Indiana State University Newsroom

Croatian students visit ISU to learn about comparative policing

May 30, 2008

TERRE HAUTE • As the woman’s body lay on the ground angled against a tree with her arm several feet away, investigators excitedly called out in Croatian as they carefully examined the ground looking for clues to her demise.

“This is for fun,” said DeVere Woods Jr., Indiana State University associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, told the 21 students from Croatia before letting them examine the scene. “You’re not going to end up in court.”

The crime scene, complete with a mannequin and fake blood drops, was all part of Woods’ two-week comparative policing class. The class is part of an on-going exchange between ISU and the University of Zagreb in Croatia, which began in 2004.

As the students examined the scene and put out markers for evidence, they tried to piece together the events surrounding the woman’s death, which involved her being shot and having her arm cut off, from evidence.

In preparing for the crime scene investigation portion of the class, professors first debunked myths that it is like the television drama CSI (Crime Scene Investigators).

“In Croatia we do have a CSI crew, but we don’t have as many interesting cases,” Valentina Zemljic said about forensic police work in her country. “We’ve had one serial killer, but that was in the 1980s.”

“This specific class I see as very useful,” said Ljiljana Miksaj-Todorovic, chair, department of criminology at the University of Zagreb. “Criminology in Croatia doesn’t have such courses. We’re not supposed to be criminalists. Here, there is much more knowledge about what police really do.”

At the University of Zagreb, the students study behavior disorders, a multi-disciplinary major that includes criminology, psychology and other sciences as part of their education.

“They don’t hire a lot of people with our profession,” Zemljic said. “We’re looking for where we can jump in.”

Places where they could work include prisons, courts and orphanages as well as schools and with delinquent juveniles.

“We’ve been to the juvenile facility here,” Zemljic said. “In Croatia, it’s not so strict. Here, it’s more prison like.”

“It’s focused on rehabilitation and education in Croatia,” Ivana Dvorski said.

The two-week class, as well as the visit to America, has been a learning experience for the students.

“We’ve looked at how the police developed here,” Dvorski said. “We have different cultures so how that developed is very interesting to me.”

In addition to policing and crime scene techniques, students also learned about investigating arsons.

“The stuff we learn here we’re not learning in Croatia,” she said.

In addition to the cultural exchange, there also is the purpose of exchanging policing ideas.

“One important issue is comparative studies between different countries to enhance our knowledge,” said Sudipto Roy, ISU professor of criminology and criminal justice, who initiated the exchange in 2004. “For instance, by taking courses with this type of international students, our students can expand their knowledge about the criminal justice systems in other countries. They can comprehend the differences in the correctional philosophy used in overseas countries compared to our country.”

Roy plans to take a group of ISU students to Croatia in May 2009. Miksaj-Todorovic said the 2009 class would probably center upon institutional treatment of prisoners and alternative sanctions.

“I think American students would learn a lot,” Miksaj-Todorovic said. “Our treatment is much different. In the Croatian prison system, prisoners are still names, not numbers.”

Students and professors also said the exchanges are important for cultural awareness and understanding.

“In this age of globalization, it is important for American students and faculty members to get involved in this type of exchange program,” Roy said. “There are more than 190 countries in the world. American students need to know about other countries, and take courses with international students.”

Dvorski and Zemljic said although the cultures are different, the trip to Croatia would be fun for the Americans, just as the trip to Indiana has been fun for the Zagreb students.

In addition to touring and shopping in Indianapolis, the students also attended the Fairbanks Park Arts and Music Festival where they listened to country musicians.

“We don’t get a chance to hear that at home, especially live,” Zemljic said.

For the students, part of the cultural exchange has been to see a different way of doing things.

“It’s funny to see how other people live, think and do what’s normal for them,” Zemljic said. “We do what’s normal for us. Learning about that is part of the exchange.”


Contact: Sudipto Roy, Indiana State University, professor of criminology and criminal justice, at 812-237-2198 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or at


Cutline: University of Zagreb senior Valentina Zemljic discusses the crime scene with DeVere Woods Jr., Indiana State University associate professor of criminology and criminal justice. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem


Cutline: University of Zagreb students, Tin Francic & Luksa Vragolov, take measurements of the crime scene for Indiana State University’s comparative policing class. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem


Cutline: Sanja Dobra, a University of Zagreb student examines the body of the crime scene victim for her comparative policing class. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem