Tyler Bucholtz, a 2005 BJU alumnus, never thought he would become a latent fingerprint expert, but God had other plans.
Choosing a Career
From a young age, Bucholtz knew he wanted to be in law enforcement. His positive interactions with policemen growing up and his love for solving puzzles influenced his career choice. Bucholtz and his family moved to Greenville when he was 12 years old, and both his parents became Bob Jones Academy staff. Once he finished high school, the Criminal Justice program at BJU was his obvious choice.
When thinking of his future in law enforcement, Bucholtz always imagined himself as a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. After taking a criminalistics class, his eyes were opened to the scientific aspects of the work field. The class sparked his interest in forensics.
After graduation, Bucholtz worked in the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services for almost four years. During his time there, a coworker accepted a position in the forensics division. “They came back and were telling their stories about what the job was like and how they enjoyed working there,” said Bucholtz. “The next time there was an opening, I put in for it.”
Following two and a half years of general crime scene work, Bucholtz knew he wanted to specialize. He had demonstrated a great eye for prints while working in crime scenes, which made him a great candidate for the opening in the fingerprint division.
Once accepted, he underwent intensive training and was finally authorized for independent casework after completing 450 hours of instruction and a year of apprenticeship.
His current job in the division exposes the TV magic of forensic work. What may take a couple minutes in a TV show, in reality, takes hours of collecting, processing, documenting, reporting to investigators and eventually going to court. Bucholtz remembers working on one scene for a full 12-hour shift.
A Rewarding Print
Bucholtz believes that his love for helping others, and the professionalism, detail orientation and communication skills that he learned at BJU has given him a successful ten years in the forensics division. This background helped him recently solve a delicate case.
A partial bloody print on an otherwise clean scene helped his division uncover the truth. Bucholtz put the print on AFIS—the South Carolina database that contains millions of individuals’ fingerprints. Though the database can come back with results within a minute, this time it took weeks to match the print to a suspect. Bucholtz did not give up. Each time a new suspect was submitted, Bucholtz compared prints until he found a match.
This work earned him the “Latent Hit of the Year” Award from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) at the 2019 Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) Conference held in Greenville.
But Bucholtz doesn’t work for the recognition. “It’s rewarding when we help somebody,” he said. The work might be hard, but Bucholtz says his faith makes a difference. “Having the support of my local church, my pastor and my wife [is important] … just knowing that in the end, there is hope,” he added.