Posts Tagged ‘SIO’

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!)

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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:

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

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

In my earlier post I may have misled some readers as it may have implied that anyone, once they have completed the SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) Development Programme can become the lead investigator in a homicide. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the UK we do not allow a single detective or even a pair to investigate a homicide. There will always be a Senior Investigating Officer involved even if only from a supervisory and guidance point of view but at the end of the day it is still the SIO’s case. There will usually be a team of officers, which is useful for writers wanting to introduce and play with conflicting characters.

To get to the stage where one can even be considered to getting a place on an SIO Development Programme, that person must have been a police officer for many years. They must have passed through the ranks from Constable, Sergeant to at least Inspector but in many cases beyond that through Chief Inspector to Superintendent. This can take at least 10 years and all of their service need not be in crime investigation but probably would be.

In my old force, candidates for the programme had to pass an SIO selection process and be approved as suitable by the Head of Crime Investigation for the Force to even get onto the course let alone practice as an SIO.

During their service prior to becoming an SIO, they will have passed two promotion examinations (Constable to Sergeant then Sergeant to Inspector). After that, progression through the ranks is via interview and in some cases a series of carousels designed to test the candidates skills and knowledge.

There are various courses that the prospective SIO could or should have attended e.g. an Initial Crime Investigation Development Programme (consisting of at least 6 weeks classroom tuition), then a one/two-week Detective Inspectors’ course, followed by a three-week Management of Serious Crime course before getting onto the SIO’s Development Programme. They are then expected to maintain their accreditation by specialising in at least two subjects e.g. Forced Marriages, Financial Crime Investigation, Telecommunications Investigations etc.

Hope this clears any ambiguity up.