Bugs Bunny and Me, a Crime-Solving Duo

1030 hours.

Radio transmission – Theft from jewelry store. Items taken—two diamond rings with value exceeding $10,000.

Traffic stop.

Weather – Sunny. 84 degrees.

Reason for stop – Vehicle matched description provided by jewelry store owner. Plates—out of state.

Weapon(s) involved – Taurus .380 recovered from beneath driver’s seat. Fully loaded with spare magazine in small cloth bag. No weapons used in connection with the crime.

Stolen items not found.

My partner and I were pros at playing good cop/bad cop. In fact, we were the go-to guys for eliciting confessions. But these two, the man and woman suspected of taking two expensive diamond rings from a local jewelry store, were also pros. In their line of work—stealing—they were some of the best in the business and their game was an old one. They pretend to shop for engagement rings. She tries on several, asking to see first one then another and then back to this one and then the other, and so on and so on until the clerk has an assortment of bling scattered about the glass countertop like a spattering of snowflakes on a frozen lake surface.

Their goal was to confuse the clerk so they could pocket a few gems and then make their getaway after not seeing the “perfect” ring.

It worked. When the frustrated clerk/owner returned the items to their respective spots in the case she noticed two valuable rings were missing. So were the two “customers.”

The responding uniformed officers asked, of course, for a description of the pair of thieves, but the owner simply couldn’t offer any solid details. They’d so thoroughly confused her that all she could remember was one was male and the other, female. She was able to recall their race and that both wore nice clothing … she thought. However, she wasn’t sure if it was the man who wore a blue shirt or if it was the woman whose top was blue. She was confident the man had on khaki pants, though. No doubt about that detail.

For the record, the actual color of the man’s shirt was green and the woman had selected a red and white striped top as her shirt du jour. They both had on blue jeans at the time of the traffic stop that took place within 30 minutes of the theft. There was no other clothing inside their car. The owner’s descriptions were not even close and, unfortunately, the store’s surveillance cameras were switched off. “Oh, we don’t bother with that thing,” she later told me.

Questioning the two suspects was going nowhere. We had them in separate rooms—ALWAYS separate the suspects and witnesses to prevent comparing stories—and we alternated between the two, trying every trick in the book. You left fingerprints. The clerk ID’d you. Witnesses saw you. Yada, yada, yada. But we were spinning our wheels because they’d readily admitted to being in the store and knew no one other than the clerk was there at the time the items were taken.

They said they’d looked at and tried on rings. However, they didn’t like what they saw and left. But they didn’t take anything.

It was their word against the store owner’s and we had no evidence. They’d allowed us to search both them and their car and we found nothing but the gun, which was illegal—he was a convicted felon and the gun was concealed. I even tried using the weapon as leverage—we’ll cut you some slack for it if you confess to the jewelry theft and return the rings. No dice. We had nothing.

So I took a walk around the hallways, trying to think of some sort of angle to help garner a confession. As I passed by the door to the dispatchers’ room one of them called out with a cheery “Good morning,” so I stepped inside where I noticed a small stack of new videos (VHS tapes at the time) beside her terminal. The top one was a collection of Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny’s image plastered on the front. He held a carrot in one hand and his rabbit lips were split into a wide, buck-toothy grin. The video was a gift for her child’s birthday.

I had an idea and asked to borrow the tape.

After a quick stop in my office for a bit of artistic trickery, I returned to the interview room where the female suspect sat waiting. When I opened the door and stepped inside she smiled and asked if she could leave.

I took a seat in the chair across from her and returned her smile. Then I slid the tape across the tabletop. “We have a video,” I said. What I didn’t say was that I’d removed the Bugs label and replaced it with one I’d cobbled together in my office before returning to the interview room. The new label simply read “Video – June 6, 1994.” (June 6 was the current date, and Video…well, it was a video, right?).

“When I show this tape to a judge … well, you know what’s going to happen, right?” I said.

Tears quickly formed in the corners of her eyes. Then she looked down toward her feet and nodded. “I know,” she said. “Yeah, we did it. He took them, though. Not me. You saw that on the video, right?”

That classic downward look is a telltale sign a confession is imminent

Suddenly she wouldn’t shut up, telling me they’d dropped the rings out of the window when they saw me pull out behind them. I sent a patrol officer to the approximate location where he found both rings. She also confessed to other thefts in other cities. The gun, too, was stolen. They’d broken into a home and found it while searching for valuables. The necklace she wore that day was stolen, as was the watch on her boyfriend’s wrist.

When I entered the room with her boyfriend/partner in crime, with the tape in hand, my first words to him were, “What’s up, Doc?”

An hour later we had signed confessions from from both suspects.

And that’s how Bugs Bunny helped me solve the Case of the Missing Jewelry.

And, well … That’s all, folks.

Obstructing Justice

Obstruction of justice is a sort of loose term of varied meanings. It’s a phrase that’s sometimes used incorrectly, and sometimes as a threat.

“You don’t tell us what we want to know we’re going to charge your 109-year-old grandma with obstructing. That’s right, she’ll go to prison for 10 years! Do you want that on your conscious?” said the mean and mostly nasty federal agent.

So what is obstruction of justice? Does it mean to physically stop an officer from carrying out a specific duty? How about words? Could a string of them, when spoken, bring about a charge of obstruction? What about lying to the police? After all, aren’t all spoken words, even lies, protected by the First Amendment?

Let’s first address the definition of Obstruction of Justice per Black’s Law Dictionary, a reference book you’ll find in nearly every law office in the country, as well as in the offices of many police detectives.

From Black’s Law Dictionary:


The noncompliance with the legal system by interfering with (1) the law administration or procedures, (2) not fully disclosing information or falsifying statements, and (3) inflicting damage on an officer, juror or witness.So there it is in black and white. Any or all of the above could land someone in deep trouble, and maybe even behind bars, for a long time.Breaking the law down even further, specifically to a single state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, it looks like this:

§ 18.2-460. Obstructing justice; resisting arrest; 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.

 Federal Law – Obstruction

As you could imagine, federal laws regarding obstruction, or any other offense, is detailed and detailed and detailed almost beyond comprehension. So, here’s the tidbit most relevant to this article, and it goes like this …

“Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.”

So make of it what you wish. But whatever you do, please save political comments for your own pages. Please, not even a whimper or hint. I’m just a messenger of fact.

Now, back to Spud from the top photo. Apparently, he lied and told Officer P. Tater that he hadn’t seen anything (we assume the officer was referring to a crime or something related to criminal activity).

Based upon what you’ve read above, if he was lying to the officer, who was conducting an official investigation, could Spud be charged with obstruction? If so, why? If no, why not?



The FBI Director: One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show!

The FBI, our nation’s premiere law enforcement agency that, in addition to criminal investigations, has major focus on national security.

The FBI conducts thousands upon thousands of investigations concerning domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, cyber crime, public corruption, civil rights, organized crime/drugs, white-collar crime, violent crimes and major offenders.

There are 56 FBI field offices in major cities, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Hundreds of smaller field offices are also positioned throughout the country.

The FBI employs over 35,000 people who serve in a variety of positions.

That’s 35 THOUSAND individual employees.

Let this figure sink in a moment. Having this many people is comparable to employing every single man, woman, and child who reside in Sedona, Arizona, St. Augustine, Florida, and Brattleboro, Vermont , combined!

The director of the FBI is a person who oversees the daily operation of the bureau. The position is administrative. The director does not go out in the streets to conduct investigations. He/she is not someone who is totally hands-on in any investigation. Agents in various positions with various duties are the people who conduct those investigations.

Agents involved in investigations report to their superiors. They, in turn, when necessary, report findings to their superiors. Eventually, when appropriate, supervisory agents report their finding to their bosses. Eventually, if the case is of high-profile status, the case information winds up in front of the FBI director and/or deputy directors.

So what happens if we remove the person at the head of the agency? Do those 35,000 dedicated and highly-skilled employees cease to function? Are they suddenly unable to walk and speak, breathe and blink, or no longer possess the ability to swallow food or drink? Will criminals all over the world suddenly have free reign to do as they please?

Will all investigations come to a screeching halt?

Okay …

FBI Director Comey

Well, did the earth suddenly spin out of control?

No FBI Director Comey

Of course there’s no change. Removing the head of any agency, including the FBI, is no more than discharging a CEO from a corporation. The next in charge, always an extremely qualified person, steps in and the operation continues. Those further down the chain will see absolutely no change in their daily operation. None. Well, unless the interim or new director implements new policy, etc. But a disruption of everyday duty … no way!

To say or imply otherwise is a huge insult to the men and women at the FBI. They’re extremely good at what they do.

So, as much as I playfully bash the FBI from time to time, I’m 100% behind them during this change of department head. Sure, he was the boss, but I know first hand what it’s like to have the boss of a law enforcement agency suddenly removed. I was part of an investigation where a chief of police was terminated and charged with a criminal offense.

Take a guess as to what happened after he was escorted from his office and the police department.

Okay, I’ve waited long enough. Your answers were coming far too slowly.

NOTHING HAPPENED. The next in command was placed in charge and everyone went about their daily routines of investigating cases (serious and not so serious), writing traffic tickets, working car crashes, testifying in court, collecting evidence and surveillance, etc.

Absolutely nothing changed except an instant uptick in morale.

So no, “one monkey don’t stop no show,” especially when the person in question is incompetent and unable or unwilling to carry out the basic functions of the job description in a manner that’s within the law, guidelines, policy, and other rules and regulations.

The decision to remove this director was sound and should’ve been done a long, long time ago.

just a monkey

By the way, the FBI is not a national police force. They do not conduct local police-type investigations. It is not the FBI who shows up to investigate your hometown murder. That’s not what they do.

** Please, no political comments **


I thank you for your patience as The Graveyard Shift undergoes a major remodel. Today, several images were lost during a switch to servers. Our team of experts is hard at work, so please bear with us for a few more days. Thanks so much!! Believe me, the wait will be worth it. I have lots of cool and exciting things in store for you guys!!

Interrogation: The Reid Technique


The art of interrogation is exactly that … an art. It’s an elaborate song and dance routine that begins with the two participants squaring off, much like a pair or group of birds searching for a mate. Doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, lets compare the Blue Manakin to the investigators who’re hard at it trying to illicit a confession from a bad guy.

Step One

Blue Manakin – An alpha male initiates the ritual by first forming a team of birds to help him attract females.

Cops – The cop in charge picks other cops to serve as either good cop or bad cop, or to simply be present as witnesses.

Step Two

Blue Manakin – When an interested female comes along, the team begins flying around her, flapping their wings and making a buzzing noise. She likes this.

Cops – Try to make the suspect feel at ease with casual conversation, a little something to eat and/or drink, and perhaps even a cigarette. Bad guys like this.

Step Three

Blue Manakin – When he feels the time is right, the alpha bird commands his partners to stop the flapping and buzzing and other acrobatics. If the female liked what she saw, she’ll mate with the alpha male.

Cops – When he/she feels the time is right, he/she will stop the questioning and listen. If the suspect likes what he’s heard, he spills his guts.

Step Four

Blue Manakin – The alpha bird’s team is dismissed.

Cops – With confession in hand, the suspect is delivered to the county jail. Everyone moves on to the next case. If the cops did their jobs correctly, all will be well. If not, the case is dismissed.

Step Five

Blue Manakin – Alpha’s team members stand by, waiting for something to happen to alpha male so they can battle to take his place.

Cops – There’s more to do than any one investigator could accomplish in a lifetime. No one hurries to take his/her place.

During the interrogation ritual, investigators use a variety of methods to gain confessions. One such tactic is the Reid Technique. The Reid Technique is a nine-step method that is in three primary stages – Fact Analysis, The Investigative Interview, and The Interrogation.

Keep in mind that officers are permitted to lie during an interrogation. However, they are not allowed to offer leniency, a spot in a particular jail or prison, and they are not, at any time, to threaten a person for any reason.

The nine steps of the Reid Technique are:

1. The positive confrontation. The investigator tells the suspect she knows they’re guilty and has the evidence to back up the claim.

2. Theme development. The investigator then presents a moral reasoning (theme) for the offense. This could include, for example, placing the moral blame on someone else or circumstances beyond the control of the suspect. The investigator delivers the theme in a monologue fashion and in a definite manner that is sympathetic to the suspect. They’re trying to “win” his confidence.

Interrogation: The Reid Technique

3. Handling denials. The suspect is likely to ask permission to speak and this is usually to deny the accusations. The investigator should not allow the suspect to do

so (continue with the denials). Move on.

Suspects often interrupt an officer’s questioning to exclaim their innocence, guilty or not.

4. Overcoming objections. When attempts to deny are not successful, a guilty suspect sometimes finds a way to object to an officer’s accusations by offering reasons as to why they’ve claimed innocence – “I couldn’t have killed Sally Sue, because I loved her.” The savvy investigator should pretend to accept these objections as if they were the absolute truth. This is not the time to argue with the suspect. Instead, set aside the reasons for the denial for further development of the theme.

5. Procurement and retention of suspect’s attention. The investigator must always be sure the suspect is attentive and focusing on the theme and the officer’s words rather than the possible consequences for his actions (punishment). To do so, it’s best to close the physical distance between the detective and the suspect. Keep the suspect’s mind as far away from prison and jail as possible.

6. Handling the suspect’s passive mood. The investigator should maintain an understanding and sympathetic demeanor while encouraging the suspect to tell the truth.

7. Presenting an alternative question. The investigator should present two choices, with one being a better justification for the crime other than the truth – “I don’t think you’d do something like this on purpose, right? Why don’t you tell me exactly what happened so we can best know how to move forward. I want to help you do the right thing.”

8. Having the suspect orally relate various details of the offense. After the suspect accepts one side of the alternative (this is the “gotcha” moment because they’ve just admitted guilt), the detective should immediately acknowledge the admission of guilt and then have them describe what took place, in their own words. This is the time to LISTEN. A great investigator knows how and when to listen. LISTEN!!

9. Converting an oral confession to a written confession. The suspect writes his confession. Or, it’s transcribed and he signs it.


What Goes Through A Cop’s Mind When …

A guide to cop talk

Cops hear all sorts of wacky comments during the course of their careers, and they’d love to return a few snarky comments of their own. However, they hold their tongues (in most instances). But wouldn’t you love to hear what’s going through their minds when someone says …

1. It’s always nice to hear updates about friends and family members who are or were police officers, but to name-drop during a traffic stop is not all that impressive. Unless, of course, the name you’re dropping is your own and that you’re the mother or spouse of the officer who pulled you over. That’s the only time you might see a favorable response, though. Therefore, Cousin Bertha, your signature goes right there.

2. Cops truly appreciate the fact that you pay taxes and that a miniscule amount of your hard-earned dollars go toward their salaries. However, they, too, pay taxes, which, by the way, pays for the roads you travel, the schools attended by your kids, along with a miniscule portion of their own salaries (does that mean cops are actually self-employed?). So thank you very much.

3. Thank you for screaming into my face that your uncle’s sister’s cousin on her daddy’s side of the family used to be the sheriff over in Doodlebop County. I wonder if he’d be impressed to learn that you’ve just beaten your wife and kids?

4. I know … you only had two beers. I also know those two beers were probably the chaser you consumed after gulping down an entire fifth of Jack Daniels. And don’t think I can’t see that bag of weed sticking out of your pants pocket, you dumbass.

5. You only stopped me because I’m white, green, black, blue, brown, or purple. That’s right, Sparky. The fact that you were driving 180 mph in a school zone had nothing to do with it. And, of course, my powerful x-ray vision allowed me to see through your nearly black (tinted) windows so I could zero in on your skin color. Sign here, please.

6. You’re gonna have my badge? Okay, here. Take it. Because I’m tired of dealing with assholes like you every day of my life.

7. You’ll see me someday when I’m not wearing my uniform … What does that mean? You want to fight me when I’m off duty? But I just saw you in the grocery store yesterday. Remember? You smiled and called me “sir” when you introduced me to the wife and kids. I did happen to notice your cart was pretty heavy, though, with all that beer. Perhaps you’ve been possessed and it’s King Budweiser who’s speaking through your lips right now.

8. But everyone else was speeding faster than you, you say? I know, but I’m like a lion. I pick the slowest and weakest in the herd. They’re much easier to catch.

9. Stop disrespecting you? Gee, you’re absolutely right. I should take you more seriously as you stand there drunk as a skunk with a big wet urine spot in the crotch of your pants while you so kindly spit in my face. The puke on the front of your shirt and your piece of crap car sitting in the middle of that nice lady’s living room definitely commands tons of respect. Now let’s go … “Sir.”

10. I’m sure you do know your rights, ma’am, but peeing in the back seat of my patrol car is not one of them.

Once Again – Cordite: Putting This Garbage In The Grave!


“The second I opened the door I knew she was dead. Her body was easy to find, too. The smell of cordite led me to her like the combined scents of fried chicken and potato salad lead a southerner to a summertime church picnic.”

Cordite. Just say NO!

Yes, it’s happened yet again. I read a book last week by one of my favorite authors. It was one of those books you just don’t want to put down, not even to eat or sleep. Well, I had plowed my way almost to the end when I saw the dreaded “C” word. I know, disgusting, right?

Yep. The modern day hero smelled CORDITE. Right there on page so and so. And for all the world to see.

ARGGHHH!!!! If I read that more time I think I’ll shoot myself just before hurling my wounded body in front of a speeding train.

Cordite. What is it, and why do so many writers use the stuff in their books? I can’t answer the second part of the question. It’s still a mystery to me.

Goodness knows, I’ve tried to steer everyone in the right direction. Authors don’t write about cops using sharpened sticks as weapons. They don’t have their heroes carrying a pocket full of rocks to throw at bad guys. Why not? Because times have changed. We aren’t living with the Flintstones. Fred and Barney aren’t our neighbors. We have modern weapons, vehicles, and modern ammunition.

Cordite is gone, folks. Finished. Over. Done. They just don’t make the stuff anymore. It is G.O.N.E.

Actually …

Cordite was developed by the British in the 1800’s. Their scientists blended a concoction of acetone, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, and petroleum jelly to form a colloid (a substance is dispersed evenly throughout another). The acetone was then evaporated which allowed the goop to be extruded into long, sort of slippery, spaghetti-like cords (see image below). These rods were packed into rounds, standing on their ends, topped with a round piece of cardboard. Depending on the size of the weapon and caliber of ammunition, the cords could be manufactured in thicker or thinner sizes, as well as longer or shorter lengths. In other words, the bigger the round the fatter and longer the strands of cordite.

This stuff is not a powder! It’s basically sticks of nitroglycerin and guncotton lathered up with Vaseline.

Cordite rods and a piece of round cardboard.

Left to right – casing, cordite rods, cardboard disc on top, and bullet.

Cordite was manufactured in sticks. Therefore, it could not be used in tapered rounds. The shell tube had to remain straight until it reached the point where the bullet fit into the neck. A series of dies were used to make that transformation. The cordite had to be packed tightly into each round. If not, air space caused the cordite to burn at an improper rate.

Now, the most important fact in this entire piece.

Cordite manufacturing CEASED somewhere around the end of WWII. I’ll say that again in case you weren’t listening, or in the event the radio was playing too loudly and caused you to miss it.

They don’t make the stuff anymore. It’s not used in modern ammunition. Nope. Not there. Don’t have it.

So no, your cops can’t smell it! That’s not what’s hitting their noses when they enter a crime scene.

What's that smell? It's not cordite!

When writing these scenes think 4th of July fireworks, after they’ve exploded. That’s pretty close to the odor floating about in the air after modern ammunition has been recently discharged.

‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 1574px; left: 20px;”>Save

‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 436px; left: 915px;”>Save

As Seen On TV: Lies


Yes, TV sometimes often gets it wrong.

Therefore, I urge you to seek factual research sources. I also urge you to watch out for subliminal messaging on blogs. Yes, it’s a thing. Some bloggers insert hidden links, and images, that are designed to stimulate your senses, such as book covers and links to places to buy them. Of course, I’d never


do anything like that, but I’m always watching for those who do. Other tricks include a subtle posting of a popular event. These tactics often use catchy photos and super deals to attract your attention. Sometimes those deals are so over the top amazing that …

Writers Police Academy HIT Classes

By the way, we now have a few new openings for the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy. And, we have a FANTASTIC deal for you!! Believe it or not, we’re making it possible for you to receive FREE registration to the WPA. Those of you who’ve already signed up … no problem. You could receive a refund. Details coming soon! And please don’t forget that Sisters in Crime (a major sponsor of the WPA) is offering a $150 discount to their members attending for the first time!

… we can’t seem to avoid clicking over to the site to sign up so we can join our friends at the most exciting event on the planet.

For now, though, let’s return to the topic du jour and take a look at my top ten list of fictional “facts” TV writers have gotten wrong for years.

10. Undercover officers must identify themselves if challenged by a criminal.

I'm a cop!

Not true. In fact, if this were indeed fact, well, there’d be no undercover operations. Every crook in the world would then simply ask the new guy, “Are you a cop?” The officer would then be forced to respond affirmatively and the deal would be over, and there’d be one less officer at the next Christmas party.

9. Officers must read a suspect his rights the moment he’s arrested.

miranda law

No. Police officers are only required to advise bad guys of the Miranda warnings if they’re going to question them. That gobblety-gook about spouting off the warnings the second the officer slaps on the cuffs is just that—gobblety-gook.

8. The law says all criminals must be allowed to use the phone.

get me out of here

No. Most departments have a policy that allows the phone call, but there are no laws that require a phone call during the booking process. In jail, the use of the telephone is a privilege. In fact, the telephone is used as a tool for disciplinary action. You screw up, they take your phone privileges. End of story. The same is true with family visits and shopping at the jail commissary. Those privileges may also be taken away.

But the phone call the second a bad guy’s feet hit the booking area … nope. They’ll make the call when the extremely busy corrections officers have the time to help with the call. Typically, this is after the suspect is booked and placed in a cell. However, some agencies have phones in the booking area and will allow many arrestees to make a call asap. To do so often allows the person to post bail, thereby freeing up jail space. But it’s not an automatic thing/occurrence, nor is it a constitutional right to make a phone call whenever a prisoners decides to do so.

Some jails have phones inside the cell and dorm areas.

female prison dorm

A very happy prisoner. I asked why the big smile. Her reply was, “Things could be worse. At least I’m alive and healthy.”

The silver-colored metallic cable you see on the right (to her left) is a telephone cord attached to a blue pay-type phone. This jail features a phone in each dorm. Inmates are allowed to make collect calls during approved times of the day only. The phones are switched off from the control booth during the “off” times.

7. You can be charged with obstruction of justice for not talking to the police.

Not talking

No. You have the constitutional right not to incriminate yourself—the right to remain silent—because anything you say WILL be used against you. Say it during a police interview and I practically guarantee you will hear those words again in a courtroom.

However, there are laws that require you to answer basic questions, like, “What is your name?” and “Where do you live?” I guess I should mention that you’re also required, by law, to tell the truth when answering those questions.

6. Police officers have the authority to order someone to remain in town while they conduct their investigation.

Nope. Without a signed order from a judge police officers do not have the authority to enforce this demand. They can ask, but they can’t make you.

5. Officers have the authority to make deals with criminal suspects, such as how much prison time they’ll receive if they cooperate.

No. Only a prosecutor or judge has the authority to offer a deal to criminal suspects.

4. Officers have the authority to “drop” charges on a suspect once he’s been formally charged.

Again, no. Only a judge or prosecutor may have a defendant’s charges reduced or dismissed.

3. Officers can obtain a search warrant with simple phone call to a judge.

Not so fast TV Writers. A phone call won’t always result in receiving a search warrant. All search warrants must be signed by a judge or magistrate, which in many jurisdictions still requires a face-to-face meeting and a raising-your-right-hand-swearing-to-the-facts sort of thing. Even in the places where electronic transactions are permitted (and there are many these days), officers must have the paperwork in hand when they arrive to execute the search warrant.

2. Most criminal cases are solved by the use of forensic science, such as DNA and fingerprints.

No. Most crimes are solved the old fashioned way, by knocking on doors and talking to people. DNA and fingerprints are rarely the smoking gun in criminal cases.
1. Police officers leave the scene of the crime with lights and sirens going full blast.

No. Officers use lights and sirens when heading TO the scene of a crime, not when leaving. The use of emergency equipment is only permitted during an actual emergency. Once the bad guy is safely cuffed and stuffed in the rear of the patrol car the emergency is over and the lights go off. However, if the suspect is injured and requires medical care, officers sometimes transport them to the hospital. They’ll use lights and siren in those instances.

‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 2787px; left: 20px;”>Save

Jurisdictional Boundaries: Step Across This Line, I Dare You

Jurisdictional Boundaries

Jurisdictional issues come up all the time for police officers. After all, criminals are extremely mobile and, unfortunately for local cops, bad guys simply don’t stay put waiting for detectives to come and get them.

Jurisdiction (according to Blacks Law Dictionary) is a geographic area in which a court has power, or the types of cases it has power to hear. For law enforcement officers that jurisdictional boundary covers the area where they are sworn to protect and serve as police officers.

City officers are sworn (raise their right hand and repeat an oath) to protect and enforce the laws of the city where they’re employed.


County deputies and officers are sworn to protect and enforce the laws of the counties where they’re employed.

By the way, there’s only ONE sheriff in a department—the boss who is elected by the people (there may be a couple of places where a sheriff is appointed). All those other folks in brown uniforms are sheriff’s deputies. They are each appointed by the sheriff to assist him/her in their duties. To call each of them “sheriff” is incorrect. I recently saw this in a very well-written book, but the inaccuracy totally took me out of the story.

State officers, investigators, agents, and troopers are sworn to enforce the laws in their state.

And, federal officers and agents, including local officers assigned to federal task forces, are sworn to enforce laws throughout the country.

In most cases, police officers aren’t allowed to conduct an arrest in any area that’s outside their jurisdiction. In fact, some arrests conducted outside an officer’s jurisdiction are considered illegal.

Unfortunately, bad guys aren’t held to such standards. Why, they’ve even been known to kill somebody in Florida and flee all the way to Washington state. The nerve of those guys, not abiding by the rules.

When bad guys do commit a crime and flee the town/city/county/state, warrants are issued for their arrest. Officers may also issue a BOLO (Be On The Lookout). Then, when the crooks are spotted in Washington state (or anywhere else), the Northwestern cops can make a legal arrest based on the information they’ve received from the authorities in Florida (an electronic communication).

There are exceptions to the jurisdictional restrictions, and these conditions make it legally possible for officers to travel outside of their home territory to apprehend a criminal.

1) During a hot pursuit. Officers can legally pursue a fleeing felon across jurisdictional boundaries as long as they maintain visual contact with the suspect. However, if the officer at any time loses sight of the suspect, the pursuit is no longer considered fresh, and he/she must terminate the chase (There are always exceptions. Remember, we’re talking about the law).

2) Officers may make a legal arrest outside of their jurisdiction if they are responding to a request for assistance from another agency.

3) In some areas, as long as an officer has possession of a legal arrest warrant, she can serve it on the suspect anywhere in her state. (again, check local laws).

4) Many jurisdictions permit officers to make an arrest even when crossing over the boundary line. However, the distance they’re permitted to travel beyond the line is limited, and that distance is specified by the laws governing their individual areas. This provision in the law is in place because there are no physical lines drawn on the ground to mark actual city or county limits.

For example (below), a sign long ago nailed to a tree in the middle of a Georgia swamp marks the county boundary line. This is probably the only marker within miles; therefore, officers conducting a search of the area would have no idea if they were still operating inside their jurisdiction, unless they happened to run across this lone sign.

Officers acting in good faith may make an arrest within these provisional boundaries.

However, in Limestone County, Alabama, this law is in effect:

In Limestone, no police jurisdiction of a municipality located wholly or partially within Limestone county shall extend beyond the corporate limits of the municipality. (Amendment 499; Proposed by Act 88-306, submitted at the Nov. 8, 1988, election, and proclaimed ratified Nov. 23, 1988, Proclamation Register No. 6, p. 56).

5) Officers can make a citizens arrest anywhere in the country, just like any other person in the same situation.

6) Interestingly, Ohio state patrol officers have no jurisdiction on private property. Their arrest powers cover only roadway patrol and public land. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, Lt. Swords).

7) Officers and investigators often travel to jurisdictions other than their own to further an investigation, and to interview/question witnesses and suspects. When they do enter a different jurisdiction it’s a good practice to check in with the local authorities to let them know they’re in the area. In most cases, the local department will assign an officer or investigator to go along. Local officers know their jurisdiction(s), and they know most of the usual bad guys and where they hang out. Besides, if an immediate arrest is needed, the local officers have he authority to do so. Outsiders do not.

Now, I feel compelled to answer the question I see asked almost every single day. Here goes:

NO, the FBI does not ride into town and take over cases from local police departments. They will gladly assist when asked or needed, but they have other things to do that keep them quite busy.

Besides, as a rule, the FBI does NOT investigate local murder cases. City and county police departments, sheriffs offices, and state police are more than capable of handling their own cases. And they do.

*Remember, I’ve been out of active-duty police business for several years. Photos and other references to me are from days long ago.

‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 2742px; left: 20px;”>Save

A Cup of Coffee, a Newspaper, and a Bloated Body…

A cup of coffee

A cup of coffee, a piece of toast, a glance at the morning paper, and a leisurely stroll through a bloody crime scene. Sometimes, though, there’s no time for the coffee. Instead, the morning begins with a brisk, adrenaline-filled scuffle with a suicidal man who’s crazy-high on methamphetamine, or a lovely peek at a bloated body that’s teeming with hundreds of writhing maggots.

That’s how some cops start their day.

Others, well …

Maybe they’ll drop the kids off at school before heading to the office to finish up a report or the beginnings of a search warrant.

The rest of the day is a piece of cake—chasing drug dealers, shots fired, lost children, crying mothers, abusive parents, hungry children, murder, suicide, shoplifters, pursuits, fatigue, crack cocaine, addicts, prostitutes, burglars, no lunch, robbers, spit on by abusive citizens, battered spouses, drunks, rabid animals, lost pets, remove wild animal in citizen’s garage or basement, bad checks, autopsy, trip to crime lab, traffic accident, speeders, question witness, peeping tom, search for lost child in woods filled with tons of poison ivy, serve warrants, miss child’s play at school, citizen can’t get furnace to work, dog stuck in drain pipe, citizen locked keys in car, citizen locked herself in bedroom and doesn’t know how to turn button on doorknob to get out, pull unconscious man from burning house, citizen hears prowler, kids throwing water balloons at elderly people, check homes for people while they’re on vacation, testify in court, retrieve body of young woman from river, sit with elderly man because he’s alone and frightened and very much misses his wife of 50 years.

4-12 officer calls in sick … must work 8 more hours. So …

Drug dealers, shots fired, fighting, lost children, crying mothers, catch rapist …


Dog bite, punch in face, take knife from wife-killer, kid accidentally shoots best friend with father’s gun, woman jumps from overpass, teens fire shots at patrol car, third-grader struck by drunk driver …

Man with knife, woman with meat cleaver, boy with gun, teen with poison, attacked by people who simply hate cops…

Training for the day when, well, whatever can and will happen…

Search for drugs, search for weapons, search for explosives, search for people who want to kill you…

Anthrax, ricin, and other small things that kill…

Murder scenes decorated with blood, brains, and human tissue…

Working all night and then sitting in court all day the next day while waiting to testify about the guy who killed and butchered his neighbor’s child…

Destroying the dangerous drugs that destroy the lives of many…

Autopsy. Collecting fluid from the eye to determine if the dead guy had been drinking or on drugs when he collided with the school bus, the crash that killed nine little kids.

Transporting the most dangerous people in the country to and from various appointments—doctor, jail, prison, court, etc.

Running DNA test to determine the identify of a serial killer, the guy who raped and strangled mothers, daughters, cousins, and friends.

Standing guard over the people in your community who’ve raped, robbed, and killed your neighbors and friends…

Entering homes to search for violent offenders who’ve killed other cops…

Comfort a stranger whose loved one died in a car crash…

Hamilton One 161

Trying to leave it all behind at the end of the day so you can spend a brief bit of quality time with your family, knowing you’ll do it all over again the next day. Because it’s what you do.

Hamilton One 124

How’s your day, so far?

‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 124px; left: 20px;”>Save

Suicide By Cop

Suicide by Cop

He’s at a point in his life when he wants to end it all, and he’ll do what it takes to reach that goal.

Unfortunately, achieving that objective sometimes involves shooting at a cop, hoping the officer will do as he’s trained and return fire. And he’s right. Shoot at a cop and you’ll quickly find a volley of lead headed your way.

But when the suspect exhibits signs that he may be trying to use the officer as a means of suicide, well, that could change the ballgame. It shouldn’t, but sometimes it does. Why? Because this is a person who needs help, and harming a person in need goes against everything a cop stands for and tries to accomplish. After all, isn’t it a cop’s job to keep everyone safe, no matter what?

Police officers are sort of like mother hens in uniform. They try to keep everyone out of harm’s way and, contrary to a lot of people’s belief, only as a last resort do they use force of any kind.

When someone is hurting, officers are pre-wired to render aid. When someone needs help, they provide it. When a life is in danger, they save it. That’s what they do. Therefore, when the suicidal individual confronts a police officer it’s possible the officer could let down his defensive guard, feeling compassion for the troubled person.

Cops are trained to defend themselves, and others, at all costs, and they should. And they should be hyper-alert when a distraught suspect exhibits one or more of the following signs. Remember, if the officer hesitates to shoot when necessary, that second of inaction may very well be the last thing he ever does. A dead hero will not be in attendance when the chief presents a posthumous commendation to his next of kin.

suicide by cop

Signs/indicators that a person is planning a suicide by cop.

– He’s just killed a close family member – a wife, his child, or even a parent.

– The suspect has supplied a list of demands to the police and none of those plans include a means of escape.

– Very rapid breathing. Hyperventilating.

– Something has happened recently that the suspect feels is life-altering—someone close to them has died, they’ve been arrested and face a lengthy prison sentence, loss of job, divorce or spouse is cheating on him, money troubles, foreclosure, etc.

– Refusal to obey any commands.

– Rocking back and forth. Beating a fist on a table or other surface. Or any other movement in a repetitive, cadence-like tempo. The rhythmic movements often increase in speed and intensity.

– Just before encountering officers, the suspect gives away everything that’s important to him (mementos/keepsakes and other property, for example).

– He says things like, “You’ll never take me alive.” “When I die everyone will remember it.”

– Suspect is constantly, frantically, and rapidly looking around, searching his surroundings.

– He expresses a desire to die and demands that the officers kill him.

– He may reveal that he has a terminal illness.

Of course, there are times when a suicidal suspect does back down and allow himself to be taken into custody. And the reversal or diminished signs from above are indicators that he has changed his mind about dying. BUT, at no time should the officer let down his guard. AND, at no time should the officer hesitate to do what must be done at the proper time.

So I ask, could you make the call? If so, would it be the right call?

Writers’ Police Academy recruits will be faced with similar, live-action scenarios during their shoot/don’t shoot training exercises. Will they make the right decisions? This session is intense!


Writers' Police Academy



‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 476px; left: 20px;”>Save