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.

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