Lifting Fingerprints From Thongs, Boxers, and Briefs? – You Betcha!

A technique called vacuum metal deposition (VMD) currently uses gold and zinc to recover fingerprints on items such as glass and plastics. VMD is not a new method of of developing latent prints. Not at all. In fact, it’s been around since the 1970’s. However, its latest use has generated quite a bit of buzz among the fingerprint experts and the law enforcement officials charged with locating criminals.

Now, using VMD, experts are finally able to locate and recover fingerprints from fabrics. And the process is relatively simple. The fabric is placed inside a vacuum chamber where gold is heated to the point of evaporation and then the pressure is reduced, which spreads a very thin film over the material. Then, zinc is heated and attaches to the gold, BUT only in the spots where there are NO fingerprint ridges. What’s left behind is clear fingerprint ridges showing through as fabric. The spaces between the ridges show as a grayish zinc color.

Toronto police lab technician places item in a VMD chamber

Fingerprints recovered using VMD are photographed, not lifted.

Of course, a fingerprint itself a valuable tool for identification of criminals. But think about how valuable it could be in the case of a victim who police believed jumped to his death from the balcony of a 20-story building. But when scientists run the victim’s clothing through VMD testing, they discover a pair of hand prints on the back of his shirt. Clearly, the presence of those prints would indicate someone had pushed the victim off the balcony. Then, instead of working a suicide case, detectives would then have a murder to solve.

The best types of fabric for turning up positive results are polyester, silk, and nylon.

Another advantage of using VMD is that it can detect prints on items that were previously immersed in water.

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of these brave officers.

Detective John Falcone, 44

Poughkeepsie New York Police Department

February 18, 2011 – Detective John Falcone responded to a shots-fired call and a found a man holding a 3-year-old child while waving a gun. The detective managed to rescue and hand the the child to a bystander before attempting to arrest the suspect. During the struggle to restrain the man Detective Falcone was shot in the head and killed. Shortly after, officers found the body of the suspect’s wife. She, too, had been shot in the head.

Detective Falcone is survived by his parents.

Captain John I. (Jay) McDonough, 52

Volusia County Florida Beach Patrol

February 16, 2011 – Captain Jay McDonough suffered a fatal heart attack while participating in a department training exercise. He is survived by his wife, son, father, sister, and brother.

Correctional Officer Edward Pounds, 44

North Carolina Department of Correction

January 9, 2010 – Correctional Officer Edwards Pounds succumbed to injuries sustained when he was assaulted by an inmate.

Officer David S. Crawford, 46

St. Petersburg Florida Police Department

February 21, 2011 – Officer David Crawford was shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire after responding to a “suspicious person” call. His killer, a 16-year-old male, was arrested shortly after the shooting.

Park Ranger Chris Nickel, 54

United States Department of the Interior – National Park Service

January 29, 2011 – Ranger Chris Nickel suffered a fatal heart attack while patrolling in San Juan County, Utah. A hiker found his body on a trail and tried to get help, but Ranger Nickel was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his wife and parents.


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Southland: Fixing A Hole – A Review

“Sometimes cops find a case can dig them into a hole. Before sunrise Detective Sammy Bryant will discover just how hard it can be to dig yourself out.”

This week’s episode was all about pain—intense physical and emotional pain. And if I didn’t know better I’d think that each of the actors had been through this stuff before. They seem to really understand what it’s like to be behind the badge, facing the world and all the ugly and dirt that life tosses at them. Because what you saw in this episode is what it’s really like out there. And sometimes that’s just a little more than the average human should have to endure.

Sammy’s struggling inside. His nerves are being plucked, like over-taut banjo strings, by a herd of demons that moved into his mind when his partner, Nate, was killed. Those same demons have taken control of Sammy’s reasoning skills, forcing him to act on human emotion instead of a cop’s training and experience. Of course, Sammy’s thought processes have been further taxed by his wife’s affair, which resulted in him having to move out of his family home. And, the wife’s boyfriend moving in with her didn’t help Sammy’s level of anxiety.

Having failed to identify Nate’s killer in a lineup was the icing on Sammy’s teetering emotion cake. Now he’s a speeding locomotive heading straight for rock wall. Sammy fears Nate’s killer is going to walk, so he’s determined to avenge his partner’s death in his own way. Even if it means killing the guy. And he came SO close doing just that last night when he kidnapped a man he thinks killed Nate (I have my doubts that this was the right guy), had him dig his own grave, and then Sammy tried his best to pull the trigger, but couldn’t. So he left, thankfully. Still, by doing this he dug his own hole even deeper. Will the gang come looking for Sammy after they find out what he did to one of their members? And, Sammy just committed a felony—kidnapping.

Shawn Hatosy played an outstanding role this week. His character has been sinking deeper and deeper into what seems like a bottomless pit of swirling emotions, and Hatosy always delivers an outstanding, spot on performance reflective of each scenario. Sure, that’s what actors are supposed to do, but sometimes it’s a bit tougher than normal when you’re playing the part of a cop (cops tend to keep their emotions hidden so it’s difficult to read them). But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hatosy, Cudlitz, McKenzie, King and the rest of the crew. Sometimes, I think they’re all reincarnated cops.

Cooper is feeling the physical pain that comes with a really bad back. He’s also dealing with drug addiction to his pain medication, and Michael Cudlitz does an extremely nice job of bringing that addiction to the screen. Anyone who’s had a problem—a real problem—with any of “codones” will tell you what an intense hold they have over them. Sure, what starts out as pain relief can quickly get out of control, and pretty soon the pills are telling you when to take them and how many to take. The body craves those little white pills like a fish craves water. The feeling is so intense that addicts often find themselves counting the tablets, calculating how long they have before they’ll need more. So, for John Cooper to toss his pills into a toilet bowl, well, that took an incredible amount of willpower. And Cudlitz does a wonderful job of showing what it’s like to lead the double life—a drug addict crawling on the floor of a public restroom who walks out moments later as a top police officer.

Cudlitz also accurately portrays the emotional roller coaster associated with drug withdrawl, such as mood swings, irritability, profuse sweating, and lack of concentration. However, he showed just how tough he is when he remained intensely focused on helping a child in need, for hours and hours. Again, this is what cops do. Even when they are going through some tough times of their own, they put the lives of others first. So great job, Mr. Cudlitz. I knew when we spoke last that you’re extremely dedicated to your craft, and it shows.

– Cooper and Ben are transporting a prisoner who gets a little mouthy, and even asks John if he’s high (Actually, it was the opposite. John was going through withdrawl). So, John pulls what some of the old-timers call, “The dog in the road trick.” You have an unruly prisoner in the back of the car, or van, who simply won’t obey any of your orders. Remember, the slimeball’s hands are cuffed behind his back so he has no way to catch himself should he suddenly be propelled forward. So, the driver slams on brakes sending the prisoner flying forward, slamming his face into the wire cage, or Plexiglass screen. Then the officer says, “Sorry, a dog ran in front of the car.” Ben had his first lesson from the unwritten cop book called, Getting Even With Bad Guys: How To Deliver Subtle Hits, Jabs, and Bruises.

– Chickie tells Ben, “You’ve got to be able to trust the person who’s got your back.” Diving head first into a pool of angry, armed 6-6″ musclebound bad guys is bad enough. Doing so while wondering if your partner is behind you is an awful feeling. A cop absolutely must be able to rely on his co-workers. So, great line, Chickie.

– Dewey asks John, “Why don’t you lay off that s**t. You don’t look so good. You should come with me to a meeting.”

So Cooper’s co-workers are noticing his drug addiction and that it’s affecting his job and his life. This is the point where you have to reach up to touch the bottom. Addiction to prescription medication is an addiction that’s no different than an addiction to heroin.

Again, the entire crew of Southland has done a fantastic job of showing a side to cops the public rarely, if ever, sees. Cops are human with real human problems. And they have to shoulder their troubles while dealing with ours.

This a wonderful show with actors who really take their jobs seriously.

*Maybe someone from the show will consider showing up at this year’s Writers’ Police Academy. You never know…

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Castle: Setup – A Review

This week’s episode was billed as a nail-biter. A real edge-of-the-seat-sitter. Maybe it would have been had I not been watching for the police procedure so you writers won’t make the same mistakes we saw this week. But from where I sat…well, I’m going to go last this week. I need time to calm down. Lanie…puhleeze…you’re killing me.

Melanie, what’d you think of the show? I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting this one.

Melanie Atkins

I’ve been waiting for this episode, and the next one, for weeks. Ever since I first read the hype on the fansite I frequent. Everything I read pointed toward two great episodes with great action and some intense Beckett-Castle interaction, and I was afraid I might be disappointed. Luckily, however, I was wrong. Sure, most of the delicious Beckett-Castle goodness is yet to come, as was evidenced in the previews for next week, but we got what we needed: the Setup.

I seriously can’t wait for Countdown, the second half of this two-parter, which airs next Monday. It was written by Andrew Marlowe, god of all things Castle, so I have no doubt that it will rock. Woohoo! I love this show. Okay, I got that out of my system. ; )

On with the romance recap:

• Kate is obviously unhappy early on by a series of texts and calls that culminate in a visit to the precinct by Josh, her current significant other. When he leaves, she snaps at Ryan, and Castle notices. He questions her about Josh’s visit, and she skirts the issue.

• Once Kate and Rick are stuck in quarantine with their lives on the line, however, she comes clean and tells him that Josh is leaving for Haiti on another Doctors Without Borders mission. Apparently her relationship with Dr. Motorcycle Boy, as Castle calls him, has lost its gleam. At first she liked that Josh was so busy and traveled a lot. It allowed her to “keep one foot out the door”, so to speak, and that was good. Now, though, she wants someone who can be there for her, someone who needs her, too. Someone who will dive into a relationship with her. Rick starts to speak up, to tell her that he can be that guy, when they’re rudely interrupted and let out of quarantine. Ack!

• In true Castle-Beckett fashion, after they’re are kicked off the case for investigating outside the lines during a search for the bomb and are sent home, they continue to work the case off the grid and wind up getting locked in a giant freezer together… thus the “setup” for next week…

Methinks we’re in for some intense Kate-Rick bonding in Countdown. And I also believe I smell a Josh-Beckett break up in the works. I mean, seriously… they set it up perfectly. Bye, bye, Dr. Motorcycle Boy. I, for one, will be happy to see you go.

Okay, my turn to get something out of my system.

Melanie, were we watching the same show? Castle, right? The one where mystery writer Rick Castle, a civilian, was permitted to remain on a case that involved national security—a dirty BOMB? The same show where the medical examiner looked at a hole in a victim’s forehead and immediately knew it was caused by a 9mm round? The very show where a detective (Beckett) was removed from a case but continued to work it on her own (a huge pet peeve about novels, by the way…it DOES NOT happen!).

Before I point out the many things wrong with the police procedure, I have to agree with Melanie about the scene where Castle nearly bares his soul to Beckett. That one was priceless. And it was one of those scenes where Fillian tells the story with his facial expressions. No dialog needed at all to know what was on his mind.

Anyway, back to the deed at hand…police procedure and forensics. Unfortunately, we start with Lanie. Grrr…

– Lanie marks the time of death (TOD) at precisely 11:15 because that was the time on the victim’s watch when it stopped working. She had no way of knowing the watch stopped when the guy fell and died. For all she, or anyone else knew, the watch could’ve stopped ten years ago, but the guy continued to wear it for sentimental reasons. I’ve already addressed the 9mm round to the head, so I’ll move on to her next dumb comment, where she stated that someone broke the victim’s fingers, one at a time. What, were his fingers equipped with timers and video recorders? Because there is no way she could have determined this. No way.

– Esposito commented that the cab driver, according to his GPS software, made a stop and left the motor running. I’ll turn this one over to you guys. Does GPS software have the capability to record whether or not the engine is running while a vehicle is stationary? I haven’t seen one that does.

– I now know the name of Beckett’s favorite TV show…CSI. This was quite easy to figure out, especially when she searched the storage unit by flashlight when there was a perfectly nice 4′ fluorescent light fixture hanging overhead. They seem to favor using flashlights on CSI, even in daylight. Well, TURN ON THE LIGHTS people! That’s how real cops do it.

– Why was Beckett wearing a radiation detector? Standard police equipment? Nope.

– The DHS guy who came in and took over the investigation, and the entire NYPD, allowed Castle to continue working on a federal case that involved a dirty bomb. No way that would happen, AND…there’s no way the captain and a handful of plainclothes detectives would respond to a truck containing a bomb. That’s the job of the bomb squad/hazardous materials unit. If they did, they certainly wouldn’t run up to the truck and fling open the back door without first checking to see if that action would detonate the explosive device.

By the way, why was there only one federal officer sent to handle something this large? Don’t they travel in herds when working high-profile cases?

– I was glad to see Castle using the department computers to trace the bad guy’s money trail. That’s about the only thing left in the entire department that he, as a civilian, hadn’t done.

– Castle made a great statement concerning hard-working writers. “Writers work so hard making the details right.”

– Beckett allows Castle to meet with the Syrian diplomat to discuss the case… Do I need to address this nonsense? I didn’t think so. Next.

– I mentioned that the DHS guy removed Beckett and Castle from the task force, yet they continued to investigate the foreign, killer terrorists who’ll stop at nothing to murder anyone and everyone. And Beckett and Castle chose to continue, alone. I have one more thing to say about this. NO!

Lastly, I have to bring up the bomb. It’s sort of a character, too. Right? Well, I found it almost comical that the terrorists were thoughtful enough to label their “blowup-the-entire-city-of-New York” bomb as radioactive. They were also kind enough to include a radioactive placard/logo on the device. I guess they didn’t want anyone to get hurt…

I wish the writers had been that thoughtful when they dropped those police procedure and forensic bombs into our living rooms.

How long, I wonder, will it be before we begin to hear of the “Castle Effect” in courtrooms across the country? Will jurors soon begin to demand to see Lanie’s Voodoo-style of forensics? I know I’m already hearing writers ask questions, or doubt an actual expert’s advice with a response that begins with…”But Rick Castle said…” Or, “That’s not how Kate Beckett did it.” And, “Beckett didn’t need a search warrant.”

It’s only a matter of time. Only a matter of time. Sigh…

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Son Of Sam And Federal Air Marshals: Something In Common?

In 1953, a woman named Betty Falcoand had an affair with Joseph Kleinman, a married man. Betty soon became pregnant and gave birth to a son, David, whom she immediately put up for adoption. A couple from the Bronx, Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, were more than happy to give the baby boy a home, and a last name.

Young David grew to be a hyperactive child with a violent streak. He was a bully who didn’t take his mother’s death well. Not at all. David joined the military—the army— after his mother’s death and, while serving, took an interest in shooting and became an expert marksman.

After his discharge from service in the mid-1970’s, David began setting fires, nearly 1,500 of them. He also began to hear the voices of demons inside his head. Those demons eventually ordered him to stab a woman, and he did. But the woman started  to scream so he ran away. During his retreat he bumped into a 15-year-old girl and stabbed her six times. And this was only the beginning. The Son of Sam had begun his reign of terror.

Although, David Berkowitz began his killing spree using a knife as his preferred weapon, he was also known as the .44 Caliber Killer. He made the switch from edged weapon to firearm in 1976 when he found a young couple sitting in a parked car and shot them to death with a .44 caliber Charter Arms Bulldog Pug.

Interestingly, the Bulldog, a revolver designed to fire a large, slow-moving bullet, was one of the original weapons issued to the Federal Air Marshals (Sky Marshals).

The marshals needed a gun that was capable of firing a slow-traveling bullet and the Bulldog (less than 30,000 of these revolvers were made) fit the requirement, nicely. The Bulldog revolvers carried by the air marshals were loaded with Glaser Safety Slugs, which further reduced the possibility of over-penetration and ricochet. Can’t poke holes in airplanes, right?

Glaser Safety Slugs contain small shot inside a copper jacket that’re sealed with a blue plastic ball, creating a round nosed bullet.

David Berkowitz used the Bulldog revolver for his entire shooting spree. The Federal Air Marshals, however, switched to the Sig Sauer P-225 and eventually to the P-228

I still say that I’m alive today because of the P-228 I carried both on and off-duty.


* David Berkowitz remains in prison, serving his 365 years. He’s a model prisoner who says he’s a born again Christian. Berkowitz writes and maintains the ariseandshine website.

* The Federal Air Marshals are also strong and doing well. You can visit and learn more about them here.

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