisation, the group explores
scenarios in partnership with the audience.
Random Acts performs throughout the
year for audiences inside and outside the
Molly Flood, left, a member of Random Acts, MCC's improvisation troupe, portrays a crime victim or
perpetrator during a mock interview, as part of a NEMLEC regional detective training program.
"The assistance
of (Performing
Arts Department
Chairwoman) Karen
Oster and her
students has
exceeded any and
all expectations."
Bill Powers
Retired Massachusetts State Trooper
classroom. Participants have also taken
part in nursing simulations, mock disasters,
mock hearings, classroom role-plays, as well
as many college events. Random Acts also
performs its own hilarious night of comedy
twice a year. The group consists of 10 actors,
with auditions held in the fall.
The detective training is sponsored by
the Northeastern Massachusetts Law
Enforcement Council (NEMLEC)
Foundation, of which MCC is a founding
member. NEMLEC is a police consortium
of 57 cities and towns in Middlesex and
Essex counties, comprised of more than
2,500 police officers. The MCC students
were offered as a solution to bring a tinge
of realism to the NEMLEC training, and
it's been a partnership that has been met
with rave reviews.
Powers, who had hundreds of investigations
under his belt as a state trooper, is now
the Director of Professional Studies in
Applied Forensic Sciences and Criminal
Investigations at the Boston University
School of Medicine. He said the MCC
students upped the ante for the
participating detectives.
"The assistance of (Performing Arts
Chairwoman) Karen Oster and her students
has exceeded any and all expectations,"
Powers said. "In most interview and
interrogation training environments, you
are asked to turn to the person sitting next
to you or behind you and ask them a few
questions to try to extract information.
Utilizing students who act as either victims
or suspects in specific case scenarios not only
adds stress to the situation, but it causes the
officers to focus and prepare far more than
they might when they're just talking to a
friend who is going to guide them through
the exercise. In addition, the entire process
is video recorded, conducted live in front of
their police peers, and then critiqued for a
half hour by the officers. The most telling
and insightful comments generally come
from the student, who is able to explain how
their responses were directly related to the
officer's demeanor."
The program, which offered its seventh
session this March, has trained 175 police
detectives from more than two dozen
NEMLEC communities. NEMLEC
Foundation member and Chelmsford Police