Crime Scene Investigation 2

 

 

Okay, our alert patrol officers have determined that they do indeed have a crime scene, and they’ve called in the detectives—us. Before we get started with our investigation, let’s be sure we’re all on the same page.

Everyone knows the difference between a murder and a homicide, right? How about the difference between a crime scene and the scene of the crime? You knew they weren’t the same, right?

First of all, let’s talk about homicide. Homicide is the killing of one person by another. A homicide can be ruled legal if the act was committed in self defense or in the defense of another. Even state executions are homicides.

Homicide is the act of one person killing another.

Murder is a homicide, but…

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The scene of a crime is the actual location where a crime was committed—where the killer pulled the trigger, or the spot from where the car was stolen.

A crime scene is any location where evidence of a crime can be found. For example, a suspect robs a bank at gunpoint. The bank is the scene of the crime because that’s where the crime took place. It’s also a crime scene because evidence—fingerprints, video evidence, etc.—can be recovered there.

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Scene of the crime. The place where the crime took place.

The robber drives three blocks away and tosses his mask and gun into a dumpster. The dumpster and surrounding area are now a crime scene because evidence of the robbery can be recovered from the area.

CSI

 

Most crime-scene investigations begin with a 911 call to police. A communcations officer, or dispatcher, receives the call and obtains as much information about the crime as possible, such as the caller’s name and address, weapons involved, number of victims, and the suspect’s name and description.

The dispatcher relays the information to the next available uniformed patrol officer. Patrol officers are normally the first officers to arrive on the scene of a crime.

The first officer who arrives is normally in charge of a crime scene until she is relieved of that duty by a superior officer or a detective.

Patrol officers must quickly assess a scene and determine if they should call for additional back-up, EMS, detectives, supervisors, medical examiner, crime scene technicians, and other necessary personnel. They also give emergency first aid, if needed.

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Patrol officer responds to emergency call.

When a patrol officer approaches a crime scene, he does so with caution. He must be certain there are no hidden dangers, such as a concealed suspect, no dangerous gases or chemicals, downed power lines,  and booby traps. Booby traps are quite common with houses and areas occupied by drug dealers.

Once officers determine that all is safe and that a crime has indeed occurred, they call for investigators. Patrol officers must secure the crime scene and protect evidence by keeping everyone outside until investigators arrive. Patrol officers are also responsible for obtaining the initial information – name, address, phone numbers – from witnesses.

A crime scene is secured until investigators arrive.

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Detectives normally take charge of all major investigations.

Tomorrow – Crime Scene Investigation – Part 2.

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Arrest and Patrol Car

 

When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings? Well, I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. I can promise you I had a few words to say after I pulled the scuz to his feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters. At that point, I could only think of words of the four letter variety.

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.

A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

This fellow is not free to leave.

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Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. Doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers do not have to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem,  You have the right to…

Miranda facts:

Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.

If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.

If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.

If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.

Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawl symptoms should not be questioned.

Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.

People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.

Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Many officers carry a pre-printed Miranda warning card in their wallets. A National Sheriff’s Association membership card (same design and feel of a credit card) has the warnings printed on the reverse side.

Fact: The Miranda warning requirement stemmed from a case involving a man named Ernesto Miranda.  Miranda killed a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the slaying, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.

Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release he was killed during a bar fight.

His killer was advised of his rights according to the precedent setting case of Miranda v. Arizona. He chose to remain silent.

Traffic stop: check your knowledge

 

During a traffic stop, officers go through almost every emotion imaginable, from the moment they activate their blue lights until the stop has reached its end. They never know what to expect. Is the driver wanted for a crime? Is he carrying dangerous drugs or other contraband? Is he armed? The list goes on.

Police academy instructors teach recruits how to be safe. They set up mock exercises simulating every possible scenario that officers could encounter once they hit the streets.  New officers are taught to do certain things when making traffic stops. The officer in the picture above has positioned her patrol car on an angle to the roadway. She has her left hand on the trunk of the car. She’s looking ahead at the passing car while keeping the driver in her line of vision. She’s standing a certain way. Actually, it appears that she’s doing everything right. Good for her because she had no idea a photographer was behind her. We were pretty sneaky.

Now it’s time to put the shoe on the other foot.  I’m asking each of you to tell me why the officer has decided to do the things she’s done. Remember, she wants to go home at the end of her shift.