7 ways cops spot drunk drivers

The driver who turns up a fifth of Jack Black while singing Sweet Home Alabama at the top of his little redneck lungs is obviously driving while under the influence of alcohol. But what about the driver who chugs only three or four drinks before sliding in behind the wheel? What makes a patrol officer zero in on that guy? And, what if an inebriated driver eats an onion after consuming his alcohol? Suppose he drinks a bottle of mouthwash? Will those tricks fool the officer’s breath-testing equipment?

Let’s first start with some of the signs officers look for when scanning the roads for intoxicated drivers. Here’s a few dead giveaways:

1) Stopping in the middle of the road for absolutely no reason. Believe it or not, this maneuver is often performed in front of a marked police car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The drunk driver in this scenario is often seen “flipping off” approaching drivers, including patrol officers, as if they’re the ones in the wrong.

Drunk Drivers

Photos above and below ~ 2013 Writers’ Police Academy nighttime high-risk traffic stops (role play exercise). Yes, those are writers in the white vehicle.

Drunk Drivers at the 2013 Writers' Police Academy

3) Driving in the center of the road, straddling the white line(s). This maneuver, too, often occurs in front of a police car.

White line drunk driver

4) Failing to dim headlights when meeting an oncoming car.

By the way, who remembers stomping the floor switch located to the left of the brake pedal to dim the headlights? Yes, folks, that’s where the dimmer switches were once located. And yes, I remember and have used those floor switches in vehicles I’ve owned.

The transition to the steering column lever switches in modern cars was a bit awkward, and many people continued to stomp the floorboard when meeting an oncoming car. By the time they’d realized the switches had  moved it was too late and the approaching irritated drivers, slightly blinded by bright lights, had already passed by.

5) Traveling well below, or above, the posted speed limit.

The exception to this rule is an old guy wearing a John Deere hat. They almost always drive well below the posted speed limit. May or may not be drunk. This one’s a coin toss.

Exception number two—four-foot-tall women over the age of eighty-four. They’re normally on the way to the doctor, the grocery store, or to a hair appointment, and they’re in no hurry to get there.

6) A car that strikes stationary objects on either side of the roadway as it passes by. Mimics the actions of the silver ball in a pinball machine.

7) My personal favorite is the “impaired” driver who stops beside a police car at a red light. First comes the casual sideways glance toward the officer, followed by a nod and the mule-eating-briars grin. Then, they just can’t help themselves—down comes the window so they can tell the officer what a fine job he’s doing and that his third cousin twice removed on his mother’s side of his daddy’s grandmother’s family was the chief of police in Doodlebunk, Kansas. Well, it’s pretty obvious this guy’s stoned out of his gourd. Of course, the bag of dope hanging out of his shirt pocket doesn’t help his case, either.

8) Finally, there are those instances where people take a drink of alcohol in front of officers and then climb behind the wheel to fire up their engines in preparation of an impaired driving experience. Obviously, the officers who observe such ignorant acts have no option other than to arrest the staggering, glassy-eyed imbibing imbeciles. Stupid, stupid, stupid move.

You Can’t Fool the Breath Test

Okay, now for the onion trick. No way. Attempting to fool breath-testing equipment is a waste of time. The machines don’t measure the amount of alcohol in the air, or in the suspect’s breath. Instead, the devices measure the ratio between the concentration of alcohol in the blood and the concentration of alcohol that’s in deep lung air, air that’s in the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs).

So, eat an onion if you like, but the only thing you’ll accomplish is to make enemies of the cellmates who’re forced to endure your bad breath.


Reserve Your Spot Today!

Are you searching for the proper details and the perfect words to describe a scene or character? Well, here’s the solution to your troubles. Sign up today to learn from some of the best in the business!!

 

 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online


“SEARCH DOGS, SEARCH WARRANTS, A SEARCH FOR WORDS, AND LIES”

 

When: February 27, 2021

 

This daylong live and interactive seminar features three renowned professionals who will share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of day international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Instructors include Carrie Stuart Parks, Sheri Lewis Wohl, Wisconsin Judge Kevin Rathburn, and the fabulous Heather Graham Pozzessere!

Registration is officially open. Reserve your seat today!

https://writerspoliceacademy.online

FEBRUARY 27, 2021 – ONLY $99 for the full seminar!

Three renowned professionals share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of this daylong, live and interactive seminar, international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Schedule (Times are EST)

10:30 – Login and Test
10:45 – Welcome

11:00 – 12:20

Search Warrants, Pursuits, and Police Use of Force

This course will describe the general legal standards for the use of force by police such as warrants, including anticipatory, knock, and No Knock, warrants and pursuits. Instructor, Kevin Rathburn

12:20 – 12:50

Break

12:50 – 2:10

More than the Nose: K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century

K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century is a journey into the world of canine search teams. What does it take to be field ready? What makes a good search dog? Learn the difference between what it looks like on TV and what it’s really like out in the field. Learn how and why it’s changing from search and rescue volunteers to unpaid professionals. Instructor Sheri Wohl

2:20 – 3:40

Don’t LIE to Me!

Law enforcement uses numerous tools to identify deception in witnesses and suspects, depending on their background and training. Learn one of the more unique skill sets in recognizing deception through language–by reviewing the written statements. Understand how the very nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words, and other clues alert detectives to deception or hidden information. Add richness and depth to your writing by utilizing and weaving content statement analysis into your manuscripts. Instructor, Carrie Stuart Parks

3:50 – 5:10

“It’s all in the Words”

A dynamic workshop on the craft of writing taught by one of the all-time great authors of suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare. Instructor, Heather Graham

5:10

Final words


Instructor Bios:

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols, Inspys, the Christy, Golden Scroll, Maxwell, and Wright. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.

 


Sheri Lewis Wohl is a 30-year veteran of the federal judiciary, a search and rescue K9 handler, and the author of more than fifteen novels, several of which feature search dogs. She is a field ready member of search and rescue in Eastern Washington and for the last nine years, has been a human remains detection K9 handler deployed on missions throughout Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Sheri has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s degree in Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

 

 

 


 

Kevin Rathburn became a full-time faculty member at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2000 after serving as an adjunct instructor for nine years. Prior to that, Mr. Rathburn served for ten years as an Assistant District Attorney for Brown County in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 2004, Mr. Rathburn became Municipal Judge for the Village of Suamico. Mr. Rathburn holds BAs in political science and economics from St. Norbert College (1987) and a JD from Marquette University Law School (1990).

While in Law school, Mr. Rathburn served as a law clerk to several Milwaukee Circuit Court Judges handling civil and criminal matters and the appeal of cases from local boards and municipal court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also completed an internship in public sector labor law with the law firm of Mulcahy and Wherry and an internship with Blue Cross & Blue Shield Insurance Company.

Mr. Rathburn is a State Certified Instructor for the Wisconsin Technical College System. He is also certified by the Department of Justice, Training and Standards Board in the areas of Child Maltreatment, Constitutional Law, Corrections Law, Courts and Jurisdiction, Criminal Law, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology, Domestic Violence, Ethics in Criminal Justice, Interviews and Interrogation, Juvenile Law, Report Writing, Sexual Assault and Sensitive Crimes. Mr. Rathburn recently helped create Constitutional Law and Juvenile Law Manuals and update the Criminal Law Manual for the WI. Dept. of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau.

Mr. Rathburn has been a member of the Department of Justice Legal Context Advisory Committee since 2005. He has also served as a Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on School Violence and the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission. He is a past member of the Brown County Youth Aids Committee, Brown County Council on Child Sexual Abuse, Brown County Subcommittee on Underage Drinking, Brown County Consortium on Dysfunctional Families and St. Vincent Hospital’s Child Health Team.

Since 1991 Mr. Rathburn has made presentations on a wide variety of legal topics at numerous conferences including the Wisconsin Jail Association, Wisconsin Juvenile Officers and Juvenile Intake Workers, the State of Wisconsin DARE Officers Association, the Wisconsin LETAO, the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Instructors, the Wisconsin Arson Investigators and the Wisconsin Criminal Investigator’s Association. Mr. Rathburn frequently provides legal updates for law enforcement and correction agencies. He has also provided in-service training for Unified Tactical instructors, administrators, corrections officers, dispatchers and casino security staff.

Since 2007, Mr. Rathburn has been a frequent speaker for the State Supreme Court in its training of Municipal Judges and Court Clerks. Since 2012 Mr. Rathburn has provided Basic Intake Training for Juvenile Intake Workers throughout Wisconsin. He is a trainer for the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development system. Since 2016 Mr. Rathburn has been a featured presenter at the annual Writer’s Police Academy. He recently completed work with James Patterson and Maxine Paetro on a crime novel (The 17th Suspect). He has also presented to officers from England and the Caribbean Islands on multiple occasions in recent years.

In 1994, Mr. Rathburn received the Optimist Law Award for his contribution to the legal field. He also received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004, 2005, & 2006 from Who’s Who Among Teachers in American Universities & Colleges and from Who’s Who in Collegiate Faculty in 2007 and 2008. In 2017-18 he was included in Who’s Who in Technical College Faculty. In 2019, Mr. Rathburn received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Mr. Rathburn says his family is the most important part of his life. He spends as much time as possible with his wife, Beth, and their three sons, Sam, Jack, and Ben. He enjoys landscaping, gardening and walks with Beth and their dog Sophie. He spends many of his late evening hours reading and writing on legal topics. He also likes reading espionage or mystery novels and watching movies; especially westerns. He is an avid Packers fan and enjoys following the Badgers, Brewers, and Bucks


 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile

Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.


 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

 

Footprints in the snow

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The familiar phrase above is actually from an ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers. The phrase is also inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City, and is sort of the unofficial creed of letter carriers across the country.

Another group of people who closely adhere to those words are criminals. Yes, this menagerie of lawbreakers—pickpockets, robbers, rapists, murderers, and the like—pay no attention to the weather when planning and plotting their devious acts against property and their fellow humans.

And, when the criminals do their dastardly deeds, even in bad weather such as the snowstorms we’re experiencing on the East Coast, law enforcement officers must do what it takes to bring the offenders to justice. Unfortunately, crime-solving often involves traipsing around the woods in the mud, snow, sleet, and freezing rain while trying to find a footprint or two.

One method of identifying and locating a bad guy is to do as they did back in the old west, and that’s to track the thugs back to their hideouts. Sure, following broken twigs and disturbed vegetation is one method. Finding and making castings of footprints and/or tire tracks in the dirt and dried mud is another.

But what about prints in the snow? After all, we know that casting materials generate heat, which causes snow to melt and deform the impressions left by footwear.

So how do investigators overcome the challenge of melting snow in and around footprints?

Well, our good friends at Sirchie have the perfect solution to the problem.

A squirt or two of Sirchie’s Snow Impression Wax provides an insulating medium between the heat-generating casting material and the surrounding snow. Once the spray contacts the snow it locks in the impression details while the casting material hardens.

Shake-N-Cast (center in photo below) is a kit containing a pre-measured water pouch and dental stone.

Apply pressure to break the water pouch and then shake to mix the two ingredients. No messy containers and no casting material on a detective’s shiny shoes. There’s enough material in a kit to cast an adult-size shoe up to 15″ long.

Metal casting frames are adjustable to fit all shoe sizes and most tire treads.

While we’re on the subject of impression evidence, the spray above—Dust and Dirt Hardener—is used to strengthen impression evidence (tire tracks, footwear impressions, etc.) found in loose or sandy soil.

The material keeps the soil intact under the weight of the casting material.

Finally, liquid silicone is often used for producing exact replicas of various impressions, including tire and footwear, jimmy marks, and even fingerprints.

Liquid Silicone is incredibly temperature tolerant, and can withstand cold down to -70F and heat to +500F.

Sirchie Silicone Casting Kit

The material sets within three to five minutes.

So there you go. Now your fictional CSI team need not worry about collecting evidence in the snow, or mud. Well, as long as they keep a can Sirchie’s Snow Impression Wax handy.

America first heard the soulful sound of bagpipes over one hundred and fifty years ago when Scottish immigrants brought their instruments to America.

It was the time when the great potato famine caused a massive arrival of immigrants to the East Coast of the United States. As a result of the sudden increase in population, jobs were hard to find. So the immigrants took whatever work was available, which were typically positions that were dirty and/or dangerous. Firefighting and police work were two of the professions that no one wanted.

It’s a centuries-old tradition that Celtic people play bagpipes at funerals, weddings, wakes, and other events. Therefore, it stood to reason that when one of their own was killed in the line of duty, bagpipes were played at the funeral. The haunting tones provided a comforting touch of home and familiarity. The same is true today. The solemn sounds of bagpipe music at the funeral of a fallen first responder often sets in motion a flood of emotion and remembrance.

Today, bagpipes are a part of many funerals for the men and women of law enforcement who’ve died in the line of duty.

Riderless Horses

The tradition of a riderless horse, also called a caparisoned horse, leading police and military funerals is a centuries-old practice. A pair of backward-facing boots in the stirrups represents a fallen hero looking back towards the living/his or her troops for the last time.

Abraham Lincoln was the first President to be officially honored by a caparisoned horse. The animal, Old Bob, was  President Lincoln’s personal horse. George Washington’s personal horse was led in the funeral with the president’s saddle, holsters and pistols in place, but no boots.

A Morgan/American Quarter Horse cross called Blackjack was the caparisoned horse in more than 1,000 Armed Forces Full Honor Funerals, as well as the funerals of presidents John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Army General Douglas MacArthur. When Black Jack passed away he was buried with full U.S. Military Honors, is one of only two horses in U.S. history to receive such honors in recognition of his loyal service.


Line of Duty Deaths

Since 1786, more than 22,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty.

2021 – 26 line of duty deaths. 12 due to COVID.

2020 – 328 line of duty deaths. 210 due to COVID. 45 by gunfire.

2019 – 148 line of duty deaths. 50 by gunfire.

2018 – 185 line of duty deaths. 52 by gunfire.

2017 – 185 line of duty deaths. 45 by gunfire.

 

The transition from working the streets as a patrol officer to the coat and tie sleuthing of a police detective can be somewhat of an eye-opener. While definitely closely related, the two jobs differ.

Patrol officers are typically responsible for responding to crimes that have either recently occurred or are in progress. Detectives are usually called upon to investigate crimes and crime scenes, those encountered by patrol officers, and sometimes medical examiners or coroners. Of course, it’s not at all unusual for cases to arise from reports by citizens, or as the result of information gained while investigating an altogether different crime.

For example, while collecting evidence at the murder scene of a low level drug dealer, detectives discover a large stash of stolen guns, and cash stained with the red dye used by banks to help track bank robbers. Fingerprints on many of the guns belong to four known criminals, two of which have served time for bank robberies. As a result, detectives are able to solve a couple of major cases in addition to the homicide, the original case.

As a patrol officer, much of the initial work is conducted in a rush due to the immediate need to focus on and react to action-based events as they unfold—the then and now. Detectives, on the other hand, examine a much broader perspective once the “heat of the moment” has cooled to a slower pace. Ordinarily, investigators have the time to map out a solid plan of action and to organize that process.

This, the sudden shift from patrol to investigations, can sometimes be a bit difficult. It’s tough to slow your pace when all you’ve known is to work at a rapid, adrenaline-fueled clip day-in and day-out. It’s lights and sirens and speed and struggling with combative suspects, car chases, and shootouts, to an immediate slowdown. It’s a shock to the mind and body.

No more rushing to he-said she-said calls. No more traffic summons to write. No more barking dogs or loud music complaints. And No More Graveyard Shifts!

Even the paperwork involved in the two duties differs. Patrol officers complete many simple “fill in the blanks” forms—speeding tickets, breath tests, incident reports, etc.—and perhaps anywhere from a brief paragraph to a page or two of narrative explaining the details of the calls to which they’ve responded during their shifts. And, of course, the notes they’ll use for court testimony and to brief detectives who’ll further investigate major crimes.

In contrast, the amount of paperwork required of detectives can sometimes involve case notes chronicling criminal activity and evidence for periods of a year or more. Detectives are also responsible for composing affidavits and search warrants.

A savvy detective examines ALL pertinent evidence. They’ll brainstorm with other detectives. They’ll question everyone who may be able to shed even a sliver of light on the case. And they document EVERYTHING, and then check and double-check to be sure that no stone is left unturned.

Little by little detectives chisel and whittle away at a case until all the unnecessary and irrelevant bits are out of the way. Then, all that remains is the name of the perpetrator. It’s sort of like pouring all evidence into a large funnel where it swirls and twirls around until it reaches the bottom where out pops your suspect, ready for handcuffing. Obviously crime-solving is not that simple, but the analogy sort of fits.

 

 

My publisher once posted an excerpt from my book about police procedure. The segment is about my thoughts on becoming an investigator, the intro to the chapter devoted to detectives.

I thought it might be fun to share it with those of you who haven’t read the book. Those of you who have read the book, well, we can chat about something else while the others are reading.

From Chapter Four:

Detectives usually begin their careers as uniformed police officers who work their way up the chain of command, striving to obtain either the position of a uniformed supervisor or move into what some officers think of as the ultimate police job – a detective.

How an officer becomes a detective varies with each individual department. Some departments offer the position as a promotion. These departments post the vacant position and officers apply and test for the job, and the most qualified person receives the advancement. Promotions, or assignments to a detective division, aren’t normally awarded to officers until they’ve completed at least five years of service. Other departments take the rivalry between uniformed officers and the plainclothes detectives into account and simply assign officers to a detective’s position on a rotating basis, which allows every officer a turn as an investigator.

A detective is responsible for the investigation of both misdemeanor and felony crimes. How each department carries out these investigations depends upon the size of the department. Some departments are large enough to have detectives who specialize in certain areas such as credit card fraud, homicide, juvenile crime, arson, narcotics, rape, vice, etc. (We’ll look at some of these areas in greater detail later in the chapter.) Detectives sometimes work in several specialized areas before finding one they like. Once they do, they usually make that area their permanent assignment.

Other departments have only a couple of detectives for the entire agency – if any. In some rural departments where manpower is limited, patrol officers serve as first responders, evidence technicians, and investigators. There are advantages to each situation. The specialized detective becomes very skilled at his particular craft, whereas a detective or patrol officer in a smaller department has the opportunity, out of necessity, to work all kinds of cases.

No matter what the assignment, the duties are the same. Detectives are investigators who gather facts and collect evidence in criminal cases. They conduct interviews and interrogations, examine records and documents, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in and conduct raids or arrests. A detective is usually charged with applying for and obtaining search warrants. To accomplish these tasks effectively, detectives are trained with a more diverse approach than patrol officers.

Both detectives and patrol officers are required to attend, at minimum, semiannual in-service training to stay abreast of new laws and procedures. In addition to the in-service training, a detective’s education must be endlessly updated, and his base of knowledge must be constantly expanded. Criminals are continually developing new ideas and methods to get around the law, and the detective has to make every effort to stay one step ahead of them.

Modern criminals are more highly educated than offenders of the past, and today’s crooks rehearse and practice every aspect of their craft, like actors studying for a Broadway production. The thugs even hone their shooting skills. I was once searching the trunk of a drug dealer’s vehicle and found an automatic weapon, several rounds of ammunition, and a police silhouette target. The center of the target was filled with bullet holes, and Lee Lofland was written above the head. That was an eye-opener.

There are many new ways to fight crime in today’s computer and technology age, but nothing can compare to the old-fashioned method of the detective getting out and beating the streets for information and clues.

The image of the detective has changed as well. It has evolved from the trench-coat-wearing sleuth to a more stylishly dressed investigator. That image possibly reflects a larger clothing allowance than was once provided by departments. I think, years ago, I wore the long coat not because I was cold, but to cover my outdated cheap suits. All my sport coats had torn linings from years of friction caused by my gun’s hammer constantly rubbing against the fabric. When I began my career, the pay was around 8,400 dollars annually, with no clothing allowance. Also in those days, we had to buy our own guns, handcuffs, flashlights, raincoats, ticket books, and shoes. Oh yeah, and bullets. If we thought we might need them, we purchased a handful of those as well.

Today, all expenses are paid by the officer’s department, including clothing allowances for undercover officers who sometimes must wear really unusual clothing in order to blend in with their working environment.

A case begins with the commission of a crime. Uniformed patrol officers are often the first officers on the scene, and they gather the pertinent information-the who, what, where, why, when, and how, if available. It’s the duty of the uniformed patrol officer to secure the scene until a detective or the officer in charge relieves him. The officer who gathers the information later passes it on to the detective assigned to the case. Cases are usually assigned on a rotating basis, or a detective can be assigned to a particular case based on her particular knowledge and skills that relate to the offense. Once assigned to a case, a detective will follow it through until the case has been solved and the suspect is tried and convicted. The detective may use other officers to assist in the investigation, but the case will remain in her charge.

Fact gathering is a must in police work. Detectives can only relate specific details in a court of law and may not offer opinion, as a rule, for testimony. However, during the investigation, gut feelings and instinct play a large role in the detective’s search for information. Years of experience can be, and often are, the most formidable tool in the detective’s arsenal.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY: ON BECOMING A DETECTIVE

Note: These In The Line Of Duty headings appear a few times throughout the book. They’re my real-life reflections of something that actually happened to me while I was on the job.

When I raised my right hand to take the oath to serve my state and my country, I felt a lump rise in my throat. It was such an honor and a thrill to finally be sworn in as a police officer. The feeling of putting on a uniform and pinning a shiny, silver badge to my chest was one of the greatest moments of my life. When the day finally arrived, though, to transition from a uniformed officer to a plainclothes detective, I couldn’t wait to trade the uniform for a new suit and to hook a new, gold badge on my belt. After all, my childhood dream was to become an investigator, and I could finally wear cotton again instead of double-knit polyester shirts with fake buttons that zipped up the front and pants that retained enough heat to bake bread. (Of course, that cool stripe down the leg offset all negatives!)

I turned in my marked patrol vehicle and received my first department-issued, unmarked car. It was an old, beat-up Chevrolet Caprice, a car I write about fondly in my books and stories. The car was midnight blue, several years old, and would reach its top speed of eighty-five miles per hour only after going downhill for about three miles. I didn’t care. It was mine. I washed it, cleaned the tires and wheels, and put my things-a fishing-tackle box filled with fingerprint equipment, a shotgun with an eighteen-inch barrel, extra ammo, hand cleaner, paper towels, and a roll of crime scene tape-into the trunk. I’d get more tools later as I figured out what I needed. For now, I was ready for my first case.

In my early days as a patrol officer, I looked on with envy as the detectives came in and took over my cases after I’d done the dirty work. They were the guys getting their pictures in the newspapers and getting all the glory for doing nothing … or so I thought. It took just a few months of being a detective to dream of an eight-hour shift, like the old days, instead of a twenty-hour day, and of not being called out in the middle of the night, every night! The thought had never occurred to me that it would be irritating to have newspaper reporters snapping photos of me while I struggled to hold in my lunch at a gruesome homicide scene, or that reporters would write things in the paper I didn’t say or leave out the important things I did say.

Nobody teaches you how alienated you become from your old co-workers, the boys in blue, once you become a detective. Uniformed officers sometimes feel a bit of jealousy toward detectives, and detectives sometimes experience a bit of an unjustified superiority complex toward uniformed officers. It’s a rivalry that’s always been in place and probably always will be.

Nobody explains the many hours you’ll spend sitting in the woods, or in the bushes, with hungry mosquitoes and spiders and snakes, or in the rain or snow, watching suspects in your attempts to build cases. Nobody tells you how it feels to work undercover and to walk into the middle of a drug deal, unarmed and without a radio. Nobody describes how it feels to be shot at, spit on, beat up, kicked, scratched, stabbed, cut, knocked down, punched, and pepper sprayed (with your own pepper
spray), all the while wearing a suit.

Yes, I was finally a detective and it was absolutely … glorious!

So you want to be a detective?

Many people secretly long to clip a badge to their belts and then set out on the never-ending quest to save, well, everyone. But, there are a few things you should think about before you give up your day job to begin the hunt for your first serial killer. I’m betting you just might change your mind once you know that …

Don’t Shake Their Hands!

1. Bad guys and gals are rarely as attractive and well-groomed as those you see on TV. Instead, they often have poor hygiene and smell like really old gym socks.

Some love to flirt with detectives, batting their long eyelashes (male and female) and blowing kisses through breath laced with last night’s vodka and onion dip. Many do really disgusting things when you’re not looking. Like the guy who, when left alone in the interview room, stuck his hands down the front of his pants, rummaging around down there for a few seconds. Then, when the detective came back inside to continue the questioning, the little darling wanted to shake hands and be all “touchy-feely.” Thank goodness for video cameras. And you were wondering why cops don’t shake hands with suspects? Well, now you know.

Roaches and Mice

2. Detectives spend a great deal of their time inside the homes of witnesses and those of criminals and victims of various crimes. Many of those residences should have been condemned by the health department years ago. It’s not unusual, while questioning someone, to see roaches suddenly and almost magically appear on your clothing. You then look around to see if you can locate the source of the unexpected attack of creepy-crawlers, and to your horror the walls, ceilings, countertops, and furniture seem to be undulating with a huge sea of brown, antenna-twitching roaches.

Mice, not wanting to be excluded from the party, peek out from behind a stove topped with a mound of dirty pots and pans. And, lucky you, the mother of the little darling you think just killed someone, has offered you a nice, cold glass of iced tea, straight from the refrigerator that’s speckled with tons of roach crap. The bad part of the tea offering is that, for a moment, you actually considered accepting it because the house has no air-conditioning and it is nearly 100 degrees inside that sweet little abode. But the heat doesn’t stop eight bony, underfed cats from running, playing, puking, spraying, and defecating on the furniture and well-worn linoleum floors.

Stray Body Parts

3. Investigators are the lucky folks who have the pleasure of enjoying a nice dinner at home with the spouse and kids, and minutes later find themselves standing in a room where some poor soul’s brains drip from his bedroom ceiling. All because the victim didn’t have the decency to sleep with a man’s wife somewhere other than the married couple’s bed. And the wife, well, she’s blubbering “I’m sorrys” all over the place while her husband is escorted, in handcuffs, to a waiting patrol car.

Meanwhile, detectives have the pleasure of bagging and tagging evidence in the bloody bedroom, taking care not to step on bits of the victim’s skull, teeth, and a left ear. After all, even for you, an experienced homicide detective, it’s still a bit disgusting to get home at 4 a.m. and find a murder victim’s blood on your shirt sleeve, or a piece of the guy’s head stuck to your shoe. Better yet, your spouse makes the gruesome discovery the next day while tidying up.

Puke

4. One of the perks of becoming a detective is that you no longer have to deal with drunks, the little darlings who can be a real pain in the keister, right?

Unfortunately, a large number of criminals are intoxicated on cheap wine or beer, or both, or high on something that promotes the undeniable urge to eat a human face, when they commit their little illegal faux pas. Unfortunately, they’re often in the same condition when detectives pick them up for questioning. So, combine a lot of drinking and drug use with fear and nervousness and what do you get? Yep, last night’s chili dogs, fries, pickled pigs feet, and chocolate ice cream all over your brand new suit. Not to mention the overflow that spatters your desktop and case files.

Fighting in a Suit

5. Ever try fighting while wearing a suit and shiny shoes? How about wrestling with a 300 lb. angry woman while attempting to get a pair of handcuffs on her, all while rolling around in a muddy driveway? Then, as always, junior and three sisters jump on the pile, trying to stop you from taking dear old mom into custody. After all, all she did was kill dear old dad with a meat cleaver.

I’ll be the first to say this … never underestimate the strength of women. They will slap you three ways into Sunday, if you’re not careful.

My jaw still aches today from the times when …

Cars Without Guts

6. Detectives drive really cool cars, like my old dark blue Chevrolet Caprice, the one that would only reach 80 mph when I held the accelerator to the floor on a three-mile downhill grade. It’s not cool to be in pursuit of a wanted suspect, a guy running from you, and have every patrol car in the area pass you as if you were sitting still.

Investigators often get hand-me-down cars, like old patrol cars minus the markings—the cars that are no longer good enough for the streets. Knobs, buttons, and dials are often missing. Radios don’t work. The carpets and seats are stained with urine and puke, so much so that the cloth now feels like dirty canvas. Glamorous, wouldn’t you say?

So, there’s six reasons why it’s really cool to be a detective. And you thought all they did was sit around all day shining those pretty gold badges. Sure, they wipe them down, regularly, but not for the reasons you thought. Nope, they’re actually cleaning off vomit, roach dung, and blood.

Nice day at the office, huh?


*** A fantastic and unique opportunity! ***

On January 23, 2021, Writers’ Police Academy Online will once again offer an exciting and unique daylong live and interactive seminar. This course, “Criminal Investigations: Writing Believable Make-Believe,” features three of the country’s top investigators and forensics experts who will present detailed sessions on cybercrimes and security, 3D crime-scene mapping using drones and lasers, and an in-depth, behind the scenes chronicling of what happens when a victim of sexual assault seeks care in a hospital setting.

As a bonus, USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author Lisa Regan details how to use the elements of fiction to craft a gripping crime novel.

Sign up today to reserve your seat!

Everyone likes to think their hometowns are the quintessential storybook villages from days long ago, back when we left our front doors unlocked and the car keys in the ignitions of the cars parked in our driveways. The times when kids walked to school, unafraid of perverts perusing the neighborhood. The days when the TV repairman came to your house to fix your set while you were away at work. He let himself in and locked up when he left.

Those were the days before school shootings and prior to the epidemic of human trafficking we see today. They were also the days way back when police recruits thought their towns and counties and states belonged to the Sweet-As-Apple-Pie Club, an organization consisting of towns and cities whose residents are clueless about the goings-on in their beloved “AnyTowns, USA.”

Drug dealers? In our town? No way! Murderers, rapists, robbers, and terrorists? Abso-freakin’-lutely no way! Not in our town.

Sure, we read the paper, but the bad guys who broke into old man Johnson’s house and killed him and stole all his prized collectible Elvis plates, well, they must’ve traveled here from another town.

However, it doesn’t take the police recruits—rookies—very long at all to learn that their sweet little towns are often hotbeds of rampant crime. Why, there are actual drug dealers who live down the street from dear innocent Aunt Ida. The hoodlums sell their wares—crack cocaine, meth, and weed—smack dab in the middle of the street. They shoot guns and they stab people and they rob and rape and steal.

There’s even a couple of gangs who rule most of the west side of town, and another on the east. The emergency room is busy with overdoses, wounded druggies, and cab drivers who were robbed at knifepoint. Gunshot victims and victims of sexual assaults. Shooting victims. Battered children and spouses. All of this from the onset of darkness until the sun returns to push away the night.

A rookie’s first few shifts are eye-openers. Who knew Mr. Perkins, the bank president, drank moonshine and beat on Erline, his loving wife of 30 years. And Mrs. Listickenpick, a chronic shoplifter? Why? She and her husband have more money than all the gold in Fort Knox. Then there are the drug addicts. Went to school with half of them. Embezzlers, nurses addicted to pills, doctors who prescribe drugs for their friends. Fights and arson and drunk drivers. Cop haters and school shooters. Pedophiles and stalkers. Killers who have no respect for human life. Baby beaters. Animal abusers.

Yes, these folks live in our towns. Our sleepy little villages where, in our naïve minds, crime doesn’t exist. But it does. They, the bad guys, simply walk the streets at times other than when you’re out. They’re the second shift. They punch the clock, signing on to work as we go to bed.

They come out in the darkness and, like roaches, scatter when an officer’s flashlight beam strikes their flesh. They crawl through windows to feast upon the property of others. They hunt and stalk prey, hoping to catch unsuspecting victims off-guard. They attack without warning. They beat and they steal and they bruise and they kill.

You may think your town is a card-carrying member of the Sweet-As-Apple-Pie Club, but the officers in your towns know differently. And even they, at times, are surprised by things they see out there in the darkness. Things that are sometimes the makings of a good nightmare.

It is the patrol officer who stands between us and them. That’s the line, our only line of defense against those things we don’t and/or choose not to see.

 


ATTENTION!!!

Special Event

Presents

Criminal Investigations: Writing Believable Make-Believe

A live and interactive virtual seminar

January 23, 2021

10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (EST)

featuring:

 

Joshua Moulin, Senior Vice President and Deputy of Operations and Security Services (OSS)

Josh Moulin serves as Senior Vice President and Deputy of Operations and Security Services (OSS) at CIS. In this role, Moulin provides executive leadership for OSS while focusing on the mission of improving the cybersecurity posture of state, local, tribal, and territorial government organizations. Moulin is responsible for planning, developing, and executing OSS products and services, some of which include the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), US Cyber Challenge, security operations, incident response, and the cyber research program.

Moulin has been working in the cybersecurity field since 2004. Prior to CIS, he was an Executive Partner at Gartner where he advised senior executives in the U.S. federal civilian government and Department of Defense to shape organizational strategy, improve executive leadership, change culture, drive innovation, maintain information security and assurance, and implement technology using best practices and Gartner’s research. Before Gartner, Moulin spent five years at the Nevada National Security Site, part of the Department of Energy / National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons enterprise. Moulin served in a variety of roles including as the Chief Information Security Officer and Chief Information Officer, responsible for all aspects of classified and unclassified IT and cybersecurity for this global national security organization.

Joshua Moulin will present “Cyber Crimes and Investigations.”


Karmen Harris, BSN, RN, SANE-A – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Richmond & Moore County Medical Examiner

Karmen is a native to the coast of North Carolina and is a Registered Nurse board-certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for adult and adolescent populations as well as an appointed NC Medical Examiner for two counties. As a forensic nurse consultant, Karmen provides expertise in matters of sexual assault, domestic violence, child and elder abuse, and human trafficking. Karmen’s educational background includes graduating from East Carolina University in 2009 where she studied Anthropology and Forensic Science, an Associate Degree in Nursing from Carteret Community College in 2014, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University in 2020.

Karmen Harris will present “Sexual Assault: When a Victim Seeks Care in a Hospital Setting.”


RJ Beam, Author and Forensics/Crime Scene Investigations Expert

RJ Beam has worked as both a police officer and firefighter. During his career he served as patrol supervisor, field training officer, evidence technician, firefighter II, fire department engineer, and fire/arson investigator. He is currently the Department Chair of the Forensic Science Program at a college in the U.S.

RJ Beam will present “Using 3D Laser Scanners and Drones to Document Crime Scenes.”

 

 


Lisa Regan, USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

Lisa Regan is the USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series as well as several other crime fiction titles. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Education degree from Bloomsburg University. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter and Boston Terrier named Mr. Phillip.

Lisa Regan wraps up this fabulous live, interactive seminar with her her presentation “Creating Dynamic Crime Fiction: How to Use the Elements of Fiction to Craft a Gripping Crime Novel.”

Cops: what's up with that look

Predatory animals watch and stalk their prey before moving in for the kill. They’re extremely patient, waiting for the perfect target—the weakest animal in the pack—because the battle is easier.

Criminals often exhibit similar behavior when interacting with law enforcement.  The cop who looks and acts weak—the meekest of the herd—often finds himself the target of all sorts of grief, from verbal abuse all the way to physical assault.

So what do cops do as a front line defense against all that unnecessary heartache? Well, for starters, they’re taught to have and demonstrate what’s known as Command Presence.

An officer who looks sharp, acts sharp, and is sharp, has an advantage over the officer who dresses sloppily and isn’t all that confident about their work. The latter are the officers who most often find themselves having the most difficulties on the street.

 

Command presence is all about being at the top of the game. Taking a few minutes to be sure your shoes, badge, and brass are polished goes a long way toward projecting a positive image. So does wearing a clean and neatly pressed uniform. And let’s don’t forget regular trips to the folks who cut hair for a living. The combination of these things help to make an officer look confident. Think about it … who would you trust more, the officer with the dirty, wrinkled clothing and shaggy hair, or the officer who looks fresh and sharp, stands straight and tall, and projects a solid air of authority?

Crooks size up officers the same way you do. However, they have other things in mind when they do. They, like animals culling the herd, watch, looking for the weaker officers, and those are the officers who’ll most likely be dealing with escape attempts, lies, and other criminal tricks.

Tips for developing a better command presence

  • Be professional at all times. And that includes updated training when available. A cop who knows his job inside-out projects more confidence. The same is true with physical training. Stay in shape and know, trust, and practice your defensive tactics.
  • Good posture is important. The officer who stands straight and tall has an advantage over the officer who slouches. Poor posture often comes across as weakness, especially when confronting an aggressive suspect.

Captain Randy Shepherd is a textbook example of Command Presence.

NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy firearms instructor. Another fine example of Command Presence.

  • Always make and maintain eye contact when speaking to someone.
  • Honesty and consistency are important traits. Bad guys will quickly learn that what you say is what you mean, each and every time.
  • Always treat everyone fairly and with dignity.
  • First impressions only come around once, so make it your best effort. If a suspect’s first impression of you is that you’re meek and weak, well, you can expect to have a rough day.
  • Size up everyone. Always be aware of who and what you’re dealing with, and stay one step ahead of the person in front of you. Remember, that person may want to kill you so be prepared to do what it takes to survive. Do this each and every time you come into contact with someone. No exceptions! You never know which person is the one who plans to do you harm.

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Have confidence in what you do and who you are. All the shoe-shining and training in the world will not help you if you’re playing make believe. The bad guys will see through that in a heartbeat.

Cops and Command Presence: What’s Up With That Look?

Colleen Belongea – NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy instructor, Green Bay PD (ret.), and current co-owner of Assured Private Investigations, a PI firm based in Appleton, Wi. Colleen’s partner,Jill Goffin, is also a NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy instructor. 

Remember, command presence is only the first step in the “stay safe” equation. Others include:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. What can the bad guy use as a weapon? Does he have a friend lurking in the shadows? Do YOU have an escape route, if needed?
  • Officers must be prepared, without hesitation, to do what it takes to control a situation. Many times, all that’s needed to gain and maintain control is verbal instruction, and it would be wonderful if a handful of nouns and verbs were the ultimate “fix-all” tools. However, we don’t live in an always-happy world filled only with glitter, delicious chocolate, and smile factories. So, unfortunately, use of force will come into play during an officer’s career … many times.
  • Never, ever, be in the position where you’re forced to react after-the-fact to a situation you weren’t prepared to handle. If the situation is one where you absolutely must place your hands on a suspect, then be prepared to see the arrest through until the suspect is in restraints and tucked safely away in the rear compartment of your patrol car.

Hamilton One 125

  • When encountering a violent suspect, think ahead and be prepared to increase the level of force used to effectively make the arrest. The idea is not to injure anyone. Instead, the goal is to engage, arrest, and restrain without unnecessary harm to anyone. If the suspect chooses to fight until there is only one person left standing, then be certain that person is you.

Hamilton One 019

  • Effective command presence leaves no doubt as to who’s in charge of the situation, even without speaking a single word.

New Picture (2)

So wear the badge proudly, stand tall, and do what it takes to come home at night.


By the way, civilians in authoritative positions should also exhibit a command presence, and many do so instinctively. Command presence also applies to public speakers, including writers when appearing at conferences and book signings and readings. One of the best in the business at the command presence game is author Lee Child. The moment Child enters a room you know he’s confident, poised, and in full control of each word spoken. He looks sharp, acts sharp, and, well, he is sharp. And it shows.

Lee Child – Writers’ Police Academy

Another fantastic example of someone with fantastic command presence is author/former prosecutor Marcia Clark (yes, that Marcia Clark). Clark comes across as a take charge person, always in control no matter the situation.

Marcia Clark addressing the entire group at the Writers’ Police Academy

Both Lee Child and Marcia Clark are confident in what they do, but their personalities are also warm enough to transform even the largest iceberg to a puddle, even at a homicide scene (shallow grave workshop at the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy).

Lee Child and Marcia Clark – shallow grave workshop at the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy

So, you see, having command presence does not necessarily mean a person has to be tough and gruff, but can be when the situation calls for it.

After all, even the toughest of the tough have their tender moments.

GTCC/WPA instructors Stan Lawhorne and Jerry Cooper – Writers’ Police Academy

There’s nothing in this world like entering an abandoned house in mid July to begin working a murder case, a scene where the pungent and putrid scent of rotting human flesh and organs fill your nostrils and lungs and adheres tightly to your clothing, hair, and skin like an invisible, gag-inducing, impossible-to-remove film.

If the stifling heat, humidity, and gut-wrenching stench of decomposing human don’t get to you, well, the flies, maggots, and other creepy critters that crawl in and out of the vicim’s mouth, ears, nose, open wounds and other body openings certainly will. But, it’s a job that falls into the laps of homicide cops—it’s what they do—and it’s a job that requires a special skill set. Not to mention a stomach made of cast iron and steel plating.

So let’s open the door to the house at the end of your street—the old Victorian that’s been empty for two years and is now surrounded by waist-high weeds. The once beautifully manicured lawn is now a graveyard for litter and other garbage left behind by transients and the kids who toss their empty fast food wrappers and plastic soda bottles over the rusted chain-link fence. The window panes are broken and many of the  shingles have fallen off.

For months now neighbors have seen a homeless man going and coming, but suddenly realized that he hadn’t been around in the past two weeks, and there’s that strong odor. Like something is … dead.

So they call the police and before long the neighborhood is overrun by patrol cars and crime scene tape.

Inside the murder house, detectives are doing what they do best. They’re checking all the boxes on their mental checklist. And now their focus is on the victim.

The Effects of Death on the Human Body

Prior to the removal of a body from the crime scene, homicide investigators should note (and photograph) the presence of each of the following in his/her report:

1) Livor/Lividity (color, location, blanchability, Tardieu spots, other coloring). Are these consistent or inconsistent with the current positioning of the body.

Remember, lividity is the pooling of blood/purplish staining of tissue at the lowest portions of a dead body, caused by gravity. Livor continues to form for up to 8 – 12 hours after death. This process can be slowed to as much as 36 hours in a cool environment, including a morgue cooler.

To test for blanchability, a death investigator uses a finger(s) to push against the flesh. The pressure forces blood out of the capillaries in that area, causing the flesh to present as much lighter in color. If the pressure does indeed cause a change in skin color, the flesh is blanchable. This tells the investigator the body is still within the lividity period, meaning the victim died sometime within the past 12 hours, or up to 36 hours in cool surroundings.

You can try this on your own skin. Use a finger to apply pressure to the back of your hand. Release the pressure after a second or two and you’ll see the change in skin color. Obviously you’ll use the finger of one hand to press against the skin on the back of your other hand. By the way, if you needed that instruction then the warning to remove Pop Tarts from their wrapper before heating are probably very important to you. And, if there was no change in your skin color, well, I hope your life insurance policy is up to date.

Tardieu spots are dark, circular areas—capillary ruptures.

2) Rigor

Muscles contain bundles of long, narrow cells. While we’re seated at our computers reading blogs and watching goofy videos, our muscles are, for the most part, at rest.

While resting, our muscles pump out calcium ions which build up electrical potential (energy). Then, when we’re ready to make that run to the mailbox to retrieve the latest royalty check, a nerve impulse causes those ions to hook up with actin and myosin filaments and the muscles contract (become tighter). They remain in that state until adenosine triphosphate (ATP) binds to the myosin, and before you know it the muscles once again relax.

Got it now? No, well, don’t worry. All we need to know is that ATP has an obsession with oxygen. It absolutely has to have it to survive (you know, like Justin Bieber needs bodyguards to protect his scrawny, arrogant self from being slapped into a different universe).

Actually, the body needs oxygen to produce ATP. Therefore, when a person stops breathing (no oxygen) the body ceases to make adenosine triphosphate. Without ATP our muscles can no longer relax. And when the muscles can’t relax, what happens? Yes, the body stiffens. And that, my writer friends, is called Rigor.

3) Degree of decomposition (putrefaction, adipocere, mummification, skeletonization, etc.). Everything affects decomposition, from air temperature to insects to shellfish and turtles (body in water). Even soil types and clothing can affect the rate of decomposition. Interestingly, newborns who have not yet been fed, decompose slowly since the body is basically sterile. However, an injury or being fed will cause a newborn’s body to decompose more rapidly.

a) Putrefaction – the final stage of decomposition. Presents as discoloration of tissue, disfiguration, liquefaction of tissue, bloating due to gases forming in the tissue and organs.

The general order of putrefactive changes are as follows:

First to go are the larynx and trachea, followed by …

– stomach, spleen, and intestines

– lungs and liver

–  brain

– heart

– bladder, uterus, kidneys

– skin, tendons, and muscle

– bone

*The prostate resists putrefaction for a long time.

b) Adipocere – a waxy, soap-like substance that’s sometimes formed during decomposition. Normally caused by moist or damp conditions surrounding the decomposing body.

D. Insect and animal activity. Obviously, insects and animals can and do consume body parts. Animals may also scatter human remains, sometimes making the murder scene a bit more difficult to understand at first look.

E. Scene temperature. Note the temperature at the location of the body, and the method used to obtain it.

F. Description of body temperature. Is it warm to the touch? Is the flesh cold, or frozen?

It is extremely important to preserve the security of the body. Remember, the body is most likely THE most important piece of evidence in a murder case. Investigators should oversee the labeling, packaging, and the removal of the remains by the M.E’s personnel, or EMS, etc. An identification tag should be attached to the body to prevent any mix ups later, at the morgue (yes, this has happened, and on more than one occasion).

Finally … No, detectives do NOT use thermometers of any type, including rectal thermometers, to check the temperature of a dead body. It is not in their job description to do so. Yes, I once read the rectal thermometer thing in a book. So, no, no, and NO!

By the way, the image to the left is of a grilled pork chop. Had your stomach turning for a moment, huh?

 


Happy New Year’s Eve!

Remember, Writers’ Police Academy Online has another exciting live and interactive seminar coming up on January  23rd. Details TBA in a couple of days!

 

One of the most dangerous aspects of working as a law enforcement officer is not the suspect who’s standing ready to fight, the armed robber who’s decided to stop running and turns square-off with the cop who’s been in pursuit for several blocks, or even heading to a shots-fired call. Instead, the most perilous, threatening, hazardous (you pick the synonym) situation officers face is the unknown—what they can’t see. It’s the what or who is waiting for them behind a doorway, a dark alley, or somewhere within a stairwell that sends the scary-meter off the charts.

The Fatal Funnel

The entrance to these areas of “the unknown” is often called the “fatal funnel.” For example, a murder suspect was seen entering a backyard garage at the end of dead-end street. The garage is a large building and the owner tells officers that it’s packed full of antique furniture, lots of boxes of all sizes, four old cars, a tractor, lawn care equipment, and an assortment of cabinets, shelving, and other typical garage bits and bobs.

There’s only one way in and that’s a side door made of solid metal. There are a few windows, of course, but unfortunately they’re blocked by stacks of cardboard boxes.

The door, then, is the point that separates the officers from access to the concealed killer. It’s the sole point of access to the interior of the garage. It is where the wide expanse of the outdoors narrows to a single point. The doorway and immediate area leading to it is the fatal funnel.

Unfortunately, for the officers, that doorway must be breached, and they must go inside to bring out the criminal. It’s their job. It’s their duty.

The Two “Cs”

“Cover” and “Concealment” are terms drilled into the minds of rookie officers during their academy training. They’re also stressed during briefings and training sessions for SWAT and High-Risk entry teams. All officers should keep those words and their meanings at the top of the “things I must do” each and every day” list.

A cover is an object or barrier that has the capability of likely and hopefully stopping projectiles such as bullets, rocks, bottles, etc.

Concealment is something that prevents officers from being seen. It’s any place where an officer could hide to prevent a suspect from knowing their precise position, and what he/she may be doing (reloading, calling for backup, moving into a more tactically advantageous position, etc.).

Doorways are the danger end of the fatal funnel. It’s the point where an officer can be easily seen. It’s where they’re the most vulnerable to attack, and it’s the place where  it’s difficult to move out of the path of incoming projectiles. This is the place where an officer is most likely to die during a high-risk entry.

Author Lee Goldberg learns safe building entry procedures while at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

It’s why officers are taught to never stand in front of a doorway during a high-risk incident. After all, the advantage in these situations is definitely in the hands of the suspect. They know where the officers are positioned but it’s up to the officers to learn the bad guy’s location.

Prior to entering the home/room, the first officer to enter should take a quick peek inside using just a small portion of the head to penetrate the doorway. With firearm at ready, the shooting hand also penetrates the doorway simultaneously with the head. This action enables the officer to address an active and immediate threat. The officer should then have an idea of the layout of the room that’s immediately beyond the doorway. They may also learn the location of the suspect and other possible threats, such as animals, boobytraps, etc.

Two officers preparing to enter the fatal funnel – 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

After the quick peek it’s time to pass through the fatal funnel. It’s the decision of the first officer whether he/she goes right or left. The second officer entering must go in the opposite direction. If the first officer goes right, the second officer enters to the left. Each officer then clears the corner nearest to them.

Room clearing instruction at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

The eyes should be in the direction of the muzzle of the gun. Where it goes the eyes should follow. Peripheral vision is a MUST to detect movement and activity in all directions. Again, though, the immediate focus of the eyes is where the weapon is pointed.

Each area of each room must be searched in the same slow and methodical process, and each doorway within a house is its own fatal funnel.

Two techniques used to safely enter a building or room are “Criss-Crossing” and “Buttonhook.”


It is the goal of the officers to safely locate and apprehend the suspect. However, that’s not always the outcome, such as the recent shootout in Houston, where five narcotics officers serving a search warrant immediately came under fire the moment they entered the fatal funnel of the home to be searched. After the first officer entered and was shot, it was up to the remaining officers to first go in to bring out the injured officer, and then to apprehend the shooter(s). As a result, four of the officers were shot (two in the face) and a fifth suffered a knee injury.

When the first officer entered the house, he was attacked by a large pit bull. Then one of the suspects, 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, opened fire, striking the officer in the shoulder. The officer fell and the second suspect, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, tried to grab the officer’s service weapon. She was shot and killed by the officers who were on the way in to rescue their fellow officer. Tuttle was also killed during the shootout.

The officers obtained the search warrant because they knew black tar heroin was being soldfrom the house.

I’ve been the first officer through the fatal funnel, many times, and I can assure you that the feeling associated with doing so is practically indescribable. The adrenaline released when the decision to “go in” cannot be compared to any other. It’s a combination of fear and courage that, when teamed together, instantly forces your feet to move forward without hesitation. Your heart pounds and your vision and hearing become razor sharp. Your muscles are hard but fluid, and your mind is focused on nothing but the task at hand.

Once, when entering a house, I was attacked from the rear by man holding a steak knife in his hand. He’d been concealed behind a large piece of furniture to my right (I’d chosen to left after a quick peek). The second officer entering the room quickly stopped the attack and the third officer took the second man’s place and continued going to the right  while the attacker was pulled from the room. We located the main suspect hiding in a room at the back of the house. After clearing all the rooms and cuffing everyone inside, we located a fairly substantial supply of crack cocaine.

Looking back, I think about all the times I could’ve been shot, like the officers in Houston. Would I do it again, if in that position? Absolutely.

It’s what cops do. It’s part of the job.

Fatal funnel and all.


Sadly, on the same day I posted this article about the extreme danger associated with the fatal funnel, the Virginia State Police announced this sad news. I trained at the same academy as did this brave young trooper.

Trooper Lucas B. Dowell was a member of the Virginia State Police Tactical Team that was assisting the Piedmont Regional Drug and Gang Task Force with executing a search warrant at a residence in the 1500 block of Cumberland Road/Route 45, just north of the town limits of Farmville. The Tactical Team had made entry into the residence shortly before 10 p.m. Monday when an adult male inside the residence began shooting at them. The Tactical Team members returned fire, fatally wounding the male suspect.

Trooper Dowell was transported to Southside Community Hospital in Farmville where he succumbed to his injuries.

Many local and state law enforcement have the luxury of maintaining laboratories for forensic testing. Within those labs scientists of various expertise carry out the examinations of a wide assortment of evidence recovered during criminal investigations.

Sometimes, though, even the best equipped labs fall short of having the ability to test certain materials. Therefore, scientists in those labs call on experts in other locations whose labs have the proper devices (and scientific know how) to carry out the needed tests.

Many times the go-to facility is the Forensics Services of the FBI Laboratory Division in Quantico, Va., one of the largest and most extensive crime labs in the world.

The Forensics Services of the FBI Laboratory Division is responsible for:

  • Biometric analysis services—Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), DNA examinations and profiles, and latent print examinations and training.
  • Crime scene documentation; evidence and hazardous evidence response; investigative/forensic photography and imaging support; scientific, technical, and forensic support for investigations involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials; and expertise in health and safety matters.
  • Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), the single interagency organization to receive, fully analyze, and exploit all terrorist improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, of interest to the United States.
  • Chemical and metallurgical analyses and training, expertise in cryptanalysis and firearms/toolmarks, and examinations of trace evidence and questioned documents.

Forensics Services of the FBI Laboratory Division are available to:

  • FBI field offices and attachés.
  • Federal agencies, U.S. attorneys, and military tribunals (for civil and criminal purposes).
  • State, county, and local law enforcement (criminal matters).

*Forensic services and testimony of expert witnesses are provided to the above free of charge.

Cases Not Accepted or Conducted by the Forensics Services of the FBI Laboratory Division:

  • When local and state, or other non FBI laboratories have the capabilities to conduct the requested testing/examination.
  • No expert testimony will be provided when another expert is scheduled to testify for the prosecution on the same subject.
  • Forensic services and testimony of expert witnesses is not available to private agencies or individuals, nor are requests accepted from non-law enforcement agencies in civil matters/cases.
  • Arson and explosive cases involving unoccupied buildings and property are not accepted by FBI Forensic Services (unless terrorism is suspected).
  • Vandalism and malicious mischief toward personal and commercial property.
  • Headlight examinations in cases of nonfatal traffic crashes, unless the vehicle involved is that of law enforcement or government officials.
  • Nonfatal hit and run auto accidents.
  • Vehicle theft, unless the case involves a theft ring or carjacking.
  • All breaking and entering cases.
  • Theft and fraud cases under $100,000

What the FBI investigates:

  • Public corruption
  • Civil rights
  • Organized crime
  • White collar crime
  • Violent crime such as mass killings, sniper murders, serial killings, gangs, crimes against children, Indian Country crimes, jewelry and gem theft, assisting state and local agencies in investigating bank robberies
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Details are Important

It’s important for writers hoping to offer a bit of realism in their stories to at least know the basics of criminal investigations, including “who does what?” For example, absent in the list cases investigated by the FBI is MURDER. No, typically the FBI does NOT investigate local murder cases, nor do they ride into town on white horses to take over bank robbery or abduction cases. Instead, they’re available to assist local and state agencies. However, if a local department is not equipped to handle a bank robbery, for example, the FBI will indeed take the lead upon request.

In a case of child abductions there does not have to be a ransom demand nor does the child have to cross state lines or be missing for 24 hours before the FBI will become involved. When the FBI is alerted that a child has been abducted they’ll immediately spring into action and open an investigation. They will do so in partnership with state and local authorities.

Sure, I and officers/investigators across the country have investigated numerous abduction cases where the FBI was not involved. But there are times when it’s best to call on every available resource, and there’s no one better equipped or trained than the FBI. After all, the priority is the safe return of the child.

So there you have it, writers—details to help add an extra level of zing to your next twisted tale.

*Resource – FBI and, of course, my personal knowledge and experience.