Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yoga & Love: Why I Practice Yoga!

Recently, I posted the following on Writers on the Move as my workout "status" for the day:


Yoga felt really great this morning!! Really great!! My focus was on target, and I even felt some negativity I didn't even know I was holding inside drain away.... And I thought I'd already dealt with those hurt feelings!! Wow!!

I really didn't think much about it until Jackie Dishner, one of the other membersof the group, commented:

I've not experienced that kind of power yet. But I'd like to.

I responded:

You will, Jackie! This isn't my first experience with it. My first experience with it is kind of hard to put into words. It was incredibly powerful and changed my life or at least my perspective on life because it changed the way I viewed myself and also those around me. BUT, and this is important, it can't be forced. That power comes when you need it and you're ready for it and not a minute before. Just be patient with yourself and with your yoga practice!!

 
As I went about the rest of my day, my thoughts kept returning to my first experience with the power of yoga. I pushed it aside, but it kept interfering with my ability to write and to do my household chores. Finally, I realized I felt a little guilty about saying that my first experience with it was hard to put into words. That was a bit of a cop out.

Truth is I was being selfish. There I said it. I cherish that memory. I want to keep it to myself, so I can use it whenever I need it. I have a little fear it'll lose its magic if I share it with the world. There's also a little part of me that thinks people might think I'm a bit crazy if I tell the story. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized my experience might help someone. Who knows? Maybe my story will encourage someone to try yoga or to stick with yoga. Maybe the magic of that moment will even grow. As for crazy, well enough people already think that, so who really cares?

I don't remember exactly why I decided to try yoga. I'd struggled to find a workout I really enjoyed. I talked about that in another post, Writers on the Move Just May Change My Opinion of Workout Groups. When I first started practicing yoga, I liked how yoga made me feel physically even though I seriously struggled with the poses. I didn't buy into the whole "spiritual, emotional" aspect of it. To me, it was just another fitness routine.

So here I was a few months after I started practicing yoga, moving through my poses. They were going a little better than usual. I still wasn't flexible enough or strong enough to do many of the poses fully, but somehow that day they felt more fluid. I moved through them with a bit more ease. My body felt really good. I felt lighter than usual. I felt almost happy as I moved through the poses. I didn't really understand what was happening, but I liked it. Looking back I now realize it was probably the first time I worked through the routine and was really "in the moment" - not letting my mind drift to my task list, my problems, or meeting expectations.

I reached Savasana, aka Corpse Pose. I hated Savasana at that point in my life. I really hated it. I didn't understand how ending a workout by doing nothing could be beneficial. I didn't understand that being consciously and purposefully still could be as difficult and as rewarding, perhaps even more so, as being busy. I hated it so much I'd even skipped it a few times when I was pressed for time, but that day my routine was going so well I wanted to see it through.

So I moved into Savasana fighting the feelings of vulnerability it always triggered in me. Something about lying on the floor with my eyes closed, my arms stretched out to my sides, my neck elongated, my chest and stomach exposed, and my legs slightly open and relaxed made me feel very vulnerable. One more reason to not like Savasana.

I took a deep breath and followed the narrator's instructions. I closed my eyes. The narrator said something about giving myself to the Earth that I'd never particulary liked, but this time it didn't bother me so much. I felt my muscles relax. The feeling of lightness I'd had throughout the yoga routine linger.

Suddenly, a bolt of pure love hit my heart with so much intensity, my left arm and my left leg jerked up from the floor and returned to position. My body trembled. My muscles tingled. I felt love radiate out of my heart to meet love that blanketed me. It was the most honest love I'd ever experienced. I lay there just enjoying the sensation, just being in that moment, just feeling love and nothing else, just love. In that moment, the thought "I am made of pure love." flitted through my mind. I didn't argue with it. I allowed the idea to settle into my mind. I kind of liked it.

I'm not sure how long I lay there, but when I opened my eyes the video, Ali MacGraw - Yoga Mind & Body, had quit running and the television was a blank screen. I stood up, shook out my limbs, took a couple of sips of water, and walked into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and saw tears on my face. I hadn't even felt tears start. I noticed a fresh one trail down my cheek as I stared at my face in the mirror. Something looked different, but I didn't know quite recognize it.

Something had changed. The pure love I'd experienced had healed something inside me. Or at least it had started me on the healing process. I saw things differently. I saw people differently. I realized that the healing I needed began and ended in the honest love I'd experienced while doing Savasana. It took me a while to truly embrace that and to learn how to incorporate it into my life as is typical of me. I slowly began to trust that if I allowed pure, honest love into my life, healing and happiness followed.

I've experienced the power of connecting with my emotions through yoga since then, but that first time was the most powerful. Over the years, I've opened myself to the moments when the focus and meditation of yoga lead me to breakthroughs or help me find balance when I feel out of balance. I've learned through yoga to be more in tune with my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

It's amazing what treating one's body with respect, attention, intention, and love does to increase one's health and wellbeing in all aspects of life.

I appreciate, embrace, and revel in the power of yoga to help me on my journey to embrace the me I want to be, the me I truly am, and the life I want to share with others. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude & Thanksgiving

It's that time of year when people's thoughts turn to gratitude or as many are currently putting it thankfulness. It's nice that Thanksgiving gives people a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to turn their thoughts to gratitude. I find myself wondering why it takes a holiday to get people to appreciate the good things in their lives, but I wonder this every year. I still haven't found a satisfactory answer.

At the beginning of 2011, well technically the end of 2010, I decided to spend a whole year focused on gratitude. I've blogged about this a couple of times before, but it feels like it's time to say a few words about it again. Maybe because Thanksgiving is today, and I'm having a harder time feeling thankful than I have all year. I know why and a part of me feels like it's completely understandable, but I don't like feeling like this. I prefer my state of gratitude. I really do.

This year has had some strange ups and downs. My life has encountered some challenges that I probably should've seen coming but didn't. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I chose not to see them. A little over a year ago, I told a good friend that "Willful blindness makes the day go a lot smoother." when explaining a particular situation in my life. I've come to realize that simple sentence had become my motto at some point over the years. If I didn't want to see it, I closed my eyes. If I didn't want to hear it, I covered my ears.If I didn't want to feel the pain, I acted like it didn't exist.  If I didn't want it to be reality, I pretended it wasn't. I created a reality that looked like I what I wanted to see even if it only really existed in my mind. In a way I guess I bought into the idea that if you think it, it will happen. But there are some things you just can't think into existence.

In a way, I even became grateful for the willful blindness. It allowed me to smile. It allowed me laugh. It allowed me to in contact with people. It allowed me to be a wife. It allowed me to exist. It allowed me forget what I wanted to forget. It allowed me to ignore the truths that didn't fit with the paradigm I'd created. It allowed me to pretend I actually had a fulfilling life. It allowed me to maintain a certain level of happiness I even believed was real as long as I never looked below the surface, so to speak.

When the blinders were suddenly ripped from my face, I grabbed them and tried to put them back on. I rather liked the reality they'd created. I didn't want to face that that reality was a pretense. I'd worked hard to create it. I wanted to believe that happiness was real. I really did. I was grateful for the happiness I felt. So what if it was only surface happiness?

As I accepted that the blinders weren't my friend, I began to feel resentful and angry. I felt like too much about my life was false, and I didn't know what to do with those feelings. My gratitude for the life I had began to disappear.

I decided I needed to get back in touch with my gratitude in an effort to reconnect to my happy state of being because as my blinders came off I realized I wasn't as happy as I thought, but I didn't realize my former happiness had been surface level only. That took a while to discover and even longer to accept.

As I focused on gratitude, I discovered something that surprised me. There are things about my life I love. There are things about my life I don't like in the least. I feel genuine happiness and genuine sadness in my heart. I have needs and desires that are important. I discovered that I could be happy without denying who I am. I discovered I could be happy and still be loved. I discovered that pretending didn't help anyone. I discovered that being myself might cost me, but that not being myself had cost me more.

Focusing on gratitude lead me to understand that I want positive people in my life. I want people who are optimistic and loving and caring and supportive and encouraging and inspiring in my life. And just as much as I want people who give me those things I want people who allow me to give the same back to them.I want people in my life who are real. I want people who can say they're having a bad day without blaming the whole world. I want people in my life who can acknowledge both the good and the bad in themselves. I want people in my life who are honest not only with others but first with themselves. I want happiness. I want other people to be happy. I want people who want me to be happy without changing me. I want to laugh. I want to have fun. I want to continue my writing. I want success.  I want balance.

Knowing what I truly want makes it so much easier to set goals. Accepting what I truly want makes it so much easier to express my desires and needs. Embracing what I truly want makes it so much easier to push forward. Letting go of the fear that my desires don't line up perfectly with the image others see of me or with those of the important people in my life is scary but leads to much more honest communication. The vulnerability may lead to pain, but at least the pain will be honest. I am grateful that I've come come to recognize, accept, and embrace my true desires in life.

I find I'm grateful for all the people who've contributed to my life's journey. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am. I'm grateful for the friends who helped me uncover my truth and supported me along the way. I love them more than they know.

If nothing else, I can say that my experiences have inspired my writing resulting in short stories, my novel, All She Ever Wanted, and my poetry including my recently released book of poetry, Love in Silhouette. So even when I think about lost moments or mistakes made, I have to concede my body of work wouldn't exist without the experiences I've encountered.

So, as I think about Thanksgiving, I realize that I have much to feel thankful for even if it's not the things people generally feel thankful for. Instead, I'm thankful that I'm facing my life - both the good and the bad - once again. I'm thankful for the growth I've experienced in the last year - actually all the growth I've experienced in my life. I'm thankful for the work inspired by my experiences. I'm thankful for real feelings even when they're not always happiness...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Final Thoughts

I signed up for the Albany Citizens Police Academy to enhance the crime scenes and the investigations in my novels. I realized even before class started that the purpose of the class was to build better relations between the community and the police department, so I knew my needs wouldn't be the focus of the academy. I resigned myself to this and decided to garner what I could from the class because every insight, every new bit of knowledge helps, every observation can lead to something.

When I started the class, I also hoped to make a new friend or two. But then again, I go into every situation hoping to make a new friend or two. I'm of the mindset that one can never have enough friends. Well, I can say I made a few acquaintances, so it's a start!

As a writer, I also hoped to make some contacts within the department. That I'm fairly sure I accomplished. I have business cards of several members of the department, and Chief Boyd sought me out after my talk on the last night to give me his card and encourage me to contact him if I had any questions he could answer for my upcoming books! Wow, nice!

I found the Albany Citizens Police Acadamy rewarding. The EVOC rides and the shooting simulation were certainly enjoyable and enlightening. I loved seeing the K-9 unit is action even if they were only excercises. Wearing the Fatal Vision goggles was enlightening, and seeing the drugs firsthand surprising. And, that only hits aa few of the memorable moments already detailed in various posts on my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the department and getting a better understanding of their roles.

Small town departments work differently than departments in large cities, and I think that's important for writers and readers as well as citizens to keep in mind. One of the main differences being that everyone in a small department is expected to pitch in when needed and that Detective, at least in Albany Police Department, is a lateral, temporary assignment not a lifetime promotion as is the case in larger departments and usually on television and in books.

Also, there is no law enforcement department that is as well-equipped as the CSI shows might lead one to believe. Often, between limited resources and the backlog at state forensic analysis offices, evidence takes months to be processed creating delays in investigations and prosecutions. That is reality!

The members of the Albany Police Department and law enforcement community who taught the classes and demonstrated myriad aspects of the job seemed to truly enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with the class. They were always positive about their jobs even when describing the challenges. At times, the instructors took topics that seems mundane and made them interesting and engaging.

Shortly after one particular class, my husband and I were driving home in the evening and saw a police vehicle parked off the road and empty. As we stopped at a stop sign, we saw an officer walking in our lane toward us with his flashlight shining right at our car. In the past, I would've started wondering if we'd done something wrong and probably gotten nervous. Having taken the class and just days before that learned that many times officers are just looking for help, I didn't even give it a second thought. As he approached the driver side window, I tilted my head down so I could see him from the passenger side. I recognized Seargent Drum from our EVOC training. He asked us if we'd seen anyone pass us as he scanned the light over the interior of our car. Before I would've thought the light scanning the car was because he considered us suspicious, but thanks to the class I realized he was just making sure there were no surprises in the back seat. We said no. He thanked us and resumed his search. End of conversation. We went on our way.

The moral of that story is that you shouldn't always assume you've done something wrong just because a police officer approaches you. He/she may just need any information you can give them. Perhaps even a lack of information can be helpful. You never know. I have to admit, I wished for a minute that we'd seen someone, so we could've pointed him in the right direction, but who knows perhaps us not seeing the person was helpful in its own way. Maybe that helped rule out a direction. Maybe not, but who knows.

What I know is that I better appreciate the work our Albany Police Department does with limited resources and in conjunction with neighboring law enforcement agencies. It takes a whole community to create a safe environment that is mutually beneficial to all its citizens. The police have a function to serve and so do the citizens of any community. I am now more aware of what goes on around me, and I was already fairly aware. I am also more cognizant of the fact that I may not know what's going on around me. For example, I had no idea just how large the drug problem is in the Albany area or how much the police departments in the area have worked together to bring it under control.

If your city, or town, or a neighboring town offers a Citizens Police Academy, I encourage you to take it. You'll be surprised at what you learn about your community, your role as a citizen, and the job of the police. If you're a writer just don't expect the class to cater to your specific needs. That's not what it's designed for. (There is an Academy for that as well called the Writers Police Academy. It's in session once a year.) The Citizens Police Academy is designed to create a better relationship between the police and the citizens they serve. If you live in the Albany, Oregon area, check out the Albany Citizens Police Academy.

I think we could all benefit from understanding each other's roles in society a little better. We often forget there are those who work tirelessly to make sure we enjoy the comforts of the lives we build. None of us succeed or fail on our own no matter how much we think we do. It just isn't possible.

So, thank a police officer for giving up his/her weekends, holidays, and family time, so you can spend that time with yours safely.

My thanks to all the police officers in the communities surrounding mine as well as the communities where my loved ones reside for doing your part to keep combat crime and keep us all safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Graduation!

The Albany Citizens Police Academy Class 2011
The Albany Citizens Police Academy graduation took place last night.

The evening started with dinner catered by Izzy's Pizza. Mayor Sharon Konopa sat at the table where I was sitting while we ate. She chatted everyone at the table easily.

After dinner, Chief Boyd spoke briefly about the importance of the Albany Citizens Police Academy and its role in bridging the gap between the community and the department thanking the class for participating in the Academy. Lieutentant Casey Dorland then spoke briefly about how much the department appreciates those who participate in the class. Mayor Konopa spoke for a few minutes about how valued the police department is and the importance of the Citizens Academy. She encouraged class participants to spread what we learned from participating in the class.

Then it was my turn to speak. I'd spent some time reviewing the blogs I've written over the duration of the Albany Citizens Police Academy and making some notes. As I sat there, notes in front of me, I changed my mind. I looked around the room and decided I didn't want to give the talk I'd planned. I ditched my notes and followed my instincts. As I felt it was my responsibility to represent the class, I decided to include them by asking them to share their thoughts interspersed with my own comments. I had a little fun with it!

Larry Rowson spoke after me. He told us that he used to live in the spot where the building we were in stands. He talked about how well the instructors taught and how he enjoyed learning about how they did their jobs and the various responsibilities. He also offered a suggestion that the Citizens Academy include someone from the fire department in the future. I thought that was a good idea.

Posing with certifcate and mug
after graduation!
After Larry concluded his comments, we moved on to the graduation portion of the evening. Community Education Specialist Carmen Westfall, Chief Boyd, Captain Carter, and Captain Dorland stood in the front of the room. Carmen presented a certificate and class photo to each student, and Captain Carter presented a Albany Police Department coffee mug to each student. Handshakes all around!

After the presentation of the certificates, cake was served! Then we all spent a little time socializing and chatting! A very nice little party to end the Albany Citizens Police Academy!

Stay tuned for one more blog post about the Albany Citizens Police Academy! I have a few more thoughts I want to share regarding the class!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Love in Silhouette: Poems is Now Available on Amazon.com

Love in Silhouette: Poems is now available on Amazon.com in paperback. Kindle version coming soon!
Read, enjoy, review!!

Love. We long for it. We feel the sting of love’s loss. We give love in hopes of receiving love. We withhold love out of fear it won’t be returned. Love connects us. Love disappoints us. Love distinguishes us. Love extinguishes us. Love abandons us. Love disappoints us. Love creates expectations. Love fulfills lives. Love is always a risk worth exploring even when it fails. Love is poetry… Poetry is love… Love becomes a silhouette.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lessons in Memories of War Now Available

New poem, Lessons in Memories of War, now available for your reading pleasure. This poem is based on an inteview I did with my Grandpa Stamm for my American History Class in high school.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Standing in the Moment

We stand in this moment. Then we'll stand in the next moment. Then the next. Then... Well, you get picture.

As we stand in each moment we choose how to act and how to react. We can stand in love. We can stand in anger. We can stand in resentment. We can stand in sadness. We can stand in happiness. We can stand in disappointment. We can stand in satisfaction. We can stand in ectasy. We can stand in gratitude. We can stand in isolation. We can stand in togetherness. We can stand in openness. We can stand in closedoff-ness.

Often it feels like we don't have a choice of what we stand in due to outside circumstances. The words someone says to us hurt our feelings. Someone's attitude towards us cuts deeply. Someone denies us something to which we feel entitled. Someone makes us do something we don't want to do. (Yeah, yeah, we all say no one can make us do anything we don't want to do, but if that was true there would be no victims in this world. There would also likely be very few clean houses and very few people working at menial jobs. So there.) Someone takes something away that we love. Someone leaves us behind through death or a relationship ending. Or myriad other little hurts we encounter through typical human interaction.

Sometimes the place someone leads us is even positive. Someone says something that makes us smile. Someone mentions a memory that brings a sense of togetherness. Someone give us a reason to laugh. Someone reminds us of the power of human touch through a hug or a kiss lifting a bad mood. Someone reaches out when we hurt and reminds us life will get better.

It dawned on me this morning that sometimes when I really should feel like all is hopeless, I find I stand in hope and happiness. Is that weird? I don't know. Maybe it's just realizing that wallowing in self-pity or becoming self-destructive, as I've tended to do in the past, isn't going to have positive results. So I find something else to cling to, to look forward to, to rejoice in.

What I do know is that when stand in love, I find tackling the hurts of life much easier. When I stand in anger or resentment or sadness, I find it harder to find my way back to happiness even when things look positive or someone reminds me I'm worthy of happiness and love.

I'm not encouraging the idea of denying our true feelings. I say feel what you feel, embrace those feelings, even celebrate the bad feelings, then grab on to what motivates you to improve your life and move forward.

My forthcoming book of poetry, Love in Silhouette, explores the positives and negative aspects of feeling and sharing love in romantic relationships. Reflections in Silhouette, my second book of poetry to be released soon, explores the idea of learning to love and accept one's self. These two books of poetry explore my ongoing struggle to stand in love no matter what barriers I encounter. Both books explore my desire to always choose to stand in my truth whatever the truth of the moment may be. I hope you'll join me in doing so!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 10 - Computer Forensics and Narcotics

As per usual, class started with a few words from Community Education Specialist, Carmen Westfall. She asked for volunteers to speak at next week's graduation. I felt my hand go up before I even realized it, so I guess I'm speaking at graduation.  Oh, boy, maybe I can use these blogs to pull together something interesting... Oh, well, at least I enjoy public speaking.

Then we posed for the class picture... Okay, think high schoool, the whole class stands together in a group and snap, snap, snap. Now there's a pictire of you with a bunch of people you may never see again, some of whom you likely won't remember, truth be told. Only in this instance, there are some people in the class I've not exchanged more than two words with. And, yet, we've spent our Tuesday evenings together and two Saturdays together over the past ten weeks. Oh, well! Apparently, we each get a copy, so I'll share once I've got it in my possession!

Next, Detective Dawn Hietala explained the vital role of computer forensics in police investigations. Her job is to find evidence on computers. She trained in techniques to pull information from computers without altering or disturbing the evidence. She preserves, identifies, extracts, analyzes, and documents the evidence, so that the criminal can be successfully prosecuted and the victim validated. She explained the process for removing the hard disk, imaging it, replacing it, and then searching for the evidence. The training to become certified is time consuming and expensive, so there aren't a lot of computer forensic experts. The numbers are growing though.

Detective Hietala searches deep into the computer to find things including things people often think they've deleted or erased from the computer. Even damaged hard drives can reveal their contents. Completely erasing files from a computer is nearly impossible. It can be retrieved with the right training and by an expert who knows how to find it!

A large portion of Detective Hietala's job is locating child pornography on computers belonging to child molesters. This helps to validate the stories of molestors' victims and to prove the person is a pedophile. She sends the images she finds to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC runs the images against those in their database to find the ones who've been identified through other cases. The identifications help to both identify that a child was actually a child when the picture/video was taken and aids in prosecution. This database also helps to identify patterns of behavior between videos identifying both victims and perpetrators.

Important note: if you don't want something discovered, your best best is to never put it on your computer because even if you delete it or use an erasure program, remnants remain. This is easy to forget in today's world of instant communication and digital sharing.

Following Detective Hietala's presentation, Detectives Justin Alexander and Alex Johnson explained narcotics investigation. They spent a significant amount of time explaining the effects of various narcotics. They also explained how the law allowing medical marijuana use has complicated enforcing the law because so many people abuse the law and thwart the system.

The detectives explained heroin's close relationship to oxycontin. Both are opiates. Oxycontin can be manipulated to be used in a manner similar to heroin. Suddenly, I understood why in Kentucky oxycontin has earned the nikcname "Hillbilly Heroin" better than I did before. I wish I didn't. Another one of those moments in life when I wish I could remain ignorant to make myself feel better. - Willful blindness seems to be a habit of mine.

They discussed the drug dog with obvious affection and admiration expressing that the dog easily pays for himself in finding drugs that would otherwise go undetected.

Protecting the children who are trapped in drug riddled environments is a strong motivator for the both detectives. Sadly, they explained that most of the time children living in these homes test positive for whatever drugs the adults in the house are using. This is usually through accidental contact.

They talked with pride about a large bust where weapons and a significant amount of money was seized, but, without hesitation, said they'd trade those large busts for saving a child in danger any time.

Many may be surprised at what it takes to establish probable cause to enter a house suspected of drug possession/distribution. Most investigations take multiple months just to gain entry. There are also undercover buys and the like to help establish probable cause.  Confidential informants who have a prior relationship with the dealer are often the easiest way for the detectives to gain access to the evidence needed to get probable cause and to make arrests.

Detectives Johnson and Alexander brought in several different types of drugs and drug paraphenalia to show us what the drugs and the paraphenalia look like. I was surprised how normal the psychodelic mushrooms looked. They would be easy to mistake for something nonthreatening. One marijuana pipe amused me. It looked like someone had removed the cylinder from a six-shooter and placed it on top of the pipe. Detective Alexander explained that it was designed to put in marijuana for up to six smokers. Each person would smoke from his/her slot. The next would rotate the cylinder and smoke from the next. Yet, I found it slightly amusing that they were all using the same mouthpiece. Germs! Yuck!

They also allowed a few of us to perform the field test for meth. I volunteered. Detective Alexander had us put on black gloves. Then he handed each of us a little plastic bag with three vials in it. Next he dropped a small piece of meth into the bag. It looked like rock salt. We each sealed our individual bag with a little plastic clamplike thing. We crushed the first vial and swished the bag around. Then we crushed the second vial and swished again. Then we crushed the third vial and swished. The contents turned an inky blue-purple color almost before I started the final swishing. That was kind of cool.

Okay, I know I've complained a bit about the focus on drug investigations throughout the Academy, but the presentation on narcotics was interesting, well presented, and very informative. It's not necessarily something I see needing for any of my planned projects, but who knows maybe the knowledge will inspire a new project...

Friday, November 4, 2011

The "Proofs" of Love in Silhouette

Last week, I shared the cover of Love in Silhouette with you. This week, the proof! Two typos have delayed the release date I'd hoped for! It should still be available for your reading pleasure by the end of next week! In the meantime, here are photos of the proof - both the front and back cover!!

Enjoy!!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 9 - Detectives and Major Cases

I was late for class tonight, so I missed the information/introduction. Oh, well, sometimes life works that way...

Captain Eric Carter (remember him from way back - our first class) talked about the detectives unit including who the detectives are, the structure of the department, and the role detectives play in the Albany Police Department. Detectives in the Albany Policy Department work on a rotation. They apply for 2, 4, or 6 year terms. At the end of the term, they return to patrol duty. Patrol officers and Detectives are lateral on the heirarchy at the Albany Police Department. Many patrol officers have or will have detective experience, so they are equipped to handle cases. The small size of the Albany Police Department dictates that all police officers be able to help out on major cases.

Captain Carter also talked about evidence collection. He explained that it's important to have a wide perimeter around the crime scene to make sure all the evidence is uncontaminated. Every person who comes in contact with the scene leaves something behind and takes something away even if it's only the dust on their shoes. Crime scenes are limited to essential personnel only. If an officer or detective doesn't have a reason to be there, they are kept out of the scene.  Many photos are taken as they may show things that are missed or initially thought unimportant or unrelated to the crime. A small item may be found to be important, so all items are taken from the scene.

DNA is crucial evidence as it identifies the suspect. Captain Carter talked about the process for collecting DNA from a suspect. Collecting DNA from a person requires either consent or a search warrant. Six swabs are used to take samples from the inside of the mouth - three on each side. The samples are then sent to the crime lab for analysis. Due to the backlog DNA generally takes several months to garner results for the department. During that time, the suspect is often roaming free. In special cases, the department can and does ask for expedited results. Oregon only has one crime lab, so their case load is huge and many departments may be asking for expedited results meaning it can still take a significant amount of time to get results back.

Lieutenant Brad Liles added a quick comment about collecting DNA at the crime scene. He explained that six swabs are still taken. One is water only. One is the substrate alone. Another is water plus the substrate of the item on which the evidence lies. Three swabs of the actual evidence are taken. All this is sent to the lab for testing. The control samples help to eliminate anythng that is in the water or on the item on which the evidence lies.

They referenced a major arson case vaguely as there's not a lot about it they can mention other than what's already been in the news. One problem with arson cases is that much evidence gets destroyed by the firefighters doing their job to put out the fire.

They also explained how important footprints are in solving a crime as there is a large database of shoe treads that can be referenced to narrow down suspects.

Types of injuries and the patterns of injuries also play a large part in finding and convicting criminals.
Lieutenant Liles described the role of the detectives in two major cases. He explained the crimes committed, the evidence collection, the investigation, and the sentences after conviction.

The first case was a kidnap/rape case.

The second was a double homicide that started as a missing persons case. The missing persons case originated in Albany, but the double homicide took place in Benton County. Jurisdiction for the prosecution went to Benton County rather than staying in Albany.

Both cases illustrated how important evidence collection, interviews, and tenacity are in making arrests and obtaining convictions.

Both speakers were engaging and interesting. They really brought the crimes to life by illustrating that involved in these crimes are real human beings with family and friends.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Your Feelings and Mine Hold Equal Importance, Really They Do

Today I read a statement that stopped me cold - just an innocuous little statement in the middle of several others. Johanna Garth is doing something she calls The Fulfillment Project to make her already good life a little better or something to that effect. Today, on her blog, Losing Sanity, she's talking about a reward system of marbles she set up for her children. She lists a few of the things for which they can earn marbles. One of those things is what made me pause and think. She included "put someone else's feelings before your own" as a behavior that earns a marble. In theory, I don't disagree, but alarm bells started going off in my head. When we teach children to put others feelings before their own, we have to be careful to not teach them that their feelings aren't important.

It's one thing to value someone else's feelings, but it should never come at the expense of one's own feelings. I learned this the hard way. In many ways, as a lot women I know were, I was raised to put everyone else's feelings first and consequently to believe that my feelings didn't matter, or at least were less important. I don't think this was necessarily the intended message, but it was the lesson learned.

There's a fine line between putting someone else's feelings first and devaluing your own. For a long time, I thought it was one or the other, so I would swing between devaluing my feelings and demanding that others value them. I think it's very important that we as human beings learn to value other people's feelings without devaluing our own. It has taken me years to truly know this beyond a conceptual idea and even longer to implement it in my life. I still struggle with this, but I'm getting better at it.

When we value our own feelings, we learn to own them. We learn to understand them. We learn to accept them. We learn that no one can dictate them to us. We learn to share them appropriately and without fear. We learn that every feeling we have is not only our right but our responsibility.

It's only when we truly value our own feelings, that we can even begin to honestly value someone else's in a healthy and productive way. Until that moment, all we're doing is sacrificing our feelings, perhaps our very being, in order to value someone else's feelings. And, that person may never value our feelings like we value his/hers. In a perfect world they would, but this world is far from perfect.

So, I say let's all learn to value one another's feelings without devaluing our own. Your feelings are just as important as mine. My feelings are just as important as yours. Think how much better we'd treat one another if we all lived by that simple concept...

Okay, today should've been the Albany Citizen's Police Academy post, but this felt more important, so you get the Albany Citizen's Police Adademy tomorrow. Hope your feelings are okay with that!