Jan. 12, 2021

Finding Addresses, Detective Caseloads, and Duty Assignments

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- This week, on the Writer's Detective Bureau. Finding addresses, detective case loads, and duty assignments. (soft suspenseful music) I'm Adam Richardson, and this is the Writer's Detective Bureau. (soft suspenseful music) Happy new year, and welcome to episode 104 of the Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality, crime-related fiction. And this week I'm answering your questions about how detectives find people's addresses,


detective caseloads, and what happens during a murder investigation, and the differing responsibilities a detective may have based on their duty assignments. But first, I need to thank Gold Shield Patrons, Debra Dunbar from debradunbar.com, C.C. Jameson from ccjameson.com, Larry Keeton, Vicki Tharp of vickitharp.com, Chrysann, Larry Darter, Natalie Barelli, Craig Kingsman of craigkingsman.com, Lynn Vitale, Marco Carocari of marcocarocari.com, Terri Swann, Rob Kearns of knightsfallpress.com, Chris A. Moody of chrisamoody.com,


and Mariah Stone of mariahstone.com for their support, along with my Silver Cufflink, and Coffee Club patrons. You can find links to all of the patrons supporting this episode in the show notes at writersdetective.com/104. To learn more about using Patreon to grow your author business or to support this podcast, check out writersdetective.com/patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N. Happy new year! Which sounds a little weird to say, because even though we are only


11 days into 2021 as I record this, here in the United States it seems like a lifetime ago. So let's escape the news headlines for the next handful of minutes and get right to answering your questions. (soft suspenseful music) Rod Scarborough writes, "Hi, I'm writing a crime novel "and I'm using something that really happened as the plot. "A girl disappears from her home late at night "and her


remains are found months later. "I've got my detectives, suspects and a medical examiner. "So far my detectives have questioned the witness "who found the remains, tracked down the dad, "but during the time the child was missing, they separated, "and the mom is gone. "I was trying to figure out how they could find her. "So far, I've got a neighbor who gave them the address." Thanks for the question,


Rod. The first place most cops would turn is running the mom's name and date of birth through their computer. Starting with her driver's license. It's such an automatic thing for the police that they'd likely do that before they even talk to the neighbor. But whether she bothered to update the DMV with her new address is going to be up to you as the author, if you want to


make this a hunt or not. The next check would likely be vehicle registration which they can search for by her name. And of course the department's own internal records management system, which would check her name against any existing reports, police reports or field interviews. The next obvious steps would be searching for her in online databases like LexisNexis, which is a paid database, or even free ones, like the


dozens of sites you'll find if you type in someone's name in Google. Social media is another obvious place to look as well. Finding people and interviewing them are the bread and butter of police work, especially for detectives. So locating someone that isn't trying to hide should be pretty easy for your detectives. My former detective partners that have long since retired would have told me to go look in


the answer book, which is what they called the Whitepages. We also had copies of the Haines Criss Cross directories, which back in the day were like the Whitepages, but a big heavy book that instead of searching by last name, you searched by phone number or street address. Speaking of which, it's worth Googling your home phone number, if you use one of those VoIP phone lines that's bundled with


your cable TV or internet service. Just like the good old days, you need to actively pay for an unlisted number. I learned this out the hard way by finding my name, address, and that VoIP phone number in an online directory. A phone number I might add that I don't even remember, (chuckles softly) and only pay for because it makes the TV and internet bundle cheaper. Anyway... Oh, and


one last thing for you, Rod, as I re-read your question, and putting myself in the shoes of the detective, rather than automatically going into resource referral mode as I'm doing here normally on the podcast, putting myself back in that detective shoe of me being at the scene, I have to admit that my very first inclination, even before running her name in the computer, would be to ask the


husband for her phone number. (soft suspenseful music) This week's next question comes from A.J. Ladelle. "I'm writing a thriller about a sheriff's deputy "who starts out investigating a missing person case. "But when the missing person turns up dead, "she's forced to work with a state investigator "to track down the killer. "My question relates to the other cases "which she might also have going on. "Realistically, how many cases


would an officer juggle "at any one time? "And if they were working on a major case like a homicide, "what would be the expectation for her to work "other cases alongside this? "Thanks in advance, loving the podcasts?" Well, the good news, A.J., is that it's totally up to you. You've referred to your protagonist as a sheriff's deputy which is the sheriff's department equivalent of a police officer in


a police department. By that, I mean, given her title, she's likely working patrol. If she's a detective or investigator or whatever title you choose, that usually comes with a different rank or a specific assignment title. She'll still be a deputy sheriff, but she'd likely be holding the rank of a detective or a senior deputy sheriff, which can be the equivalent of a corporal, meaning two stripes on the


sleeve if she were in uniform. One step above a patrol deputy and one rank below a sergeant, and this will vary from agency to agency, but I hope you get the picture. Now, I know that may not be the case, especially if the sheriff's department is so small that they don't have detectives. It is possible for deputy sheriffs to work their own cases. And as I re-read your


question here, I assume that this is the case for her, and that the state investigator has come in to work the case as if they were a detective for the sheriff's department, right? Because her primary job is going to be working patrol, meaning that she'd normally be handling calls like any other uniformed police officer or deputy sheriff. She's the one responding to the 911 call, only instead of


just writing an initial report and handing it off to detectives, it's up to her, under normal circumstances, to handle the followup investigation as well. Only for this homicide, they've brought in that pro from Dover. So in this case, yes your deputy would very likely put everything else on hold and just work the homicide. She'd probably get a pass from her bosses on having to be in uniform while


she worked the case. But again, that's entirely up to you as the world creator. Now, I'm pretty sure, A.J., that that's the answer you're looking for. But just in case your scenario has her as a detective for the sheriff's department. And assuming it is a smaller sized agency, based on the fact that she now has to work with a state investigator, it's pretty believable that she'd be putting


whatever other cases she has on hold for the time being, or she'd be doing the very bare minimum on them at least. And any other detectives in the department would be picking up her slack while she's tied up on the homicide. And this would still be the case with her working patrol as well. When I worked major crimes, where I handled sexual assault, robbery and homicide cases, we


pretty much dropped everything else when it came to working the first 48 to 72 hours of a homicide, maybe even longer. But at some point, other serious crimes do start happening and then you have to get caught up with those as well. It was not uncommon for me to have a dozen or more open cases at a time when I worked major crimes, depending on how many other


detectives there were in the unit with me at the time and available to work those cases. You'd think that working a homicide is the most time-consuming part of a detective's job. But ironically, it's often the court case that can eat up even more time and make a detective unavailable. When you are the investigating detective on a major case, it's not uncommon to be present in the courtroom the


majority of the trial, often seated at the prosecutor's table, which can last weeks or months. And when you aren't in the courtroom, you're very often tasked with things related to the trial, like helping to coordinate witnesses and transporting evidence to court. It just depends on the case and the prosecutor, but there were many times where I was just as busy as the deputy DA prosecuting the case. (soft


suspenseful music) Author Zara Altair of zaraaltair.com and creator of Write A Killer Mystery, the online course to getting your mystery done, provides our third question this week. She actually submitted it in the Writer's Detective Q&A Facebook group, which you can join by going to writersdetectivebureau.com/facebook. Now, this is what Zara wrote. "Hi Adam, thank you for all you do. "I had a Save the Cat scene in my head


"and wonder if it's plausible. "Our hero is a new detective in major crimes. "Yesterday was paperwork, today before he's assigned, "there's a terrorist threat to the local plaza or square. "Because of our heroes military background "and immediate availability, he's sent up on the roof "of the building across the street with a sniper rifle, "saves the day, et cetera. "Is it plausible he would receive this assignment? "There are


about 40 detectives overall, "nine in major crimes. "There's also an inter-agency SWAT team." So this was my written response to Zara in the Facebook group, so let me read that first. "Thanks for the question Zara, "I will answer this in greater detail "in episode 104 of the podcast. "In the meantime, the short answer is this. "Not unless he is a sniper on the SWAT team. "As a detective


he's more likely working on trying "to find the terrorists than trying to secure the plaza. "It is plausible for him to be both a detective "and on the SWAT team, especially if the SWAT team "is a regional team." For others reading this, a regional SWAT team is one made up of operators from multiple law enforcement agencies in the region, and being on the team is a collateral assignment.


Collateral assignment, meaning an extra assignment in addition to your regular job. [Like a patrol officer that has a collateral assignment [on the bomb squad, or a detective [that has a collateral assignment on the dive team.] Zara replied that she had a feeling this was the case and that she ultimately realized that it wasn't necessary for her to make this character part of the SWAT team in order for


the story to work, as his focus is on solving crime, meaning the detective. What I think is beneficial to touch on now, though, is an understanding of investigative responsibilities between different detective units or investigative units. Now, before I go any further, I think it's absolutely plausible for a major crimes detective to be involved in thwarting an impending attack. However, let's discuss why it wouldn't really be his case


to investigate. In my career, as I just mentioned in the last question, I was a detective in major crimes and I was a detective in an intelligence section. One of the things I quickly learned upon entering the world of intel was that no one seemed to have a rock solid definition of what intelligence was. If you can't explain what it is, and therefore what you do, you're going


to have a really hard time accomplishing your job, or more importantly, explaining to your boss what you think your job is. And come yearly eval time, what indicates that you're actually doing your job or accomplishing your job. Why would I have to explain my job to my boss? Because bosses, sergeants, or detective lieutenants or whatever, get put in charge of units that they have never worked in. And


this happens all the time. So as a quick aside, make note of the fact that your protagonist's boss, like a detective sergeant, can absolutely have never been a homicide detective before, but they can find themselves being the supervisor. I have seen it several times. So I say to make a note of it, because you could use this as a progressive complication your protagonist has to face of a


source of conflict between the two. So rather than the overused trope of angry police captain, you can make the dynamic more nuanced and realistic if the detective sergeant thinks his subordinate is trying to make him look inept or stupid, or something along those lines. Making the detective sergeant act out of insecurity due to a lack of casework experience is far more realistic than just having an angry boss


that wants an arrest yesterday. Now that said, doing a stint as a homicide detective or major crimes detective, is far more common than having worked in intel. Only once did I have a boss that actually worked in intel as a detective, and I went through a lot of bosses. Which brings me back to having to explain the job to my bosses. Whenever I got a new boss in


my chain of command, I'd inevitably be brought into a meeting to brief the new boss on what we were working on. And at some point in the investigation, I would ask the question, "How do you define intelligence?" I'd usually get one of two responses. (laughs softly) As an interesting aside, having taught intelligence, it was actually a classified answer when you asked the CIA. You can literally find the


declassified definition of intelligence on the CIA's website, but that's how convoluted it can get. So a textbook answer that I would get back from my boss would be one of two things. It's information that's been analyzed and disseminated, or disseminated information that's been analyzed, or analysis that's been inseminated. - I don't wanna sell anything, buy anything, or process anything, is it clear? I don't wanna sell anything, buy


or processed, or buy anything, sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed. - And if they've read up on the concepts of intelligence-led policing, they may crack a joke about criminal intelligence being an oxymoron, and then talk about the differences between strategic intelligence and tactical intelligence. Or the other response is that I'd get a blank stare, like a South Park character that just sits there blinking


at you. (laughs softly) And at this point I would let my boss off the hook. I'd say, "Can we agree that an investigation, "like a homicide, "is when we start with the moment a crime is reported to us "and then we work backward in time, "looking at all the indicators, the evidence, "the scientific analysis, the witness statements, "or whatever, to figure out what happened and when?" How it


happened, why it happened, and who was responsible for it? I think I missed a W in there. Where it happened. What, we usually know that in the case of a homicide. It's usually the first thing we figured out, right? But we may figure out a motive along the way as well. But the key idea here is that an investigation is a look back in time to figure out


all of those things. Intel is the same thing as an investigation only the timeline is fixed toward the future. We're trying to figure out what is going to happen, where and when, and who is actively trying to make this thing happen. All the same things as an investigation, but we're trying to predict the future. And when we're wrong, it's called an intelligence failure. Major crimes detectives work investigations.


Detectives working in intel or working in intelligence, in the intelligence unit or the intelligence section, they're the ones looking toward what's going to happen. Who's going to conduct the terror attack? Where is it going to happen? When is it going to happen? What's their motivation? Looking toward the future and managing things that way, that's the work of the intelligence unit. As an Intel detective working for a local


police agency, that character would be the one that works closely with the FBI and hold some sort of security clients, working a lot of surveillance, running informants, working undercover. (recording scratches) - Do you know what we do here, my section? - Sorry, yes, sir. I have an idea, sir. - Wo-wo-wo! Let's say you have no idea and leave it at that, okay? No idea. Zip, none. If we


had an idea about what we do, we would not be good at what we do, would we? - If you're interested in reading a series with an intel detective as the protagonist, check out the Jeremy Fisk series of novels by Dick Wolf. Yeah, (upbeat music) that Dick Wolf. Thank you so much for listening this week. Remember, this show is powered by your questions, so send them to me


by going to writersdetective.com/podcast. Happy new year. Thanks again for listening. Have a great week, keep wearing those masks, stay healthy, and write well. (soft ambient music)