Shock Trauma plate inserts for bullet resistant vests are available in various levels of protection. The inserts fit into a pocket on the front center of the bullet resistant material (Kevlar).

This is an actual front Kevlar panel. The trauma plate pocket is clearly visible in the center of the material. A trauma plate similar to the ones pictured above is inserted into the pocket for maximum protection. The plates in the image at the top of the page are American Body Armor Impac S.T. plates. American Body Armor plates are made from a composite material, unlike traditional steel plates. Composite plates are 10 times stronger than their steel counterparts. They’re also superior to the soft-type S.T. plate. This special American Body Armor material is designed to trap rounds rather than allowing bullets to shatter and fragment. The material is also designed to stop rounds up front, allowing no penetration whatsoever.

The world of crime-solving evolves every day. New multi-million-dollar products, technology, and break-through discoveries make catching the bad guys a little easier. But, sometimes it’s the small things – the cheap stuff – that brings a smile to an investigator’s face.

<font color="#FFFFFF">3</font>Peel & Fume Cyanoacrylate Latent Print Fuming Pouch

Developing latent fingerprints just got easier. Simply place the item to be fumed inside a fuming chamber along with a small container of warm water (the water is used to create humidity).

Then peel open one these handy Peel & Fume pouches and place it inside the chamber with the evidence. The fuming process begins immediately, producing complete results in 10-12 minutes.  The cost – $3.65.

Powder-B-Gone Latent Print Powder Remover LC-PBG-16

We always knew which detectives had just completed a burglary call, because he’d have black smudges all over his face, especially around the nose (it never fails, whenever you have fingerprint powder on your hands, your nose begins to itch). The stuff is almost impossible to remove. Believe me, it takes a lot of scrubbing.

Even worse are the smudged surfaces in the victim’s home. Fingerprint powder has the incredible ability to multiply like the Tribbles from Star Trek.

Powder-B-Gone is a latent print powder-removing solution that eliminates that pesky black stuff from all non-porous surfaces. All that’s required is a squirt from the bottle and then wipe the area clean with a damp cloth. So where was this stuff when I was dusting for prints and fielding complaints from irritated homeowners?

Many felt they’d rather suffer the loss from the burglary rather than dealing with the mess caused by fingerprint powder.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Provost, Guilford College Forensic Biology

Those of you coming to the Writers Police Academy later this month will have the opportunity to experience this first hand. You will be dusting for, and lifting, actual fingerprints.

One bottle of Powder B. Gone – $13.25

MMC Cocaine ID Spray and Sprayer

This handy-dandy aerosol spray is used to detect the presence of cocaine residue impregnated in fabric, cloth, textiles, and many other types of surfaces.  $12.00

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* It’s not too late to register for the Writers Police Academy in Hamilton, Ohio. This is going to be a fantastic event. Where else could you rub elbows with top authors, publishers, and agents while taking a walking tour through a real, working morgue? Who knows what you may see lying around. This is the morgue of Dr. Richard Burkhardt, a coroner who’s been featured on Forensic Files, Court TV, and Skeleton Stories. Dr. B. is one of the all-time great storytellers.

Hamilton was once known as Little Chicago since it was a favorite hide-out spot for gangsters such as John Dillenger. Things aren’t much quieter now. In fact, during a late-night session I’m going to take conference attendees on a photographic tour (real crime-scene photos) of a couple of the country’s most horrific murders – murders that occurred in Hamilton. It’s a presentation that’s not for the faint of heart. But it is a presentation that’ll stir a mystery writer’s imagination.

I hope to see you there!


Paper evidence bags are best used for containing “wet” evidence, such as bed linens, pillows, rugs, and other items saturated with body fluids. Plastic bags act as mini incubators which allows bacteria to grow, and the presence of bacteria can alter or destroy DNA.

Large bags, such as the ones pictured above are perfect for bulky items.


Evidence bags are available in assorted sizes. They’re also available with pre-printed evidence labels for documenting the type of evidence inside, name of suspect and victim, date and time confiscated, confiscating officer, and chain of custody.

Plastic bags are ideal for preserving narcotics evidence, currency, jewelry, and other hard evidence. Many plastic evidence bags come with self-adhesive strips that are impossible to open without destroying the seal.


Plastic bags are also utilized in police booking areas, jails, and prisons to contain inmate personal property.


Manilla evidence envelopes are available with or without viewing windows.


Tyvek envelopes are water and tear resistant.


Check bags are sized perfectly to accept bank checks.


Ballistics bags are used for shell casings, bullets, and other ballistics evidence. The white strip is used for labeling.


Weapons boxes are used to preserve knives and guns.



Lined metal cans are used for collecting arson scene evidence.


Syringe tubes.


Adjustable evidence tubes expand to fit desired size.


* Thanks to Evident Crime Scene Products.

Evidence drying cabinets/lockers

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Don’t forget To enter the new 200 word contest. The winner will receive a DVD of the entire first series of Crime 360! Details here.

(DVDs courtesy of A&E Television)

Homicide investigations


The job of locating evidence can be quite difficult. It’s a tedious job that’s sometimes performed while crawling around on your hand and knees among garbage and other filth, including human waste and tissue. In order to prove their cases investigators are often faced with the challenge of locating nearly invisible items, such as hair, fiber, and DNA. They also have to deal with odors that can send even the toughest of all maggots running the other way. Fortunately, science and technology makes the job a little easier with products like these:

The Green Forensic Laser is used to locate hard to find evidence, such as bone chips, fingerprints, fibers, and narcotics residue. This particular unit is a battery powered device that’s easy to use in the field. The laser weighs 33 pounds without the battery, 42 with it. The price tag for this little gem is a whopping $45,000.00 which makes ownership for departments with tight budgets nearly out of the question.

The Poliray Forensic Light System is a hand-held light source that’s especially useful in locating evidence, such as fibers, paint traces, blood stains, semen, and saliva. The device is also capable of illuminating Superglued, Ninhydrin treated, and powdered fingerprints. $3,000.00

Bullet hole testing kit for the identification of, you guessed it, bullet holes. The kit enables investigators to accurately determine caliber, type of bullet, and the direction the bullet traveled. Cost – less than $300.00.

Your hero can’t nab the bad guy because the thug ground off the serial number on the murder weapon? No problem, if your investigator can put his hands on a Serial Number Restoration Kit like the one pictured above. The chemicals in this kit can easily raise ground away markings on steel, nickel, cast iron, aluminum and brass copper. $115.00

Presumptive blood test kits allow investigators to test suspect stains in the field. A positive reading lets your hero know if that odd, rusty-red stain on the carpet is indeed blood, or not.

Like Luminol, three Blue Star Forensic tablets mixed with distilled water allows investigators to detect the presence of blood. The bonus of using the Blue Star kit is that it doesn’t destroy DNA like the other product. $76.00 for the kit. Refills tablets are available.


Evidence drying cabinets are used to remove unwanted moisture from evidence. The cabinet also prevents technicians from contacting airborne hazards. $10,000.00 – $16,000.00 depending upon the desired size – small medium, or large cabinet. Built-in filtration systems eliminate outside ducting.

The odor inhibitor kit is for the investigator who has never quite become accustomed to the smell of decomposing human flesh and organs. A little dab of this vanilla-scented gel on the upper lip and it’s just another day at the office.



Undercover officers and detectives sometimes have to be quite creative when it comes to finding places to conceal their weapons. To help with this problem, many police supply companies have turned everyday items into some pretty unique hidey-holes for guns.

Ladies purse with concealed slot for a sidearm. The purse comes in a variety of styles and colors.


Multi-compartment pistol purse.

Fanny pack with secret compartment for gun, handcuffs, and spare magazine.


Man’s wallet with built-in compartment for .22 or .25 semi-auto.


Ankle holster.


Belly bands conceal a variety of equipment.


Organizer with hidden compartment.

Pancake holsters fit snugly against the officer’s side.


Paddle holsters are designed to keep the holster in place when the weapon is drawn. There’s also an adjustable tension screw for weapon retention.


Laser Radar


Laser radar sends a quick burst of infrared light to a speeding car. The light is reflected back and the unit calculates, in nanoseconds, how long it took for the light to travel in each direction. Then, the unit transposes the information it received into the miles per hour of the target vehicle. Laser radar is an extremely accurate device and, it’s very easy for officers to use. All they have to do is point it at a moving vehicle and squeeze the trigger.


Officers simply point and pull the trigger.

The target vehicle’s speed is displayed in miles per hour.

Radar Love


Radar is an acronym for radio detection and ranging.  Doppler radar units, like the one pictured above, emit a continuous frequency that bounces off a moving object, such as a car or truck. The radar unit receives the reflected signal and instantantly calculates the target vehicle’s speed. Dopplar radar units are capable of determining a violator’s speed while the patrol car is motion – moving radar and, while it’s stationary – stationary radar.

In the moving radar mode, the radar unit has to determine the police car’s speed before it can calculate the speed of a target car. It does this by sending a signal to the surface of the pavement and to the surrounding landscape. The unit picks up the reflected signals and converts them to miles per hour – the police car’s speed.  The patrol car’s speed is displayed  as patrol speed on the face of the radar unit (see above photo).  During this exchange and calculation of information, the unit is also sending a signal to the target vehicle. The reflected signal is transposed into miles per hour – the target vehicle’s speed.  The target vehicle’s speed is displayed as target speed on the face of the unit.

In the stationary mode, the radar unit simply subtracts the difference between the frequency it sent and the one it received. The difference is calculated and shown as miles per hour on the target screen. No patrol speed is shown when the unit is in stationary mode because the police car is not in motion.

Radar facts:

1) Police officers are not required to show the radar unit to a speeder.

2) To be certain the radar unit is operating properly, police officers must calibrate the machine before and after each shift. They do this by striking and holding a tuning fork in front of the radar unit’s antenna. Each tuning fork is designed to simulate a pre-determined speed in miles per hour. Two tuning forks are used when calibrating a radar unit – one fork is pre-set to 65 mph and the other simulates 35 mph.

The radar unit picks up the forks vibrations as speed and displays its calculation in the target speed window. If the calculated speed is the same as the speed generated by the tuning fork, the unit is operating properly.

3) Patrol car speedometers must be calibrated for accuracy on a regular basis.

4) Some police cars are equipped with devices that allow officers to swipe a person’s driver’s license like an ATM card. The machine automatically records the driver’s information and then prints out a traffic summons. The device is also capable of transmitting the data back to the police station and to the court.

5) A traffic stop for speeding is an arrest. Signing the ticket is the same as posting a bond. The driver’s signature on the summons is her promise to appear in court. A refusal to sign a traffic summons could send you to jail.

Officers use tuning forks to calibrate Doppler radar units.  The gray and black device inside the car window is the rear antenna for the radar unit. The front antenna is pictured in the top photograph. It’s the round object to the left of the radar unit.

Note the patrol speed on the unit in the top photo matches the speed on the car’s speedometer.

Tomorrow’s topic – Laser Radar

*If there’s a topic you’d like explained, just drop me a line at Please mention The Graveyard Shift in the subject line of your email or your message may go unopened.


Patrol Car: Mobile Office




Patrol cars serve many purposes. Obviously, they’re an officer’s means of transportation, but they’re also used as mobile offices, equipment haulers, cover during gun battles, barricades, emergency warning devices, temporary jails, cafeterias, and communication centers.

Police cars aren’t all that much different than the cars driven by civilians. They do have heavier suspensions, and they’re fitted with larger alternators because of the extra electricity that’s need to power all the radios, lights and sirens. Heavy-duty brakes are installed on patrol cars since quick, hard braking is often required during pursuit driving. Some police cars have coolers on the transmission lines. Other than that, they’re basically equipped the same as any other automobile.

Patrol cars are meant to be highly visible. They’re usually marked with the department’s reflective logo and, they’re equipped with some sort of emergency lighting system. Some departments use rotating halogen lights while others prefer flashing strobes. Many agencies use a combination of both. Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding light color – usually red, blue or a combination of both.

Light bars are positioned on the top of a police car and stretch from one side to the other. They’re held in place by a bracket attached to the inside of the upper door frames. A hole is drilled into the car top creating a passage for light’s wiring harness. The hole is waterproofed using a rubber gromett and silicone sealant.

Each light bar is equipped with colored warning lights and spotlights aimed to the front, rear and sides. The side spotlights are called alley lights. Front-facing spot lights are called take-down lights because they’re often used during high-risk traffic stops – taking down a suspect.


Low profile light bar equipped with flashing strobe lights. It’s called a low profile light bar because it sits low and tight to the car roof. People often mistake it for a luggage rack. The deception sometimes allows the police car to approach without being detected as easily as a car with a taller light bar.


Alley light

Most patrol cars utilize a center console that houses radio equipment, laptop computer, light switches, siren switches, portable radio charger, remote radar controls, and a public address system.

Equipment in the console above starting at the top:

PA system 

Department radio capable of muti-jurisdictional communication

Lights and siren control panel

Radar unit

Remote radar control

Top right – personal police scanner for monitoring fire and rescue

The rear seating area of a patrol car serves as a mini-jail cell. The window and door locks and controls are disabled to prevent escape. Heavy metal and plexiglass screens divide the front and rear compartments. The rear seat is made from hard plastic. This allows for easy cleaning (Drunks tend to make a big mess. Yes, patrol officers are often required to clean their own cars).


Rear compartment of a patrol car.

Shotguns are mounted in the front compartment of patrol cars. Some departments prefer an upright mount near the dashboard. Others prefer a mount behind the driver’s head. Both are kept locked at all times. To unlock the shotgun, officers press a concealed button in or near the center console area.


Shotgun mount.

I’ve included this photograph as a quiz. Can anyone identify the round, white object? Hint…there’s at least one in almost all police cars.



In the days before semi-automatics took center stage in the world of law enforcement, police officers carried revolvers as their weapons of choice. Cowboys called them six-shooters, and gun buffs often refer to them as wheel guns. Shooting enthusiasts love them. Why, then, did police officers make the switch? The answer is simple. Law enforcement officers were being outgunned by semi-automatic-toting bad guys.

Revolvers are capable of firing only six rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatics can pop off fifteen or sixteen rounds as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger. During a gun battle, officers had to reload two or three times before the crook emptied his first magazine.

Reloading a revolver has always been a problem, especially when the officer was under fire.

New Picture

Cops carried their spare rounds of ammunition in rectangular, leather pouches called dump pouches. Dump pouches typically hold six bullets and are attached upside down to the officer’s utility belt.

To access the extra bullets, officers simply unsnapped the pouch cover “dumping” the ammunition into their non-gun hand. The officer then fed the individual rounds into the open slots in the revolver’s rotating cylinder—one at a time. Needless to say, this is far easier said than done when someone is shooting in your direction.

New Picture (1)

Barney’s left hand rests on one of the two dump pouches on his utility belt. His index finger touches the other. The deputy-in-training also carries two dump pouches on his duty belt. Both are directly below the ticket book. Release snaps are clearly visible near the bottom of each pouch.

*Note – The thin vertical leather strap (with center snap) located to the right of deputy-in-training’s belt buckle is called a belt keeper. Its purpose is to attach the duty belt firmly to the regular dress belt. Keepers are used to prevent the gun belt/duty belt from sliding down over the hips. In the above photo the keeper is there, but it’s obviously not used properly.

To solve the problem of slow reloading came in the form of speed loaders. Speed loaders hold six rounds of ammunition that are perfectly aligned with the bullet slots in a revolver’s cylinder. A twist of a knurled knob on the end of the speed loader releases all six rounds at once. Shooters could now easily and quickly re-load their revolvers in tense situations, even in the dark.


Revolver, speed loaders, and speed loader pouches. The pouches attach to a police officer’s duty belt.


A revolver’s cylinder is designed to swing out for reloading. The knurled button between the hammer and the wooden grip is the cylinder’s release button.


Speed loaders position rounds so they line up perfectly with the bullet slots in the cylinder.


A twist of the knob in the officer’s right hand releases all six rounds at once.

Speed loaders are a wonderful tool. However, they don’t solve all revolver woes…

New Picture (2)

Booking Station



The days of the ten print fingerprint card are almost over. No longer will police officers have to smear ink on a suspect’s fingertips  to transfer his prints to a paper card. Many departments have switched to computerized booking stations that have the capability of capturing prints of all types – rolled, flat, and palm – into its database. The machines are also designed to snap those oh-so-attractive booking photos made popular by recent celebrity arrestees.


The top picture above (No, not Paris and her gang, although I’m sure her prints were taken on a machine similar to this one) is of a booking station called LiveScan, sold by Cogent Systems (There are several other manufacturers out there who make similar systems. This is just the equipment with which I’m most familiar). LiveScan units come factory-ready to connect to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the FBI’s database – the largest collection of fingerprints in the world – over forty-seven million.

A LiveScan booking station stands nearly six-feet tall and weighs over two-hundred fifty pounds. It’s very durable, built to withstand the abuse of combative criminals and staggering drunks. The units are even equipped with their own portable cooling systems.

Image quality is very important when attempting match a suspect’s fingerprints to that of a print retrieved from the scene of a crime. Cogent’s resolution and quality picks up the finest detail of print ridges. In fact, the resolution meets all FBI standards.


Many departments across the U.S. simply don’t have the funds to purchase equipment like the LiveScan. Those agencies still rely on the messy ten print card system where officers roll a supect’s fingers across an ink pad and then transfer his prints to a pre-printed card. A large, one-gallon jug of orange-scented hand cleaner sits at ready to clean the stained hands of suspects and officers alike. The completed card is then mailed to the FBI in Clarksburg, West Virginia where technicians enter the information into the AFIS system.

Ten Print Card


Cogent has developed a mobile remote fingerprint scanner that easily configures with their existing LiveScan equipment using Bluetooth technology. Officers in the field can submit a suspect’s fingerprint directly to the AFIS system and receive the results of the search in minutes. This handy little pocket-size device is approximately four-and-a-half inches tall, one-and-a-half inches wide, and less than an inch thick, and weighs less three ounces.


(Photo from Cogent Systems)

By the way, most police officers refer to the booking procedure as “processing.” “Go process your prisoner.” Not, “Book ’em”