The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

Monday, April 29, 2013

Self-protection in Fiction - Carrying an ASP BATON - Information for Writers

dmg ie, my own work
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.


This is an ASP BATON. In the top photograph you can see it in its compact  position. It has a padded handle that makes it easy to grip and comfortable in the hand.

The second photo is the baton when extended.

The type of character who might choose to carry an asp baton for self-defense might include:
*Martial Artists
* Police Officers
* Government law ex. ATF, FBI etc.
US Navy 030416-N-5862D-099 Members of the Auxi...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Military and ex-military
* Private Detectives
* Security Guards

Check out the state law where your character is supposed to live to find out about legality. California is a no-go. Because it is a weapon, even if your character has a concealed carry permit, in most states this must be unconcealed. The carrier of this weapon needs to be trained to be effective. Or not. I mean, if your character gets hold of an asp to "look cool," for example then the bad guy/gal could relieve them of their weapon and use it against them. Plot twist.                                                                


                                                                                                                  An asp baton has a little carry case that fits onto your belt loop. 


An asp baton is an excellent jogging weapon. Your character could have an asp baton in each hand. They are comfortable, and add a little arm weight.




And as she is running through the woods out jumps a werewolf, or a wild dog, or an  attacker. 





First the protagonist would take a defensive pose. This tells an attacker that she is not an easy target - that might be all the deterrent she needs. This also put her in position to open her weapon.


Weight is on the back non-dominant foot
Dominant foot is ready to kick, pivot, run



                                       

  • Quick snap down. 
  • The weapon extends and locks into place. 
  • This gives shorter women a better ability to protect against long-armed tall men.







This is what they look like extended. They extend by gravity and lock in place with friction (yay, physics!) No buttons to push. It's a fairly straightforward  mechanism. If you want to add tension to the scene, the baton could get stuck. It's still a great weapon and can be used somewhat like a kubotan. See videos below for more closed baton tactical ideas.  



                           
                                      

  •  45 degree foot position. 
  • Weight distributed between legs, slightly more weight on the back leg. Ready for quick footwork (shuffling). 
  • Load. Which means to put the weapon into striking stance. 
  • These moves are FAST. You have moved from lifting the weapon to strike position in the blink of an eye - the heroine doesn't want to give her attacker the ability to size up the situation and come up with a plan.
  • Disarm the attacker of their weapon and neutralize the attacker. Use the force necessary to stop the threat. 
  • Use X swipes (see videos)



  • Video 1 - ASP Collapsible baton. (13 min) Goes over all the info an author might need for descriptions. Includes a break down.
  • Video 2 - What is a telescoping steel baton? (1:32 min)
  • Video SET - These are 19 short videos (about 90 seconds each) showing the tactical use of closed and opened baton scenarios include knife fights, bat/stick attacks, grappling, front and back attacks. Excellent.



Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Self-protection in Fiction - Carrying a Kubotan - Information for Writers

800px-Kubotan
Kubotan (Photo credit: trapgosh)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.


Your heroine is in danger, and she knows it! She has to protect herself. But how? Sometimes giving your character a new tool to use makes for a more interesting read. So for the next few weeks, I will be introducing self-defense tools beyond the pistol in the purse.

Let me start with some credentials. I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I have trained with several hand-to-hand weapons in preparation for my second degree black belt testing.

As far as weapons go, I will offer this piece of advice, with your characters as well as in real life, if the decision is made to have a weapon handy:

1.) Know how to use it.
2.) Be willing to use it.
3.) Practice - often.

For me, as far as everyday-carry (EDC) goes? I always have a KUBOTAN handy.

Questions???

Is it legal to carry a Kubotan?
Check with your local state, but in my research, I have never found a law against carrying a kubotan. I have carried it into federal buildings, airplanes, courthouses. The only place anyone ever stopped me was an event where the POTUS was speaking. The Secret Security asked me to give them my "weapon." (And it was my pretty pink one! Boo.)

Are they expensive?
10$ Depending.

Are KUBOTANS dangerous weapons?
First, let me say that almost ANYTHING can become a weapon and be used in a dangerous way (okay maybe not elbow macaroni, but you understand what I'm trying to say here.)
*My car keys can gouge out your eyes.
*My high-heel can be planted into your windpipe.
*My coat-belt can choke you out.

So dangerous is as dangerous does. If your character doesn't know how to use a kubotan or is unwilling to inflict pain/damage it is better for your character that she not carry one because it can be turned against her - though that might make a good plot twist.

Where would my character buy a KUBOTAN?
Gun shops
Self-defense shops
Martial arts suppliers
Amazon.com

Are there different types of KUBOTANS?



I took this picture on December 17th, 2006. It...

This is a cylinder kuboton. I think of it as a boys' kuboton. I wouldn't carry it. I think it would slip out of the hand too easily. Security guards carry this a lot for pressure point pain infliction.




This is my kuboton. See how pretty it is? Everyone thinks it looks like a Christmas tree ornament. Yeah, think that.

Notice the ridges that fit nicely between my fingers. It helps me grip it tightly. Imagine holding that in a fist for a punch. The solidity helps to protect the hand bones, and the keys will fling out - double impact. For example, while landing a punch to the nose, causing a break that will take the fight out of most assailants, the keys will fling into the temple. A temple strike, for your character, can be fatal to their attacker.

(Attached you also see my LED flashlight - another EDC component that might get your heroine out of a bad situation.)

On my KUBOTAN, notice the sharp point. This, in my opinion, is key. It is for applying pressure, and makes a (hammer) strike that is much more devastating.

There are also kubotans that have a release so that a chord extends between the keys and the kubotan. This makes the kubotan ILLEAGAL in many states because it becomes a modified numchuck. Jail time slows the pace of a book. Just sayin'.

What are the basics of KUBOTAN protection?
*When I fight, my left foot is forward and my right foot behind and
  to the side for stability. (This frees up my dominant leg for kicks
  and allows for pivoting for running away and for back-sliding if
  they are brandishing a weapon - like a knife)
* The kubotan is carried in the dominant hand; the non-dominant
   arm is up to block the attacker's response.
* DO NOT aim at your target. Aim significantly past your target, so
    you get the full range of motion. For further information about 
    how to aim and follow through go to this LINK
* Keep your motions controlled and tight. (No wide/wild swinging
   around) Why? They'll take your weapon; you are left open for a
   strike; it's fatiguing; you lose power in the swing...snap instead.
* Once you start striking, strike until you have cleared a path for
   retreat. DO NOT STOP the defense.  GO means GO - then have
   the character run, or not, you know what happens next in your
   plot.

After writing this article, I received a question from a writer about the helpfulness of a kubotan in two different scenarios: the blitz v. premeditation. She was also curious as to how effective a kubotan actually is. Here's my answer:







Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Women Carrying Concealed - Information for Writers

Schietsport, vrouwen met pistool / Sports, sho...
Schietsport, vrouwen met pistool / Sports, shooting. Women with pistols (Photo credit: Nationaal Archief)

DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or decision.





Fiona - 
Today I am interviewing Kelli about conceal carry. Hey Kelli, are you ready?


Kelli - 
Yep. I'm cooking deer meat, so I may get up and walk off for one second if you wonder why it takes me a minute.
English: Handgun showing self lighting Tritium...
English: Handgun showing self lighting Tritium sights. These sights are commonly referred to as night sights and allow use in low-light and night conditions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fiona - 
Bahaha. You do that. Kelli, how would you describe yourself to my readers?

Kelli - 
I'm a 'down home' type of person. I like being in nature and with plants and animals and being able to do things for myself as much as possible. 
I was taught not to ask for help, that shows weakness. Friendly, helpful, but not a doormat to anyone. Growing up, I rode motorcycles, tried to rehab animals that were hurt, went camping with my family and spent most of my time outside playing. I grew up in southern West Virginia.


Wikipedia

Fiona -  
Kelli is being modest. She also holds an MA in education, qualifies to test for her third degree black belt, and is a Tae Kwon Do instructor. Okay, girlfriend, let's talk conceal carry. Watcha got in your purse?



Kelli - 
In my purse I have a journal, my wallet, and some chapstick. I don't carry in my purse!


Fiona
Where do you like to carry, what do you like to carry and why do you do it?

Kelli - 
I carry a .380 Ruger LCP and I use a Smart Carry for that (goes around the waist, deeply concealed). I carry for the same reason people wear a seat-belt, not because I think I will need it, but because it is a good idea for that 'just in case' moment. 

English: Clockwise start at the top left: Gloc...
English: Clockwise start at the top left: Glock G22, Glock G21, Kimber Custom Raptor, Dan Wesson Commander, Ruger sp101, Ruger Blackhawk .357, Sig Sauer P220 Combat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Have you ever needed it?

Kelli - 
Thankfully no, I have never had to draw! I also keep a .357 Ruger revolver in my console of my truck.

Fiona - And also a knife?

Kelli - 
As an herbalist, I always carry a good pocketknife, Benchmade! 

Fiona -  
So let's start at the beginning - when did you decide to start carrying and was there any particular reason?

Kelli - 
When I moved to CA we couldn't take a lot of our guns with us because of the law. So I left most of them at home in WV (we took one) after left there I moved to VA, and I realized there were times I was in some 'not so good' areas (not like home in WV where we know everyone). 

I started thinking about how I had lost my shooting skills being gone and how I would like them to get sharpened again. So I took a few classes and then saw they had a conceal carry class and thought that would be a good idea. So I went to the class, got my certification, and went through with the permit! 

My husband had been in Iraq, and I remember feeling a little more vulnerable during that time. I thought I should keep my shooting skills up and get more proactive with my protection of the house and of my daughter. Especially when we were out (we often traveled out of town on agility trials and went back home to WV a lot. (Kelli trains dogs for agility trials.)

Fiona - 
You like to use a Smart Carry and even made a YouTube video, right?

Kelli - 
Yes. I love the Smart Carry, and there were no videos showing how it fit women and how good it was for conceal for women. Most of the videos showed men only. So I wanted to show how easy it was for other women who may be thinking about it.



Fiona - 
Thanks for sharing! When you read books or watch videos of women with guns - I'm sure you see mistakes. What are some of the things that you would like writers to know about women carrying concealed?


Kelli - 
One of my biggest issues with the way women carry is that in most cases they think it is safe or preferable to carry in their purse. I am not saying this is wrong, but I don't feel it is the safest and quickest way to access your gun. Someone who wants to rob you may take your purse (now they have your gun, too).

English: An XOXO brand purse.
English: An XOXO brand purse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Okay Ladies, don't put your gun in your purse. And writers, now you can see how this can go wrong for our heroines - if you're trying to make the scene go bad.



Kelli - 
Right. If you have your gun on you, you can access it quicker and if you walk off from your purse there is no risk of someone (maybe a child) getting your gun. To me, that is very dangerous, and I don't care for it.

Youtube of a bra - carry

Fiona - 
Agreed. What about the chick who is afraid, and so she goes to the gun shop, buys a gun, and sticks it in her purse - do you like that one?


Kelli - 
Yikes! Know your gun. Practice with it. Practice drawing from different angels, different scenarios.


Fiona -
You mean I won't have time to hit my favorite pose and do some cleansing yoga breaths?


Kelli - Uhm, no. Fear can cloud your judgment, I would suggest that person get with an instructor and help her overcome her fears, and teach her how to use and carry her gun appropriately to fit her situation and circumstances (whatever they may be).


Fiona - 
Any other advice for the scared rabbit heroine?


Kelli - 
Don't be scared. Be prepared.

Fiona -
We should make a T-shirt.


Kelli - 
Bahaha. Yes. But that is my best advice on anything. Don't be scared, find ways to help yourself feel more confident about your self-defense skills (maybe take a women's self-defense class, martial arts, etc) but fear is NOT your friend! Confidence is your friend!


Fiona - 
Any ethics we need to keep in mind about conceal carry?


Kelli - 
If I am carrying, I usually take my gun off before going into someone's home, unless I know they are gun-friendly, and I usually do tell them. I ask them if that makes them uncomfortable (though I usually remove it). I think that is just being a good friend. If I know they are okay with it and carry themselves then I wouldn't think about it as much.


Fiona -  
Where can you get in trouble carrying - for writers who don't use guns, can you make a quick list? That was cryptic. I mean like a bar, the courthouse...


Kelli - 
That can depend on the state (you should always follow your state laws) but generally government agencies and schools are the top ones. I am not an expert in that so anyone interested needs to research that thoroughly and keep a list on your refrigerator, memorize, keep it in your car, etc. you need to know the law, if you don't you are not ready to carry! 

Advice for the heroine carrying concealed?


Kelli - 
Well my daddy told me this, "Never put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to kill what is in front of you," and that is a big thing to consider. So my best advice is really think about it. Is your heroine willing to squeeze that trigger if she has to? If not, then she shouldn't carry. If your heroine hesitates, the gun can and will be used against her. Your heroine has to be 1000% sure of her ability to defend her life (or her family's). This is not play time; this is serious. And she needs to be serious about it.


Me - 
And now for the last words...


Kelli - 
My final thought? My life is worth defending, is yours? I really would like to see more women either carry, learn self defense skills, or something to protect themselves, sadly this world is not rainbows and unicorns. Women are often victims; it is time to end that!


Fiona - 
Amen. Thanks to Kelli for sharing her insights and thanks to you for stopping by. 



Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Military and Police Dogs - Information for Writers



      ANGEL and WINGS



Character Designation:   HEROES


Meet Angel and his K9 Wings (K9's name created by Fiona Quinn to protect his identity). I'm only using Angel's first name for security reasons. He pronounces it Angel and not An-hell as in his Italian/Puerto Rican background, or even Ange as they pronounce it in his new home in Switzerland.


I "met" Angel online six years ago. We were both fighting a crime, trying to take down a criminal who abused dogs and preyed on medically fragile children. (And we were successful - this perp. is no longer allowed to work with dogs or children.) So my contact with Angel has only been over the web.


When I first started corresponding with Angel, I was rather taken aback. He only wrote in CAPITAL LETTERS - ABOUT EVERYTHING, whether it was just to ask how I was doing, or offering me some information about our case. I thought he was permanently angry and shouting. Luckily, Angel released his CapsLock, and I got to know him better. A great friend - but your worst enemy. Here's hoping I always stay on Angel's good side.


Angel has the conviction, fortitude, and power that makes sense of that CapsLock writing. An ex-Marine with all of the Hoorah that that encompasses. I saw a cartoon once of a maze and then a path that had been cut diagonally through the center, a beeline from START to FINISH, no corners turned. It was captioned something like "If you don't understand this, you are not a Marine." And that's Angel. Once he's convinced of the straight path, he takes it. Get out of his way. And if you're the bad guy... RUN!


Fiona: Hi, Angel. Would it be okay if I interviewed you about your work with Wings?

           (Wings is a highly trained working dog and Angel's partner).

Angel: Oui, Ca va.


Translation - "Yes, that works." Angel speaks American, Spanish, French and enough German to work

                    with his K9His dexterity with languages serves him well in his job. He lives in Switzerland
                    and works for a company that provides personal protection for diplomats as well as the rich
                    and famous who come through town. (He also protects ships from Somalian pirates - so
                    hopefully he'll agree to another blog interview so we can read about that!) His job is the stuff of
                    movies and thriller books.

Fiona: What is your background with the military/security?


Angel:  Well I was in the Corp. (Angel was a Marine - Whoops. Angel e-mailed me to remind me ONCE A

            MARINE ALWAYS A MARINE. Noted.) When I left the Corp, I started doing armed security
            officer (Body Guard) assignments. I've always had a love for dogs, and I always felt training was
            important. When I moved to Switzerland, I really got into close quarter protection and wanted to
            bring a K9 in as a partner. So I bought a K9 from a reputable place that believes that in order to
            have a great K9, you first have to train the handler to work as a team and to trust your K9 Partner.





Angel in a Training Session. 



Fiona: Let me stop you there, is there a difference between a police and a combat dog, sorry K9?


Angel: There is ONLY one difference between a tactical police K9 and a combat K9. The difference is that

           a combat K9 works in a war zone and the tactical K9 does not. Other than that, the training is not
           different.

Fiona: Thanks. Okay, go on with your story. You bought a K9...


Angel: I went to Florida and started my training. Now, in training I didn't just work with my dog. I also

          worked with all of their dogs. The group trained dogs for the military and for the police. I worked
          with labs German Shepherds and  and Belgian Malinois. It was Amazing.


Angel and Wings on Duty


FionaIn law enforcement - could just any police officer be placed in the K9 unit? Or are there specific men

           and women who only work K9? LINK to dogs at work (Delta K9 - not Angel and Wings)

AngelLol that's funny. Well in most cases they choose guys that have proven themselves to be good,

          but all departments are different. They have different standards. For instance, some K9s are trained
          in "bark and hold." Now, "bark and hold" is when the K9 is sent after the criminal, the criminal stops
          running, puts his hands in there air, and gives up. The K9 will stop right in front of the criminal and
          bark. If the criminal moves and try's to run, the K9 will attack without a command. Some departments
          train that when a command is given, the K9 doesn't stop unless the handler gives the command, or the
          K9 can't get to the criminal and barks to let us know where the criminal is, i.e. like in building searches

Fiona:  Is Wings trained in "bark and hold?" Or, attack?

Angel: Wings is trained to attack the threat. 
Now, Wings was trained in the U.S. In the U.S. the dogs are
           trained to go until they are told to stop. This helps to prevent the dog from getting stabbed or shot 
           which is likely in the bark and hold. Here in Europe, they think they have seen everything. So Wings 
           and I  did several exercises that the officials ran to watch our team in action. I told the "criminal" to 
           stop; he did not. I sent Wings out. Wings caught up with the man, bit him in his back shoulder, and 
           flattened the man -  knocked the wind out of him. The man playing the "criminal" didn't cover his
           head like he should have, and Wings went for his face. I called Wings off before Wings could sink his
           teeth. That's why obedience is very important.

Fiona: I bet that poor guy was terrified! So the take down is a bite to the shoulder?


Angel: Wings will see a threat if you attack any part of my body. For example, in the next part of the

           exercise,  I don't tell Wings to attack; he attacks on his own to simulate a real life situation where I
           can't make a command. The "criminal" tries to kick me, and Wings attacked his leg. The "criminal"
           tried to punch me, Wings let go of leg and bit the arm before the "criminal" could make contact with
           me. The "criminal" tried to hit me with the other fist; Wings let go of the arm, bit him right in the chest,
           put him to the ground.

FionaGo Wings!

FionaSo that makes sense that the dog has several take downs, and I can see why you would want
          different tools in Wings's tool box for handling a situation. How is Wings rewarded?
Angel: If we do obedience, then it's a ball. If we do obedience attack, it's the bite. If it's
          drugs, it's the ball. If it's SAR work, it's the ball. If it's a SAR bad guy, it's a bite
Fiona: SAR. Can you tell me what that is? And are there other phrases that a K9 handler
          would use that would make a writer's work more accurate? Also, do you train in a
          foreign language like German?
Angel: SAR is Search and Rescue. Wings is a dual-purpose K9. He is trained in
           patrol/protection and narcotics. There are also dual explosive K9s, as well. Dual
           means the dog either dose narcotics or explosive with tracking and handler
           protection. You can not have a K9 certified in both narc and explosives. It's
          dangerous  -- if the K9 alerts to drugs but it's a bomb, you're dead. The K9 knows
          the difference, but if you have a mixed signal then you're dead.

           Most of the K9s in the U.S. are imported. They are trained in German, Czech, or

           sometimes French. But remember every police department is different, and the laws
           are different for every state.

           Wings knows German, American, and French but mostly German. One of the

           biggest reasons for this that the handler doesn't want the bad guy to give commands
           to the K9 thereby confusing the K9. From what I've seen, if you have a great bond
           with the K9, he won't listen to anyone but the handler -- even if they know the
           language and correct commands. I've proven it. When training here, part of the
           police test that I had to take here went like this: the police tell you to release your K9
           and let him play. Then they have a group of people call his name, give him 
           commands, everything you can think of. After the test the police and boarder patrol
           asked to buy Wings. I told them in a stern manner that THEY HAVE A BETTER
           CHANCE IN SEEING GOD ! ! !
Fiona : Bahaha Amen. I love that. Okay one more question.What does a typical day look
           like for the team? Okay more ??s What do you call the dog part of a team? And can
           you think of any other weird little special do's and don'ts that a writer could use to
           make their stories more accurate?
AngelHere in Switzerland we use K9 Team the U.S.  we use K9 Unit ... Also, I should be
          clear that police K9s are also called police service dogs. MWD is a Military Working
          Dog. There is a big difference in the drive of  police K9 and a military K9 and a
          regular ADA service dog (one used for medical reasons). Military and Police K9s
          have a ton more energy and are no where close to being laid back like the labs you
          see as service dogs. The military K9s have to be WORKED if not they go crazy.
          Also, back in the day, police and military picked the craziest most AGGRESSIVE
          dogs they could find. That's not the case anymore. Now they pick clear headed K9s
          that they can bring anywhere without a problem. The K9s you see today are more
          effective than back in the day.

         About our day: 
         Before going to work, I take Wings out, and he goes pee and poop. LOL. Then I say
         to him, "Let's go to work," and we start obedience training. When done (it takes 10 to
         15 min. Never push the dog long in training)I load him into the SUV. From there, it
         depends on what the job is sometimes we are protecting a celeb's house or an event 
         ... We patrol the area and keep the peace. There is always someone stupid drunk or
         on drugs.. 

FionaI just posted a picture on my author page on Facebook about a dog named Ape who
          was FBI killed in action - do you know his story? I can't find it.

AngelHerkimer, N.Y. - Thursday morning FBI agents and officials stormed a building to
          end a daylong standoff.
         The gunman inside was Kurt Myers, 64 of Mohawk, and he is responsible for 
         shooting six people on Wednesday morning. Four of those men shot died, two more 
         remain in the hospital. Two of those killed were longtime New York State 
         Corrections Officers. The shootings occurred at a barbershop near Myers' apartment 
         and a car wash a mile away in the Village of Herkimer.
         Myers began a standoff with police inside a vacant building on N. Main Street in
         Herkimer late Wednesday morning. Early Wednesday afternoon he exchanged gunfire
         with police.
         Thursday morning New York State Police and members of the FBI, with support 
         from local police, raided the building to end the standoff. Myers shot and killed an 
         FBI K9 dog named "Ape" before authorities shot and killed Myers.

In case you should think that Angel's work is all fun and games with his K9 - here are some pictures to show what can happen when he is working a dog. The handler had a glitch in his training, though Angel is quick to point out that he (Angel) should have done a better job protecting himself: 


(GRAPHIC IN NATURE)



A K9 (not Wings) tried to remove Angel's ear.




Fiona: GROSS!!!!! Do you have an excellent scar now? Do you look like a pirate?

AngelLol. There is a scar, but I had a great surgeon. I have scars all over my body. I'm always doing things that can Kill me. LMAO

FionaI've noticed   >_<


READERS:
If you have questions for Angel - just post them below.


Also, Angel bought his K9 at SoutherncoastK9.com There is more information about K9 work dogs available.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fingerprinting For Writers by Patti Phillips

A big thank you to Patti for sharing her wonderful experience!



Sirchie makes hundreds of products for the law enforcement community and offers classes in how to use those products at their Youngsville, North Carolina Education and Training site. Several crime writers were allowed an unprecedented opportunity to attend a five-day, hands-on training session, so that we could learn more about the latest and best gadgets being used to catch the crooks.




Included was incredibly valuable information about fingerprinting. Robert Skiff (Training Manager/Technical Training Specialist at Sirchie) put us right to work, using the powders and brushes needed to process a crime scene and used by actual techs in the lab.

                              Fingerprint powders, brushes and magnifier




There is no such thing as a perfect crime, but the jails are filled with crooks that swear they have been framed. Common excuses: “I was at my girlfriend’s house at the time of the crime,” “Somebody planted that shoe print,” etc. It’s up to the investigators and examiners to prove the case against the suspects, using proper evidence collection techniques and tools, because trace evidence is ALWAYS left behind by even the most careful criminal.

Fingerprints found at the scene are still the favored piece of evidence tying the suspect to the crime. These days, using a combination of ingenuity and newly developed chemicals and powders, a crime scene investigator can lift (and/or photograph) prints from many previously challenging surfaces.


About a month before the session started, we got a letter in the mail telling us NOT to wear good clothes to class. Hmmm… My thought was that we were going to be doing some messy evidence collections outdoors or in the mud, etc. Nope. Black fingerprint powder gets all over everything when newbies are handling it for the first time. We must have used 50 wet wipes each during the morning alone.




                                          After dusting prints with black fingerprint powder,








they were lifted from various smooth surfaces using (in forefront) a gel lifter, a hinge lifter and (in background) tape.





We had to be careful not to contaminate the powders and jars or smear the samples themselves before looking at the prints under the magnifier. By the end of the day, most of us had black eyes and streaks on our hands and faces. It looks much easier on TV.

Our prints were photographed and then viewed under an Optical Comparator. This machine can be hooked up to a laptop, and the image sent off to AFIS for identification purposes. No crooks in our crowd, so we omitted that step.






At the end of the first day we left happy, tired, and still wiping powder off our hands and faces. A tip from an investigator taking the class with us: add a cup of vinegar to the wash load to get those powder stains out. 

Day One take aways?

*Not all powders can be used on all surfaces.
*A print can dissipate over time and there are too many variables (temperature, humidity, condition of the surface, etc.) to predict how long that might take.
*A really crisp print can be photographed right at the scene, using some great digital cameras now available.
*Forensic science is not a certainty, even though TV shows may give that impression.
*There is no nationwide standard for number of points of ID for a fingerprint. The fact that the acceptable number of matching points (between the actual print and the print in the AFIS database) can range from 5 to 20 depending on where the perp lives, blew us away.


Day Two: Coffee ready. Snacks ready. Notebooks, cameras, smartphones, and pencils ready. Checking for leftover fingerprint powder on the magnifier. Ready.

Robert Skiff’s assistant for the class, Chrissy Hunter, passed out stainless steel rectangles and we pressed our fingers onto the plates, twice. First time - plain ole print, second time - ‘enhanced’ by first rubbing our fingers on our necks and foreheads to increase the amount of oils in the print. The ridge detail in the prints was so clear in the ‘enhanced’
version that there was no need to process them with powder. We lifted them with a gel lift.

If we were working a real scene, that might never happen, but it could. The usual occurrence is that partial prints are left at the scene and that’s what makes the search for the perps sooooo much tougher than what the TV dramas indicate. There is no instant ‘a-ha’ moment that comes 45 minutes after the crime has been committed.

The prints are generally sent off to be compared with the millions in the AFIS database, and here’s where TV parts with reality again. AFIS comes back with a list of 10-20 possible matches and someone then makes a comparison by hand of the most likely hits.

After practicing the basics, it was time to move on to fingerprint discovery on documents. Documents? Yup. There are scheming relatives who forge wills, less than loving spouses who murder for the insurance, bogus suicide notes, and the list goes on. How to prove the nefarious intent? Fingerprints. But…as we discovered the first day, fingerprint powder is messy and almost impossible to clean up. An important document could be destroyed in the search for evidence of foul play. Enter chemicals and alternate light sources (ALS).



There is a protocol for testing with chemicals. If the prints don’t show up with one chemical, then it is possible to try several others, but this can only be done in a certain order:

Iodine
DFO
Ninhydrin
Silver Nitrate
MBD

If used in this order, the sample won’t be compromised, even though treated several times over several days.

We experimented with several chemicals with excellent results, but for the ‘wow’ factor, I’m showing the ones that look great on camera. ;-)




DFO reacts to amino acids in the prints. We created our samples placing our own enhanced prints on plain white paper. We hung the papers in the fume hood, saturated them with DFO, then put them in the oven to bake for several minutes.









This DFO sprayed, baked sample doesn’t look like much, so it was time to use an ALS to really ‘pop’ the print and make it photo ready.





Alternate Light Sources vary depending on the scene lighting and/or need to highlight the evidence. A few used in the field are: the ‘poor man’s ultimate light source’ (a mag light), black lights, UVC lights, lasers, LED lights, Ruvis lights (cost about $20K), and pure white lights. Each has a specific quality that the investigators can tap when needed.






After we sprayed our samples with DFO and baked them in the oven, we darkened the room, and put on orange plastic glasses. Then we side-lit the sample with a 455nm light. The photo was taken at that point.






Same sample, side-lit at a slightly different angle. Photo taken through an orange filter.



Ninhydrin, the third chemical group in the list to be used if nothing has shown up yet, comes in several forms: acetone, zylene and Noveck. Ninhydrin reacts to another set of amino acids and likes warm, moist air. If a sample is being saved overnight for processing, you can place it in a ziplock bag, blow into it, then seal it and still maintain its integrity.

Before working with any chemical, it’s a good idea to make copies of the document. Why are there different kinds of Ninhydrin? Zylene will run some inks. Acetone will run all inks, all the time. Ooops! There goes the document if you grab the wrong chemical, so copies are definitely necessary. Noveck is the clear winner when working with inks. It gets fast results and dries quickly. Additionally, it can be sprayed on an outer envelope to reveal what’s inside. Without damaging either piece of paper. Very cool.


You could see the plots developing in our writerly heads as the Noveck dried and the words inside the folder faded from view.



*Photos taken by Patti Phillips at the Sirchie Education & Training site in Youngsville, NC.
Patti Phillips writes Detective Kerrian’s blog at www.kerriansnotebook.com and the book review site www.nightstandbookreviews.com

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