A Cop’s Thanksgiving: Save a Drumstick for Me

Cop's Thanksgiving

 

Morning parade

Smiling faces

Squealing children

Marching bands

Turkey

Pumpkin pie

Eggnog

Football

Pistol. Badge. Vest.

Kiss the kids, please

And save a drumstick for me

I’m almost home.

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Family

Traveling

Smiling faces

Squealing children

Grandma’s cooking

Turkey

Yams

Pumpkin pie

Crackling fire

Football

Kevlar. Radios. Sirens.

Kiss the kids, please

And save a drumstick for me

I’m almost home.

Drunk drivers

Speeding drivers

Texting drivers

Careless drivers

Aggressive drivers

Sleepy drivers

Depressed drivers

Distracted drivers

Reckless drivers

Road rage

Horrible crash

An entire family

Gone.

Tangled metal

Little ones

Mother and father

Teddy bear

A doll

A plastic truck too

Those poor children

They’ll never go home again

Yes, save a drumstick

Hug our kids

Tell them I love them

I’ll be home

Later.

10-4

Send the coroner

Five victims

No rush

I’ll stand by

Nothing I can do

Those poor children

No turkey

No pumpkin pie

No football

Never again

They were almost home

Almost home …

,

Building Characters Using Everyday Items Found Around the House

The Professor is here today to share a few tips on developing well-rounded and layered characters. As in his last tip, Interviewing Your Characters, The Professor believes that police investigators have what it takes to concoct believable fictional characters, and here’s why you should add a few of these suggestions to your writers’ toolkit.

When officers search a suspect’s apartment or a murder victim’s home, they’re not only looking for physical evidence of the crime, they’re also seeking information about the current resident. Therefore, they take a good hard look at the possessions in the home, because those personal objects tell a vivid story.

While conducting the in-depth search, detectives are essentially reading an autobiography. They’ll learn things such as the person’s favorite color, their favorite authors, the extent of their wealth (if any), secrets (a diary or journal), left- or right-handed, natural hair color, travels, family history, etc.

The Professor suggests that writers may want to build a list of the personal possessions of the character-in-progress. Doing so will greatly assist them in developing a character’s personality, and how the character goes about his/her daily affairs.

Lets say you’re developing a female protagonist—a woman who’s known for her superb crime-solving abilities. You might want the reader to see the sleuth’s home as a place crammed full of mystery novels and forensics manuals, magnifying glasses of all sizes, and a fully-functional DNA lab in the basement. However, her most prized-possessions are, oddly, a large assortment of big, floppy straw hats.

As the readers step into your character’s kitchen they see weight loss products lining the counter (has she struggled with weight issues?). The cabinets are filled with canned goods, pots, pans, dishes, and an assortment of tea blends from all over the world. Everything is arranged by size and they’re placed in alphabetical order. The kitchen is spotless. Like the rest of the house, not a thing is out of place, and you couldn’t find a dust bunny if you tried. A tour of her bedroom closet exposes only comfortable, flat shoes and print dresses in various hues of red. Her medicine cabinet contains denture cream, Ibuprofen, and hair dye.

Have you started to develop a mental picture of the character yet? Do you have some sort of idea of her mannerisms? If you close your eyes are you beginning to see someone who maybe looks a little like this …

So, now that we have an outline of our character, and we know a bit of her personality (she’s a neat freak who prefers comfort over style, and she loves, loves, loves, tea), we can start to add some color between the lines. To do so, writers should take a look at their character’s possessions and then ask why they possess each of those items.

The denture cream. Does she own it because she actually has dentures, or, is there a gentleman caller with detachable upper and lower plates who often spends the night? How about the assortment of exotic teas? Does she drink the stuff, or is she merely an eccentric collector? Are the tea packets souvenirs from extensive travel? Maybe her gentleman caller is an airline pilot who picks up the various blends during his extensive travels.

So, you see, building a character can be fun. All you have to do is unlock your imagination and travel to where your warped little writer-minds take you, no matter how goofy the place may be …

Tire Impressions: Follow That Car!

When we began our 9th house hunting ordeal (the first four or five were fun, after that it became more of a chore), we were looking for a home in the countryside or on the water. I prefer acreage, but my wife prefers a smaller lot where you can at least see your nearest neighbor.

Knowing which we’d settle on, she at least allowed me to look at property where I had room to roam before narrowing our search to places that wouldn’t force me to spend a couple of days each week mowing and weed-eating.

While traipsing throughout the rural landscape, we spent a great deal of time traveling on dirt or gravel roads. Roads with names like Red Clay Way and Turkey Trot Lane, where locals give crystal clear directions to their homes by mentioning helpful landmarks, such as …

“Go past Robert Junior’s old horse barn and hang a sharp right at the big oak tree. Then go on down until you see a red mailbox. That ain’t ours, but you’re close. We’re just past where John Henry Daniels used to have a store.

Cap’n Bubba

Now, it burned down 37-years ago next week, but they’s a big rock there with some yaller paint on it. Yaller was John Henry’s favorite color so his wife, Etta Jean—she’s Romey and Winonna Jenkins’ oldest daughter—painted the rock so’s everybody’d remember him and the store. You know, John Henry sold the best pickles and peaches this side of Atlanta.

Anyways, if you get to where the road splits into a “Y” you’ve done gone too far, so turn around in Mable Johnson’s driveway and head back the way you come. And don’t dawdle none while you’s a-turnin’ round ’cause Mable’s been known to take a shot or two at strangers.

Our house is the blue one a’settin’ off the road about two-hundred yards. The one with the goats and chickens running ’round the place. You can’t miss it. Oh, whatever you do, blow the horn three times when you drive up so we’ll know it’s you, not those pesky Joe Ho’vers Witnessers.”

Anyway, driving on the dirt and sometimes gravel roads took me back to the day when unpaved streets and roads were sometimes my best friend when trying to follow a criminal’s trail. Dirt roads, mud, grass, and even sandy soil can be quite telling … if you take the time to look. Here are a few things investigators look for when following a hot trail.

1. Both cars and trucks sometimes lose traction when heading uphill, and when they do the tread patterns aren’t clear. When going downhill, tread patterns are clear and remain unbroken because the rubber maintains full traction with the surface. Therefore, investigators can easily determine the vehicle’s direction of travel.

2. When viewing tire tracks in the grass, it’s important to note whether or not the tire tracks are shiny/glossy, or not. Glossy tracks mean the vehicle was heading in a direction away from the spot where you’re standing. Off color, or slightly dull tracks indicate the vehicle was heading toward your position.

3. When traveling on slightly muddy surfaces (about the consistency of slush), the vehicle’s tires force (squirt) mud forward at a +/- 45 degree angle.

4. Mud puddles, small creeks, etc. are perfect for telling which direction a car or truck is moving. Vehicles always push and pull water in the direction of travel. The liquid also washes away tracks on the exit side of the water. So, if you see a puddle with clear tracks leading up to the water’s edge, and no tracks and a wet surface on the opposite side of the puddle, then you know the vehicle is traveling toward the wet road surface. You may also see wet spots on the dirt road from where water dripped off the car frame, after it passed through the puddle.

5. Wet soil often sticks in the grooves of a tire tread pattern. As the vehicle moves along, the soil begins to dry and falls off, and it always does so in the direction of travel. Investigators can follow the trail much like following a trail of breadcrumbs.

6. When viewing tire tracks always position yourself where the track is directly between you and the sun. This enables the best view of the track’s details.

The same is true for examining footwear impressions.

6. Be sure to photograph the track for later comparison to a tire or shoe.

Finally, as you travel, be sure to examine the sides of the roadway and down paths and trails for the suspect vehicle. It would be pretty darn embarrassing to discover you’d passed by the crooks who’d parked in Mable Johnson’s driveway to count the stolen loot.

 

From Hot Breath to Big Toes … More Cop Terminology

ASCLD – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

AFIS – Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Palmprint storage and search capabilities are also in place.

ALPS – Automated Latent Print System.

ASCLD/LAB – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Acid Fuchsin – Reddish protein stain used to enhance bloody friction ridge detail of fingerprints.

Acid Yellow 7Fluorescent dye stain used to help visualize latent prints left in blood on nonporous surfaces.

Acid Yellow-7, Arrowhead Forensics

Acidified Hydrogen Peroxide – Solution used to develop friction ridge detail on cartridge casings by etching the surface of the casing not covered with sebaceous material (oils and/or fats).

Adactylia – Congenital absence of fingers and/or toes.

Adermatoglyphia – Extremely rare congenital absence of fingerprints.

Alanine – The most common amino acid found in proteins. Alanine is often
used to test latent print chemicals for an amino acid reaction.

Aluminum Chloride – A metal salt used to treat ninhydrin developed latent prints.

Amicus Brief – Legal document filed by someone not associated with a case but possibly has knowledge of a subject matter that may be of interest to the courts.  The person submitting the brief is known as amici curiae.

Amici Curiae – Latin for “friend of the court.”

Amido Black – Bluish-black stain used to enhance bloody fingerprint friction ridge detail.

Anhidrosis – Medical condition that reduces or prevents the body’s ability to sweat.

Benzidine – Once described as the best technique for developing bloody latent prints on nonporous items, Benzidine has been linked to cancers and is no
longer used.

Bichromatic ™ – A multi-colored powder used to process an object for fingerprints.

Boiling – Method used to re-hydrate the friction skin/fingerprints/footprints of a deceased person. To process the prints water is boiled and them removed from the heat. The hand of the deceased is submerged in the water for approximately five seconds. The skin is then dried and the fingers and/or palm is printed.

CJIS – Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Calcar Area – The area located at the heel of the foot.

Cheiloscopy – The study of lip prints.

Clandestine – In secret.

Cluster Prints – More than one fingerprint grouped/clumped/positioned in the same spot of a surface.

Comparator – A split image projection screen used to view and compare fingerprints.

Core – Center of a fingerprint pattern.

Dactylography – The study of fingerprints as a method of identification.

Degloving – The accidental/unintentional separation of the skin from the hands or feet. This “skin slippage” often occurs after a body has been submerged in water for a period od time.

Diff-Lift™ – Fingerprint lifting tape made especially for use on textured objects.

Dorsal – The backside of the hand.

Erroneous Exclusion – Disregarding evidence without a sound basis for doing so.

Exemplar – The known prints of a known individual.

FLS – Forensic Light Source. Includes all light sources used in forensic examinations.

FRE – Federal Rules of Evidence.

Fingerprint Society – Yes, it’s a thing. The Fingerprint Society was conceived in 1974 by Martin J. Leadbetter.

Genipin – A reagent used to develop friction ridge detail on porous items. The result is a dark blue image that can be seen without enhanced lighting.

Hallux – A person’s big toe.

Sir William James Herschel – The first European to recognize and utilize the value of fingerprints for identification purposes.

Histology – The study of the microscopic structure of animal or
plant tissues.

Hot Breath TechniqueBreathing on a latent fingerprint either to help visualize the print or to add moisture back into an older latent print. Also known as Huffing.

Hyperhidrosis – Medical condition that increases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity.

Hypohidrosis – Medical condition that decreases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity or damage to the skin.

IAFIS – Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The FBI’s first
fully automated AFIS computer database.

Image Reversal – Occurs when the friction ridges in a latent print are reversed. Unintentional transferred prints could occur when using rubber lifters. It’s even happened when items are stacked on top of one another (stacks of evidence bags, for example), causing a print to transfer from one item to the next. The same is true with books. A print from one page could transfer to the next page (after the book is closed for a long time). These prints are mirror images and should be obvious to a trained examiner.

Latent Print – Print that is visible to the naked eye.

Liqui-drox – Fluorescent (yellow) solution used to enhance/develop fingerprint friction ridge detail on the adhesive and non-adhesive sides of dark colored tape.

Loupe – Small magnifying glass used to examine prints.