Each year, somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 people commit suicide in the United States. They take their own lives, leaving behind an average of six or more suicide survivors, the friends and family who deeply cared for the deceased person. And it is that half-dozen people who are left to deal with the aftermath and the very real emotional struggle to understand why their loved one chose to end it all.

Additionally, there’s another group of individuals who are unfortunately forced into the survivor category, the police officers who’re chosen as the weapon of choice for the person who elects to die in the manner known as suicide-by-cop. They, the officers involved, have their own special process of grieving with which to contend.

Shame and Guilt

In cases of suicide where a person takes their own life, the hours, days, weeks, and even years after are often filled with emotions that include shame and guilt. Shame, perhaps, because the survivors’ religions or personal beliefs view the act of suicide as a sin. Guilt, because the survivor may think they could have done something to prevent the death. There are other reasons, of course.

Outsiders may shy away from family members of the suicidal person because they simply don’t know what to say or do. Doing so adds to the sometimes self-isolation and feelings of abandonment experienced by survivors.

Then, adding to the trauma, come the police who enter the scene because the death must be investigated. It’s a necessary evil, one that unfortunately causes the family to relive the entire event. It’s an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for the investigating officers, and a traumatic one for the survivors. Not to mention that survivors sometimes blame the police for the death, placing the fault squarely on their shoulders.

Why Do They Do It?

Some individuals who’ve made the choice to use a cop to do “the deed” for them are often attempting to avoid the issue of committing suicide, the act of taking one’s own life. Since suicide is often thought of as taboo, having someone else do it for you releases them (in their minds) of the stigma of suicide.

Sometimes a person sees suicide-by-cop as a fitting punishment for a sin. Others, well, they simply didn’t have the nerve to jump from a tall building or to use a gun to violently end it all. So they choose armed police officers to do it for them.

Mentally ill patients sometimes see the officer as a stand-in for a parent or other family member they absolutely despise. Therefore, they act out, using the officer as a means to thumb their nose at people in charge by forcing the authorities (the officers) to cause the destruction of the suicidal person. Sort of an “I win because I made you kill me,” scenario.

How Does Suicide-by-Cop Affect Police Officers?

Police officers who encounter individuals who’ve made the choice to use a cop to do “the deed” for them are often psychologically scarred and become depressed, and even angry that they were used as tools to kill another human.

Officers can develop various stages of PTSD, from mild to severe, and may forever second-guess the action(s) they took “that day,” contemplating the “what-ifs” on a never-ending loop that replays inside their minds day after day after day.

Officers who’re involved in suicide-by-cop situations may develop severe insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. They experience nightmares centered around the event. Flashbacks often occur, taking the officer back to the moment when the event took place.

Officers often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt after a suicide-by-cop incident. Reinforcing the guilt is that family and friends of the deceased often blame the police for the death, placing the fault squarely on their shoulders.

Shattered Lives

Officers may become absolutely broken over the incident. Their lives are shattered and they don’t know how to cope with changing from a strong and emotionally sound person to someone who can’t cope with day-to-day life. Even things as simple as going outside for a breath of fresh air can become a terrifying act.

Each officer reacts differently to suicide-by-cop situations. Like snowflakes, no two are alike.

To add to the officer’s troubles, while dealing with the psychological issues along comes a police shooting review board/team who question the officers every movement and action. They interrogate the officer in an attempt to make certain he/she followed the book, or not. The officer is investigated by strangers from outside agencies. They’re placed in the same “hot seat” where they’ve seated numerous criminals over the years.

The officers are most likely suspended from duty pending the outcome of the investigations. They’re stripped of their badges and guns. Civil suits pop up, filed by the attorneys representing the family of the deceased person. The public and press quite often side with the victim and place blame on the officer.

If the suicidal person was of a different race than that of the officer, accusations of racism often appear in the media as well as in the form of protests and marches. These actions compound the officer’s feelings of guilt which, in turn, sends depression and anxiety spiraling out of control. They’re hit from all sides with negativity.

The walls around them seem as if they’re closing in. Startle responses become hypersensitive. Paranoia sets in as the officer senses a lack of support from his department and from the general public.

Fear, anxiety, depression, and anger

Some fellow officers give the impression that the officer involved in the shooting is weak and should’ve been able to take the killing of another human in stride. However, this only serves to increase the officer’s feelings of doubt and depression.

Family life for the officers can quickly begin to crumble due to symptoms of PTSD—the flashbacks, irritability, the “I can’t concentrate and can’t seem to do anything right” syndrome. They give up and shut down, basically leaving only two options—seek professional help, or not.

Those who do not elect to accept counseling and other professional services often self-medicate by turning to alcohol and illegal drug use as an attempt to make their problems go away.

Even those who do turn to mental health professionals sometimes find that prescribed medications have adverse effects, enhancing the symptoms of PTSD. That or they’re overmedicated and plunder through life in a near zombie-like state. Sure, mental health care works for many, but a few don’t fare as well.

Many times, unfortunately, officers who are unable to cope with their involvement in a suicide-by-cop incident are unable to return to work as police officers. And, sadly, their mental instability and insecurities make them unlikely candidates for employment in the public sector.

Therefore, they oftentimes remain at home alone, broken, sad, anxious, depressed and, left to their thoughts and day- and nightmares while heavily medicated or high on illegal substances or alcohol.

They’re alone because their families were unable to deal with the angry outbursts and both physical and mental abuse, so they packed their bags and left.

And there sits the once proud officer, alone, scared, confused, and wondering a million times each day … “what if?”

And some, in a weird twist of fate, finally reach the end of their ropes and take their own lives … another suicide-by-cop.

Working the first 240 minutes of the graveyard shift, when the crazies and criminals come out to play, and when many normal and sane folks allow alcohol and drugs to take over the part of the mind that controls mean and nasty, is a timeframe that generates many a tale told by crusty old retired cops who sometimes gather at pancake houses to share breakfasts with their remaining former brothers and sisters in blue. The ones still alive and who care enough to talk about the good old days, that is.

Like weekend fishermen sometimes do, these antecedent cops tell and compare stories filled with run-on sentences detailing events of the “big ones that got away,” and of times when bullets zinged and pinged off the pavement around them as they rushed to capture wanted criminals who’d popped off those rounds before disappearing into abandoned warehouses or alleyways during nights as black as ink with air so still they could hear their own blood zipping its way through the convoluted paths of veins and arteries as nervous hearts worked in overdrive mode to keep up with the amount of adrenaline racing through their bodies.

Yeah, those kinds of jittery and sometimes PTSD-infused run-on comments about remarkable accomplishments and incredible feats of top-coppery. They’re the sort of stories that take center stage while the sounds of sizzling bacon and spattering sausage patties provide the soundtrack to the morning gatherings.

As the scent of warm toast wafts through the air, the men and women who’d instantly shed twenty-five pounds when they handed over their bulky gun belts on the day they’d received their “Retired” badges, fawningly speak of the days before semi-automatics and Kevlar vests and of car radios that weren’t capable of sending or receiving signals out in the distant areas of the county, leaving the solo officers on their own to handle whatever came their way.

The old-timers compare scars—the raised marks on the hands, arms, and faces they’d earned when arresting the tough guys who loved to slash at cops using razor-sharp blades. Of course, occasionally, one of the balding and wrinkled retired patrol cops shows off a zig-zagged raised area on the cheek, a disfigurement caused by being on the receiving end of a downward-plunging ice pick or screwdriver.

It was early morning—2 a.m., according to the portly fellow whose once rock-steady hands tremble unmercifully these days—when he and the other members of the entry team stood on the non-moonlit side of a house deep in the heart of the worst area in town, waiting for the signal to kick the door, hearing only the distant soulful moan of train whistle and the clicking and ticking of windblown dried and crunchy fall leaves as they tumbled and danced their way across cracked pavement. It was cool out, but beads of fear-sweat the size of garden peas wormed their way down his spine, slipping through that void between the waistband and the hot flesh at the small of the back.

The night animals. Those three-legged dogs and wiry cats with matted fur, washboard ribs, and gangly crooked tails and jagged fight-damaged ears. Raccoons with eyes that burn yellow or red when met with the bright beam of the car-mounted spotlight. Possums that hiss and bare pointy teeth when cornered.

The old wino, the guy who wore nine layers of clothing, a filthy watchman’s cap and toeless boots, a homeless man who reeked of body odor so horrific that jailers hosed him down before fingerprinting him. He’s the guy who often had maggots wriggling around inside his ratty underwear, and whose BVD’s were rarely removed before using the bathroom. A waste of time, he’d said. Why bother? Yes, they’d all seen and smelled the funk when they’d arrested him and others like him for breaking into cars or stores late at night.

A turn onto main street after checking the alley between the hardware store and the Five and Dime. Storm drains at the curbs spewed wispy tendrils of sewer steam that combined with hot city sweat before melting into a dark sky spattered with thousands of pinpoint lights.

Stoplights as far as the eye could see, all winking and blinking in an ill-timed discord of reds and yellows and greens.

The street sweeper who passes by, holding up a single finger as a sleepy acknowledgment that he, too, was out there in the night making ends meet the best way he knew how.

Drug dealers and prostitutes fading into darkened storefronts as patrol cars slowly rolled past.

Yes, one last refill, please. No cream. No sugar. Just like the thick jailhouse coffee that kept their motors running back in the day. Then it’s time to take the spouse’s car in for an oil change, or to stop by the market for bread and milk and eggs. One had a doctor’s appointment. The ticker’d been acting up a bit lately.

Back to the stories. There’s always time for one or two more before the lunch crowd began to drift in, the folks wanting to beat the mad rush, especially on Thursdays when chicken and dumplings were the $4.99 special du jour.

The radio crackles and the dispatchers’ voices that cut through the silence. A monotone voice that could’ve just as easily come from the bowels of a machine. They all remember and nod.

A moment to think.

They share silent memories, like it was just last night when they’d each slipped on the uniform and badge and gun and shiny shoes. A pen in the shirt pocket and a slapjack in the right rear pants pocket.

Sirens and red lights.

Wife beaters. Robbers, Rapists.

Murderers.

Three cups of joe in, the old timers reminisce about their war-wounds.

The missing bit of earlobe. The punk was, of course, a biter.

The loss of vision in the left eye. A 2×4 to the head, a blow delivered by a beefy, tatted-up redneck who didn’t want to see his brother carted off to jail.

The lifetime limp. A drunk driver who swerved right while the officer helped an old man change a tire.

The disfigured hand and scar tissue. Rescuing a little girl from the burning car.

Closing their eyes and seeing the face of the dead guy floating in the river, the one whose eyes became a tasty snack for turtles and fish.

The decapitated head at the side of the railroad tracks. Headphones prevented him from hearing the train approaching from the rear. They were found dangling from a thin tree branch along with a clump of hair still attached to a small bit of flesh and shattered skull.

The teen with the knife-punctured carotid artery that spurted long arcing jets of bright red blood onto the hands and arms and faces and clothes of responding officers as they tried to help the wounded youth live.

The punches, the bruises, the kicks.

The foot chase between the houses.

The struggles.

The guns.

The shots.

The blood.

The coroner.

The nights.

The long, lonely nights.

The nightmares.

And then morning comes and it’s time to do it all again.

It’s all they have left.

Memories.

That, and those broken lives and bodies.

And a cup of joe.

Black, no sugar.

Just like the good old days.

 

Pucker Factor. Two simple words that, when spoken separately, have truly harmless meanings.

1. Pucker: a rounded shape by folding or wrinkling, such as puckering your lips.

2. Factor: an element contributing to a result.

However, when those two words are combined into a single phrase they take on a whole new meaning, a meaning that refers to the instant tightening of a particular southerly body part.

It’s odd, but when you consider the usual function of that persnickety body part, things like “early warning system,” “saving lives,” and “draw your weapon,” don’t normally come to mind. Actually, even in a puckered state one wouldn’t normally associate those things with that tiny muscle. Nope, not at all.

“Drawing” a service weapon

However, ask cops about their first reaction to the instant puckering of the factor muscle and they’ll probably mention drawing their service weapon, preparing to fight, or do whatever it took at that moment to stay alive, because danger was imminent.

Yes, the Pucker Factor is indeed a cop’s early warning system. It causes rapid heart rate, sweating and, hopefully, an immediate reflex action that causes the officer to revert to his/her training, because reasoning skills are greatly diminished during a Pucker Factor incident.

The “pucker factor” sometimes causes strange reactions.

For police officers, the Pucker Factor can be triggered by a number of events, usually all related to threats and a crisis at hand. For example, a traffic stop at night where the suspect reaches for a firearm in the glove compartment, or while searching a vacant building for a wanted person the crazed suspect pops out of a closet and charges the officer with knife in hand. Even a radio call directing an officer to the scene of a shots-fired call can bring on an onset of PF.

So what can an officer do to reduce the possibility of encountering PF-inducing situations? Here are 5 ways to decrease the dreaded PF’s.

1. Wear your seat belts, and SLOW DOWN! Losing control of a patrol car while responding to an in-progress call is one of the top causes of PF. Officers, remember the first time you “fishtailed” at 85mph? How about rounding a curve at 90 during a pursuit and meeting a car driving on the wrong side of the road?

Both 10’s on the PF 1-10 scale.

2. Never assume that people see your blue lights and heard the siren. This happens all the time—while running lights and siren to answer an emergency call, officers change lanes to pass a car and suddenly the vehicle in front drifts over into the passing lane to make a left turn. They didn’t have a clue the police car was there because the driver was (a) talking on a cell phone, (b) drunk, (c) daydreaming, (d) were playing their radio at peak volume and never looked in the rear-view mirror, etc. And, let’s not forget the person who slams on brakes when they realize a police car is behind them. PF score of 7.

3. Patience. Take the time to assess the possibilities that could occur during a traffic stop or while answering a call. Is the suspect wanted? Did you run the plates through to see if the car was stolen? Is the guy sitting on the couch agitated? On drugs? Why is he sweating profusely? Where are his hands? Run all the checks before diving into any situation!

You’re in a hurry because your shift ends in fifteen minutes, so you skip running the subject’s name through the system. Result? He’s wanted for armed robbery and decides killing you is better than going to prison. He pulls a gun from his waistband. PF score of 10.

4. Never operate on the assumption that each person encountered will do the right thing or obey your commands. Not everyone respects the badge and your authority. So keep your guard up and be prepared to use force every single time you respond to a call. That young woman in the mini-skirt, or the handsome man in the business suit? They can fight, shoot, stab, and cut as well as anyone.

The woman who catches you by surprise by pulling a gun from her purse while your firearm is still holstered … PF score 8. Stupid score = 10.

5. No ambush. No ambush. No ambush! Always plan an escape route!

You get a call at 3 am. It’s a “female needs assistance” call. She’s in an alley that has only one way in. You wave off backup and head in thinking it’s “only a girl.” Suddenly, a car pulls in behind you and shots are fired. The driver of the car that blocked you in the alley, the person who’s sending a barrage of 9mm rounds in your direction, is the young woman’s boyfriend, the cop-hater you arrested a year ago. He served nine months in the county jail and spent 8 of those months planning his revenge.

PF score 10.

Police officers are human and they, like most people, want to see the good in others. Unfortunately, that “good” is becoming more and more scarce with each passing day, while PF instances are constantly on the rise.

I guess the real trick to reducing pucker factor instances is using commonsense, not taking chances, reminding constantly aware of your surroundings, and attending regular training.

Remember officers (both real and fictional) – Always watch the hands!

Law enforcement officers collect a variety of evidence at crime scenes, such as bullet fragments, weapons, narcotics, and fingerprints. In addition, police gather body fluids, skin cells, bones, and hairs, hoping that one or more of those substances will contain a suspect’s DNA.

But where, you might ask, is the DNA located? Well, it’s certainly not doing the backstroke in the pool of blood that leaked from a fallen victim of a gunshot. Instead, the DNA evidence sought by police—nuclear DNA—is contained within the nuclei of cells.

Cells, the Home of Nuclear DNA

All cells in our body are made up of a cell wall (cell membrane), cell fluid (cytoplasm) and a nucleus, with the exception of red blood cells and platelets. Since neither of latter two have a nucleus they do not contain DNA.

Nuclear DNA is made up of genetic material from our fathers and mothers. The nucleus of each cell contains a pair of chromosomes—, one from each parent.

Each cell typically contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of the pairs are called autosomes, and they look identical in both male and female humans. The 23rd pair are the sex chromosomes and they are distinctly different between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosome. Males have one X and one Y chromosome.

As evidence in criminal matters, DNA serves a dual purpose—identifying an individual as the source of the DNA found on an evidence item, or to exclude the individual as the contributor of the collected DNA evidence.

Now, we’ve briefly and generally discussed that DNA lives in cells, and those cells are where scientist go to retrieve the DNA needed for testing. And we know that DNA is readily found in body fluids, skin cells, bones, and for many years it was believed that testing hair for DNA was only possible if the bulb/root at the base of the hair shaft was intact. This was so because the keratinization process that creates the hair shaft during its growth often breaks down (lyses ) cell membranes.

DNA IS present, though, in hair shafts, but in small quantities. It’s quite short and fragmented, which is similar to DNA found in ancient remains. So yes, like testing DNA found remains of wooly mammoths and other beings and bits and bobs from long ago, it is possible to isolate nuclear DNA from rootless human hair samples.

In fact, to make this possible, a company called InnoGenomics uses a magnetic bead extraction system that’s specifically optimized for the process of capturing low-level, highly degraded DNA.

By combining InnoGenomics’ two DNA typing kits together—InnoXtract and InnoTyper 21 (IT21), the isolation and typing of nuclear DNA from rootless hair shafts is quite achievable. And, the process is compatible with Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) instruments, such as Promega’s Spectrum CE System.

So yes, crime writers, the heroes of your tales have a tool to add to their crimefighting toolboxes, because it is indeed possible to obtain nuclear DNA from hair shafts.


DNA Testing in General

The first step in the testing process is to extract DNA from the evidence sample. To do so, the scientist adds chemicals to the sample, a process that ruptures cells. When the cells open up DNA is released and is ready for examination.


Did you know it’s possible to see DNA with the naked eye? Well, you can, and at the bottom of this page you’ll learn how see the DNA that you, in your home kitchen, can extract DNA from split peas.


After DNA is extracted it’s then loaded into wells inside the genetic analyzer.

Scientist placing a well plate containing 96 individual wells into a genetic analyzer. Below right in photo is a closeup of a well plate.

Electric current separates the DNA, sending it from the wells through narrow straw-like tubes called capillaries. During its journey through the analyzer, DNA passes by a laser. The laser causes the DNA loci (a gene’s position on a chromosome) to fluoresce as they pass by, which allows a tiny camera to capture their images.

The image below shows DNA’s path from the wells through the capillaries past the laser.

new-picture-3.jpg

At the end of the testing, the equipment produces a graph/chart called an electropherogram, a chart/graph of peaks and valleys that precisely pinpoints where genes are located.

An allele is a term that describes a specific copy of a gene. Each allele occupies a specific region on the chromosome called a gene locus. A locus (loci, plural) is the location of a gene on a chromosome.

Peaks on the graph depict the amount of DNA strands at each location (loci). It is this unique pattern of peaks and valleys that scientists use to match or exclude suspects.

 

The image below, as ominous as it appears, is an electropheragram showing the DNA of a strawberry.

new-picture-8.jpg


Serial Killer Challenges DNA Results

*The following text regarding the appeal from serial killer Timothy W. Spencer, The Southside Strangler,” is from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Spencer’s case was the first in the U.S. based on DNA evidence that resulted in the death penalty. I served as a witness to Spencer’s execution. Click here to read about my experience.

“Timothy W. Spencer, Petitioner-appellant, v. Edward W. Murray, Director, Respondent-appellee, 5 F.3d 758 (4th Cir. 1993)

US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit – 5 F.3d 758 (4th Cir. 1993)Argued Oct. 28, 1992. Decided Sept. 16, 1993


J. Lloyd Snook, III, Snook & Haughey, Charlottesville, VA, argued (William T. Linka, Boatwright & Linka, Richmond, VA, on brief), for petitioner-appellant.

Donald Richard Curry, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Richmond, VA (Mary Sue Terry, Atty. Gen. of Virginia, on brief), for respondent-appellee.

Before WIDENER, PHILLIPS, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

WIDENER, Circuit Judge:


Timothy Wilson Spencer attacks a Virginia state court judgment sentencing him to death for the murder of Debbie Dudley Davis. We affirm.

The gruesome details of the murder of Debbie Davis can be found in the Supreme Court of Virginia’s opinion on direct review, Spencer v. Commonwealth, 238 Va. 295, 384 S.E.2d 785 (1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1093, 110 S. Ct. 1171, 107 L. Ed. 2d 1073 (1990). For our purposes, a brief recitation will suffice. Miss Davis was murdered sometime between 9:00 p.m. on September 18, 1987 and 9:30 a.m. on September 19, 1987.

Miss Davis was murdered sometime between 9:00 p.m. on September 18, 1987 and 9:30 a.m. on September 19, 1987. The victim’s body was found on her bed by officers of the Richmond Bureau of Police. She had been strangled by the use of a sock and vacuum cleaner hose, which had been assembled into what the Virginia Court called a ligature and ratchet-type device. The medical examiner determined that the ligature had been twisted two or three times, and the cause of death was ligature strangulation. The pressure exerted was so great that, in addition to cutting into Miss Davis’s neck muscles, larynx, and voice box, it had caused blood congestion in her head and a hemorrhage in one of her eyes. In addition her nose and mouth were bruised. Miss Davis’s hands were bound by the use of shoestrings, which were attached to the ligature device. 384 S.E.2d at 789.

Semen stains were found on the victim’s bedclothes. The presence of spermatozoa also was found when rectal and vaginal swabs of the victim were taken. In addition, when the victim’s pubic hair was combed, two hairs were recovered that did not belong to the victim. 384 S.E.2d at 789. The two hairs later were determined through forensic analysis to be “consistent with” Spencer’s underarm hair. 384 S.E.2d at 789. Further forensic analysis was completed on the semen stains on the victim’s bedclothes. The analysis revealed that the stains had been deposited by a secretor whose blood characteristics matched a group comprised of approximately thirteen percent of the population. Spencer’s blood and saliva samples revealed that he is a member of that group. 384 S.E.2d at 789.

Next, a sample of Spencer’s blood and the semen collected from the bedclothes were subjected to DNA analysis. The results of the DNA analysis, performed by Lifecodes Corporation, a private laboratory, established that the DNA molecules extracted from Spencer’s blood matched the DNA molecules extracted from the semen stains. Spencer is a black male, and the evidence adduced at trial showed that the statistical likelihood of finding duplication of Spencer’s particular DNA pattern in the population of members of the black race who live in North America is one in 705,000,000 (seven hundred five million). In addition, the evidence also showed that the number of black males living in North America was approximately 10,000,000 (ten million). 384 S.E.2d at 790.”


How You Can Easily Extract DNA From Split Peas!

Easy “pea-sy” DNA extraction

Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins of the Cornsqueezins’ County Sheriff’s Office had a long night answering call after call—he-saids, she-saids, chasing a half-nekkid Peeping Tom through back yards and alleys, wrestlin’ with a couple of drunks whose scuffle started over who got the last swig from a bottle of Strawberry Hill, kids spray-painting stop signs, and the guy who insisted he was Jesus and attempted to prove it by damning Tater to hell a few dozen times after he refused to give the man ten dollars for a hamburger he promised to repay on Tuesday.

Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins

Yep, a looonnnggg night and it was only half over when Jimmy Bob “Peanut” Lawson, Jr. decided to join forces with his good friend Jack Daniels to blacken both his wife’s eyes.

Well, Erlene, the wife, wasn’t about to stand for that nonsense so she poked ‘ol Peanut in the gut a couple of times with a dull kitchen knife. Didn’t break the skin, much, mind you, but the act was just enough to send Peanut off the deep end. Oh, he was plenty mad about it, a yellin’ and screamin’ and a stompin’ his Doc Martens across the linoleum, and kicking at Porkchop, the family’s adopted and long ago retired police dog. But Porkchop, having been to this freak show one too many times in the past, was a nervous wreck and knew to stay six or seven dog-dish-lengths away from his master’s size twelves.

Porkchop, having seen his better days, religiously adheres to the seven dog-dish rule of thumb.

After about ten minutes of plate, bowl, and pot-and-pan-throwing, one of the kids, a snot-nosed, freckle-faced boy, aptly named Junior Lawson, Jr., of around ten or so years of age, picked up the cordless and punched the speed dial button for 911.

So Cap’n Rufus Jenkins showed up with lights and siren blazing and blaring to all get out. And Peanut, a Friday night regular, met him in the dirt and weed-infested driveway leading to the rusty single-wide, huffing and puffing like an old-time, coal-fired locomotive engine. In each hand, a backyard chicken he’d been choking in preparation of the Sunday noon meal.

Peanut is well-known in his town as a backyard chicken-choker.

Now here’s where things could get a little dicey. So it’s best to run down the checklist before diving right in. You know, size him up. Is Peanut armed this time? Is he really going to attack? Or, is all that chest-thumping and Tarzan-yelling just a show for the neighbors? Well, Cap’n Jenkins better find out in a hurry because Peanut’s starting to spin like the Tasmanian Devil.

So how can police tell if this guy means business, or not?  Well, there are a few telltale signs that could help evaluate the situation since weapons and other items that are capable of puncturing your flesh, bones, and organs should be your first concern.

Here are some common indicators that Peanut, or the cousin visiting from the big city who’s standing off to the side of the trailer, is carrying a hidden gun or knife. Some are obvious, while others … not so much.

The first is a clear indicator.

Cousin Jimmy Buck from Swamp Holler, West Virginia

Signs the Suspect May Be Carrying a Weapon

1. It’s 97 degrees outside and Peanut, standing smack-dab in the center of the intersection at 9th and Main, is wearing his heavily-insulated, knee-length, blood-stained orange hunting coat. Yes, Einstein, he’s probably wearing it to hide a sawed-off shotgun, the one Daddy gave him for Christmas when he was three.

2. The tail of his flannel shirt is out, but one side is riding higher than the other. A great sign that he’s wearing a weapon on the “high side.”

3. Even wearing a shirt tail on the outside is a sign that he might be carrying a weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign known to bad guys, which means they might recognize you as an undercover officer.

Signs that Peanut is about to attempt to stomp your butt into a mudhole

1. For some unknown reason, many offenders/would-be attackers seem to feel the need to rip off their shirts prior to delivering the first blow. So, when a drunk starts ripping cloth and zinging buttons across the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, well, that might be a good time to reach for the pepper spray because he’s subtly announced his intentions.

The standard shirt-ripping ritual is usually accompanied by lots of top-of-the-lung screaming and yelling, especially nasty comments about your wife and mother. Nasty comments about the family dog are optional.

They sometimes decide to rip off their shirts before engaging in battle. Other times, if the mood to fight strikes ’em just right, they’ll throw punches while wearing nothing but …

2. Another clue that a “Peanut” is about “go for it” is when he starts glancing at a particular spot on your body, like your throat, stomach, or even a knee. Instantly, you should go on alert for a possible strike to that area because the subject is announcing his intentions and he’s ready to pounce. Watch the eyes, for sure, but more importantly watch the hands.

3. “Peanut” constantly glances to a spot behind you, or to a place off to your right just out of your line of sight. Watch out, because his partner may be approaching for a rear ambush. And, his partner just might be Mrs. “Peanut.” Yes, even though her “loving husband” had just moments ago beat the ever-loving snot out of her she’ll often defend her man until the bitter end. Unfortunately, the end sometimes results in a funeral.

These quick glances are also good indicators that the subject has a hidden weapon nearby. For example, you’ve stopped good old “Peanut” for drunk driving and he’s constantly glancing toward the glove compartment. Well, there’s a good chance that a weapon or other illegal items are concealed there.

Eyes. WATCH. THE. EYES.

The Spud family

4. The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home – You arrive on scene and you approach Peanut, who is standing still, staring off into space. His jaw is clenched and he’s sweating profusely, even though you’re both standing in two feet of freshly-fallen New England snow (New England snow, to me, is the coldest snow on the planet). He doesn’t respond to you in any way, but you see the anger rising—face growing redder by the second, veins poking out on his forehead, eyes bulging. Yeah, you get the idea. Believe me, it is time to take a step back and start pulling every tool you’ve got on your duty belt because this guy’s getting ready to blow. Silence is definitely not golden in this case.

5. Peanut might be a “I’m not going to look at you” kind of personality. This is another indicator that an assault may be on the way. If he’s staring at place on the ground, refusing to listen and obey your verbal commands, then be prepared for an attack. At the very least, be prepared for a battle when the time comes to snap on the cuffs.

I guess a good rule of thumb is to always assume the worst, hope for the best. Sometimes , though, Mrs. Peanut becomes fed up with her abusive husband.

 

Are you a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels?

Are you also a fan of the REACHER Amazon Prime television series?

Yes?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet the real-life Jack Reacher, stunningly portrayed by Alan Ritchson, and to see him in action?

Another yes?

But meeting the living, breathing, and extremely muscular Jack Reacher/Alan Ritchson could never happen to me, you say …

Well, Lee Child and I anticipated the last statement, the one where you thought you could not in a million years see Alan Ritchson in person. So Lee and I, by way of the Writers’ Police Academy,  thought the proper thing to do was to make it possible for you  to meet the star of the REACHER TV series.

Alan Ritchson as REACHER

But meeting Alan Ritchson didn’t seem to be quite enough to satisfy the needs of diehard REACHER fans.

So here’s what we did …

We’re offering to one extremely lucky person the opportunity to join Lee Child on the set for Amazon’s Reacher Season Two, sometime in the fall, and (hopefully!) show up as a background extra in the show.

Now, here’s how you can be the winner of this jaw-dropping, once in a lifetime prize.

Each year the Writers’ Police Academy hosts a raffle and auction with proceeds helping to offset the whopping expenses of producing the event. This jackpot opportunity, the REACHER Prize, is available by sealed bid. You do not have to attend the Writers’ Police Academy event to enter your bid. Although, sealed bids will be accepted at the June 2-5, 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

To submit your bid by email, please enter REACHER BID in the subject line. In the body of the email please include your bid (in U.S. dollar amount), your name, address, and phone number. Then send the email to me at lofland32@msn.com.

Bidding ends on June 19, 2022 at midnight EST. The winner of the REACHER Prize will be notified on June 21, 2022.

*The REACHER Prize –  “Will involve international travel to Canada (expenses paid, but winner must provide passport and any necessary paperwork) and might be canceled if Covid affects travel or local regulations. If canceled, the winning bid will be refunded.” ~ Lee Child


Lee Child bio and photo

*I’m extremely grateful to Lee Child for his overwhelming support over the years. His extreme yet humble generosity is most often unseen by you, but will always be remembered by me.

 

Firearms Evidence

Many of the murders that occur in the U.S. involve a firearm of some type. How and what type of evidence recovered from those weapons can have a huge impact on the subsequent criminal trials. Proper evidence collection procedures … well, they can make or break a case.

Here’s a handy top six “How To” list for the heroes of your stories to use when processing firearms evidence.

1. While wearing proper gloves and a face mask to avoid contamination of evidence, safely unload all firearms prior to submitting to property room.

Revolver nomenclature - ATF photo

Revolver

If the weapon is a revolver, first make note of which chamber was in the firing position and of the type/brand/caliber of ammunition in each chamber. Also note fired and unfired cartridges and their position(s) in the cylinder.

When preparing semiautomatics or fully-automatics be sure the magazines are ejected and the chamber is empty. Make note of the safety position (on or off) and of the de-cocking lever. If there are no safeties and/or de-cocking lever, note that as well. Lock the slide to the rear and insert a plastic zip-tie into the ejection port and down through the magazine well. Then, carefully and slowly release the slide to the forward position until it rests against the plastic tie.

Semi-automatic pistol nomenclature. ATF photo

Pistol

Engage the safety, if equipped. The weapon is now inoperable and safe for storage.

2. Proper collection of trace evidence from a firearm (hair, tissue, fingerprints, blood, DNA, etc.).

Again, proper gloves and face masks must be worn during this part of the process. To avoid cross-contamination, gloves must be changed with each piece of evidence handled.

*If detective are unsure or feel they can’t obtain a good, solid fingerprint, or other trace evidence, they should submit the weapon to the fingerprint lab for processing.

Gun evidence box - Sirchi photo

Gun evidence box – Sirchi photo

3. Firearms should be stored in paper-based packaging—cardboard box, manilla envelop, etc. Never in plastic! If a firearm is to be shipped it should be securely packaged inside a appropriately labeled cardboard box.

Cardboard evidence box used for packaging firearm - Sirchie product

Sirchie photo

NOTE: If a firearm is located in water it must be packaged in the same water from where it was found. The laboratory will handle testing from that point forward.

4. Bullets. Never mark or deface a bullet, and never handle with bare hands. To avoid corrosion and other moisture-related issues never package bullets in plastic or glass containers. Always store or ship in paper-type packaging.

5. Bullets found embedded in an object—wood, drywall, etc. Do not “dig out” the bullet. If possible, submit the entire item. If it’s not possible to submit the entire article (door frame, tree stump, living room wall, etc.) remove or cut away the portion of the article containing the bullet and retain.

6. When removing a bullet from a body during autopsy, care should be taken to not alter the bullet in any way. Pathologists should use fingers or rubber-tipped forceps during the process. Never an instrument with sharp edges. X-rays of the body should be taken prior bullet removal.

Firearms evidence - Post autopsy image of close contact entry wound.

Post autopsy image of a 9mm bullet wound (entry). Note the Y-incision stitching on the upper chest area of the victim.

Finally, as always, a little common sense goes a long way. The heroes of your stories should use it whenever possible. For example, it’s practically impossible to determine caliber and weapon brand/type merely by looking at a gunshot wound. To have the hero of your story say otherwise tosses his common sense, expertise, and experience out the window.

Confused as to which fingerprinting medium is right for the task at hand? Well, Investigator G. Nome has assembled the ultimate guide for the heroes of your tall tales, and he recommends keeping it within easy reach.

Heroes such as Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, D.D. Warren, Will Trent, or any of their peers, will never again fret over such details.Actually, the creators of those characters—Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Lee Child, and Karin Slaughter—attended training classes at the Writers’ Police Academy to help their protagonists enhance their crime-solving abilities.

The icing on the cake is that many fingerprinting classes at the Writers’ Police Academy are taught by the pros from Sirchie (formerly Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories). Sirchie manufactures fingerprinting powders, lifters, and a wide range of evidence testing and collection equipment and, well, the list of Sirchie’s products is practically endless. Other printing sessions are taught by CSI experts.


The Writers’ Police Academy and Sirchie partnered to present the unique event, MurderCon.


Anyway, here’s the scoop on processing prints.

Investigator G. Nome’s Guide to Developing Fingerprints

Before attempting to lift a print from any surface, the savvy investigator will first determine the type of surface to be printed. In addition to surface type and texture (porous, nonporous, etc.), other factors must be considered, such as the presence of foreign matters—dust, dirt, perspiration, blood, oils, grease, and moisture, to name a few.

Lighting is important, including the use of alternate light sources and lasers. The latter two can cause the perspiration and oils in found in some prints to fluoresce, making them easy to see without further developing.

Once investigators have determined the surface type and whether obstacles exist (foreign matter) it’s time to select the proper method and materials needed to properly develop the desired prints(s).

Surface Types

As always, the first order of business is to try and see the prints using only the naked eye. Sometimes they’re quite obvious.


Porous Surfaces – first attempt the naked eye approach. If no prints are obvious, then try fluorescence by laser or alternate light source. If that doesn’t quite work, then it’s time to bring out the big guns, such as…

1. Iodine fuming

2. Ninhydrin

3. DFO (1,8-Diazafluoren-9-one)

To learn about Iodine fuming and Ninhydrin, please click here to read my article “Ninhydrin and Iodine Fuming.


Non-Porous Surfaces – again, try the naked eye. If no prints are obvious, then try fluorescence by laser or alternate light source. If those steps do not produce results, then use the following to develop invisible prints.

1. Cyanoacrylate fuming (SuperGlue)

2. Cyanoacrylate dye

3. Vacuum metal deposition (VMD)

4. Powder

To learn about developing prints using SuoerGlue, please click here to read my article “Cyanocrylate Fuming – Fingerprinting with Superglue”


Still not satisfied with your options? Okay, let’s call in the specialists …


Bloodstained Specimens—Porous Surfaces

1. DFO (1,8-Diazafluoren-9-one)

2. Ninhydrin

3. Powder – amido black


Bloodstained Specimens—Nonporous Surfaces

1. leucocrystal violet (LCV) or amido black

2. Cyanoacrylate fuming (SuperGlue)

3. Cyanoacrylate dye

4. Vacuum metal deposition (VMD)


 Cardboard

1. DFO (1,8-Diazafluoren-9-one)

2. Ninhydrin

3. Silver Nitrate


Rubber Gloves—Semiporous

1. Iodine spray reagent

2. Cyanoacrylate fuming

3. Laser or alternate light source

4. Magnetic powder

5. Cyanoacrylate dye

6. Laser or alternate light source

7. Ninhydrin


Tape—Non-adhesive Side

1. Cyanoacrylate fuming

2. Cyanoacrylate dye

3. Vacuum metal deposition (VMD)

4. Powder


Tape—Adhesive Side

1. Sticky-side powder

2. Alternate black powder

3. Ash gray powder

4. Gentian violet


Dark-colored adhesive side of tape

1. Ash gray powder

2. Liqui-Drox

3. Gentian violet

* Should the investigator decide to use Cyanoacrylate fuming, it must be done on the nonadhesive side of tape first, then both sides can be processed with Liqui-Drox.


Photographs—Emulsion Side

1. Iodine spray reagent

2. Cyanoacrylate fuming

3. Cyanoacrylate dye

4. Vacuum metal deposition (VMD)

5. Powder


Photographs—Paper Side—Semiporous

1. Cyanoacrylate fuming

2. Magnetic powder

3. DFO (1,8-Diazafluoren-9-one)

4. Ninhydrin

5. Cyanoacrylate dye


Powder and Other Developer Uses

1. Alternate Black – sticky sides of labels and other tapes.

2. Gentian Violet – adhesive side of various tapes.

3. Sticky-side powder – Duh… This one’s for use on sticky sides of tape.

4. Amido Black (methanol or water based) – prints pressed into bloody surfaces. *water based includes a blood fixative.

5. Cyanoacrylate fuming (SuperGlue) – nonporous surfaces.

6. Cyanoacrylate Florescent Dye – used to enhance prints on non-porous surfaces. Best viewed using alternate light sources.

7. DAB (Diaminobenzidine) – developing prints found in blood. Also useful in this situation are Coomassie Brilliant Blue and Crowle’s Double Stain.

8. DFO (1,8-Diazafluoren-9-One) – porous surfaces; reacts with amino acids in perspiration

*Heating a fingerprint to 40 degrees Celcius forces amino acids to separate from a fingerprint. Add a special chemical to the sample and, with a 99% accuracy, the concentration indicates if the fingerprint belongs to either a male or female. Why? Because females have a different concentration of amino acids than males.

9. Iodine Fuming – porous surfaces containing grease or oils; turns yellowish color/stain

10. Ninhydrin – another product used on porous surfaces. Reacts with amino acids in perspiration.

11. Physical Developer – works on both porous and non-porous surfaces and is especially effective on paper currency.

12. Silver Nitrate – porous surfaces, especially paper. Stains caused by presence of Silver Nitrate cannot be removed. Also, prints developed by Silver Nitrate will totally disappear within a few hours, therefore it is imperative to photograph the prints as soon as they’re visible.

13. Sudan Black – a dye that stains sebaceous perspiration on surfaces contaminated by food items of greasy and oily varieties.

14. Vacuum Metal Deposition – non-porous or semi-porous, such as photographs and magazine pages. Use of VMD causes printed material to become extremely fragile.

15. Liqui-Drox – a fluorescent dye used to develop prints on the adhesive and non-adhesive sides of dark-colored tape.

16. MBD (Fluorescent Dye) – used on various colored surfaces.

17. Safranin O (a florescent dye) – used to enhance prints developed by Cyanoacrylate fuming (SuperGlue). Thenoyl Europium Chelate (Fluorescent Dye) is used to stain those prints. This dye can only be viewed under UV light.


More Graveyard Shift Articles about Fingerprinting

EYE OF NEWT AND TOE OF FROG … AND FINGERPRINTING, FROM A-D 

FINGERPRINTING: “E” BEFORE “I” IN THIS HANDY GUIDE

FINGERPRINTING: A JOURNEY FROM J-N

FINGERPRINTING: A JOURNEY FROM O-R


There’s still time to sign up for the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy. Please tell your friends, family, fellow writers. And please share the information to your social media. Thanks!


 

June 2-5, 2022

Location –  NWTC Public Safety Training Academy

Green Bay. Wi

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

 

Before I begin I’d like to point out that REACHER the TV show, like the Jack Reacher books, contains quite a bit of over the top action. There’s a fair amount of fighting and violence. That’s what makes the Reacher legacy what it is. Reacher is an over the top guy who handles his business in an over the top way using over the top tactics and techniques.

However, the show shows feature live actors portraying law enforcement officers. Obviously, in an over the top depiction of crime and crime scenes, certain liberties must be taken to fit the main character, over the top Jack Reacher. Still, much of what we see and hear regarding the police officers on this show ring fairly true—mannerisms, cop-speak, how they hold weapons, drive a patrol car, handle themselves in deadly situations, etc. So “over the top” aside, let’s take a look at REACHER: Season 1 Episode 2 – “First Dance.”

Off we go …

Part of Reacher’s character is that he sticks up for the little guy. He’s generous with his compassion for those who can’t take care of themselves, which is no surprise knowing Lee Child. Obviously, the author of the novels, who himself has a heart of gold, transferred a piece of that heart to Reacher.

Reacher’s compassion for those whose current position in life is significantly less than fortunate, part of the great layering when building the character, appeared when he encountered a dog who’s abused by its owner. Reacher fills the thirsty dog’s bowl with fresh water and then in true Reacher style let the owner know that he’s taken a keen interest in the dog’s wellbeing.

But that’s just one aspect of Jack Reacher. We continue to learn more about the character as time and dialog and mannerisms pass.

At the conclusion of episode one, we saw Finlay, Roscoe, and Reacher traveling through the countryside, where Reacher said, “Just thinking maybe my brother told me about Blind Blake for a reason. Thinking about him lying in that morgue. Thinking I’m supposed to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said Finlay.

“I guess I’ll find everybody responsible. And kill every last one of them.”


First Dance

Episode two opens in the evening, after dark, with the trio arriving back at the Margrave Police Department. Reacher gets out of the car and storms off on foot heading to the home of Paul Hubble, the likely target of the prison murder attempt. Fortunately for the slim and bookish Hubble, the attackers mistook Reacher as the intended victim. Unfortunately for the attackers, they mistook Reacher as the intended victim. The mistaken identity is confirmed in a later visit to Hubble’s home.

“Where do you think you’re going?, Finlay said to Reacher’s back as he walked away. “Reacher! Reacher, get back here!”

“Maybe give him some space,” Roscoe said.

“I don’t need 250 pounds of frontier justice tearing up this town. Follow him, make sure he doesn’t ruin our case.” said Finlay.

“Why me?”

“Outside the morgue he actually listened to you.”

“And what if he doesn’t now?”

“Shoot him.”

So Roscoe attempts to pursue Reacher, driving her patrol car at the pace of a snail heavily medicated on Valium. The scene is a great example of the mood and setting when working patrol at night.

The world looks different from inside a police car, with the various shades and colors of lights winking and blinking combined with monotone voices spewing softly from the radio speaker.

Looking out from Roscoe’s patrol car as she “followed” Reacher


Working the night shift as a patrol officer is an experience like no other. It’s a side of the city most people never see.

From my article, “WORKING THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT: FERAL DOGS, MANNEQUINS, AND LULA MAE”

“Your headlights wash over the back of an alley as feral dogs and cats scramble out of the dumpster that sits like an old and tired dinosaur behind Lula Mae’s Bakery. The knot of hungry animals scatter loaves of two-day-old bread in their haste to escape the human intruder who dared to meddle with their nocturnal feeding.

A mutt with three legs and matted fur hobbles behind a rusty air conditioning unit, dragging a long, dirty paper bag half-filled with crumbled bagels that spill and leave a trail of stale nuggets in its wake. Tendrils of steam rise slowly from storm drains; ghostly, sinewy figures melting into the black sky. A train whistle moans in the distance.

The night air is damp with fog, dew, and city sweat that reeks of gasoline and sour garbage. Mannequins stare out from tombs of storefront glass, waiting for daylight to take away the flashing neon lights that reflect from their plaster skin.

You park at the rear of the alley, stopping next to a stack of flattened cardboard boxes, their labels reflecting someone’s life for the week—chicken, lettuce, disposable diapers, and cheap wine.

Four more hours. If you could only …”

To read the full article click here.


Roscoe lost sight of Reacher, so she creeps through the neighborhood with ominous horror-movie-esque music playing in the background. She’s glancing to the side, scanning the area for signs of Reacher, when he suddenly appears in front of her car. After jamming the brake pedal to the floor to avoid hitting Reacher who’s standing mere inches from the front bumper, she and Reacher have a discussion. He’s not happy that she’s following him.

Reacher – “I don’t need a babysitter and I don’t need you screwing up my investigation.”

Roscoe – “Okay, first… this is not your investigation. Second, babysitting some giant vagrant is hardly my dream assignment. I could be out there looking for who killed your brother. So stand down and let me do my job, because I’m very good at it. ”

Reacher – “If you were very good at it, you wouldn’t have been trying to follow a man on foot in a police car.”

Roscoe’s argument is valid. Following behind a pedestrian, while driving a marked police car is a goofy thing to do. But I’ve seen supposedly savvy adult law enforcement officers driving along, trying to be discreet, while following suspects who are on foot. They’re either one round short of a full magazine, or they’re lazy. No matter the reason why, it’s not a good tactic.

Totally unrelated, this reminded me of back in the day when I was a field training officer. When I had a brand new officer in the car (many old-timers will back me on this one), if we initiated a traffic stop or saw a wanted person and the subject suddenly ran, well, rest assured I sent the rookie chasing after them, on foot, while I drove like a bat out of hell to the next block, across a vacant lot, a parking lot, etc. to “cut ’em off at the pass.”


Fun Fact -After academy graduation, new officers enter into the second phase of their training, where they receive on the job training under the watchful eye and guidance of a certified Field Training Officer. When they’ve satisfactorily completed the field training program the new officers are ready to hit the streets on their own. The Field Training  program was developed in the early 1970s by the San Jose, Ca. Police Department.


After a bit of back and forth, Roscoe convinces Reacher to let her drive him to Hubble’s house.

Once Reacher is seated in the car he turns to Roscoe and said, ” I’m not a vagrant, I’m a hobo.”

Roscoe replied, “Whatever.”


Hubble’s House

  • Hubble is not at home so Roscoe and Reacher chat with with wife. The nonchalant fact-seeking banter is good, and realistic.
  • Reacher reveals to Hubble’s wife that her husband’s phone number was located in the shoe of Reacher’s deceased brother Joe.
  • Reacher notices that one of the Hubbles’ two daughters, like their father, wears glasses. This is the “aha” moment when Reacher realizes that it was Hubble, not he, who was the target of the attack at the prison.
  • Reacher asks to use the restroom, an excuse to search for clues, which he finds— a Velcro-like agrimony seed pod, commonly called a hitchhiker, found in the mudroom stuck to a lace in one of Hubble’s dress shoes.
  • Hubble’s missing. Reacher believes he’s either on the run or the villain has abducted him.

Roscoe and Reacher visit the scene where Joe Reacher was killed.

Reacher – “Gun had a silencer on it, which makes even close-range work inaccurate, but he got a kill shot.”
The addition of a silencer probably doesn’t affect the accuracy of the pistol; however, the added weight could affect the handling of the weapon—ability to hold it straight and level, etc. Those factors could affect accuracy, unless the shooter is familiar with the silencer-equipment handgun, and has practiced shooting with the suppressor attached.

  • Reacher crouched among tall weeds to get a feel for the scene from the position and eyes of Joe Reacher’s killer. This was a great detail. The tactic is one I regularly employed as a police detective. Viewing the scene from the suspect’s position can help spot crucial details you might otherwise miss.

Reacher – “This is where he hid. He enjoyed it. sniper shot from the tree line would have done the job with less risk. The shooter wanted to be close.”

Roscoe – “Maybe it was personal.”

Reacher – “Someone takes your life, it’s always personal.”

Reacher’s statement is one you can take to the bank. Killing another person is extremely personal on many levels. I hope all crime writers incorporate this detail into their work because it can turn an adequate scene and character into something/someone extremely powerful.

The conversation turns to small talk, something Reacher interprets this as Roscoe trying to illicit information to help the department’s investigation into Reacher’s possible involvement in the murders.

Reacher – “Small talk to see if I say something to help your investigation?”

Roscoe – “I’m being nice to a guy who just lost his brother. But, you know, now that you brought it up, you might as well answer my questions.”

So Reacher opened up a bit about his and Joe’s lonely childhood, that Joe was most recently employed by Homeland Security but wasn’t sure which department. Roscoe asked Reacher if he thought Joe’s murder could be linked to his job., but Reacher said they hadn’t spoken for a while so he didn’t know.

Reacher left the scene walking, on his way to find a hotel room.


The hotel parking lot. If fighting is your thing, then here’s a nice one. Quick, too.

Reacher goes into the hotel office where he checks in. On his way out he’s greeted by a group of four young men who’ve consumed a couple of six-packs of beer while waiting for Reacher to arrive. Their mission, assigned to them by the villain of the story, was to inflict bodily harm on Reacher. I’ll pause while you chuckle at the thought of those five unsuspecting men contemplating an outcome of anything short of their own pain and misery.

The cocky leader of the group of thug wannabes said to Reacher – “You’re about to get your ass kicked.”

Reacher replied, “No. I’m just gonna break the hands of three drunk kids.”

Leader – “There’s four of us here.”

Reacher – “One of you has got to drive to the hospital.”

So, the leader of the group took a swing at Reacher and Reacher quickly made good on his promise of breaking the bones of three of the dumb, dumb, dumb men.

The fourth member of the group, the one who still had two good wrists and arms, held his hands in the air and wisely said to Reacher, “Ooh… I-I know where the hospital is.”

Roscoe, who’d been watching from a distance, said to herself, about Reacher, “What the hell just rolled into Margrave?”


A dog without water

The next day, as Reacher walks by the house of the thirsty dog and sees the animal’s bowl is once again empty. So he hops the picket fence and fills it from a hose. The owner steps outside and confronts Reacher who’s squatting beside the dog.

Dog owner – “Can I help you?”

Reacher – “No. Just giving your dog some water.”

Owner – “He must’ve knocked the bowl over, ’cause I gave him water this morning.”

Reacher – “No, you didn’t. Bowl was bone-dry.”

Owner – “You calling me a liar?”

A beat passed and then Reacher said, “Yes.”

Dog owner – “Well, I suggest you leave my property.”

Reacher pats the dog. “Good boy.”

This guy, the irresponsible dog owner, is pushing all the wrong buttons, something he’ll soon regret.

By the way, there is no shortage of cops who love animals who are quick to come to their defense when they’re mistreated. Animal control officers are frequently called by police officers who witness abused and mistreated animals. This often occurs when officers enter homes while serving search warrants or responding to complaints/calls. It is when they’re inside the home or in backyards, places not typically in public view, that such appalling abuse is discovered.


Margrave police chief is brutally murdered.

Margrave police chief Morrison is stripped naked, brutally murdered, and nailed to the wall with six spikes. Part of his male anatomy was severed and subsequently forced down his throat and into his stomach. The chief’s wife is also killed. The medical examiner asks where the body part could/would be located and Reacher replied, “In his stomach. You’ll find them during the autopsy.”

Yes, it would take a bit of strength to hold a man that size a few feet off the floor while hammering spikes through his arms and legs. Reacher easily explained it by saying it took at least four to do that to a guy Morrison’s size.

  • The people Hubble worked for said they’d nail him to a wall. Nailing the chief to a wall sent a very clear message to the people within the villain’s organization—screw up and you will find yourself in the chief’s shoes, or lack thereof. Reacher thinks Hubble may already be dead.
  • Mayor Teale, as crooked as he is a dead ringer for Colonel Sanders, the king of fried chicken, appoints himself as the new police chief.

Mayor/Chief Teale

  • Reacher, Roscoe, and Finlay come to the conclusion they cannot trust anyone in the department outside of their trio. One, if not all Margrave police officers are dirty, as was the chief.
  • A man named Kliner practically owns Margrave, from the lovely town square to nearly every major business. It’s his money that allows the town to survive, and it is he who controls the police department.
  • Kliner speaks at a town meeting called by Mayor/Chief Teale, a meeting designed to calm the fears of citizens who fear a serial killer, probably Reacher, is loose in their sleepy corporate limits. Kliner tells the people, “I have faith in our police force. I have faith in Chief Detective Finlay. I have faith in our new chief of police, Mayor Teale. And I promise I will provide whatever funds, whatever resources to find whomever is responsible for these heinous acts. You have my word.”

Kilner

  •  After the meeting, Teale, the newly self-appointed crooked chief of police, sends Finlay on wrong path, steering him away from the murder investigation of Reacher’s brother.
  • Finlay to Reacher, speaking of Teale –  “Just sent me off to chase my tail.”
  • An FBI agent called Picard, a former friend of Finlay, is called to assist. His job is to take Hubble’s family (Hubble is missing) to a safe place and guard them while Finlay, Reacher, and Roscoe sort out the situation. Picard once told Finlay to not take the job in Margrave.
  • Reacher takes Hubble’s car and calls Spivey, the prison guard who set up he and Hubble for the prison beat-down, to arrange a meeting. When he arrived he learns Spivey set him up for an ambush, where he’s cut during a knife fight. But, like real life police officers and soldiers, Reacher fights to win and to survive. Losing is not an option. He later told Finlay, while Roscoe closed the knife wounds on his back using Superglue, the two men who attacked him had to be special forces from South America.

Reacher – “Probably military or ex-military—South American.”

Finlay – “How could you know that?”

Reacher – “‘Cause if they weren’t I would’ve killed them within ten seconds.”

Finally – “How’d you know they were South American military?”

Reacher – “Spoke Spanish, had Glock-17s and the technique one guy used to head-butt me was from a martial art hardly anyone uses it except branches of South American special forces. Plus, if they weren’t, I would’ve killed them within ten seconds.”

Roscoe – “Why would South American military be involved in this?”

Reacher – “Don’t know. You ever see anyone like that around Margrave?”

Finlay – “Not till you showed up.”

Reacher – “Then they’re hired muscle. Not running the show.”

Later, and here’s the romance du jour, Roscoe and Reacher head out of town for a bit of R&R and to lay low. They take Roscoe’s pickup truck to a roadhouse across the border in Alabama where the pair have a beer and a belly-rubbing’, gazedeeply-and-longingly-into-your-dance-partner’s-eyes slow dance to Patsy Cline’s classic song, “Crazy.”

Roscoe – “Uh-oh. They’re playin’ Patsy. You know what that means. Means we got to dance. Practically the law.”

Reacher – “I don’t dance.”

Roscoe – “You’re telling me that your mama never taught her sons how to dance?”

Reacher – “She did, but when I ask people to dance, it usually precedes a lot of punching.”

Roscoe – “Good thing I’m doing the asking. Come on …”

It’s a rainy night, a deluge, actually, which leads to a road closure and the pair are forced to spend the night in a hotel room, together. Reacher is shirtless and sleeps on the floor. Roscoe takes the bed wearing only a t-shirt and underwear. But the magic moment was not to be. Not this night.

The next morning Roscoe and Reacher go to Roscoe’s house and find her home burgled and ransacked, complete with muddy footprints on the carpet. Roscoe enters with pistol drawn and Reacher clutching a knife and ready to do battle.

They clear the house, and yes, that is what is sounds like as officers move from room to room making sure no one is hiding. They shout, “Clear! when they’ve determined no one is under a bed, in a closet, behind a shower curtain, or behind a door, etc.

Reacher believes the intruders may have been there to kill him or both of them. As they close the door they discover the words “See you soon” carved on the inside of the wooden door.

“I’m going to need a gun,” Reacher says.

Again, good cop chemistry and mannerisms from the actors, and great writing and adaptation of the books. A lot of violence? Sure. But hey, it’s Jack Reacher, a human bulldozer in a china shop.


Here’s a bit of trivia – Do you recognize this crooner who sent Paula Abdul’s heart aflutter during an early American Idol audition?


 

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www.writerspoliceacademy.com

When Jack Reacher stepped into our living room several days ago I knew I wanted needed to bring REACHER to this blog, and to you. There are many intricate details in the show that mirror real police officers and how they carry themselves. I’ll highlight those characteristics. I’ll also point out the things that aren’t quite realistic to help you, the writer, avoid making similar errors in your books.

Before I begin with the the second part of the review of episode one, Welcome to Margrave, I’d like to once again mention that I discussed this endeavor with Lee Child, Reacher’s creator, to make certain I had his blessing to review the show. He gave his approval without hesitation.

So, without further ado and with a hearty thanks to Lee Child, off we go. But first a disclaimer – HERE’S YOUR SPOILER ALERT!

NOTE – Part One of Welcome to Margrave was an introduction of the main characters in season one and how well the actors played the part of law enforcement officers. Part Two is an examination of the law enforcement procedure and forensics used in the episode. In addition, I’ve included a few details of interest. Welcome to Margrave is the only two-part review. After Part Two (today) I’ll post an episode review on Friday of each week.

Please keep in mind that REACHER is a television show that has less than one hour to tell a complete story and deliver nail-biting action and a bit of romance, introduce characters and setting, stimulate the emotions of viewers and, well, you get the idea. Obviously, in order to achieve the goal of having viewers want to want the show certain liberties with facts must be taken to hold our interest.


Reacher and Blind Blake

This review can’t begin without mentioning the purpose of Reacher’s visit to Margrave, his love of music,  especially the blues. During his initial interview with Detective Finlay, Reacher said he caught a bus in Tampa the previous night, traveled over 500 miles, and when the bus reached the road to Margrave he asked the driver for the favor of making an unscheduled stop to let him off.

Finlay asked why the choice to exit the bus on the main road to then walk 14 miles to Margrave.

Reacher responded, “On account of Blind Blake.”

Reacher’s answer clearly irritated Finlay. “Okay, who’s that?” he said, adding a bit of dramatic tough-guy rasp to his typically smooth but authoritative voice. For emphasis he combined the gruff tone with a slightly priggish side-to-side “oh-no-you-didn’t-go-there” head shake. Typical cop behavior.

“Blues singer,” Reacher said. “Legend has it he died in Margrave a long time ago. I figured I’d learn a bit about him.” A beat passed, then he nodded his head a couple of times and added, “I like music.”


Arthur “Blind” Blake was indeed a real person who is often referred to as ‘King of the Ragtime Guitar.’ His idiosyncratic playing style was quite complex and unique. For many years it was believed that Blake was born in Florida. However, in 2011 discovered documents proved he was born in 1896, in Newport News, Va.

Blake’s talent took him on the road playing music in southern states, including on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. But he eventually migrated to Ohio and then Chicago where, in 1926, he landed a recording deal with Paramount Records. Paramount eventually moved their studios to Milwaukee, Wi. where Blake recorded with them until 1932. Blind Blake died in Milwaukee on Dec. 1, 1934.


A bit of fun trivia – Lee Child is blues fan. So much so that he collaborated with performing songwriter team Jen and Scott Smith, and their band Naked Blue, on the Jack Reacher inspired album “Just The Clothes On My Back.” Click here to listen to their song “Killing Floor.” As you know, “Killing Floor” is the book the first season of the REACHER television series is based upon.

Child’s music interests vary and includes country music. A few years back, while at the Writers’ Police Academy, Lee bid an extremely generous amount of money to win, at auction, a guitar signed by country stars Lady Antebellum (now Lady A), Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, and The Oak Ridge Boys.


Now, for the police procedure and forensics in Welcome to Margrave

 

The Diner – Reacher is seated in a corner booth, about to enjoy a forkful of what is, according to the server, “the best peach pie you ‘gone find in Georgia.” Two officers drive up to the diner with red and blue lights winking and blinking and flashing, and sirens blaring. One parks near the front the door, gets out and racks a shell into the chamber of a shotgun, all while staring at Reacher through the front plate glass window of the restaurant. The second officer fishtails his patrol car into the gravel lot like a Nascar driver after “trading paint” at the Daytona 500. Needless to say, the officers came in hot, which is not a great tactical move if you want to sneak up on a dangerous criminal, or to avoid a potential hostage situation.


The phrase ‘trading paint’ is a colloquialism for the event when 2 racing automobiles bump against one another often causing the paint from each vehicle to be transposed onto the other. – Wikipedia


Reacher sensed the highly-strung and intense officers were coming for him. His acute and highly-developed situational awareness went to work telling him to immediately scan the diner—a happy couple seated in a booth at the front window directly in front of him, their server, two playful young boys at the counter, the cook, and the woman who’d brought Reacher the slice of peach pie and coffee. Had he been the desperate murderer the cops anticipated, he’d had his pick of hostages.

It was obvious, though, that Reacher, not a killer, was concerned for the safety of the employees and diners, and that any sudden moves by him could result in innocent people being harmed. So Reacher calmly placed his hands, palms down on the table, and waited for the nerves-on-edge-officers to do exactly as he expected, rush inside with emotions high and loaded guns drawn and pointed at him. Both had a clear case of adrenaline-induced tunnel vision and were focused solely on Reacher, a very large and muscular man who they believed had brutally murdered a man just a few hours ago. The officers were so clearly fixated on Reacher that the safety of the others did not enter their minds. Not good police procedure, but this is important for writers to know because tunnel vision is a very real problem for officers who’re involved in high-stress, possible life-threatening situations. The scene was great, and provided tons of details about the two officers that would play out later in the series.

  • Both officers held their index fingers outside the trigger guards. This is proper procedure to avoid accidental discharges.
  • Not evacuating the diners and staff before having Reacher exit the booth and stand was not tactically sound. If Reacher had been an armed bad guy intent on shooting it out with police chances were great that innocent people could have been wounded or killed. Again, this was a great inside look at the mindset of the two officers, and their backstory (little experience and lack of ongoing training, which could be an issue in the real world).

This scene alone added several important and vivid layers to the setting and characters. This was the moment that showed us what to expect in the town of Margrave. It was as eye-opening as the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the movie switched from black and white to color. It also spoke quite loudly about Reacher—stoic, serene, cool under pressure, and naturally intimidating.


The Police Station – The plaques, awards, and certificates hanging on the lobby wall, along with official department photos of the five Margrave PD employees—chief, three officers, and detective—was nice attention to detail. It’s quite possible you’d see this sort of thing in small town departments. Another popular wallhanging seen in police agencies is a framed collection of patches collected from departments from around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

During Finlay’s interview with Reacher he said, “I was informed you were read your rights, so you know you don’t have to answer.” Wisely, Reacher maintained silence.

In the real world where actors aren’t limited to brief scenes to conduct police business, Finlay would’ve again  informed Reacher of his rights according to Miranda and had him acknowledge that he understood those rights. This is something that should be done any time there’s a break between significant periods of questioning and/or when a different officer begins a new interview session.

Again, Finlay is an actor who had mere seconds to get through the scene. The show is not an instructional guide for police officers, but this is something crime writers should know.


MIRANDA FACTS

  • Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.
  • If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.
  • If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.
  • If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.
  • Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawal symptoms should not be questioned.
  • Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.
  • People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.
  • Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Subsonic Bullets – A sticking point for avid shooters, I’m sure, was when  Reacher told Finlay the shooter was someone who knows firearms well, and that the bullets were small caliber, 9mm 95 grain. “That’s subsonic,” Reacher said. “A silencer was used. He also knew enough to pick up his brass.”

The difference between subsonic and supersonic rounds is that subsonic ammunition travels slower than the speed of sound (1,100fps); therefore, it won’t break the sound barrier which produces the sonic crack most people associate with traditional supersonic gunfire. Supersonic bullets travel faster than the speed of sound.

Loading a 9mm round as subsonic with a lighter 95 gr. bullet could cause the firearm’s action/slide to not cycle, essentially allowing the pistol to fire only once without manually cycling another round into the chamber. Even 115 gr. rounds have been known to cause cycling problems.


FYI – Back in the day, I loaded my SIG Sauer (duty weapon) with subsonic 9mm 147gr. Hydra Shot Plus P  ammo.


Perp – Reacher, to Finlay, after Reacher was released from the holding cell. “Outside. Uncuffed. Treating me like a person instead of a perp?”

Not many police officers use the shortened form of the word perpetrator. Instead, they use the more common terms, suspect, actor, or ***hole. Listen to police scanners and you’ll rarely, if ever, hear an officer say, “We apprehended the perp at 0100 hours.” Typically, it’s, “We apprehended the suspect/subject at 0100 hours.”

Perp is generally a specific, regional term. I’ve heard it used more in the New York and Boston areas more than any other location, especially the south. Still, it’s not used by all officers. TV and film writers use it without shame.

FYI – the term perpetrator is NOT to be confused with the closely-sounding “percolator.” Confusing the two could prove to be quite embarrassing.

Yes, I once saw the perpetrator/percolator faux pas in a manuscript. Imagine reading a book written by your favorite author and you see this on page 47 – “10-4, Captain, the percolator who robbed the hot dog stand was bald, short, and stocky.

By the way, you’ll probably not hear the other, more colorful term “a**hole” used on the police radio. It and other profanity are not supposed to be spoken on the air, but when the adrenaline is high and the bullets are flying, well, you just might hear anything.

“The a**hole just fired two rounds at me! Send &*%@ing backup. NOW!!”


Reacher in prison – The local PD doesn’t have an onsite holding cell designed for housing prisoners overnight, so the decision was made to ship Reacher and Paul Hubble, a person who falsely confessed to killing the same person police accused Reacher of slaying, are hauled, by bus, to the local prison to spend the weekend. The villain’s plan (yes, this story has a villain) was to have a group of prisoner “take care” of Reacher and Hubble. Hubble, by the way, was forced to help the villain and his ring of bad guy henchmen with their financial scheme. The bad guys promised to torture and kill Hubble and his family if he didn’t do as they demanded. The plan to “take care” of tReacher and Hubble, thanks to Reacher, didn’t go as planned, though. More on this in a moment.

Back to the bus ride to prison – The complete occupancy of the bus included Reacher, Hubble, and the bus driver. Reacher and Hubble were cuffed to a chain attached to the seat-back in front of them. An actual transport to prison, though, involves a bit more security than a lone bus driver with prisoners accused of murder seated behind them. Often, there’s an armed officer stationed in a secure cage at the rear of the bus, and an unarmed officer, or two, in the front. However it’s done, it’s never just a bus driver and prisoners. But this is a TV show and extras cost dollars.

When the bus arrived at the prison, the driver drove it into the sally port. He stopped the bus, opened the door, and Reacher stepped outside followed by Hubble. Officer Spivey, a scrawny corrections officer, met the two prisoners as they exited the bus. It was he who booked the two men and assigned them their prison clothing, and it was he who ordered the men to strip to allow him to search for contraband.

Reacher refused the strip search, saying blanket searches are unconstitutional. However, since Reacher and Hubble were both arrested for murder, a violent crime, they, in the real world, would be required too submit to a strip search. Safety and security is a priority.

Sourse – Georgia Sheriff’s Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prison fights – Yes, inmates do indeed size up the newcomers, and those who are a bit timid and of slight stature often don’t fare very well unless, of course, they can prove themselves valuable in some way other than serving physical wants and needs. Or, unless they have a Hulk-like friend who’s capable of bashing the faces of the top dog, the shot caller, and his entourage. Reacher, Hubble’s Hulk-like cellie aptly handles the first inmate who came calling for Hubble. Good fight scene. Brief, but good.

Next, the shower/restroom fight scene where Reacher finds himself surrounded by five burly inmates who are there to, as they’d say in the south, “stomp a mud hole in his a**.” One of the five is armed with a shank.

Reacher, calm and cool as always, said, “If you boys knew what’s about to happen to you, you’d leave now. So I’ll give you to the count of three. One—”

Using the tactical advantage of skipping the anticipated numbers two and three, Reacher took out four of the hitmen and then used his thumb to gouge an eye of the fifth, the guy with the shank. This is a fight scene that would do any crime fiction novel proud. Despite the fights being choreographed, the tactics used were sound.

The Eye Gouge


The rest of the show

  • When Reacher and Hubble are released from prison after the failed attempt to kill them, Roscoe is waiting outside to offer Reacher a ride. She takes him from the prison to a thrift store to purchase “new” clothes. She again asks why he decided to visit Margrave.

“‘Im here because of Blind Blake, but actually it’s on account of Chauncey.”

“Who’s Chauncey?”

“A couple days ago,” Reacher said, “I go to Chauncey’s Bar & Grill in Tampa. Guy there was playing “Police Dog Blues” by Blind Blake. I remembered a conversation I had with my brother Joe a while back. Read some article about Blake, said he played his last show in Margrave, and that’s where he died. So I got on a bus.”

 

  • Reacher’s pension is wired to him each month via Western Union.
  • Reacher heard the sound of Mississippi Fred McDowell ‘s blues music coming from inside Mr. Mosley’s barber shop, so he went inside for a shave. The two men chat about the legend of Blind Blake and then the conversation shifts to the Kilner family, the people villains who control the town.
  • Reacher walks to the police station where he learns a second body has been found, forty yards from the first. The victim was shot in the back of the head.
  • Reacher travels to the morgue with Finlay and Roscoe where he learns the victim is his brother, Joe.

A few minutes later, Reacher and Finlay exchange a few heated words. Roscoe intervenes before things get out of hand. Reacher, though, seems determined to punch Finlay into next week. And, despite the tremendous size difference and that one of Reacher’s upper arms is the size of Finlay’s waist, Finlay doesn’t back down. This is a characteristic seen in most real life cops. They don’t shy away from anyone when it comes to taking a suspect to jail. It’s part of the job and they’ll worry about the bruises another time.

Finlay is the real deal.

Roscoe pointed to Finlay’s unmarked police car and said, “Okay, this isn’t gonna happen. Reacher, sit in the back. Hey. I know you’re not the kind of guy to beat up on somebody half your size without good reason.”

He’s giving me a reason,” said Reacher.

“Yeah? Well, I know people.,” said Roscoe. “And you’ve got kind eyes. Do what I say, Reacher. Please.”

The trio are next seen traveling through the countryside. They’re quiet and Reacher is staring out the window.

Roscoe said, “You okay, Reacher?”

Reacher replied, “Just thinking maybe my brother told me about Blind Blake for a reason. Thinking about him lying in that morgue. Thinking I’m supposed to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said Finlay.

“I guess I’ll find everybody responsible. And kill every last one of them.”

The scene switched to …

… and then faded away to the music of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”


NOTE – This review and the others that follow in the coming weeks are solely for the purpose of pointing out proper police procedure and forensics, and the inaccuracies, if any of either. Again, this is to help writers learn what real and what’s not. Yes, I know it’s a TV show and not a documentary or police training film.

As always, keep in mind that TV is visual and certain liberties must be taken to capture and hold the attention of viewers within the brief timespan of a single episode. Authors, on the other hand, must activate a readers senses and take their fans on a journey using nothing more than written words. TV audiences tend to be more forgiving when characters perform actions that aren’t quite believable than are readers of books.

Since readers move through a story at a much slower pace than viewers of TV and film,  they have far more time to detect and analyze things that aren’t quite accurate. Therefore, the need for an explanation, even one that’s totally fabricated in the author’s mind, about why the neighbor’s recliner has the ability to travel through time is more important than merely seeing it happen on TV. We’re used to seeing wacky, nonsensical stuff on television, but not in books without reading an explanation as to why something happened (My neighbor invented a way to have fruit trees grow upside side so people can pick apples, peaches, and cherries without having to use a ladder. The only drawback is that over ripe fruit now falls up, instead of down. As a result, gravity is a bit wonky, but Newton says we’ll adapt).

That’s all it takes to convince your readers, a reason to believe.