It’s been over a dozen years ago since I wrote the first word on this blog, and before I did I made the decision to avoid the really hot and controversial issues, such as gun control, politics, and racial issues. However, today I’m making what is probably a one time exception with this piece on racism. But it’s important to me to air this, at least one time. Still, this is not an op-ed piece. It’s strictly fact based on my own personal experiences and firsthand knowledge.

Before I begin, though, please understand that I am proud to be an American and I still believe in this country. Current issues may not be popular, just, or they simply rub some the wrong way, but the only way to reach a solution is to address it thoughtfully and truthfully. Sure, there are some serious problems right now, but as Americans it is our duty to make things as they should be.

Okay, here goes …

I grew up during the time when schools were segregated. It was a time when whites ruled supreme over water fountains, bus and restaurant seating, and often to be first to see medical professionals.

In the south where I grew up it was common to have a “colored woman” come to the house once or twice a week to clean up after white families. My mother, at the time, was experiencing a few serious health issues so our father set out to find someone to help out. His advertisement didn’t specify a particular race, just someone who could handle household duties to allow my mother time to heal. Annie Mae was the woman who answered the call.

In our house, Annie Mae pretty much raised us kids. Sure, she was there to clean and do the laundry and a bit of cooking, but she also doled out orders that we kids had better follow, or else. Believe me, we adhered to Annie Mae’s rules. Homework was done before we went out to play, and we scrubbed away the sweat-caked dirt rings from our necks before sitting down to one of her delicious meals.

Annie Mae enjoyed watching “her stories,” the soap operas that dominated daytime TV, and no one, and I mean no one, dared to make a sound until the last dramatic moment came to a close. She’d have a glass of iced tea and maybe a cookie or two while perched in the easy chair clinging to each word spoken by Laura Spencer (General Hospital) or Joanne Gardner (Search for Tomorrow). Then, after last of the daily cliffhanging endings  she’d head into the kitchen to begin dinner preparation.

Annie Mae loved my younger brother best and spoiled him until he was rotten to the core.

Annie Mae was a black woman who was born and raised in the south. And yes, we knew of the history even though we were Yankee transplants to the south. We knew of slavery and of the difficult and harsh lives black people endured.

One of my uncles owned a house that Harriet Tubman used as part of her Underground Railroad. I was nearby, at the home of my grandparents when conspirators intended to blow up a courthouse where H. Rap Brown was to be tried for inciting race riots. I definitely knew the story.

We loved Annie Mae, unconditionally, and we didn’t for one moment see her as someone of a different race. To us she was merely a large woman with a smile as wide and bright as the keys on a new Steinway piano. She was a wonderful, loving woman who simply answered a “help wanted” ad, and who was very good at what she did. Most of all, she was family to us. She gave us hugs when our grades were good and threatened to switch our bottoms when they weren’t.

One day, when I was in the 7th grade, our studies were interrupted by the principal’s voice booming from the loudspeaker that hung above the wall-to-wall chalkboard at the front of the classroom. He announced that starting the next year, 8th and 9th grade students would be reporting to a newly-formed junior high school—what was then the “black high school.”

Well, the panic that set in among many of the students and their families was like that associated with the bread and milk aisles of grocery stores when snow or a hurricane is in the forecast. Actually, during the first week or two after the announcement it was more like the paper products and disinfectant aisles at grocery stores during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, that bad and that frenzied.

There was a mad rush, one that I couldn’t for the life of me understand, to enroll masses of white kids in private schools, even if it meant transporting children to the next county. Some were sent to military schools. All to avoid having to attend school with the “negras,” a term many of the locals in those days used when referring to African Americans.

Part of the reaction to integration was evidenced by the frequent billowing clouds of smoke that rose from behind the tree line at the back of the old drive-in theater. I knew it was the KKK who were there burning a cross while spewing hateful words. My parents didn’t approve and did their best to keep that sort of thing from us. But we knew. All the kids knew. And we speculated who’s faces were behind the white, pointed hoods when, as a group, they sometimes marched down the main street following their leader, a figure wearing a bright red getup. What I didn’t know was why they burned the crosses each Friday night.

What was so doggone bad about black folks? I just didn’t get it.

The first day of school the following year was a big change for all of us. One of the first things I learned was that some of the black kids didn’t want to attend school with white kids any more than some of the white kids wanted to go to their school. But they didn’t have the option of tucking tail and running off to a private school because there were none for them to attend. They were stuck with us.

Kids, though, made the transition without a single problem, and we did so quickly. New friendships were formed and the sports teams were integrated for the first time ever. A few of them went on to win regional and state championships. Band members and cheerleaders worked things out among themselves, and life went on.

Not the same for the parents, though. Some refused to allow their kids to attend school functions, band trips, and “oh, hell no” my child will not shower with “them” after gym class and football practice. But, kids continued to move forward in spite of parents’ attempts to hang on to the way things used to be.

We just didn’t see the big deal about the different races. We were all kids and we were friends.

Now, let’s turn a few pages on the calendar to my time with a southern sheriff’s office, and to the real point of this piece.

The issue of race separation was alive and in full swing there at the sheriff’s office, and it was shocking to me because many of my fellow deputies were some of the same people I’d known in high school and junior high. A few were on my football team. We’d worked together to win championships, blocking and tackling the same people. Again, we’d been friends.

Therefore, and needless to say, I was equally surprised and shocked to see the duty schedule and how the deputies were assigned. Simply put, blacks worked with blacks and whites worked with whites. Rarely were the two mixed on any given shift. As a result, the friendships we’d known just a few years before were not as close as they once were. The races simply didn’t mix, not there anyway. And, the ranking deputy, a captain, on the “black crew” made it known that he didn’t like white people, and the same was true in reverse for the ranking white deputy, also a captain.

When the African American deputies hauled a person of color to the jail, the offender more often than not received a super stern lecture about shaming their race with their bad behavior.

With all of that said, though, I was the “crossover” deputy because I was often assigned as the token white guy to work with the black deputies. There was no tension between us whatsoever. We were all law enforcement officers on the job and great friend when off-duty. I trusted them with my life and they trusted me with theirs. And it came to just that a few times.

Our boss, the county sheriff created racial tension because of the manner in which he handled the scheduling of deputies.

This same sheriff created another type of discrimination by refusing to allow women to carry firearms or to work as patrol officers. He believed a woman’s place was in the office answering phones or working as dispatchers or jailers/corrections officers. Female deputies were not permitted to attend the police academy.

Now let’s turn a few more pages on the calendar to the time when I’d made the transition to a city police department. There, race didn’t seem to be an issue. Everyone—all ethnicities—worked together and we backed one other when the times were tough.

However, I soon discovered that the same wasn’t true regarding one particular officer. I first learned of this trouble when I was working internal affairs cases. A citizen reported that a white officer was targeting black people, especially regarding traffic offenses. The citizen asked if we’d review the officer’s stats to see if his suspicions were correct. I did, and he was. In fact, the officer had written very few traffic tickets for white people, and those who did receive a summons were typically from outside the city. But the number of summons for people of color was through the roof.

I asked the officer about the stats and his reply was that he couldn’t explain it. So, I did what IA folks do, I sent in an informant—an attractive young woman (he considered himself a ladies man). On their first meeting (she was wired), she brought up race issues and the officer quickly told her, “I hate n*****s. I see one coming my way and they’re gonna get a ticket. N*****s, n*****s, n*****s, I hate all of them.”

Needless to say, the officer lost his job. But what about all the people who’d received traffic tickets? Worse still, the department then had a huge image problem associated with racism. All it takes is one bad apple and the rot spreads through the community like a plague. And, of course, there were  similar issues of black officers doing similar things to white citizens. It happens. People are people. They do what they do. Cops are no different than you or your neighbor.

Someone asked me just today if cops are trained to pull over cars with black people inside. I responded by saying this … “Regarding the training of police officers, which includes treating everyone fairly. Any actions other than that are solely those of individuals.

Racism is not a reflection of officer training any more than the actions of any person within other groups of people, including families. Serial killers do what they do yet we don’t accuse their entire family group of having the privilege of earning a bonus when the killer takes a life. 

When an officer does something morally wrong or illegal it’s totally against the grain of their training.”

During our police academy training it was mandatory that we learn and understand the meaning behind the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Each morning, before the day’s instruction began, we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then remained standing while reciting the Code of Ethics. We did this as a group, with one loud and collective voice. The Code of Ethics was firmly pressed into our minds. We were taught to live and work according to the code.

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice.

I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminal, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession … law enforcement.


Anyway, the point of this rambling concoction is to point out that, yes, racism exists in law enforcement, no doubt. Just as it does within other professions and walks of life throughout the country.

I despise racism from any side, and I truly do not like seeing how race divides the nation. I especially don’t like seeing people exploiting or fabricating racial issues in order to sell newspapers, magazines, TV shows, etc., especially when they do it no matter how badly it harms others.

How serious is racism today? Well, I’ll leave that one for you to ponder. Remember, I don’t offer opinions on racism, religion, gun control, and other hot button issues. They’re poisonous topics. Besides, my purpose is to provide factual information to aid writers in bringing realism to their stories.

Rodney King said it best when he asked, “Why can’t we just all get along?”


*Please do not use this blog as a forum to argue racial or political agendas, gun control, religion, or cop bashing. Let’s keep the conversation civil, as always. Otherwise, I’ll simply delete your comments.

 

Police officers are not trained to shoot to kill, nor do they shoot to wound. Again, officers are not taught to kill. I know, the recent death of George Floyd was extremely disturbing, but the actions of the officers involved are NOT the result of police training. I’m fairly confident that their actions, for whatever reasons, were not taught in any U.S. police academy. Nor were they necessary, proper, or even humane. But more on this in tomorrow’s article.

For now, let’s dive into another topic that, too, is often confusing to some people. And I understand how and why the subject matter is a bit perplexing so I’ll try my best to clarify. The topic … do police officers shoot to kill, or do they shoot to wound?

While we’re at it, we’ll also address the questions and statements we all see time and time again, most typically during the aftermath of police-involved shootings.

“Why didn’t he shoot the gun from the bad guy’s hand?”

“Shoot the bastard in the shoulder. Cain’t shoot anybody when his shoulder’s all shot up.”

Or, “Shoot ’em in the leg. That’ll stop ’em.”

Police officers are trained to stop a threat to human life

U.S. police officers are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants. Contrary to the beliefs of some, U.S. streets are not battlefields where cops shoot first and ask questions later. It cannot and does not work that way. Yes, the current rioting and mob violence (not the peaceful protests), unfortunately requires a heavier than usual approach, but this is not the norm. Still, police are not taught to kill anyone.

In a perfect world there would be no crime and we’d all be safe, all the time. But our world is FAR from perfect; therefore, cops are tasked with arresting those who break the law. They don’t make the laws, just enforce them.

Unfortunately, some bad guys choose to not be arrested and will do whatever it takes to remain free, including trying to kill police officers. They may also choose to seriously harm or kill others during the commission of their crime(s). These two scenarios are the cause of officers having to use deadly force to stop the threat to the lives of others, and to themselves.

Back to the earlier statements—police officers are not taught to kill anyone, nor are they taught to “wound” anyone. Officers do not aim for hands, feet, knees, firearms, knives, etc. Instead, during a deadly force confrontation—when lives are at stake—officers are taught to shoot center mass, meaning the center of their intended target. If all they see is the suspect’s head, then that is their target. If they see the entire body they then aim for its center (center mass).

Center Mass

Why aim for center mass? Common sense answer – because it is the largest available target, which makes it the easiest area to hit when under extreme duress during an incident that sometimes happens within a fraction of a second.

The reason behind not shooting to wound is pretty simple, actually, and here’s why. Most police officers are not skilled award-winning sharpshooters. Not even close. To expect them, or anyone, to hit a fast-moving target, such as an arm or leg, while under duress, is unrealistic. Hands and arms can move across the body as quickly as 12/100th of a second. From hip to shoulder in 18/100th of a second. The time it takes a police officer to pull the trigger on one of the faster reacting trigger pulls, that of the Glock, is a slow 1/4 of a second. And that’s if the officer has already drawn his/her sidearm and has it pointed at the suspect.

It’s nothing short of impossible for an officer to see the threat, react appropriately, unsnap the holster, perform the required series of motions to free her weapon from the security holster (I’ll bet many of you didn’t know there was a combination/series of actions required to remove an officer’s pistol from a security-type holster), think about what she’s doing, decide whether or not the threat is real and, if so, pull the trigger. Oh yeah, she’d also have to take time to aim for the smaller targets—arms, hands, or legs. Impossible. No way. No how. Can’t and won’t happen, not even on her/his best day.

Another point to remember regarding how quickly shooting situations unfold. In many, many instances, there is not a single portion of a second to spare, including enough time to shout, “Drop your weapon!” Or even to yell, “Stop!” 

Here’s a video of an actual shooting scenario that occurred during a traffic stop. Watch how quickly the shooting unfolds.

Then there’s this. Suppose an officer is engaged in an intense shootout, and they are intense, believe me (been there, done that), and while returning fire as bullets zing and zip past, they somehow miraculously hit the suspect’s arm, or hand, or foot? Some people believe that once a person is shot they automatically drop to the ground and surrender. This is NOT always the case.

I’ve seen bad guys continue shooting after being struck by several rounds. Actually, I was in a shooting situation where the bad guy continued to shoot after having been shot in the head once and in the center of his chest four times. Even then he hopped up and ran several yards. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I was the detective who’d shot him. I was also the detective who ran him down and tackled him. So being wounded, even severely wounded, does not necessarily stop a threat to human life.

Besides, a shot to the arm leaves the suspect’s free hand to continue his attempt to kill the officer or other potential targets, such as a wife, husband, a bank teller, a child, and, well, you get the idea. A shot in the leg leaves both hands free to continue firing at officers. Wounding someone, hoping that’ll stop them from killing is stuff you see on TV. It’s just not that way in real life situations.

In addition, a bullet wound to the leg can be just as deadly as one to the chest. A shot that severs a femoral artery could cause the person to bleed death within a matter of a couple of minutes, or less.

Stop the threat. That’s the intended outcome of the use of deadly force.

Now, back to shooting to kill. I’m not aware of any police agency in the U.S. that teaches/trains officers to kill. Not one. Besides, how many sane people would sign on with an agency if they were told they must kill people as part of their daily duties—write speeding ticket, respond to kids playing in traffic, kill the guy standing in front of the Piggly Wiggly, go on lunch break.

During a shooting situation, officers typically do not have time to aim. Instead, they revert to their training—draw, point, and shoot for the center of the target.

Shootings involving police officers most often happen in a matter of seconds or less, and usually at very short distances—a mere few feet. In fact, these close-range situations occur so often that officers train quite a bit at shooting from short distances, without taking aim. They’re taught to draw and point their weapon at the center of the target, or as close as they can get to the center.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Again, even at greater distances, there’s still no time to stop, take a proper stance, draw a weapon, take careful aim, ask the offender to stand still so the officer won’t miss and hit an innocent bystander, and then fire. So officers shoot for center mass, the largest portion of the body they see. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Keep this in mind. Rounds that strike center mass could certainly cause the death of the suspect, but death is not the intended outcome. The goal is to stop the threat and to do so the greatest chance of hitting the target is to aim for the largest portion (center of the torso). If a bad guy surrenders the moment he sees that the officer has drawn their weapon and fully intends to use it, the threat is then over and the officer must switch fro ma deadly force situation to one taking the suspect into custody. That’s always the goal, to make the arrest, not to take a life.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

There it is, the word sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the movie “Mary Poppins.” Now, say it out loud. Or, if you prefer, say it in reverse – dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes. Either way, it takes us somewhere between one and two seconds for it to roll off our tongues, give or take a tenth of a second or two. That’s pretty quick, yes?

I suppose I could stop here and let you go about the remainder of your day with this ear worm digging its way into your brain:

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay…

But let’s stick with the time it takes to say that word. For me it’s somewhere between 1.01 seconds and 1.22 seconds, depending upon how quickly I start after clicking the button on the stopwatch.

Now, imagine that you’re a police officer who’s responded to a call where a suspect used a baseball bat to beat his spouse and children. You arrive at the scene and hear yelling, screams, and children crying from inside the home. You knock. No answer. Still more screaming. You force open the door and rush inside where you’re immediately faced with a man pointing a handgun at a badly battered woman. He begins to turn toward you. How do you respond to the threat, and how long does it take to do so?

Well, your body and brain must first of all figure out what’s going on (perception). Then the brain instructs the body to stand by while it analyzes the scenario (okay, he has a gun and I think I’m about to be shot). Next, while the body is still on hold, the brain begins to formulate a plan (I’ve got to do something, and I’d better do it asap). Finally, the brain pokes the body and tells it to go for what it was trained to do—draw pistol, point the business end of it at the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, squeeze trigger.

To give you an idea as to how long it takes a trained police officer to accomplish those steps, let’s revisit Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep, and that wacky word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Remember, it takes us a little over one second to say the entire word. Try it. You’ll see.

New Picture (3)

To put this scenario into perspective, a police officer’s quickest reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds. That’s far less than half the very brief time it takes Bert to sing that famous word, and certainly not enough time to stop, draw a weapon from its holster, take aim, yell a bunch of commands, check for passersby, look for accomplices, and, well, you get the idea.

So, when confronted with a potential deadly force situation, officers must perceive/identify the threat, evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, and then set that plan in motion, and they must do so in the time it takes to say “supercali.” Not even the entire word—about the time it takes to blink.

Go ahead, try it. Blink one time and then think about all the cool things you could accomplish during the time it took to quickly close and open your eyes.

Blink.

During a traffic stop in Arkansas, a passenger in a vehicle shot at officers, killing one. The man fired the first round at the face of one officer. That shot occurred in less than supercali. Actually, it was more like, su-BANG!

The suspect then continued to fire at the other officers on scene, shooting several rounds during our imaginary supercalifragilisticexpialidocious timeframe. The officers were not able to return fire.

How about you? Are you able to make extremely complex decisions in less than a second? How about decisions that involve life or death?

Blink. A suspect just fired a round at you.

I dare say that many of us can’t decide what to select from a fast food menu within that scant time frame.

Blink. Round number two. Have you managed to draw your pistol yet?

Sure, it’s super easy to look back at deadly force incidents and offer opinions as to how they should, or should not have been handled. But only the people who were there at the precise moment the trigger was pulled know the real story. They alone know how they perceived and reacted to the threat to them and/or others.

Again, officers often have less than a second to react, and a lifetime to deal with the decision, if the officer survives the encounter.

SU …

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Tomorrow, more about the arrest of former police officer Darek Chauvin. We’ll also discuss the cause(s) of George Floyd’s death, and that a second video confirmed my early predictions.


By the way, our internet is finally back in service. For a solid week, Verizon worked on the lines in front of neighbor’s home. He’d called to report his service was out and they eventually arrived a couple of days later. Once they’d repaired whatever was wrong with the neighbor’s line they packed up and left. Within an hour of the line of five trucks leaving, our internet shut down.

After several calls and online chat sessions with support, rebooting, testing lines and devices, they finally answered my pleas to have someone come out … three days later.

Of course, I’d already told them about the earlier work in the neighborhood, but they dismissed my theory that the crew did something to cause our outage. Instead, they insisted that something was wrong inside our house, and they went through a checklist – kids playing, and breaking the equipment, dogs or cats or mice or hamsters or lions or tigers or bears possibly chewing through a line? Is your power on? Did you unplug the router and forget to plug it back into the receptacle? Etc. I explained to the man that we have no kids living with us. We have no pets. There had been no power outages. Mice understand that to enter our home is to die. So they remain outdoors along with the lions, tigers, and bears.

So a tech showed up Sunday morning at 9 a.m. He checked the equipment mounted to the outside of our house and says to me, “There’s no service coming to your device.” The thought that went through my mind was … Well, duh.

So off he goes out to the street where, from inside his truck, he begins to glance up to the tops of telephone poles, one after the next. He did this for nearly an hour. Then he returns to the pole in front of my neighbor’s house, the place where the crew had perched for a week while working on the lines. The pole that I’d said over and over was most likely where they’d find the trouble. It was self-inflicted, I’d said. Thy caused a problem where no problem existed..

The tech called me to say a part was missing from one of the boxes at the top of that pole. Of course, he didn’t have the part with him, which meant that a different crew member/technician would need to come out to replace the missing do-dad. But he couldn’t do the work that day. Instead, he would come the next afternoon.

Anyway, on the forth day there was internet, and the world was once again whole.

Oh, and a new water heater was installed an hour or so prior to the return of Verizon service. Yep, the old one conked out the morning of the day the Verizon service shut down. It was that kind of weekend.


As always … Please, no politics, religion, gun rights or wrongs, or other hot button topics/comments. This blog is strictly for delivering fact. If, on the rare occasion I decide to offer an opinion I make sure that it’s clearly stated that I’ve done a dumb thing by swerving to the outside edge of where fact meets opinion.

This article is not one of those times. Nor is it any attempt to poke a stick into Joe Biden’s eye for his recent comment about training officers to shoot bad guys in the leg instead of center mass. However, the former vice president’s comment was indeed the prompt for today’s information. I wanted to let you know some of the the reasons why officers are not trained to shoot arms and legs. The simple answer is that doing so could be a death sentence for the officer.

Anyone who’s attended the Writers’ Police Academy’s firearms simulation training knows how quickly deadly situations erupt, and that many times there’s barely time to think or blink before the bad guy fires off a round in your direction. There is no time to take aim, particularly at a moving leg or arm.

Finally, speaking of the Writers’ Police Academy, there’s still time to sign up for a spot at MurderCon!

George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died Monday night—Memorial Day—after being handcuffed and held to the ground by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Officer Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck, apparently using his body weight to press his left knee against Floyd’s flesh. After several minutes Floyd became unresponsive.

The incident continued for an incredible length of time, eight minutes, I believe, with bystanders pleading with the officer to release the hold. They frantically called on other officers to intervene, and when it became clear that Floyd was slipping into unconsciousness they begged officers to check the man’s pulse. One person was heard saying that Floyd’s nose had begun to bleed.

For the entire agonizing event that continued far too long, Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. He said he was in pain and he even, albeit a weak attempt, called out for his mother. Not one of the officers checked Floyd for signs of life, nor did Officer Chauvin release pressure to Floyd’s neck. And, for reasons unknown to us for now, officers made no attempt to place Floyd inside a patrol vehicle, opting to keep him lying facedown in the street with his hands cuffed behind his back. They could’ve at the very least rolled him over on his side to help him breathe.

Initial reports stated that Floyd had resisted arrest when officers responded to a fraud-in-progress call. However, there was no inkling of any sort of resistance during the time Officer Chauvin held his knee against Floyd’s neck. In fact, Floyd said he’d comply and get inside the car, but was unable to stand to do so. We hear him say this on the video.

Everyone who’s watched the video captured by a bystander has seen a man who “died at the hand of another,” which is the definition of homicide.

Keep in mind, though, homicide and murder are not always the same, and that difference could be key when this case reaches the court, and it will do to court

Homicide v. Murder.

All, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.

That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.

New Picture

Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. All people who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And all cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.

It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.

Murder is an illegal homicide.

Here’s the Legal Sticky Wicket

The Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force policy PERMITS chokeholds and neck restraints as long as the officer is properly trained to apply the technique(s). However, their use is not allowed when a subject is complying with commands/not resisting arrest. It’s possible that Officer Chauvin will use department policy as part of his defense. We do not yet know if he’d received this special training. We’ll soon see.

Minneapolis Police Policy Regarding Neck Restraints and Choke Holds

5-311 USE OF NECK RESTRAINTS AND CHOKE HOLDS (10/16/02) (08/17/07) (10/01/10) (04/16/12)

DEFINITIONS I.

Choke Hold: Deadly force option. Defined as applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway (04/16/12)

Neck Restraint: Non-deadly force option. Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints. The MPD authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint. (04/16/12)

Conscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure. (04/16/12)

Unconscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure. (04/16/12)

PROCEDURES/REGULATIONS II.

  1. The Conscious Neck Restraint may be used against a subject who is actively resisting. (04/16/12)
  2. The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances: (04/16/12)
    1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
    2. For life saving purposes, or;
    3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.
  3. Neck restraints shall not be used against subjects who are passively resisting as defined by policy. (04/16/12)
  4. After Care Guidelines (04/16/12)
    1. After a neck restraint or choke hold has been used on a subject, sworn MPD employees shall keep them under close observation until they are released to medical or other law enforcement personnel.
    2. An officer who has used a neck restraint or choke hold shall inform individuals accepting custody of the subject, that the technique was used on the subject.

I wasn’t in Minneapolis when the event occurred, therefore, like everyone else who wasn’t on the scene, I cannot offer an informed opinion, or facts, regarding the events that led to the arrest, placing handcuffs on Floyd’s wrist, or the takedown that resulted in the officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck. However, the video makes clear the events that followed.

Use of Force During an Arrest

When someone uses force to resist an arrest, officers must then use the amount of force necessary to gain control of the person. Normally, this means the officers must use a greater force than that used by the suspect. If not, the combative suspects would always win the battle to run off and continue their criminal activity.

Police officers receive a fair amount of training in the areas of defensive tactics and arrest techniques. They’re taught how to handcuff properly, how to utilize various compliance tactics, and how best to defend themselves against an attack. The object is always to gain control and cuff the suspect’s hands behind the back, with everyone involved remaining injury free, if possible. Again, though, when a suspect resists arrest officers must do what it takes to bring the situation to a quick resolution. The longer it goes on the more chance of injury.

FYI for writers—The ground/sidewalk/pavement/hardwood, etc. provides a sturdy surface that’s used to pin hands, legs, arms, etc. to prevent further movement. Can’t get them to the ground? A wall or car hood also serves the same purpose. Otherwise, the suspect, who’s often much stronger than the arresting officer, could easily fight their way to freedom while severely injuring the smaller officer(s).

Officers Must Use Only the Amount of Force Necessary to Make the Arrest

Before going further, let’s talk about the chokehold and neck restraint. Just so you know, I have quite a bit of experience in this field—I’m a former police academy master defensive tactics instructor and instructor trainer. I’m one of the early members of a defensive tactics federation. I have a strong background in Aikido and Chin-Na. I’m trained in knife- and stick-fighting. I ran my own school. I’ve taught rape prevention and self-defense for women at numerous colleges and at my facility. I’ve trained private security, military, and I’ve trained and taught executive bodyguards.

Chokeholds and Other Neck Restraints

Chokeholds were once taught in police academies across the country. I learned it during basic academy training and later taught the technique at the police academy. Although, we (in Virginia) stopped teaching it many years ago because the tactic could cause death, and did. I’d like to point out that when applied and released properly, the tactic is effective and safe. Still, death had occurred and we stopped teaching it in favor of techniques that are much safer to utilize.

The details of Floyd’s death and the one I mentioned that occurred in Virginia are quite different. Floyd did not appear to be resisting during the time the officer pressed his knee against his neck. The Virginia case, in the mid 1980s, began when someone called the sheriff’s office to report that a relative was acting in a bizarre manner.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived and was instantly attacked. This particular deputy was a huge and very powerful man. And when I say huge I’m talking Incredible Hulk big. I deeply appreciated seeing him arrive when I called for backup. He was a fantastic “equalizer” when we were outnumbered. He and I once arrested a man and then stood back to back to fight our way through a large, angry mob who were hellbent on freeing our prisoner. Yes, I was extremely pleased to have him with me to face that crowd.

Anyway, the subject of the “person acting bizarre” call was a polar opposite of the massive deputy—below average height, and wiry.

To the deputy’s surprise, when the man attacked he immediately went for the officer’s sidearm. The deputy fought to retain the weapon while using his free hand to fight off the violent suspect. Then, in an incredible display of strength, the man ripped the deputy’s leather holster from his gun belt. Yes, he tore the thick leather as easily tearing a sheet of notebook paper.

While battling for control of the man, the deputy managed to grab the firearm (still inside the torn holster) and tossed it onto the roof of a nearby outbuilding. He did so to prevent the man from using it kill anyone.

More deputies arrived to help restrain the very strong and extremely violent man, trying every pain compliance tactic in the book to subdue him. But nothing seemed to work. He simply didn’t feel pressure applied to his joints and nerves. Even with several grown men trying to restrain him he continued to struggle and resist.

After several minutes of fighting and scuffling, a deputy pressed a knee on the side of the man’s neck. His resistance slowly eased and he soon lost consciousness. When he did the deputy immediately released the pressure to his neck. EMS was called and they transported him to the hospital. Unfortunately, he suffered cardiac arrest and died the next day.

Same Tactic Applied, Same Outcome, But Far Different

In the Virginia case, as soon as the deputies felt the suspect stop resisting they quickly reduced the level of force and released the pressure on the man’s neck. They turned him on his side to help him breathe. EMS arrived immediately and began lifesaving procedures.

The Minneapolis officers continued to apply the conscious neck restraint tactic even though Floyd had stopped resisting arrest (at no time during the minutes long video do we see him resisting).

Then, when it was clearly apparent to bystanders, and viewers of the video, that Floyd had lost consciousness, the officer continued using his knee to apply pressure to Floyd’s neck.

At no time did either of the officers attempt to help Floyd breathe, even after he’d lost consciousness. Nor did they check for a pulse.

When EMS arrived, they checked the carotid pulse, walked calmly back to their vehicle where they and others retrieved a gurney. Then officers and EMS workers dragged Floyd’s limp and unresponsive body across the asphalt pavement to the stretcher. Together, they lifted Floyd and placed him on the gurney for transport. When they did Floyd’s head lolled to one side.

There was no sense of urgency.

Again, I wasn’t there so I have only the video as a means to form a slight educated opinion. It will be interesting to hear details as they become available. Since I only report facts, not my opinion, this is all I have to report.

Although, I must say that the video is painful to watch, for several reasons. None of them good.


The Video

Here’s the video of the incident. I caution you that it is graphic. View at your discretion. If seeing someone suffer is not something you care to see, then I urge you to not watch.

Firearms Evidence

Much of the violence that occurs in the world today involves a firearm of some type. How and what type of evidence recovered from those weapons can have a huge impact on the subsequent criminal cases. 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

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, make note of 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 tie.

Pistol

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

2. Collection of trace evidence—hair, tissue, fingerprints, blood, DNA, etc.

Again, proper gloves and face masks must be worn during this part of the process. Gloves must be changed with each piece of evidence handled.

*If the detective is unsure or doesn’t feel he/she can obtain a good, solid fingerprint they should submit the weapon to the fingerprint lab for processing.

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 cardboard box.

Sirchie photo

NOTE: If a firearm was 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.

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. Have the heroes of your stories 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 of the window.

obstruction of justice

Obstruction of Justice (aka perverting the course of justice) is a broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from state to state, and the federal government. For example, in Virginia, Obstruction of Justice is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

Misdemeanor Classes in Virginia

§ 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of a misdemeanor.

The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:

(a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(b) For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.

(c) For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.

(d) For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.

The federal government sees the crime of obstruction in a different light. In their eyes, obstruction is a felony that carries a stiff penalty. For example, in 2010, a Georgia deputy sheriff, Mitnee Jones, was convicted of Obstruction for lying to the FBI and providing false statements as part of an investigation into the death of a Fulton County jail inmate.

The jury convicted Jones of filing a false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation, making a false material statement about the incident to a Special Agent of the FBI, and obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury investigating the death of the inmate.

Jones faced a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for filing the false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation; five years for making a false material statement about the incident to the FBI, and 10 years for obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury. However, at sentencing, Jones received a much lighter sentence of one year and three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

Not all obstruction of justice cases are simple, with paper trails to follow. Remember Martha Stewart? The government’s criminal case against Stewart was based solely on the fact that she made false and misleading statements to the SEC, and those accusations led to Stewart’s conviction for obstruction of justice, and the charge of lying to federal investigators.

By the way, the feds love to add obstruction charges to their cases (every suspect lies to the police at some point, right?).

federal bureau investigation

They do so because the threat of the additional 5-year sentence for obstruction is a great bargaining tool when offering a plea deal (We’ll drop the obstruction charge if you plead guilty to possession of the cocaine).

Here’s the obstruction section from the Code of Virginia:

Obstruction of Justice – Code of Virginia

§ 18.2-460. Obstructing justice; penalty.

A. If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, any person who, by threats or force, knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 lawfully engaged in his duties as such, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

C. If any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, lawfully engaged in the discharge of his duty, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court relating to a violation of or conspiracy to violate § 18.2-248 or subdivision (a) (3), (b) or (c) of § 18.2-248.1, or § 18.2-46.2 or § 18.2-46.3, or relating to the violation of or conspiracy to violate any violent felony offense listed in subsection C of § 17.1-805, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

D. Any person who knowingly and willfully makes any materially false statement or representation to a law-enforcement officer or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 who is in the course of conducting an investigation of a crime by another is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

* Not everyone who lies to local and state police is charged with obstruction. If so, nearly every person who’s been questioned by officers would be in jail, because, based on my experiences, approximately 9 out of 10 suspects lie when they’re in the “hot seat.”

When it comes to charging someone with obstruction, well, you’ve got to carefully pick your battles, and then fight them wisely.


“Don’t Tell Me No Lies” ~ The Golliwogs

In large cities law enforcement officers typically become highly specialized in their areas of expertise. Patrol officers there are often assigned to specific sections of the city—precincts—and they know their assigned areas like the backs of their hands. They’re on a first name basis with every drug dealer, hooker, petty thief, and peeping Tom.

Detectives in large departments are normally assigned to a particular duty, such as homicide investigations, narcotics investigations, or cyber crimes. Their training and experience is quite specific. There are full-time units in place to handle CSI, cold cases, SWAT, canines, bicycle patrol, and community policing, to name just a few.

However, in smaller jurisdictions—mid-size to small—where manpower and funding are precious commodities, officers sometimes have to serve double or even triple duty. They wear many hats.

Patrol officers everywhere are the front line defense against crime. They’re the men and women who answer the never-ending stream of calls that range from brutal homicides to people who think they’ve seem aliens landing in their back yards.

But in small agencies a patrol officer may also be a member of the SWAT team. This officer would probably keep his/her SWAT gear in the trunk of their patrol car, ready to suit up on a moment’s notice. They may also serve as a member of the high-risk entry team, or as a bike patrol officer who swaps their cruiser for a bicycle during a portion of their shift.

Some detectives also serve as members of scuba dive teams. Many do their own evidence collection and crime scene photography. There are no CSI units in many, many departments across the country. In fact, many departments don’t have detectives. Patrol officers in those departments investigate criminal cases from beginning to end. Needless to say, this stretches manpower to the breaking point.

In even smaller police departments, where there are three or four officers (maybe the chief is the only officer) duties may branch out further still. For example, a small town of a few hundred citizens may expect their officers to read the town water meters as part of their regular patrol (yes, I do know of a town where this system is still in place).

Another town police chief has an office inside a country store. The “office” is a simple metal desk in the corner near the lottery ticket machine. The town’s highest ranking law enforcement officer only has access to his desk during the store’s normal business hours. He is also required to handle the town’s animal control duties.

So if you’re ever worried that your story seems a little off where police procedures are concerned, never fear. The truth about law enforcement is much more farfetched. In fact, the only thing consistent about police work is its inconsistencies.

Detective I. Will Gitterdone had a spotless attendance record, never missing a day for sickness in his entire thirty-three years with the department. In fact, in all of his years of wearing a badge and toting a sidearm he refused to soil that record even though on this particular day his fever hovered at 102, and coughing and sneezing fits forced him to spend the majority of the morning with his mouth and nose buried deep into a crumpled and quite yucky handkerchief. His arms and legs felt heavy and his muscles felt as if he’d been trampled by a hundred stampeding wild pigs.

In spite of the aches, fever, chills, and perspiring like a Savannah ditch digger working in August midday sunshine, Gitterdone was busy collecting suspected blood samples (brownish-red stains for the official record) at a particularly brutal homicide scene. He was also spewing misty spittle via alternating coughs and sneezes. His partner, Al Lergictowork, told him he looked worse than bad and asked if he needed a break. Gitterdone promptly turned his head away from Lergictowork to fired off a round of lung-clearing ah-choo’s directly into the large paper bag of already-collected evidence. “No,” he said. “I’ll be okay. Besides, I’m almost done here.”

So, did you notice anything particularly wrong with Gitterdone’s method of evidence collection? Was there anything he should have done differently?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that it might be a good idea to have both Gitterdone and Lergictowork study this list of Crime Scene Do Nots. It would also be wise to have your protagonist take a peek, just in case.

Crime Scene DO NOT’S

1. Do Not blow away excess fingerprint powder! Doing so adds your DNA to the surface.

2. Do Not use Styrofoam to package electronic devices (computer parts, etc.) because it can cause static charges. Instead, use foam padding or bubble-wrap.

3. Do Not alter or add anything to a crime scene sketch after leaving the scene. Memories are not quite as accurate as we may think.

4. Do NOT place bloodstained evidence in plastic bags. Plastic bags and containers can serve as incubators for bacteria, which can destroy, alter, or deteriorate DNA. Rule of thumb—paper bags/containers for wet evidence (blood, semen, saliva, etc.) and plastic for dry evidence.

5. DO NOT collect DNA evidence samples (saliva, blood, etc.) from a criminal suspect without a court order, the suspect’s consent, or under exigent (emergency) circumstances.

Hapci-fr
6. Do NOT cough, sneeze, exhale, etc. over any evidence sample. This includes talking over a sample. With each word spoken comes your DNA that’s instantly transferred to the evidence.

7. Do NOT fold wet documents. Leave that to the professionals in the lab.

8. Do NOT use fingerprint tape or lifters to collect bits of trace evidence. The adhesion on print-lifting tape is typically insufficient for picking up tiny bits of evidence.

9. Do NOT use dirty digging tools when collecting soil samples. Always clean tools thoroughly after each use to avoid cross contamination.

10. Do NOT use fingerprint lifters in lieu of gunshot residue (GSR) collection materials. (see number 8 above)

11. Do NOT allow shooting suspects, victims, witnesses, etc. to wash their hands or rub them against other surfaces until after GSR tests/collection have been completed.

Finally, number twelve is one that writers should do, and that’s …

12. Attend the 2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon. We have an unbelievably cool and over-the-moon exciting lineup in store for you. This is an event you will not want to miss!!

Honestly, we’ve outdone ourselves this year. We’ve been sitting on a few exciting secrets about the 2020 event and it’s almost time for the big reveal. So stay tuned, because we’ll soon be releasing the details.


MurderCon is moving forward as planned. We have carefully detailed plans in place for proper social distancing, and we’re furnishing masks. Hand sanitizer will be readily available.

Sirchie, our host, is in the loop with state and local health officials since they’re in the business of making PPE equipment, including hand sanitizer and masks, for 1st responders. Between Sirchie officials and our in-house microbiologist, Denene, we’re closely monitoring the situation and making preparations. Your safety, as always, is our priority.

Sign up today to reserve your spot!

MurderCon 2020

What does MOM have to do with catching bad guys? We all know our moms have super powers. They can see through walls, hear a whisper at 100 paces, and they have the unique ability to silence us with a mere glance. But could those unique qualities help nab a serial killer?

In the world of cops and robbers, to learn who committed a crime and why, investigators must first find MOM – the acronym for Motive, Opportunity, and Means. Normally, the suspect who possesses all three is indeed the true bad guy.

The Investigation

I’ve always felt it best to approach a crime scene in a systematic method, in four very basic steps: the initial evaluation, develop and expand the case, narrow the leads (witnesses and evidence), and present the case to the prosecutor and court.

The first two steps in the investigation—initial evaluation and developing the case—are where MOM first begins to appear. In a detective’s initial approach, they should look at the scene as a whole, taking in everything they see, not just a dead body, or an open safe.

Many clues are quite obvious but are often missed because the inexperienced investigator immediately begins collecting the trace, hoping forensics will solve the case for them. Trace and other forensic evidence is actually icing on the cake. Most crimes are still solved the old fashioned way, by knocking on doors, talking to people, and listening. In fact, the best investigators are really good listeners.

When investigating a murder I first looked to see who had:

Motive – The person who would benefit the most from the crime (life insurance beneficiary, jealous spouse, etc.)

Opportunity – The person who had no alibi for every single moment during the commission of the crime and its subsequent acts, including the planning stages of the crime. This stage of the investigation takes an enormous amount of time, lots of leg work, tons of phone calls, door-knocking, and many cups of coffee and hours of thinking. Again, be a good listener is key.

Means – The suspect must have had access to the murder weapon (includes a killer for hire) and all evidence in the crime.

Remember, complex criminal cases are most often solved by eliminating the people who could not have committed the crime, which eventually leads to the last man standing – the perpetrator.


The compound

This blog is coming to you today from our secure compound where we’ve been hunkered down now for eight weeks. All groceries and other supplies are delivered and sanitized and then stored in the garage for a period of time prior to bringing them inside. Then they’re washed with soap and water. We don’t touch mail with our bare hands. This is a process that’s necessary due to my suppressed immune system and the fact that Denene (my wife) is a microbiologist who’s very protective of me and takes no chances with my health.

Speaking of sanitizing items and the reasons for doing so, per request, we’ve added a new session to the 2020 MurderCon lineup. It’s called “A Microbiologist’s Perspective of Covid 19 and the Spread of Disease.” Denene will present this Thursday evening session. The presentation serves two purposes. One, to address covid-19 from its beginning through vaccine. Two, attendees will learn details necessary when writing about bioterrorism and the spread of diseases.You will not want to miss this incredibly important session.

Denene Lofland, PhD, FACSc, is an expert on bioterrorism and microbiology. She’s managed hospital laboratories and for many years worked as a senior director at biotech companies specializing in new drug discovery. She and her team members, for example, produced successful results that included drugs prescribed to treat cystic fibrosis and bacterial pneumonia. Denene, along with other top company officials, traveled to the FDA to present those findings. As a result, those drugs were approved by the FDA and are now on the market.

Calling on her vast expertise in microbiology, Denene then focused on bioterrorism. With a secret security clearance, she managed a team of scientists who worked in an undisclosed location, in a plain red-brick building that contained several laboratories. Hidden in plain sight, her work there was for the U.S. military.

She’s written numerous peer reviewed articles, contributed to and edited chapters in Bailey and Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology, a textbook used by universities and medical schools, and she taught microbiology to medical students at a medical school. She’s currently the director of the medical diagnostics program at a major university, where she was recently interviewed for a video about covid-19.

Denene is a regular featured speaker at the annual Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference, and she’s part of the faulty for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.


MurderCon is moving forward as planned. We have carefully detailed plans in place for proper social distancing and we’re furnishing masks and hand sanitizer will be readily available. Sirchie, our host, is in the loop with state and local health officials since they’re in the business of making PPE equipment, including hand sanitizer and masks, for 1st responders. Between Sirchie officials and our in-house microbiologist, Denene, we’re closely monitoring the situation and making preparations. Your safety, as always, is our priority.

Sign up today to reserve your spot!

MurderCon 2020

Police officers are trained to protect lives and property. They’re skilled drivers, shooters, and fighters. They know how to arrest, how to testify in court, and how to collect evidence. They’re calm and cool when facing danger, and they’re protective of other officers.

But how about after transitioning from wearing a uniform to plainclothes? How do detectives, both real and fictional, prepare for and react to danger? After all, they don’t have the luxury of wearing all that fancy, shiny gear that’s worn by patrol officers.

In the fictional world, investigators have the luxury of their creators handing them whatever they need to survive. Real life detectives don’t have that advantage, therefore, they should follow a few simple unwritten guidelines. If you, as a writer, would like to add a bit of extra realism to your tall tales, then you should have your characters follow in the footsteps of living, breathing detectives. And, speaking of shoes …

1. Footwear

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight,” right? Well, the same is true for shoes. Detectives should never, ever wear fancy, expensive shoes to that same battle. Why not? Because shoes such as the $1,665 leather-soled, perforated Amedeo Testoni Derby shoes pictured below offer practically zero traction during a fight.

The same when running after a criminal suspect whose feet are clad in a pair of Solid Gold OVO x Air Jordans, which, by the way, are the world’s most expensive sneaker with a price tag of $2,000,000.

Remember, sometimes it’s necessary to retreat in a hurry, and you certainly want the hero of your story to make it to page 325, so practical footwear is a must. Detectives should always wear lace-up shoes, not loafers that could easily slip off the feet just when you need them the most. No leather soles, if possible. And female detectives should never, ever wear heels.

2. Handcuffs

TV investigators are often seen with handcuffs looping over their waistbands, with one cuff inside the rear of the pants and the other flopping around the outside. This is not an acceptable method for carrying handcuffs. They should always be secured in a holster of some type, such as the one pictured above. Carrying them improperly is an invitation for a bad guy to grab them and use the cuffs as a weapon against the officer.

The ratchet end of the cuff (above) makes for an excellent weapon. Imagine an offender swinging the cuff, catching an officers cheek and ripping the flesh away. It’s happened.

3. Pistols

Carrying a loaded firearm tucked into the rear waistband without a holster is a definite no. For starters, the weapon is not secure and could easily slip down inside the pants, which could be difficult to retrieve during an emergency. Imagine being on the receiving end of gunfire while pawing around inside your pants, desperately trying untangle your pistol from your Wednesday pair of tighty-whiteys. It’s not a pretty picture.

Besides, an unsecured weapon is easily taken by an offender during a scuffle. But even worse, it would be downright embarrassing to have to fish your gun out of your pants while standing in line at the bank. So wear a holster. There are several designs specifically for plainclothes and undercover officers. For example, Galls’ BLACKHAWK! Leather Inside Pants Holster.

4. Vests

I know this like beating a dead horse, but ALL officers, including detectives, should wear their ballistic vests. Wearing a suit and tie does not prevent an investigator from encountering dangerous people with guns. Suit jackets and shirts can be cut to allow a vest underneath (male and female). I know, they’re hot and uncomfortable, and I’m the perfect example of someone who’s been involved in a shootout and was not wearing a vest. I’m lucky the bad guy was a poor shot and I wasn’t. However, all it takes is one round to start the sound of Bob Dylan’s voice inside your head, singing …

“Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Oh, and do tuck the tail of the vest inside the pants, like a shirt tail. It’s there for a reason! Never roll it up under the vest. Doing so allows the vest to ride up, exposing vital organs.

5. Badges

It’s a good tactic for Plainclothes officers to use their non-gun hand to hold and display their badges near the shooting hand while their weapons are drawn. You want it visible because people have a tendency to focus on a gun instead of the ID that’s attached to a belt. If an officer’s badge is not clearly visible the suspect may not realize the man/woman who’s aiming a pistol at them is indeed a cop no matter how many times or how loud you shout, “POLEEECE!. This includes other officers who may think the good guy is one of the bad guys and then shoots one of their own before realizing their little boo boo. #displaythebadge

Writers, you conduct an incredible amount of research about cops, forensics, and more, and your readers deeply appreciate your efforts. Therefore, to assist with your hard work, here are six tidbits to add to your gatherings of vital information.

1. There’s been a ton of media coverage devoted to anti-police protestors and activists, and in those vivid live reports we sometimes see people expressing their anger by assaulting innocent inanimate objects, such as garbage cans, dumpsters, streetlight poles, and even police vehicles.

This type of behavior is not new. Not at all. Modern day cop-car-turner-overers are not at all a new species. For example, way back in 1899, the Akron, Ohio police department introduced their first police car, an electric buggy equipped with lights, a stretcher, and a gong used as a warning device (sirens eventually and wisely replaced the gong-banging).

Well, soon after the fancy police car was put into use, a group of angry citizens who were demanding justice for the assault of a six-year-old girl by a man named Louis Peck. Police had arrested Peck the previous day but the mob wasn’t satisfied with just an arrest. They wanted to lynch him right then and there, without a trial (he confessed to the police). So the mob attacked the police department/city building with bricks and dynamite, and they set fire to the Akron fire station and burned it to the ground. They also attacked the firefighters and prevented them from putting out the fires. The group finally tossed the city’s only police car into a canal, which was no small feat considering the car weighed 2.5 tons.

2. Today, police officers and sheriff’s deputies typically drive department cars such as the Dodge Durango Pursuit or the powerful Dodge Charger with the 5.7L HEMI® V8 Engine, and even Ford’s Defender Police Interceptor Utility. Back in the 1930’s, however, it was the Deuce Coupe that reigned supreme with police agencies. Of course, the car was so popular and powerful that the bad guys drove them as well.

Speaking of the Deuce Coupe, let’s take moment to brighten what is a cloudy and cool day here in Delaware.

3. In the days before GPS and 911 calling, police officers and dispatchers relied on a caller’s directions to their locations. It was not pretty. For example:

Dispatcher – “Police department.”

Caller – “My daddy’s stuck in a tree ’cause our bull chased him up there.” Please hurry!”

Dispatcher – “What’s your address?”

Caller – “Don’t got one. We get our mail at Billy Buck’s General Store.”

Dispatcher. “What is the location of your house?”

Caller – “Well, you go down Corn Meal Road till you pass the spot where the old mill burnt down, and then you turn to your right at the oak tree that was split clean open by lightnin’ back in ’53—“

The sound of the caller spitting—probably tobacco “juice”—is heard at the other end of the line.

Caller continues. “You remember that gulley-washer of a storm, don’cha’? It was a doozy, weren’t it. Anyways, you go on till you pass eight telephone poles—count ’em good ’cause nine is too many—and turn into the first dirt path to your right. You can’t miss it. Cross the creek—it ain’t deep—and you’ll soon see daddy up in the tree. He’ll be easy to spot ’cause it’s the only tree with a bull standing under it. Hurry, ’cause I don’t know how much longer daddy can hang on. He turned 94 his last birthday and he says startin’ to lose the strength in his arms. Arthritis done ’bout got him”

4. People offer all sorts of wild excuses for doing the things they did. A few of my favorites are …

  • – It’s not my fault. I was drunk.
  • – I lost control of the car when I dropped a lit joint in my lap.
  • I didn’t mean to kill her. She stepped in front of my gun when I shot at her lover. I was trying to kill him.
  • I have no idea how that bag of drugs got into my underwear.
  • If you find my DNA inside that woman it’s because somebody planted it there. I’m not well-liked, you know.
  • You mean this isn’t my house? My mistake. I’ll be going now. Can I have my tools back?

5. You know about Miranda (you have the right to remain silent, etc.), right? Well, the same strategy can work to an investigator’s advantage. Like the suspected killer sitting across the desk from a detective who chose the “silent approach” to interrogation.

Detective – “You know why you’re here, right?”

Suspect – “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

Detective – I sat there staring at the guy, saying nothing for a full minute, then …

Suspect – “Well, maybe I was there when she fell and hit her head on that hammer. But I didn’t hit her.” 

A pause …

“You might find my fingerprints on the hammer because I borrowed it last weekend to fix my kitchen door.”

Another pause …

“Okay, she might’ve run into the hammer when I was swinging it to drive a nail.”

 A long pause, then …

” Dammit, yes. Yes, I killed the nagging b***h.”

6. Searching people for weapons and other items is not high on a cop’s list of things they enjoy, and suspects definitely do not make the task any easier. Sometimes it becomes downright embarrassing, such as time I arrested a guy on a warrant for assault. I’d chased him on foot for a block or so before catching and handcuffing him. Of course, by that time a crowd had gathered and were taunting me.

I was in the midst of a quick pat down, checking for weapons when, while running my hands up one of his legs, my hands made contact with … well, you know. I glanced up and saw him smiling a cheesy ear-to-ear grin. Then he said. “You go any higher or faster and I’m going to need a cigarette when you’re done.”

The crowd around us burst in laughter, and so did I. His comment definitely lightened the mood of the angry crowd, and I credit it for unintentionally preventing a difficult time getting him back to my car without trouble from the mob.

Still … yuck.


ATTENTION!! ATTENTION!! ATTENTION!!

This year at MurderCon, Dr. Denene Lofland, will present a new and extremely detailed and eye-opening session about Covid-19 and the spread of disease. *Session title and description coming soon.

Those of you who’ve attended Dr. Lofland’s classes on bioterrorism at Writers’ Police Academy events will remember her detailed sessions regarding the spread of diseases. In fact, her class just last year, ironically, was called “Biological and Chemical Weapons: Is the End of Humankind Near?”

Denene, an expert on bioterrorism and microbiology, has managed hospital laboratories, and for many years worked as a senior director at biotech companies specializing in new drug discovery, such as medications prescribed to treat cystic fibrosis and bacterial pneumonia. She and her team members produced successful results and Denene, along with other top company officials, traveled to the FDA to present those findings. As a result, those drugs are now on the market.

Calling on her vast expertise in microbiology, Denene then focused on bioterrorism. With a secret security clearance, she managed a team of scientists who worked in an undisclosed location, in a plain red-brick building that contained several laboratories. Hidden in plain sight, her work was for the U.S. military.

Sign up today to reserve your spot at MurderCon 2020! It’s a one of a kind experience!

2020 Guest of Honor – David Baldacci

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