“Tater” Jenkins done killed Uncle Billy Buck Robinson. Quick, call the law afor’in’ that son-of-a-biscuit-eatin’ coward gets clean away!”
And so it goes—Aunt Ruthie Mae runs next door to use Lula Belle’s rotary phone to call the police—four men and women of varies sizes and skin tones—who drop their newspapers and circular, creme-filled morning breakfast food and trot out to their cars to make the treacherous drive up Banjo Mountain. But not before stopping by the drive-through at Percy’s Pork Skin Palace to grab a sack lunch for the long trip. Along the way, they pass by mountain goats, a few deer, a limping beaver, and a cross-eyed bear.
The determined officers motor across three creeks and over a series of large logs used as a makeshift bridges over both Falling Car Gulch and the Killzemall River. Then, after stopping for lunch and seven breaks behind assorted species of trees (NOT an easy task for the two female officers), the patrol officers finally reach their destination, a grouping of six obviously homemade houses nestled into the hillside. Curb appeal was limited to crooked eaves, sagging beams, and lopsided stone chimneys that blew and belched smoke the color of squid ink. Several red-headed children ran to and fro, playing with a stick. Their dirt-smeared faces and arms were spattered with summer freckles.
A three-legged mutt lifted its head, slightly, when the police cars pulled to a stop, dragging clouds of white dust in their wakes.
A man with a single tooth sitting slightly askew in a mouth as dark as a cavern called out, “Over here, Five-Oh!” He shooed a few chickens from their new perches atop the forehead of one very blue and very cold Uncle Billy Buck Robinson. “He’s right here … the man, not the rooster.”
Later, the lead officer would include in her official report, a description of that remarkable tooth as “shaped exactly like the state of Delaware.” However, she omitted all references to the chickens, a decision that would come back to haunt her when a savvy defense attorney pointed out to the jury that the presence of chicken prints on the forehead of the deceased raised the possibility of “murder by rooster.” The jury agreed and “Tater” Jenkins walked away from the trial a free man. The rooster, however, was sentenced to community service. The hens, obviously brainwashed by their leader, were not charged, citing Stockholm Syndrome as their defense.
So, what really happens once patrol officers arrive on scene? Well, for starters, much of the above could be sort of true (minus the rooster serving community service). However …
Uniformed officers are normally the first police officers on the scene. It’s up to these front-line cops to take charge, calm the chaos, and make things safe for citizens in the area, EMS and firefighters, and for the arriving investigators, medical examiner, etc.
Sometimes, crime scenes are large and complicated; therefore, it may be necessary to set up a command post—a central location for coordinating police activities.
Many police departments use some sort of mobile command centers, such as converted motor homes and travel trailers. Some patrol supervisors drive vehicles designed to quickly transform into a fully functional command post.
This Oregon police sergeant drives a marked SUV that also serves as a command post during emergencies and crime scene investigations.
A command post could be, however, anything and anywhere—a local store, store parking lot, an officer’s patrol car, and so on.
Crime Scene Investigation facts:
Patrol officers often assist investigators/detectives with the recovery and collection of evidence.
Not all crime scene investigators are sworn police officers. Many police departments employ specially trained civilian crime scene investigators/technicians. Non-sworn crime scene investigators do not:
(As seen on TV)
- arrest criminals
- interrogate or question suspects
- carry weapons
- participate in, or conduct autopsies
- engage in foot of vehicle pursuits
- handcuff criminal suspects (What goes on during their free time is of no concern to us. Unless, of course, you’re writing a scene involving hot, steamy … you know).
All police officers are trained to properly collect and preserve evidence. After all, sometimes detectives are unavailable; therefore, in those instances, uniformed officers assume the duty of investigating the crime.
A police sergeant assists a detective with the collection of a firearm.
Crime scenes may be as small as a single room, or they can be as large as several city blocks, or more. There are no set boundaries. Investigators on the scene make this determination, as needed.
The police are in charge of crime scenes. Coroners and medical examiners are in charge of the bodies of murder victims.
NOTE: Not all medical examiners and coroners show up at crime scenes. In those instances, EMS or a local funeral home typically transport the bodies to the morgue where the M.E. will have a look as soon as possible.
*As always, rules, policies, and procedures vary from area to area and agency to agency. If 100% accuracy is your goal then you make a quick phone call to the public information officer (POI) at your local police department. This is often the officer you see providing official updates on your evening news.