Thursday, April 06, 2006

Clearing the room

The 3rd session of the Citizen's Police Academy was just as interesting as the first two, and yet each class has been totally different. We split into two groups and went into the police garage to review a "crime scene". Ours was of an apparent suicide. We were to determine whether it truly was a suicide or whether someone else (boyfriend prime suspect) had shot her instead. We learned a lot about crime scenes, evidence collecting--and typical suicide!

We collected evidence and trooped to the evidence lab to test the stuff. There we used a range of materials, from magnetic powder, putty and even superglue! The superglue is one of the most typical methods they use to lift fingerprints and it's a weird, but cool process. The glue is placed in a small open container and heated to give off a residue. The chamber the police use is a home-made one: long 20-gallon aquarium, Styrofoam lid, element heater, a coffee cup. The glue is put into the aquarium on the heating element, the coffee cup filled with warm water, the pop cans and other fingerprinted material placed inside and the makeshift lid closed. We waited 15-minutes for it to be "done".

When we took out the material, the fingerprints were clearly outlined! So the next step was using tape to get them off the can, gun or whatever. We also used putty to take tool marks from a windowsill (that was from the other case, not our apparent suicide). After that we talked about fingerprinting, classifications of fingerprints and the FBI database. And that was just the first half of the class!

After a short break we went back to the class-meeting room to see clips, articles and hear a presentation from the head of Investigations from a real crime from around six years ago. The DA's home was firebombed, with him, his wife and 3-year old daughter asleep upstairs! They woke up in time to escape the place but it caused a lot of commotion from the FBI and other federal agencies for the next year. The suspect was a drug lord, in custody for a homicide, who had threatened the DA and a police officer. The officer was one of the guys who do the introductions for our class each week!

Some of the material was graphic, we saw a color photo of the entry point for the bullet in the victim's head. His own 17-year old son had shot him, under gang orders/encouragement so they could take his house, car and money. The police had apprehended different gang members taking the wrapped, weighted body in a boat (on a trailer behind a vehicle) to a nearby lake to sink it. There were a lot more details in the investigation to put together. The presenting officer asked if it was OK that it was running over the allotted class time but nobody got up to leave, it was fascinating! Much better than TV shows because it was a real story, and local news during that time.

Speaking of news, we had the local media filming us during portions of the class. Some of us women were sighing about the choice of sessions, because for this one we were wearing old clothes because of the possibility of staining. One woman keep getting asking to hold up pieces of our evidence for the cameras, I kept getting asked to move! I think it was mostly because I was trying to avoid being on film. Everywhere I went, it seemed like they wanted to move a camera there shortly afterwards! Finally, and thankfully, they packed up, went away and left us to our investigation. I hope I won't be on the news in my stained t-shirt, yikes!

After class last night I came home late, Mom was still up, also my son, and the animals. I was almost afraid to look in the bathroom. But probably would have known if anything was amiss the moment I opened the front door--it had been that bad, totally unusable until cleaned. This morning all was clear too, thank god.

It's Thursday already. The landlords were supposed to come last night about my closet, maybe tonight. Have a good day!


Blogger Seven said...

Hi PB,
Having been a crime scene officer for a few years, all you describe is dead on (pun intended) It is fascinating work; although there is a degree of what some people might call 'catch-up' effect. You work several scenes thinking you are getting used to it, then at some odd moment a great flood of emotion and memory can overcome you from the things you have seen. It's interesting, but it can also take a toll; quietly.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

So fascinating! I've never heard of our Canadian police running a course like that.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

If they ever teach you how to get blood stains out of the carpet and dispose of a body without drawing attention, please let us know. I have a, um, friend who is interested.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Fizzy said...

This course sounds like it has you really hooked. That is good.
I am also glad that your Bathroom was "useable" when you got home...

Tomorrow is Friday yeahhhhhhh

12:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, that sounds like CSI stuff, how fascinating! I wouldn't mind trying a course out like this myself. What an interesting way to get finger prints off items, I just figured they use tape like they do on the movies lol

2:39 PM  
Blogger katie said...

Wow! I think those pictures might have made my stomach turn! Cool that you were able to follow the process of a real case, thats always interesting, especially if it is one you have heard of. I love watching the court tv shows like "forensic files"

2:50 PM  
Blogger Dotty said...

This is so fascinating to read about. Thanks for doing such a great job describing it.
I too am glad your bathroom was clean, although you could use your Gruesome Grissom skills to determine the culprit if it happens again...which I absolutely hope it doesn't.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

PBS sounds like you had a blast. As you know i'm nearing the end of my forensics degree and the popularity for this degree has become enormous due to shows like CSI (in reality it aint like one wears high heels and make up!! and results are not as instant) but over 50% of first year students drop out because they expect to be participating in bullet trajectory...blood pattterns etc, instead their writing essays and shuffling papers for the first 2 years!!!

6:38 PM  
Blogger deni said...

I would probably definately like that, I like shows like forensic files and CSI.

Glad you enjoyed it, and I am happy that your bathroom was clean!

7:23 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

PBS: I took a class once in Tahanatology and we did a bus tour to a funeral home. After showing us around the viewing rooms, we went into the casket room where displays with price tags were shown. Then the big one: going downstairs to the embalming room to learn how a body is prepared.Our mortician was cute too. She looked like a young Barbra Mandrell. She said that morticians have to reconfirm cause of death. She had a kid come in whom it was assumed died of some cause that eludes me now. In fact, someone missed looking under his armpit where there was a tiny bullet entry hole. This was now a murder case and she called the police. Interesting blog!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

it sounds very interesting, i have some clue that in this country they don't do anything so spectacular with superglue...

very CSI...sounds like something i'd like to do given the chance...


2:26 AM  

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