Law enforcement, police, cops, detectives,private investigators, special agents local, state and federal and crime in general has had more ink, film, video and bytes devoted to describing, sensationalizing, and criticizing the occupation than any other.
Edgar Allen Poe started it by writing the first detective story, “The Murders in Rue Morgue.” Stories about crime will be found on the front page and typically dominate the metro section of most daily newspapers. “If it bleeds, it leads” gives one a sense of the importance a good crime and by extension police play on the TV news. Tired of the news, let’s tune in to some entertainment, on TV and in the movies we have police procedurals, caper flicks, mysteries, true crime, and unsolved mysteries reenacting old investigations. I would bet that 50% of prime time programs revolve around police. I lean towards “Barney Miller” as being the most accurate portrayal of police on TV.
Maybe a good book is called for. Amazon Kindle lists 206,058 kindle titles under mystery, Amazon lists 332,107 titles under mystery in the more tradition book form, doubtless there is an overlap. Amazon also lists 72,450 titles as textbooks dealing with criminal justice. I could keep going, law enforcement, homicide, criminalistics, criminology and probably a dozen subgenera would probably double the count. What’s the point?
Life, for a cop, might be easier if the public were reading the text books I mentioned. However that is probably not the case. As a society we are bombarded with information from the time we become aware, until they throw dirt in our face. Most people are convinced that they are all experts in how law enforcement should be conducted. So much of what we know is wrong or at best half right.
A quick quiz:
- In a murder case, you can’t obtain a conviction without the victim’s body as the corpus delicti. True False
- A motive is necessary to obtain a conviction. True False
- If you ask a cop if he is a cop and he lies and says he isn’t that’s entrapment. True False
I was a police officer in Texas for 30 years. I have worked patrol both as an officer and a supervisor. I have taught a variety of subjects from most of the topics covered in the Basic Police Academy, plus firearms, SWAT, tactics, investigation, search and seizure and narcotics. I was assigned to a narcotics task force for 15 years and qualified as an expert witness in both state and federal court. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but chances are I have heard the question. I am not an attorney and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not reflect any particular police department policy. Occasionally, other police officers, retired and otherwise, may weigh in on a topic. It is not my goal to win hearts and minds but to present an alternative line of thought to what I likely consider to be a wrong read on a situation. I will gig officers and police departments when they deserve it.
As to the quiz, all the answers are false. Corpus Delicti has nothing to do with the victim’s body. Instead it refers to proving all the elements that make up a particular crime. While a body in a murder case is nice, a good investigation and prosecution team can obtain a conviction without one. A motive, as used by Hollywood and English manor house sleuths requires a detailed explanation of the how and why the defendant did what he did. Again it is nice, but not essential, ” he was a mean son-of-a-bitch” works just fine. Number 3 may work in “Dirty Harry” movies but it is perfectly acceptable to lie to a turd (defendant).