Sunday, September 26, 2010

Adventures in the Sheriff's Department

I think that many of us have a certain fascination with forensic science and police procedure. If this were not the case, shows like Law & Order and CSI would never get watched. We love to see television detectives nail the bad guys in a neatly timed hour, or read about medical examiners that can crack a case wide open with their amazing techniques and intellect, or try to figure out who the perp is from a novel’s carefully doled out crime scene details. The business of crime as entertainment is big, and it is no wonder that some of us want to know more.

I recently received an email from a friend I met eighteen years ago. We used to work together in an office in Stamford, CT, and the reason we became friends was mostly based on our mutual irreverent and obscure senses of humor. In her note to me she asked, Do you remember when you wanted to be a forensic photographer? Your only issue was you didn't like looking at gross stuff. Big obstacle. Thankfully you found your true calling! Although I would have loved to see a crime scene through your eyes :)

Well, it looks like my friend is about to get her wish. Brace yourself, Yorktown. Yours truly has enrolled herself in the York Poquoson Sheriff’s office citizen’s academy. Obviously, I am much better suited at writing about crime scenes than I am as an active participant in solving them. As I write about crimes scenes, I have complete control over the gross stuff. Plus, I have the added bonus of knowing who to call to get those pesky details correct.

Last year I was stuck. One of my book characters, Ella, was faced with a dilemma early in the book and needed to call 911. Later, a dead body surfaces. Not knowing proper police procedure, I drove myself straight to the sheriff’s department. Captain Richardson, the community relations guy that has to deal with people like me, was unfailingly polite and fully answered all my questions. To his great credit, he didn’t even twitch when I asked, “So, if I buried a body out in Poquoson, do you think the neighbors would smell it?”

“Nope, not if you use lime.”

An easy answer to an easy question. Next question. “Should I wrap it in plastic?”

Captain Richardson nods. “Of course. That would help stop the smell, too.”

So far my experience with our local police has been that they are unfailingly polite and helpful.

It will be interesting to go through this class and learn all about proper procedure. Hopefully this will also mean I won't have to ask Captain Richardson a gazillion questions about crime scenes.

I have convinced my friend and neighbor, Cindy, to take this class with me. During the next ten weeks we will learn all about 911 Communications, Hiring, Training, Policies and Procedures, Criminal Investigations, Criminal Law, DWI Investigations, Family Violence, Narcotics Enforcement, Tactical Operations, Hostage Negotiations, Jail Operations and Firearms/Weapons use.

I have yet to convince Cindy that we will be the next Cagney and Lacey. Perhaps she’s right, and we’ll be lucky just to meet a few nice people and go for a fun ride in a patrol car.
Or maybe, between the two of us, we can use these new techniques combined with our amazing intellect and crack a cold case wide open.

Somehow, I don’t think any criminals are going to lose much sleep over the new crime fighting duo in Yorktown.

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