Posts Tagged ‘Crime scene’

The police service in the UK is renowned for its jargon, abbreviations, acronyms and mnemonics.  Whatever name is given to these odd words, they are used as a way of improving an officer’s recall to remind them of more complex texts.  They are also a way of shortening radio or written communications, saving airtime or space.BPCD 2016 Cover on Amazon

However, such abbreviations could also assist you when formulating your story by using them as a prompt for what should be included or excluded from your text, to make sure it is realistic.  It may provide you with ideas of how to prolong or speed up your fictional investigation.

When it comes to incidents such as a house explosion or a crime scene such as a murder (or mass killings such as a car purposely driven at a crowd), the mnemonic SADCHALETS is often used by the police and could be used as a prompt when writing about such or similar incidents.

In policing situations, it refers to actions carried out by the police officers arriving first at the incident and the information needed to assist others who will be involved later on.  Each letter of the mnemonic relates to a prompting word or words as can be seen below.

  • Survey scene on approach – the responding officer shouldn’t just turn up at a given location, they should take notice of what they experience on approaching the scene.  This requires use of all of the senses, not just sight.  A particular smell may help identify the presence of petrol for instance or a shrill sound may indicate an alarm activated in the vicinity etc.  The flow of a crowd may lead to or away from the scene e.g. most people would run away from a violent offender’s presence but run towards injured or trapped victims in the case of an accident or collision occurring.
  • Assess situation on arrival – the attending officer needs to quickly and accurately determine what has happened and start to gather (even just mentally at this stage) information that will provide the answers to the following steps.
  • Disseminate following details to Control – not only will the police control room want an update from the responding officer but they will need certain information so that they can carry out the tasks either identified from the scene (e.g. and ambulance is required at the scene) or that the controller does in all instances e.g. they have to update all logs created on the force database of calls for service or incident the police are requested or required to attend.  The controller will be responsible for sending additional resources to the incident and for passing relevant information to those officers e.g. they may direct armed officers to attend the scene where a firearm is suspected of being present and they will provide the armed officers any information that will help them carry out their role.
  • Casualties (approx. number) – The sooner the number and type of casualties can be ascertained, the sooner the correct response can be requested of the other emergency services.  Any of them may have already been asked to attend the scene by a member of the public but the correct type and number of (medical/rescue) resources required may not be apparent from this call.
  • Hazards (that are present or potential) – it is vitally important that the first responding officers quickly determine what hazards are or may be present at the scene so that the lives of others can be protected.  If a tanker lorry has toppled over, the officer should be trying to ascertain what if anything it may have been carrying and what dangers the product may pose. It may have held a dangerous chemical that can quickly debilitate anyone approaching it, so an early (and at a distance) assessment is vital.
  • Access (best access routes and rendezvous points) – it may be that the first responding officer reached the scene via the best available route or only route but they must also consider how others, following them, should approach the scene taking into consideration many circumstances such as what hazards are present or possible, what type of vehicle may be following them and is the access suitable for them e.g. a parked car lined street may be problematic for a fire tender.  The officer must also consider the evidence that may be lost or preserved by using a particular route.218 Fact Cover
  • Location (exact including map reference) – not may officers are able to identify map references from a physical location but they may be able to describe it more clearly and accurately than a member of the public, who may use a colloquial name for the location that doesn’t actually feature on a map.  It is possible that a number of calls are made to the police and each one uses a different location for the incident, particularly if it occurs at or near to a multiple junction street or road.
  • Emergency services (present and/or required) – the person making the initial call to the police about the incident may not recognise that a particular emergency service may be required e.g. a car which has overturned and landed on its roof, may easily prompt the need for an ambulance for the injured occupants but having no knowledge of what the fire service can do,  they may not also be requested at the same time to help free trapped occupants from the vehicle.  The attending police officer should be better placed to determine who is and isn’t needed and to recognise those already present e.g. the difference between ambulance staff and a paramedic at the scene.
  • Type of incident (vehicles, buildings etc) – what appears to be a fire at a factory may in fact be a vehicle on fire near to or inside a building, which may require a different response from that initially thought.
  • Safety of all staff at scene – through accurate assessment of the scene, the first arriving officer will be able to identify risks that may affect themselves and others. Through correct and accurate dissemination, they can ensure the safety of others attending the scene e.g. the need to ensure that armed officers attend the scene of an incident before unarmed officers, where weapons may be used against others.

You can use the above mnemonic and examples to assist telling your story by making sure that all of the elements of SADCHALETS has been considered if not written about e.g.

Survey – How many officers do you want to attend the scene in the first instances?  Using the senses, what do you want to describe and have them experience?  What do you want them to miss, that you can bring up later in the story?

Assess – Are your officers going to be competent and manage to assess the scene effectively or not?  What factors will you use to inhibit or improve their assessment?  Prior to their arrival, were they overworked and stressed? On arrival, did they find the scene distressing or traumatic?

Disseminate – Were they able to tell the right person the right information and did the person receiving the information act in the right way or not?  Was everyone in the chain of communication competent?  Did the right people get the information they needed or not? Can you create conflict through wrongful dissemination?

Casualties – How many and what type of casualties do you want in the story?  Will they be hysterical, very subdued, badly or minimally harmed?  Who will be helping or harming them on arrival of the police?

Hazards – Are there any hazards within or around the scene of the incident?  Do you want to complicate matters further by introducing any (additional) hazards and if so what?  Will they affect just those already at the scene or those yet to reach it?  What part will the hazard play in the story and what use will it be in taking it forward?

A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]Access – How would you describe the access route?  Is everyone that needs to, able to reach the scene easily or will they be obstructed by something and if so what and how will they surmount it?  Will problems be created by someone accessing the scene in the wrong way?

Location – What location are you going to use?  Do you need to consult a map for ideas regarding access and hazards etc.?  How will you describe the location to the readers?  How will the location impact upon access and safety?

Emergency Services – Who do you want involved at the start of the incident, who do you want to omit, why and for how long?  By omitting or unnecessarily including one, can you introduce conflict into the story?

Type of Incident – What type of incident do you want to feature in the story and is it a means to get characters involved or revealed or is it a significant actor in the story in itself?  Do you know enough about such chosen incidents or do you need to research them?  Will the type of incident allow you to include the elements above?

Safety – How safe do you want the scene to be?  Do you want to increase the risks and if so, how and why?  Who do you want effected by an unsafe environment and why?  How can you ensure that the environment remains safe and who will be responsible for its safety or otherwise?

Hopefully, you will be able to use some of this article to explore, strengthen and deepen your ideas, narratives, dialogues and stories.  If so, please feel free to share the post with others and if not, please feel free to provide me with your feedback.

Don’t forget that you can acquire much research material and answers to your questions from within any of the three books shown on this page – just click on the image to purchase a copy if you haven’t already got one.

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How many times have you come across fictional lead detectives or Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) with no idea where they came from?  It’s almost as if they were born a lead detective or joined the police to automatically become one.

I’m sure that you already know that in the UK,  it isn’t possible and never has been for a person to join the police as a detective, let alone a Senior Investigating Officer.  You’ll no doubt also know that it’s not possible for any old cop to get to those dizzy heights without the right amount and type of experience or training.

Now, if you are reading the nth book in a series, it may be that the SIO’s development and career progression are discussed in earlier book in the series but in all likelihood, there will be no mention of how they got to the pinnacle of their career or what they had to do to become the leader of a complex murder investigation.

The reason that you will come across such instances and maybe even be guilty of doing something similar yourself, is probably because not many authors happen to have a close relationship with a police officer who has years of experience of policing in the UK that they can call upon to answer accurately and reliably, their troubling questions about the police, their policies and procedures.  Maybe no-one has taken the time to explain to you or the writer of the story you are recalling, just what it takes to become an SIO and lead a murder investigation in the UK.

But never fear.  Help is at hand for those of you wanting to learn about what it takes for a police officer to become an SIO and thereby make your lead detective more credible and identify areas where conflict may stem or opportunities arise from.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Police Investigators in the UK will take you through – A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]

  • What exactly a lead investigator and Senior Investigating Officer is
  • How they become one
  • What training they undertake
  • What 38 qualities and expectations they are expected to exhibit
  • You will find 27 specific ideas of how to take your stories forward and/or create conflict in them
  • There are also hyperlinks to 79 websites or documents that you may find useful in building up your understanding of what a Senior Investigating Officer needs to know and apply during a major investigation.

Not only will this book provide you with details of how a police officer can become a Senior Investigating Officer but it can help with plotting your novel and creating twists and conflict along the way.

It’s crammed full of expert knowledge and advice that you can use to captivate your readers with compelling dialogue and narrative.

Just a couple of the five-star reviews state:

I have never felt compelled to write a review before but in this case I felt it only right to do so. I am an ex-police officer in the middle of writing my first crime-related novel and I have to say how invaluable this book has been to me. I thought I was doing well with my descriptions of procedures and command structures but I cannot believe just how much the job has changed since I left.

If I hadn’t bought a copy of this (I also have the authors other titles) I would have made myself look like a rank amateur stuck somewhere in the 90’s. This book has saved me hours upon hours of research and helped me re-think certain parts of my book and for that alone, thank you Mr Robinson.

I only wish these books were available in paperback format. I’d have a copy of them as well. Call me old fashioned, but I like a book I can flick through and mark up where necessary and as much as Kindle comes close to a book experience it doesn’t really work quite as well with this kind of book in my opinion. That said, no other format allows for hyperlinking to other valuable resources so, swings and roundabouts.

All in all, a superb, densely packed no fluff resource that is worth far, far more than what it is being offered at.

Another great book from retired UK Police Inspector, Kevin N. Robinson! Packed full of useful info – really helpful for anyone with an interest in how the UK police force works, especially with regards to those investigating crime. A gem for writers & crime fiction authors. It’s the little details that make a story authentic and it’s great to have a source which collects all the necessary info, such as what an inspector would normally carry with him (would he have a forensic suit? gloves? what weapons? etc) – particularly for those less familiar with British police (who are quite different from the armed US law enforcement officers you see more commonly on TV!)

Not everyone has the time or freedom to trawl the internet for websites that may provide information that could influence the story they are currently working on or thinking about writing in the future, so I thought I’d show you three websites that have a useful article on them (at least one).

The first comes courtesy of DR J.H Byrd who has put together the Forensic Entomology website to educate others with regard to insects found at crime scenes, particularly murders.  The information provided will prove useful to crime fiction writers worldwide, especially the Information and Life Cycles pages.

The second website I thought I’d direct you to is NursingFeed (it’s not about breast milk v formula).  Here you will find a very useful infographic on the Forensic Science Behind the Bruise Healing Process, which may help when you are trying to describe bruising in your story and how it relates to the time between infliction and description.

The third and final offering for today is from Skeleton Keys website, run by Jen J. Danna – Forensic Crime Writer who has published information about Recent Advances in Fingerprinting. Here she updates us on 4 aspects of fingerprinting that you may be able to introduce in one of your stories.

You can find more information that you may find useful by following the links in the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers.  You can also check out many more facts about policing in 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police.

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What follows are links (underlined in Bold) to three items that have recently been in the media.  I bring them to your attention because they may have an impact upon your current or future Work(s) in Progress.

The first news item comes courtesy of Digital Forensic News and describes how Rhode Island State Police are using a Police Dog to Sniff Out Child Porn Hard Drives. Could your story include such a canine detective?  It may not be just like this one; you may have your own ideas that you’d like to share on this post.

The second news item relates to the analysis of DNA and a how a murderer appeared to travel in time. The Time Travel Murder.  You may want to consider something similar to this as a way of misleading your fictional police investigation or causing the wrongful arrest of an innocent person.  There are many other ideas that you may well come up with after reading the report.   You may even want to share some of them, no matter how off-the-wall they may sound.

The third and final news item (for now) comes from Scientific America.  It is similar to the earlier link but focuses on arson and asks Can We Trust Crime Forensics? Please bear in mind that it is US based but still may have some bearing on your crime of choice.  Maybe you have heard of some similar concerns that you’d like to share via this blog.   If so, please feel free to add your comments below.

If you’d like to find more interesting facts, following the links in the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers.  You can also check out many more facts about policing in 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police.

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You’re currently putting your story together and you’ve just described the crime scene. There’s blood present, which is believed to belong to the suspect.  You get your forensic examiners to analyse the blood sample that they think belongs to the suspect.  They tell your fictional detective that they have extracted the suspect’s DNA but that it doesn’t match anyone recorded on the DNA database so without further information, they still have no idea who the suspect may be.

However, based on the latest research findings from  the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit in Belgium, it is now possible to predict the age of a suspect or unidentified body from a sample of their blood, rather than merely extracting DNA from the blood to check against the DNA Database.

Scientists from KU Leuven have developed the test which predicts an individuals’ age on the basis of blood or teeth samples. This test may be particularly useful for the police, as it can help track down criminals or identify human remains.

The aging process is regulated by our DNA and human tissues and organs change as we grow older.

Professor Bram Bekaert from the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit explains: “The behaviour of our organs and tissues depends on which of our genes are activated. As we grow older, some genes are switched on, while others are switched off. This process is partly regulated by methylation, whereby methyl groups are added to our DNA. In specific locations, genes with high methylation levels are deactivated.”

Bekaert and his colleagues were able to predict an individuals’ age on the basis of a set of four age-associated DNA methylation markers. The methylation levels of these markers can be used for highly accurate age predictions. The researchers were able to determine an individuals’ age with a margin of error of 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 years for teeth.  More information can be found at http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/2015/blood-and-teeth-predict-age

The new technique is potentially useful in the context of police investigations because it can help determine the age of criminals or unidentified bodies, which in turn can lead to identification.

Remember this little fact when putting your story together if it is being based on now and the near future.  It’s pretty useless for stories set in the past.

If you want to read more interesting facts, don’t forget to buy yourself a copy of 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police available on Amazon by clicking the title above or on the picture of the cover to the right.218 Fact Cover

Not only will you get 218 facts, you’ll also see 40 story ideas based on those facts in 36 different areas of policing.

Topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • the organisation of the police
  • crime scene attendance, assessment and investigation
  • police intelligence work
  • police interviews
  • custody suite issues
  • the role of the Senior Investigating Officer

Use 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police to make your stories realistic, to provide you with ideas you’d never thought of before and best of all, to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of your readers.

If you think your friends or colleagues would find the book useful, please let them know about it.

Do you want to explore serious and serial crime investigations.?  nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk

Do you want to hear how crime scenes are processed?

Do you want to find out who does what and how leads are developed and followed?

If your work features any type of crime (committing or solving) , join me for an enlightening evening on 28th September 2015 at 1900 – 2100 for the very first Learn Crime From the Experts course run by the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, 25 Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 1FH.

This is the very first of a series of expert talks organised by the Nottingham Writers’ Studio that will help your work stand out and ensure you get the crucial details right.

Further details are available from the Nottingham Writers’ Studio

If you can’t make it, maybe buy yourself a copy 218 Fact Coverof 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police available on Amazon by clicking the title above or on the picture of the cover to the right.

Not only will you get 218 facts, you’ll also see 40 story ideas based on those facts in 36 different areas of policing.

Topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • the organisation of the police
  • crime scene attendance, assessment and investigation
  • police intelligence work
  • police interviews
  • custody suite issues
  • the role of the Senior Investigating Officer

Use 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police to make your stories realistic, to provide you with ideas you’d never thought of before and best of all, to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of your readers.

If you think your friends or colleagues would find the book useful, please let them know about it.

Happy and informed reading.

Not just 218 facts but also 40 ideas to take your story forward in 36 different areas of policing.

My latest book, 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police is now available on Amazon. 218 Fact Cover For the next 10 days, it will be available at a discounted price so get your very own copy by clicking the title above or on the picture of the cover to the right.

You may be wondering why you should part with less than the cost of a coffee from one of the many famous chains, to own your own copy of this unique and useful book.  Some of you, when you examine the preview on Amazon may even conclude that the book is merely a collection of posts from this blog.  Let me allay your suspicions.  It is not.  This blog has shaped the idea of the book and does cover some of this blog’s topics but in much more detail and you will the book provides 40 ideas of how you could take your stories further using the associated facts and provided web links.

These 40 story ideas based on 218 facts in 36 different areas  of policing will both educate and stimulate your creative inclinations.

Topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • the organisation of the police
  • crime scene attendance, assessment and investigation
  • police intelligence work
  • police interviews
  • custody suite issues
  • the role of the Senior Investigating Officer

If you don’t want to make mistakes with your fiction and you don’t have a police adviser in your pocket or hanging at the end of a telephone call just dying to answer the question that you feel really stupid for having to ask, buy this book.  I’ve put it together to save you the time you’d have to spend conducting the research (even if you knew where to look in the first place) or having to flatter, coerce or bribe a police officer who has sufficient experience to provide you with accurate and up to date information along with a series of ideas for taking your story forward.

Use 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police to make your stories realistic, to provide you with ideas you’d never thought of before and best of all, to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of your readers.

If you find the book useful, please let your friends and colleagues know about it and a positive review is always most welcome.  If however, you felt that the book failed to meet your expectations or you found a mistake or dead link, just drop me a line at “the(dot)writer(AT)hotmail.co.uk” Don’t forget to swap the dot and AT for their respective characters.

Happy and informed reading.

A pathologist may only play a fleeting part in your story or they may well be the main character but if you don’t know enough about how they become one, what their relationship is to a criminal investigation or what they do to assist that investigation, you may well be getting them and your story wrong.

Read on to find what you need to know to get them right in your story.

A pathologist (sometimes referred to as a forensic pathologist) is a medically qualified doctor, registered by the General Medical Council, licensed to practice and educated at post-graduate level in histopathology (the study of the effects of disease on the body) and forensic pathology.

Those suitably qualified apply to be registered with The Home Office Pathology Delivery Board and if successful are designated as “A member of the Home Secretary’s Register of Forensic Pathologists”.

Once registered, they must work within ‘group practices’ comprising at least three forensic pathologists who jointly provide post-mortem services within a defined geographical region. The group practices must provide a forensic post-mortem service 24 hours a day and 365 day a year for their region.   The pathologists don’t work set 9 to 5 hours as the number of cases seen each day varies throughout the country, however the latest protocol agreed with the Home Office limits the working period to 120 hours in any 14 day period.

Many forensic pathologists are self-employed but some are employed, full or part-time in the National Health Service (NHS) or University hospitals.

When the police request a pathologist to attend the scene of a suspicious death, they are ‘briefed’ as to the circumstances of the case by the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) or their representative.   Together with the SIO, crime scene investigators and forensic scientists, they agree a strategy for approaching the body, collecting trace evidence from and around it and ultimately the recovery of the body from the scene.

At the scene, the pathologist will examine the body, noting its disposition, the surroundings in which it lies and the presence of injuries that can be seen without disturbing the body or the scene. Many pathologists also supervise recovery of the body by crime scene investigators and funeral directors.

They carry out the post-mortem in an approved mortuary (usually attached to an NHS hospital).  Their examination is directed towards answering the general and specific questions about the cause of death and providing any other information that may help progress the criminal investigation e.g. where someone clearly dies of a gunshot wound to the head, the contents of the victim’s stomach may help identify the time they last ate and what it was they consumed.  Such information may help narrow down the investigative time parameters and lead to the place where they last ate.

The external examination of the body may take several hours due to its immense significance in a suspicious death post-mortem.   Every organ and body cavity is examined in detail.  Samples of organs and injuries are taken for microscopy and samples of body fluids are retained for toxicology.  Each stage of the examination is documented and photographed.  All significant findings, both positive and negative are recorded. The subsequent report is made available to the SIO, Coroner and defence lawyers.  The pathologist may then have to attend court to give evidence at the trial of the accused.

You can find more information to help your story-telling by following this blog or using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

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All Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) want to go straight to the scene of a murder and get on with the investigation but real life differs from the fictional world in that they can’t usually do this as they have other important tasks to complete as soon as they possibly can.

One of those essential tasks is the creation of their policy log.  This is a document in which they record their decision-making rational for them to refer to later or to be scrutinised by others such as a review team or the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The first 11 things they need to decide upon and record fall under the title of Investigation Set Up and are:

1. Who they are as the Senior Investigating Officer.
2. Appoint a named Deputy Senior Investigating Officer.
3. An initial summary of the incident under investigation.
4. Whether they will use a manual or HOLMES recording system.
5. Where the Incident Room(s) and or satellites are to be located.
6. The identification and definition of scene(s).
7. What their initial decisions at scene were.
8. Which areas are to be preserved/searched/fingerprinted/photographed.
9. The structure and composition of the Management team.
10. Identification of key posts and post-holders, e.g. Disclosure Officer, MIR positions.
11. Appoint an analyst/researchers.

Have your fictional SIOs been recording their Investigation Set Up policy decisions?

This is only the tip of the Policy Log iceberg.  Follow this blog for more information of other policy decisions that the SIO must record or try to find the answer using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

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I have just come across a fantastic resource I want to share with you.  It is designed and hosted by the University of Leicester in England.  It is free to access and it allows you to act out your fantasy of being a pathologist by examining information regarding a person and you have to determine the cause of their death.  There is also a lot of anatomical and physiological information provided as well so you’ll have little excuse for getting your fictional post-mortem or autopsies wrong.

The site can be found at – Virtual Autopsy

For many more useful links for writers and researchers, don’t forget to check out your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or to buy a copy, click on the image below:

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You may have read about the 4 Professional Investigation Programme (PIP) levels and what constitutes Volumes and Priority crime along with who should be investigating these crime on my previous posts.  If you missed them, catch up here: 4 PIP Levels You Need to Know About and 16 Crimes That Don’t Need a Detective.

Now I’m going to describe what a Serious Crime is and who is likely to lead such an investigation so that you can get the right character investigating the right type of crime in your stories.

Serious crime falls into PIP Level 2 and is defined in section 93(4) of the Police Act 1997 as:

Conduct which

(a)  involves the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conducted by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose or

(b) the offence or one of the offences is an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more.

Schedule 1 to the Serious Crime Act 2007 lists a number of serious offences. Invariably these are offences which:

  • involve the use of violence, including the use of weapons and firearms
  • are sexual assaults
  • result in substantial financial gain
  • cause substantial financial loss to the victim
  • are conducted by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose.

The circumstances of each case will be considered and common sense applied as whether to categorise an incident as PIP level 2 crime.

The following offences may be categorised as serious and complex investigations:

  • arson (intention to endanger life, or reckless action which could endanger life)
  • abduction
  • aggravated burglary dwelling
  • aggravated burglary non-dwelling
  • arson high value or life endangered
  • blackmail
  • drug trafficking
  • death by dangerous driving
  • fraud and associated offences (over 80 hrs investigation time)
  • kidnapping (unless in major investigation category)
  • perverting justice
  • public order (racially motivated)
  • rape
  • robbery (firearms or actual bodily harm injury)
  • child sex offences
  • wounding (sections 18/20).

In most cases, a police constable will not be the sole or lead investigator in serious or complex crimes.  It is generally the role of a Detective Constable to investigate this level of crime, supervised by a Detective Sergeant.  The more complex the crime, the more detectives assigned to the investigation.  More than 5 detectives generally means more Detective Sergeants supervising and two or more Detective Sergeants will probably mean that a Detective Inspector leads the investigative team.

So allocating a Detective Chief Inspector or Detective Superintendent to one of these investigations may be a little bit of overkill.  Watch out for my next post to find out about just what they are likely to get involved in or if you can’t wait, you can always try to find the answers using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

You may have already read of the seven things a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) should have in their “grab bag” but if you missed it, you can catch up with it by clicking HERE or the next 5 things they need to have handy click HERE.

As well as those first twelve items, here are five more that they are told to make sure that they should have in their “grab bag” for when they receive The Call that there has been a murder etc.

  1. Clipboard or similar armed with plenty of writing/drawing implements.
  2. Forensic suit/mask/gloves/overshoes.
  3. Vehicle full of fuel and ignition keys at the ready (or other suitable transport, or driver).
  4. Money/change for emergencies.
  5. The Amazon link to the SIOs’ Handbook in readily accessible place.

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear more about SIOs

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

You may have already read of the seven things a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) should have in their “grab bag” but if you missed it, you can catch up with it by clicking HERE.

As well as those first seven items, here are five more that they are told to make sure that they should have in their “grab bag” for when they receive The Call that there has been a murder etc.

  1. Essential documents such as the makings of a paper management system (which would include such things as list of actions raised, paper actions themselves, and major incident (MI) write-up sheets and message forms).
  2. Freshly prepared food/sandwiches (in the fridge) ready to go.
  3. Drink (e.g. cold drink or thermos flask).
  4. Street map (e.g. A–Z or satellite navigation system).
  5. Outdoor warm and waterproof clothing.

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear more about SIOs

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

Watch any crime drama or read any crime fiction and the chances are that the moment a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) gets the call that there has been a murder, they will be on the scene before you can make a cup of tea.

However, in real life SIOs are told to make sure that they have ready to hand (by the telephone) a fresh ‘daybook’ open at the first page, with a pen ready to record all information, details and decisions immediately right from the initial contact.

They should also have a grab bag prepared and ready for when they receive The Call.

Here are seven things they will have in their “grab bag”:
1. Identification badge and/or ID card (name, rank, and role should be easily recognisable), plus spare ID card for prominent display in the SIO’s own vehicle if it is going to be left at or near a crime scene).
2. A fresh policy book (and spare).
3. Mobile phone and charger (and/or spare battery).
4. List of important contact numbers (e.g. Crime Scene Investigator, pathologist, Family Liaison Officer, etc).
5. Police radio, spare battery and list of channels.
6. Suitable and/or practical clothing (including change of top).
7. Torch/batteries.

Will your lead detective remember to take their seven items and if not, will it add something to your story?

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear what other things they should have in their “grab bag.”

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

Ever since the police service in the UK was formed in the 1800, officers have been required to take notes of what they have witnessed, people they have spoken to, incidents they have attended and anything that they may need to recall in the future.  This information has up until very recent times been captured in an officer’s Pocket Note Book or PNB.  There have in this century been attempts to do away with such recording methods but requests by courts to have such information submitted in criminal cases has confirmed the belief that the practice must continue.

Once upon a time, any old piece of paper would have done the job but this changed with the need for transparency and truthfulness. Officers were issued with an official pocket note book, complete with a serial number and page numbers.  The books were checked by supervisory officers to ensure that they were up to date, being completed accurately and according to the force policies.  The notes had to be made in black ink and were primarily used to record information that may one day be required in a court case.

The TV image of the detective standing in the corner of the room taking notes as their hero detective colleague asked the suspects and witnesses questions was far removed from reality.  It was accepted practice that so long as the notes were made up as soon as practical after the event, they were admissible in court.

Serial numbers were added to the PNBs to prevent unscrupulous officers from possessing two books simultaneously. The pages were numbered to prevent the removal or addition of pages containing significant information.

Things have been moving forward in recent years with the call to keep “bobbies” on the beat for longer, forces have been trying to find a way of facilitating this with technology.  Some forces around the country have issued operational officers with electronic devices to take on patrol with them so they can complete forms and submit them electronically without the need to go back to the station to file the reports.

West Yorkshire Police have now issued their police officer with Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones to assist with keeping them on the streets and visible for longer.

According to West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle:

“The device includes an e-notebook which will enable us to record information and make intelligence submissions via secure mobile police apps.

“Officers will be able to enter electronic witness statements and complete missing person forms without having to put pen to paper back at base. Similarly, the device will allow users to view and update incidents whilst on the beat, increasing our visibility, responsiveness and presence on the streets,” he said.

So, will your police officers be using old-fashioned pocket note books or smartphones at their crime scenes?

For more details about this subject click Computing News Article

Don’t forget that you can obtain your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers by clicking on the picture below:BPCD Cover

There are many shows on TV that purport to reflect a day in the life of a crime lab but follow the link below and read what it’s like in West Yorkshire, UK.  It will give you a better idea for your stories of just what they deal with, how often and how long it will take. remember to go through the Gallery to view some very good images.

Real-Life CSI

Don’t forget, there are links to forensic issues and much more in the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers by clicking on the picture below:BPCD Cover

 

There aren’t many opportunities for writers around like this, especially free of charge.

For as little as up to four-hours work per week over a six-week period, taken at your own pace, you could discover just what it is like to IDENTIFY the DEAD.

Starting 7th September 2015, anyone, anywhere in the world can sign up for University of Dundee logothis on-line course delivered by the University of Dundee via the Future Learn Project.

The Forensic Science and Human Identification course run by Helen Meadows will allow you to uncover a grave, examine the remains and reveal the identity of the victim.  You will be taken on a journey through the world of forensic anthropology, unveiling the tools that will allow you to discover the identity of the remains.

The University blurb reads:

In the shadow of Dundee’s Law Hill, a grim discovery demands the attention of forensic experts. Unidentified human remains have been found and the police need to identify the victim to move forward with their investigation.

After a meticulous recovery of the remains, it will be your job to:

  • document and attempt to explain any evidence of trauma;
  • identify the victim through biological profiling;
  • and undertake a facial reconstruction.

Experts from the University of Dundee’s award-winning Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHId) will guide you through the process of human identification.

They will introduce you to the fields of human identification; forensic anthropology and archaeology; craniofacial identification; and the study of the human body.

Evaluate evidence as the case unfolds

Week-by-week, the case will unfold, providing you with more information about the victim. You will be presented with theoretical material and hands-on learning opportunities, to evaluate the case information and use what you have learned, to piece together clues to the victim’s identity.

You will be able to discuss, with educators and others learners, your thoughts on the identity of the deceased, based on your evaluation of the evidence.

Get your own copy of the murder mystery

After you submit your evaluation of the victim’s identity, all will be revealed at the end of the final week. You can continue your journey into the life and death of our victim in your very own e-book copy of a specially written murder mystery by international best-selling crime novelist Val McDermid.

Bear in mind that although this course involves the investigation of the death of a fictional character, some of the content may be distressing to individuals, particularly younger learners. However, this material is representative of that encountered by forensic experts.

To join the course just follow this link: Identifying the dead.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t already got your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers by clicking on the picture below:BPCD Cover

 

 

 

1. No matter how soon your detective gets to the scene of the crime, they are not going to stand around and guard it. Even before they arrive, they’ll want to know that there is some uniform presence present to protect the scene, come hail or shine. If there isn’t, they’ll create such a stink and drop so many names until it’s done.

2. Most uniformed Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers tasked with guarding a crime scene will mentally urge the detectives on so that they will release and close down the scene as quickly as possible so that they can get out of the cold, dark and rain.

3. Many uniformed officers are unable to keep their hands in their pockets at a crime scene and seem compelled to touch or move something. It always comes to light and most hope they will never have to own up to it until their DNA, fingerprints or footprints are found where they shouldn’t be. Let your Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) rip into them.

4. Maybe as a consequence of the above observation, many SIOs do not trust uniformed officers and treat them as incompetent until proved otherwise. Is this a recipe for a full-blown out argument in front of the gawping media?

5. It’s not only detectives that want to or do investigate crime. Many uniformed officers are just as keen and competent enough to investigate but they don’t want to join CID and take on board their cultural expectations.  Many Police Officers are able to spend as much as they earn if not more and so can make themselves vulnerable to financial difficulty and consequently corruption.

If you want to find any of the over 200 essential procedures or policy documents check them out using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers by clicking on the picture below:BPCD Cover

Many fictional crime stories I have read tend to paint the police as competent, up against a suspect who is clever at the outset but is finally caught and brought to justice.

The reasons for the time delay between the commission of the crime and apprehension allows for the fictional story to be spread across hundreds of pages and introduce many characters and pieces of information to aid the reader in their decision-making as to who did it.

In real life, the time between the commission of the offence and apprehension usually occurs through the vast amount of information that has to be gathered and sifted before a suspect is identified, unless the suspect is know from the outset but this would make for a relatively short work of fiction.

However, there are times in real life when the delay in catching the suspect is created by the incompetence (in a very few cases) of the police or the cleverness of the suspect to manipulate the crime scene to such an extent that they manage to hide or disguise many of the clues that should have been found fairly quickly.

Take for instance a recently reported upon crime involving the death of an elderly lady, Una Crown in her own home in Wisbech, Cambridgshire.

Though one won’t find crime tape around an archaeological site, these two disciplines have many similarities (“Crime-scene-tape”).In a nut-shell, the first attending officers decided from what they could gather from the crime scene, that the victim had died accidently.  They concluded that she had fallen onto her cooker and in a panic suffered a heart attack and died.  This assumption, with hindsight, was a bit too quick to come to but when faced with a body that is either very badly burned (as in this case) or decomposed, it can be difficult to see conflicting evidence on the body such as stab wounds or bruising.  Even if they have been seen, the officers may think that they have been self-inflicted, especially when they have been presented with information suggesting suicidal tendencies on the part of the victim (not in the case of Una Crown).

This is why there will be a post-mortem in all instances where the death is unexpected and/or of a violent nature.  In the case in question, not only was the body badly burned (i.e. violent in nature) but it was also unexpected in that she wasn’t being treated for an imminently terminal illness.

It was at the post-mortem that stab wounds were found to the victim’s neck and chest, leading to the death being considered particularly suspicious. Had this been spotted from the outset, the scene should have been treated as a crime/murder scene.  A lot of evidence would have been gathered from the house and a great deal of information would have been uncovered about the victim and in all probability, the suspect.  As it was, the officers who first attended the house saw nothing they thought suspicious and so didn’t treat the scene accordingly.

This may smack of incompetence on their part but to give such an error credibility in your stories, you could consider any or all of the following:

  • The officers that attended the scene first were inexperienced, new to the job and failed to recognise the gravity of what they were confronted with.
  • The officers may have been more experienced but generally incompetent, especially when it came to crime investigation.
  • The officers could have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • The officers could have become blasé because they had attended several natural sudden deaths recently and saw this as just another.
  • They may have attended a sudden death in the past, called out the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) only to be rebuked and ridiculed by the SIO for not seeing the obvious signs of a natural death or a clear case of suicide.

To give the suspect more credibility, it could have been a deliberate act by them to stage the crime scene: to make it look like one incident rather than what it actually was.  It’s not unusual for a husband to make his killing of his wife look like a bungled burglary by smashing a window to the property before giving it a ransacked appearance.  Their intention being to make the police think that the wife had disturbed the burglar in the act and had been killed by that burglar so as to prevent their subsequent identification.

It has been known for suspects to stage a murder to look like a suicide or an accident, similar to this case.  An elderly person could be expected to have a heart attack late in life or even a fall due to being unsteady on their feet.  They may just be unfortunate enough to fall onto their gas or electric fire and the burn injuries may well cover up strangulation or heavy blows to the head or body.

Would you rather go for the incompetent cop or the clever murderer in your stories?

For more information about the case in question follow:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3019745/Coroner-slams-bungling-police-destroyed-vital-evidence-murder-scene-treated-death-pensioner-throat-slit-body-set-fire-ACCIDENT.html

Don’t forget to get your copy of the best directory of its kind, in the world by clicking on the cover photo below –

BPCD Cover

 

You want to hide your suspect from the reader for as long as possible but how can you do it?

In the news recently, West Yorkshire Police announced that it was doing away with the traditional helmets in favour of peaked caps as they are now more practicable and in keeping than the helmets.  Thames Valley Police got rid of their five-years ago.West Yorkshire-Police-Helmet

There is no clarification as to what is meant by peaked caps but in all probability, they will be the flat caps that can be seen worn in the main by Traffic cops (with or without the slashed peak).  There are however many officers around the country that are now wearing baseball style caps with “Police” embroidered across the front and maybe a checked band around the back.  Often, they belong to some plain clothed team.

Believe it or not, you can buy a Police style baseball cap on e-bay for around £5 or from stores such as http://www.police-supplies.co.uk/ for around £10.  At least Police Supplies ask that the buyer furnish a Force name and Collar Number with each purchase.  Just what checks they put in place to verify the authenticity of this information, I am unsure but I am certain that those on e-bay will be sold to anyone with money to pay in some form or another.

So it is easy to see how a suspect could get hold of a Police baseball cap.  Black trousers and black tee shirts aren’t hard to find and along with a nice pair of black boots, the look is almost complete, especially to the untrained eye of a traumatised victim or witness.

But how about the helmet or flat/peaked cap?  Well, believe it or not, even police buildings are burgled (more times than you would expect) and police cars are often broken into.  Some folk merely like to collect police uniform by any means, whilst others have a more nefarious use for it.

Could your suspect get hold of some police uniform?  How would they get hold of it and what are they going to do with it?  How long could they hide from the investigator?  Could they mingle at the scene or be helping in some way, say with the fingertip searching or even gathering information about the progress of the investigation or identifying their next victim.  Would any other cops at the scene notice the suspect?

Choices, choices.