Homicide, Life in the Classroom

 Took a break from writing to attend a session of my local police department’s Citizens’ Police Academy. I enrolled in the Academy this past Fall but I missed a couple of sessions so I came back to the Spring Academy for a make up class. The night’s topics were investigations and motor vehicle crashes. First, we learned about accident investigations, everything from who investigates (a multi-community team of specially trained investigators), to the prerequisites required to become a crash investigator (certification as a lead homicide investigator, an evidence technician, an accident reconstructor, a drone pilot, and more), to how to determine how fast a vehicle had been moving right before it wrapped itself around a tree (it involves measuring skid marks and knowing the road’s coefficient of friction). Then we learned what it takes to be a detective (as opposed to a patrol officer) in this town. Short answer: training and experience. (Police in this town train a lot.) We learned when patrol officers call in detectives and the types of cases detectives usually handle. We learned the best way to get your luxury vehicle stolen (leave it parked in your driveway with the key fob in it and the doors unlocked) and the best way to get your house burglarized (leave the door unlocked). We learned what crimes gangs find prefer to selling drugs on street corners (stealing unlocked cars and breaking into unlocked houses). We learned why detectives don’t work hard on car theft cases (they’re almost impossible to prosecute—juvenile defendants not caught in the act who create reasonable doubt by claiming their buddy gave them a ride and they didn’t know the car was stolen). Then the detective walked us through a few of his cases. Yes, I took notes for future reference. The Citizens’ Police Academy is a great resource for writers in addition to being a great way to get to know your local law enforcement professionals. Best of all, it’s free. If your community offers one, I recommend you enroll. But be warned, if you attend, you’ll never be able to watch another cop show without saying, “That’s not how police really work.” And stop leaving your key fob in your unlocked car. Seriously.

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