Showing posts with label WPA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WPA. Show all posts

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crime Scene Plotting Gems: Info for Writers w/ USA Today Bestseller Jamie Lee Scott



USA Today bestselling author, Jamie Lee Scott joins me today.

Jamie, as you know, I love to learn how to write it right. And, like me, you like to get down and dirty with the learning process. I know that for your novella you went out on a ride along in Thibodaux, Louisiana thanks to our fellow author Police Chief Scott Silverii. And we were in classes together at the Writers' Police Academy, recently.

Before we get started sharing some of the crime scene plotting gems that you picked up, can you tell us about yournovella?
USA Today Bestselling Author, Jamie Lee Scott

Jamie Lee - 

Uncertain Beginnings -
When Sergeant Wyatt Burke goes to the house of one of his officers -  after the man doesn't check back in for duty after his dinner break - he finds him face down on the floor at the foot of his stairs inside his house. What first looks like an unfortunate accident, soon becomes a murder investigation, and takes Sergeant Burke into darker shade of blue.

Though my novella, Uncertain Beginnings, is the first in my "uniformed" police procedural series, I've written six private detective agency novels prior to this series, and I've used the information I've learned from law enforcement and crime scene investigators to write both the P.I. novels and the police procedurals.

Fiona - 
And of course we know that when you said a darker shade of blue, blue refers to cop culture. Would you say your novella is a police procedural?

Jamie Lee - 
Yes, a police procedural. I incorporated what I learned riding with Scott's cops and CSI to catch the killer in my novella. In this case, it's what you can't see that may be the evidence that solves the case.

The seed that started this series was a 12 hour night shift with the Thibodaux police. I watched, followed and listened. It helped to get the details of how cops interacted with the public and how the public interacted with them.

Fiona - 
And today we are going to be sharing gems from your CSI class.

One thing that doesn't show up in many books is that there is a series of hand offs in a criminal death (or an unexpected death).
1) The police have to give the okay that the area is safe before the
     EMT can go help someone.
2) The EMTs go in and help the injured person or declare the
    person deceased and give them a time of death. The official
    time of death is when the EMT makes the declaration and has
    nothing to do with the actual time that the person died.
3) The EMTs hand the scene over to the medical examiner or their
    representative. The ME takes pictures and conducts specific tests
    on the body that will help them to make a determination about
    whether an autopsy is required.
4) The ME hands the scene over to the detective - but the body is in
    the custody of the ME

But that's not always true.

Jamie Lee -
In my CSI class at WPA, I learned that not all states have an ME who comes to the crime scene.

The CSI unit works in tandem with the detectives to be sure the scene is processed properly and that the evidence isn't contaminated.

Many CSI investigators aren't police, they are hired companies. The CSI is a trained layperson. In this case a layperson means that they have not taken a police officer's oath.

When the detective determines there's been a crime, they call in the CSI unit, who then comes in with their gear, completely suited up. They expect anyone on the scene to be suited too. This includes booties, gloves, hair nets, white suits (Tyvek).

Fiona - 
When they enter the crime scene can you go through the CSI unit's priorities?

Jamie - 
The scene is first photographed, long distance, to get an overall picture of the scene, then middle distance, gives objects relationship to one another, then close ups.

English: A crime scene. .
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nothing is touched until ALL photographs are taken, and CSI is satisfied.

After the initial photos, and possibly video is taken:
* Numbered tents are placed
   for possible evidence
* Items are again
   photographed. At this
   time the evidence may be
   collected. There are
   different types of 
   collection containers. 
The containers are usually paper, 
   but may be hard plastic, in the
   case of a container for a knife.

Patti Phillips, photographer "Grab the CSI Kit"

Fiona - 
What are some details that you found surprising about the packaging?

                                                               Patti Phillips, photographer "Grab the CSI Kit"

Jamie Lee - 
All wet evidence is dried before packaging, and rarely is plastic
   bag used unless there is zero % chance of mold.
* DNA is packaged in paper.
* When the evidence is sealed, it is taped. 
* The information is written across the tape, so that if there is
   tampering, it will be evident. 
* All evidence bags have handwritten Incident Report #, 
   Date sealed, Time, Initialed, #items, and new opening each
   time the package is opened.
* The information is written on the package every time it's opened,
   and the new info is again written across the tape.
*  Only CSI can touch the contents. Lawyers can look at it, but not
   touch, but then no one wants to touch if they don't have to.
* Each time the evidence bag is opened, it must be opened from a
   different side, so the original seals are never disturbed. 
* Once all of the openings are breached, that package will be put in
    a new container, to start over with the original seal.This helps
    with chain of custody.
All evidence is kept indefinitely until released by the courts.
* There are warehouses of evidence from cases that have been
   cleared by the courts, but the statute of limitations hasn't cleared,
   so the evidence is kept.

Fiona - 
Tell us about any evidence collection that was new to you - surprising. 

Jamie Lee - 
When hands are covered for evidence, they are covered with paper bags, to avoid sweating, as that will ruin any evidence.

Fiona - 
On a dead person or on the way to the hospital?

Jamie Lee - 
Any person who was at the scene and may be a witness or a suspect.

Fiona - 
Alive then - who knew!

Jamie Lee - 
We can talk about "swabbing the log"

Fiona - 
Yes, let's do that. what is it?

Jamie Lee - 
When looking for DNA evidence, you need skin.

English: Overflowing toilet
English: Overflowing toilet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have nothing, you can wait for your suspect to take a poop. Then you "swab the log" because there will likely be some skin shed in the process of eliminating the fecal matter.

The matter itself is worthless, but the skin cells that may have been deposited at the time of defecation can give detectives the DNA they need.

Fiona - 
Argh. So how do you stop them from flushing? And how do you swab a log?  - So awesomely gross!

Jamie - 
I'm not sure how they get the fecal matter in the first place. But if they aren't letting the suspect out of their sight, they may have them go in a facility that they've clogged, or somehow if there are "skid marks" that may hold some matter. 

Swabbing the log would consist of the same protocol as swabbing the inside of a cheek. Only I'd think they'd try very hard to swab the entire surface, as to not miss a chance at getting skin cells.

Fiona - 
And this is why I write about CSI but don't actually do CSI.
Other gems?

Jamie Lee - 
Interesting: GSR, gun shot residue will show on anyone in the room when the gun was fired.

GSR is also extremely fragile and must be processed within four hours.

The most important thing is that ANYTHING can be evidence.

Fiona - 
Give me a "for instance".

Jamie Lee - 
A person who put in a job application on Monday may come back and rob the place on Tuesday. Now you have the robber's address.

My biggest surprise was learning that they use Mylar and a form of electricity to pick up prints.

Fiona -
Wait - how do you do that with a stun gun?
Jamie Lee - 
* They place the Mylar over the fingerprint, then make the
   electrical charge with a stun gun, which lifts the print into
   the Mylar,
* The static charge on the dust particles cause the Mylar film to be
   sucked into the surface.
* T
hen the air bubbles are rolled out with a fingerprint roller, and
   the print can be examined with a light. A flashlight will work. It's
   just to make sure you got the print before you affix it to a more
   secure surface. And it absolutely can't be in contact with plastic
   because it will remove the static charge.

Fiona - 
Affixed with superglue?

Jamie - 
It is photographed immediately.

That photo is an electronically-lifted print

I know your readers enjoy video quick studies. Here's one I found on Electrostatic Footprint Lifting with Dr. Shaler. In this film he:
* Shows the film
* Shows the electrostatic lifter
* Step by step procedure including using a brayer to get rid of air
* Electrostatic print can be lifted from paper, carpet, almost any
   surface. But the print can not be made with water. It must be
   made with dust.

Fiona - 
Very fun stuff! Thanks so much Jamie Lee for stopping by ThrillWriting to share. Before you go, we always like to hear your favorite scar story.

Jamie Lee - 
I have a scar on my face, under my nose on the left side, and everyone always thinks it's a pencil mark, if they see it at all. I was in a car accident when I was 5 years old. 

My dad was driving our Riviera on a raining night, we were coming home from my grandfather's art gallery on Cannery Row in Monterey, CA, and he tried to pass a motor home. The motor home sped up, and my dad lost control of the car and hit a tree head on, I went through the windshield. Yes, I had a seat belt on, but in those days it was only a lap belt. 

The cut was on the left, and my body was black and blue on my right. I have no recall of the accident, or several days after, nor do I have any memory of my life before the accident. I'm probably one of the few kids who has no memory of kindergarten. 

Fiona -
Thank you Jamie 

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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Police Dive Teams - How to Find People and Evidence Under Water: Information for Writers


Oxygen toxicity occurs when the lungs take in ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last fall at the Writers' Police Academy, I attended a seminar in how the police dives for evidence and conducts searches for bodies that are underwater.

The divers that we interviewed were all police officers; they trained on a regular basis as a water recovery team. When a need arose, they would leave their normal workday duties and dive.

These divers were involved in cases that included:
* Evidence recovery
* Submerged body recovery, including:
   `victims of a crime

Teams might also participate in:
* Inspecting the hulls of ships in
   anti-narcotics operations
* Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bombs)
   in anti-terrorism efforts

The team that I interviewed maintained a minimum of three dive members per event.
* A below water surface diver
* An attendant diver who stayed on the surface to assist the underwater diver and to signal/communicate
* A supervisor who works on the surface to direct the operation

Video Quick Study (6:05) Norfolk, England but this is the same information that we received.

Most of the diving investigations are done in highly hazardous environments which might include
* Cold temperatures
* Zero visbility
* Contaminated waters including chemical hazards
* Sharp objects that the divers must feel with their hands since they can not see
* Entanglement and entrapment objects such as submerged trees, rocks, and debris

Video Quick Study (3:32) What it looks like under there.
Video Quick Study (8:21) Difficulties of suiting up, moving, and seeing underwater.

This is picture of one of our instructors, "Cookie." Cookie's technique for keeping the heebie-jeebies at bay while he's groping through pitch-black water for a dead body includes singing as loudly as he can. That's why he makes extra bubbles.

Video Quick Study (3:34) includes information on equipment, sonar, finding a car

US Navy 090628-N-5710P-319 A U.S. Navy diver c...
 A U.S. Navy diver conducts a dive supporting Infinite Response 09, a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and the naval forces of a Middle Eastern country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The team might be called to investigate:
* Natural water ways such as oceans, rivers,
   and ponds
* Dams
* Caves
* Sewage ponds - there's a nasty plot twist for

In some cases sonar is used to reduce diver exposure. This includes side-scan sonar and radial sonar. The sonar can help locate:
* Vessels
* Vehicles
* Planes
* Bodies
* Evidence

Search Patterns:

graphic from Wikipedia

Arc Search

* Also known as a pendulum search and a fishtail search
* The diver has a rope that is fed to him by his attendant diver.
* The diver will start on one side of a designated line (such as a shore
    line) and swim/grope through the water at the far reach of the line.
* At the end of the arc, the diver turns to go back the other way. The
   line is then released at a measured increment, knotted to maintain
   a record, and fed to the diver. For example: if the diver is looking for
   a bicycle the attendant might release a foot and a half of slack between
   arc rotations. If it is a gun, the arcs are much tighter.
* Once the diver has searched the area that can be conveniently reached
   with the rope line, the center point is moved to search another area. 
* This search works best when the general area is known.

graphic from Wikipedia

Circular Search

If the team was out in the water, away from a shore line, they would use a circular grid pattern.

This operates in a similar way as the arc search.
* Fixed central point
* Diver swims 360 degrees before his line is 

Other Search Patterns

* Jackstay - Has divers swimming a straight line along a shore then moving out a length to swim another
   straight line.
* Snagline - When an object is large enough, like a car or fridge, a line can be held in parallel swimmers'
   hands so that it will catch on the item.

English: An Engineer-Diver with KB Bandmask
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Underwater communication 

Can take place via
* Line signals 
* Communicators

Once an Object is found

* The diver sends up a signal marker
* The GPS coordinates are documented
* The item is elevated using air balloons

Video Quick Study (2:21) You can see the lift bags bringing up a car.

A Body 

* Does not lay flat on the floor of the water. The upper half is held at an angle buoyed by air trapped in the
* Will float after about seven days as the body fills with gases
* After several more days as cavities are punctured by fish, birds, and other animals, the body will sink back
   into the water.
* The rate of decomposition depends mostly on water temperatures. The colder the water, the longer the
   body will remain intact.
* The deceased is bagged underwater.
   `This is for the sake of the survivors watching from shore
   `This helps to maintain any evidence that will help investigators

Video Quick Study (2:26) Divers talk about their experience and shows arc, and signalling.
Video Quick Study (3:29) Canadian and American divers certify in ice diving. YIPES! 

Video LONG Study (47:00) If you are writing a SCUBA scene you may want to spend the time learning 
                                about the problems of hypothermia, dry suit, and choices.

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, September 1, 2013

Investigation, Interview, & Interrogation: Information for Writers


    “T-bone don’t matter none. He in for assault. He a gang banger. No one believe nothing he’d say. He want to tell? Go ahead. He just trying to trade me in for a free walk, man.” Hector rested his eyes on his knees.
     “You told T-bone your story.”
     Hector looked up at Axel and back down with a scornful huff.
     “And now T-bone is dead,” Axel said.
     Hector all but threw his body out of his chair. He moved back in the tiny interrogation room, away from Axel, to stand in the corner. He was cornered.
     “What you mean T-bone dead?”
     Axel said nothing.
     "He was alive this morning when I got moved.”
     Axel gave a slight nod.
     Hector stalked back to his chair, sat down, and leaned
forward, tightly wound, focused. “T-bone dead?”
     “This is bigger than you could ever imagine.” Axel’s voice was quiet. Eerily free of emotion. “You are smaller than you could ever imagine. You, Hector, are a bug under someone’s shoe, and you are about to get squashed. I want to know why.”

US Army CID crime scene investigator
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While intelligence gathering happens prior to a crime, an investigation happens as a reaction to a crime.
It is important for a writer to understand the different roles that are played by investigative professionals.
A forensic scientist processes evidence. Unlike what we see on TV, forensic scientists usually DO NOT conduct interviews or interrogations. Typically interviews and interrogation are considered police science rather than forensic science.

An interview is conducted with a witness and an interrogation is conducted with a suspect.

*Police interviews happen anywhere - on the street or in the station.
*It is important to note that people can reply or not.
*In an interrogation, suspects have the right to protect themselves from self-incrimination.
*Witnesses have the choice whether to cooperate or not.
*Even though witnesses can refuse to talk, they can be compelled to disclose their information in front of a
  grand jury and other court hearings. If an investigator is talking to someone who is refusing information, they
  can be threatened with a subpoena.

As a writer, you'll want to consider:

*Does the investigator have jurisdiction?
  Lee Loftland's blog about which agencies conduct which kinds of investigations
*What if several agencies can claim jurisdiction? Typically the location with the most significant crime
  and the best case will take the lead. This can cause problems and might help with your plot twists.

English: UF_Forensic Science
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Investigations begin once it has been determined that a crime has taken place by one of the following:

*Prosecuters Office
*Grand Jury

Investigations can be broken down into three types:

1. Administrative - These are fact finding inquiries within an agency or business
*Professional Misconduct
*Safety Violations
*Employee background checks
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Video Quick Study - Investigators' Reports (4:21 Industry Investigator)

2. Criminal Investigation - conducted by an agency

3. Private Investigation - Professionals hired from

    outside of agencies to counter what the agencies
    produce for evidence

Once an agency decides that a criminal act has taken place two things must occur:

1 - Find the suspect
2 - Connect the suspect to the victim and the crime. This includes forensics, interrogation, and interviews

Forensic Investigators
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Study Links to Related Blog Posts :
Blood Spatter
CSI Light

To reach the goal of arrest and conviction, investigators use:
* Search Warrants
* Arrest Warrants
* Forensic science applications
* Interviews
    Study Link: How a Police Sketch Artist Works
* Interrogations
   Study Link: Body Language of Liars
An interviewer will ask the same questions that your readers want to unravel as they read your story. Just remember Kiplings "Six Honest Men." Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Some things for a writer to consider about their witness:

* What was the motive for coming forward?
At the Writers' Police Academy. I confess!
* What was their vantage point?
* What is their emotional state?
* What was their physical state?
* Were they injured? In shock?
* Were they under the influence of drugs or
* Are they very old, or known to have impaired
* Are they very young?
   Video of a child being interrogated. (8:00)
* Does the witness have limited intelligence.
* How long ago did the crime happen?
* Are the witnesses afraid to offer their
   information? - Perhaps your witness is afraid of
   the police
   because of something that has happened in the past. (Blog link showing this concept in action),
   or they are afraid of what might happen to themselves or their family and property if they step-forward
   with information.
   As a writer, if you have a character who is a reluctant witness, you might choose for them to use
   an anonymous tip line to get the information to the investigators.
* Perhaps your witness just doesn't want to get involved - they think that it would take time away from work
   or they would have to go to trial etc.

The investigator will use standardized forms to document the information. These may include:

* Witness Investigation Reports
* Missing, Damaged, or Stolen Property Reports

The Interview and/or Interrogation

Psychological studies have been conducted to try to get the optimal amount of information from a witness. To this end police might choose different locations for their interview. The police may walk the witness through the crime scene. They might conduct the interview at the home. Or possibly bring them in for formal interviewing at the police station.

Video Quick Study
First Jodi Arias Interrogation go to mark 3:00 to see her commenting on the temperature and watch the friendly, helpful tone of the investigator.
Training an Investigator (21:06) Talks about all of the things that impact and develop in an interview or interrogation (this focuses on child interviews) very interesting what technology has been developed for training purposes and beyond.

A writer must decide how this is documented either on camera or just voice recorded. Typically the investigator will put the recording device on the table in front of the witness. Being voice recorded is by consent-only in most states. A video tape, however, does not need to be disclosed if it is visual only. Often it is NOT disclosed that video is being taken because this has proven to impede the interview. Perhaps you want the witness to have this added intimidation factor? Perhaps you choose not to include video and something important is missed and the suspect is set free?

Sometimes a witness interview changes into an interrogation. If this happens, the subject will need to be apprised of their rights to not implicate themselves in a crime. Custodial Interrogations - the suspect is arrested then interrogated this is done AFTER their Miranda Rights are read to them.

*Typically only one person conducts the interview or interrogation.
*Forensic scientists DO NOT conduct interviews or interrogations.
*Investigators are trained to use a soft, normal tone and have a friendly demeanor.
*Typically at the beginning of an interrogation, time is spent just getting to know the person, figuring out the
  subject's capacity intellectually, and psychologically - how competent are they?

Effective Interrogation Prt 1 (14:53) Includes body language
Effective Interrogation Prt 2 (14:52) Minimization technique,
                                           (9:00 mark) aggressive techniques that do not work, denial interruption
Effective Interrogation Prt 3 (13:02) move to 3:00 mark.

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

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.