|Retired Sgt. Derek Pacifico|
He started with procedures for hiring and training police officers. He said it takes three years to find your niche. Some like working the streets in uniform, others prefer the plainclothes route. The best detectives wind up in homicide (maybe a little ego there). He covered the various types of homicide, leading up to murder, which can carry the death penalty.
After covering the crime scene, we got a look (literally, with photos) at how the body appears with different types of wounds, gunshot, knife, etc. Then we took up the subject of evidence. Pacifico discussed how to collect various types of physical evidence, looking for information unwittingly left behind. He covered collecting such as fibers, glass, auto paint, gunshot residue (a test he said was unreliable), footprints, tire marks, tool marks, and using an electrostatic dust kit. He spiced his discussion with lots of anecdotes, such as a case where good footprints were found but before they could be lifted, a sprinkler came on and obliterated them.
|The sergeant's badge|
By far the largest part of the seminar dealt with interrogation. He talked a lot about how TV shows get it wrong and showed some clips of bad technique. Pacifico discussed at length the preparation normally used prior to going into the interrogation room. He showed video of interrogations that gave us a bird's eye view of how you work to make the suspect comfortable and gain his trust. The interview comes first, then the interrogation. He talked about the point at which a subject must be read his Miranda rights.
He told us how to judge the truthfulness of the subject's answers. It's similar to a polygraph test where questions are first asked that establish a baseline for reactions to truthful answers and lies. Body language is the key. What are the eyes doing, the hands, arms, legs? Posture can be revealing. Shallow breathing, glazed eyes, hand wringing. How they answer questions can be a clue. Liars stall to gain more time to think about a response.
When accused of a crime, the innocent will deny it directly and adamantly. The denials will become stronger over time. On the other hand, the guilty will start with a weak denial that will get weaker as the questioning continues.
One interrogation video demonstrated the good cop/bad cop routine. Pacifico took over the good cop role for awhile, and little more than a minute after the "bad cop" left the room, the suspect confessed. "We found this was a reliable technique," he said. The session had gone on for about 45 minutes.
I've only hit some of the highlights here, but the Writers Homicide School was well worth the cost in both time and money. I came away with lots of fodder for future stories. If you''d like to check it out, go to CrimeWritersConsultations.com.
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