Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Albany Citizen's Police Academy - Week 4 - Crime Analyst & Deputy Medical Examiner

Last night was my fourth class in the Albany Citizen's Police Academy. Community Education Specialist Westfall started by talking to us about our upcoming class on Saturday and encouraging us all to show up for the day.

After she spoke to us a few minutes, Crime Analyst Patrick Hurley spoke to us about analyzing crime. He also does intelligence analysis and phone forensics.

Basically as I understand it, he looks at patterns and trends for crime around the city to help the chief determine how resources can best be allocated to impact criminal activity. His job is to show correlations not to draw cause and effect relationships. Still he works with raw data and often that's not the best indicator for allocating resources.

He showed us a video representation of an actual 24 hour time period at the Albany Police Department that showed the calls and cases. The day he chose had 226 calls resultingin 100 cases with thirteen citations and thirteen arrests. It seemed like a lot for our small town.

He talked quite a bit about drug use and the growing abuse of prescription drugs.

Albany Police Department provides the Albany Drug Drop Box in the lobby of the police station. This is the place to take expired prescrictions, expired Over-the-Counter drugs, and prescriptions one just no longer needs to dispose of them properly. One isn't required to leave identifying information on the bottles even though no one looks at them. If you live in the area and didn't know about this service, now you do. It has been quite effective for people wishing to dispose of old medications properly.

Hurley is also responsible for putting together photo lineups for suspects to view as well as creating charts and matrixes to show links between people, places, and actitivites to aid police in building a case against a suspect.

In phone forensics, he goes through phones to pull data, pictures, and other information to help police officers investigate and draw links between people. At this point, he provided a warning against sexting and the the possible dangers. For one thing, angry people once trusted may use what they have to hurt the other party. For another, even if deleted often these things can be recovered using the right equipment.

People taking pictures of themselves at crime scenes or committing crimes help the police to win convictions. One example he showed was of a guy who photographed himself holding a stolen gun. The police department was able to recover the gun's serial number and use it to arrest the guy who then confessed even though the gun itself wasn't recovered.

Hurley also provided the Albany Police Department's 2010 Annual Crime Report and discussed it as compared to the national crime report provided by the FBI, the Uniform Crime Report (UCR).

Sergeant Stephanie Warren and Sergeant Dan Jones spoke about serving as Deputy Medical Examiners (DME). Deputy Medical Examiners are called out to any unattended or suspcious death to determine whether or not a death is suspcious. Suspicious deaths are turned over to detectives to investigate. The DME fills out a checklist gathering as much information about the person as possible to assist in determining the cause of death. They also fill out another form of all medications the person was on and seize those medications. The DME facilitates arrangements with funeral homes and helps the bereaved through the initial stages of dealing with the details of handling a death. DMEs also make death notifications to locals and contact law enforcement in other areas to arrange for notifications. Sergeant Warren sounded a little like a grief counselor as she described helping people in those initial moments after a loved one dies.

They showed a slide show depicting several types of death including natural deaths, accidents, suicides, and homicides. The pictures also showed various types of decomposition and a variety of wounds inflicted on bodies. They briefly explained each picture and what the various images depicted including a knife wound and a wound that resembled a knife wound but was actually from a chest tube inserted at a hospital. Several pictures of bullet wounds displayed the differences in stipling caused based on the distance from which the shooting occurred.

They also provided a handout called "After-Death Checklist for Survivors" for the class. They explained this approximately two-and-a-half page list will leave survivors all the information needed to help facilitate the deceased wishes and to get through an already tough time. The idea is to make things easier for one's loved ones. It will also help and DMEs who are assisting the survivor through the process.

One other thing they provided was a little form called Personal Medication Information which they suggested everyone fill out and leave on the refrigerator or other obvious place for paramedics to give proper medical care or to assist DMEs who are investigating one's death. While, in theory, I like the idea, I'm not too keen on putting the information in such a public place for any visitor to my home to read. I like my privacy...

As a writer, I wish Crime Analyst Patrick Hurley had spent more time talking about his role in helping solve major crimes like homicides and the racketeering case he mentioned. I also wish Sergeants Warren and Jones had spent more time discussing suspcious deaths instead of focusing so much on nonsuspicious deaths. However, I understand they aren't there to help us writers write better crime fiction but to help the citizen's better understand the role of their police department in the city.

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