Adam explains what DHS Fusion Centers do, what a Brady List is and how to use them in your writing, and we go old school tech with Teletypes.
Adam explains what DHS Fusion Centers do, what a Brady List is and how to use them in your writing, and we go old school tech with Teletypes.
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This week on the writer's detective bureau: Fusion Centers, Brady lists, and Teletypes
I'm Adam Richardson. And this is the writer's detective bureau. Welcome, and thank you for joining me for episode 117 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 talking about department of Homeland security fusion centers, Brady lists, and then we're going old school with teletypes.
But first respect to my ride or die Patreon patrons for supporting the show, especially my gold shield patrons Debra Dunbar from Debra Dunbar.com, CC Jameson from CCJameson.com, Larry Keeton, Vicki Tharp VickiTharp.com. Larry Darter, Natalie Barrelli, Craig Kingsman of CraigKingsman.com, Lynn Vitale, Marco Carocari of MarcoCarocari.com, Rob Kerns of Knightsfallpress.com, Mariah Stone of mariahstone.com, and Aurora Jacobson for their support along with all of my Silver Cufflink and Coffee Club patrons, you can find links to all of the patrons supporting this episode in the show notes at writers, detective.com forward slash 1 1 7, and to learn more about using Patrion to grow your author business, or to support the show, check out writersdetective.com/patreon
All right. So in the last episode, episode 116, during one of my answers, I mentioned D H S fusion centers, and I wanted to explain what those are and what they do in the wake of nine 11. There was a real focus on improving information sharing between state and federal agencies.
With regard to terrorism, we all know that the feds with their, tippy top-secret documents, weren't real keen on sharing those secret squirrel acorns with the rest of us, which has dramatically changed since 9/11. But what has also changed is how law enforcement can pass info up to the federal level on the teeny tiny stuff, which is where fusion centers come in.
And there is at least one fusion center in every us state. Technically they're also called state threat assessment centers or STAC, or a regional threat assessment, RTAC, but regardless of whether it's a STAC, RTAC or TEW, the forerunner to fusion centers, which stands for terrorism early warning group, I mean, we're talking feds here.
They've got acronyms coming out, their STACks or RTACs or TEWs. Anyway, they're all generally referred to as fusion centers. I only mentioned the technical names in case you want to research, which fusion center might play a role in the setting of your own work and progress. So where exactly does a fusion center fit in, in the grand scheme of things,
let's say that nosy neighbor, Nancy calls the non-emergency phone line to the police department. She doesn't call 9 1 1 because we've warned her only to use that number in a real emergency. And she calls us a lot for everything suspicious in her neighborhood. She is our version of the woman in the house, across the street from the girl in the window. Only this time she's reporting that a man in a red bull branded baseball cap has been sitting in his car for the last four hours.
And he seems to be watching the workers at the electrical substation that is at the end of Nancy's block. By the time one of our officers gets there, the red bull guys gone, but Nancy gives us a photo of the car and its license plate. Is there a crime here? No. Is a weird maybe kinda, I mean, maybe the guy's a private investigator on a worker's comp fraud case or a narc from another police department doing surveillance or an ex-boyfriend stalking a girl's new boyfriend who knows.
Right. But what we do know is that someone might be scoping out some of our critical infrastructure. This isn't something that we'd necessarily even write an incident report over. Right. You know, neighbor sees dude in car. So what seems kind of pointless, but for some reason, something seems off you can't put your finger on it, but you're JDL are,
you're just don't look right. Detector is giving you that. I should at least tell someone about this feeling. And that's what the fusion center is for. We can call them directly or just fill out a quick form on their website, explaining the who, what, where when of it all, and the why, if we know it, we may never know who that dude was or why he was parked there.
But sometimes that could be a very important piece to a puzzle that the officer isn't necessarily aware of the fusion center, employs intelligence analysts, to look at all different tips or leads that come in and see if they match up with a pattern or an ongoing investigation. It serves as a centralized point for collection and analysis for these random bits of data that fusion center might be key to recognizing a pattern that's indicative of something going on,
that we should look into. What if that's the seventh report of dudes in red bull hats monitoring electrical substations in the last three weeks. Now we're onto something that might be worth putting a bulletin out to the local law enforcement agencies saying this is going on, start doing frequent patrols or under electrical substations and help us figure out what's going on. Now, several decades,
post nine 11, these fusion centers are not just focused on terrorism. They are an all hazards fusion center now. So any kind of tipper lead, even public health issues, not to go down that rabbit hole or that we're living through, but certain crime trends like arsons or lasers being pointed at aircraft, all of that kind of stuff they're collected and analyzed in these fusion centers are staffed with state local and federal partners.
The FBI reviews, every lead that comes in to see if it ties in with any of the cases that they have. Plus you'll have folks from the police departments, the Sheriff's departments, fire department, public health, all working alongside the federal agents and analysts. They're also critical infrastructure protection experts that work out of the fusion center as well. And as a detective working a case or a series of cases at my own department,
I can actually call the fusion center and ask for analytical help. And that analytical help is free. So that might be a realistic resource or character. You can have your small town cop protagonist reach out to for some help if they need it. I was certainly on a first name basis with several of the analysts at the fusion center. When I worked in my department's intelligence unit,
Christopher craftsman knows what's up. He sent in this question through the writers, detective.com forward slash podcast, voice recorder function. Hi Adam. This is Chris Krach, man. I love your new voice feature on your website. I have a question about the Brady list. What is it and what do writers like myself and the other people in this group need to avoid having our characters do in order to not get on that list.
Thank you. Stay safe. Thanks for sending in the voice question, Chris, the Brady list is a roster of peace officers usually maintained by either a prosecutor's office like the district attorney or a police department or Sheriff's office about officers that have done something bad. Normally those things fall into one of three categories, either. Number one, untruthfulness like in their reports,
statements or testimony. Number two could be bias, either bias against an identified group or toward particular people based upon the officer's prior conduct or statements. And this is often where Facebook posts get off duty officers in trouble. And the third is if the officer committed any crimes. So if the police department or prosecutor's office is aware of any untruthfulness bias or crimes on the part of the officers in their jurisdiction,
that officer's name will be on the Brady list. The Brady list gets its name from the 1963 us Supreme court decision in Brady V, Maryland. And by the way, since we're writers, when we write out versus in court cases like Kramer vs Kramer, the vs is always the letter V with a period after it V S is for sport V period is for court.
I'm a poet and didn't know it about time. I made it Ryan. Okay, I'll stop. So Brady V, Maryland, which stemmed from a capital murder case, the United States Supreme court ruled that the prosecution has a duty to disclose exculpatory material. In other words, the government cannot hold back. Any evidence that they have that might be favorable to the defense,
holding back exculpatory evidence is a violation of due process. And the prosecutor can't claim ignorance, not only does exculpatory evidence refer to any material evidence, but it also covers any information that could impeach a prosecutor's witness by impeach. I mean, show the jury that the witness giving testimony has a history of being a liar, being biased, or being a criminal,
essentially if the government knows or should have known reasonably that their witness has a history of being unreliable, the government has to disclose it. If you're a cop knowingly lied in a police report, submitted a fraudulent timecard is a racist has been arrested for DUI or has any other kind of legitimate reason why the court should question the truthfulness of that witnesses testimony. Then the prosecutor has to disclose that to the court,
the court, meaning the judge will then decide whether it then has to be disclosed to the defense. So I hope that makes sense. The thing about the Brady list is that once you're on it, you are not coming off of it. You don't get a second chance. You can't say I'm not a liar anymore, which is why lying in an official capacity is a fireable offense.
I mean, we're all human. I'm not going to end up on the Brady list for being kind with a little lie, right. You know, rather than tell the truth about how unflattering those wool uniform pants are, which are designed for men, by the way, might look on my partner. If she asks, I'm going to be nice. I might be a little less truthful,
but you know, I know better. But if that partner, while working on a search warrant affidavit asks me to paraphrase for her, what a witness told me and I embellish it so she can include it in the warrant, or if I'm questioned about her calling in sick. And I cover for her knowing she was actually out partying out of town and not sick.
Those are things that I can end up on the Brady list for, and probably fired for. If the court can't trust my testimony, I can't be a reliable witness, which is a pretty vital part of my job. If a department continues to employ someone on the Brady list, you can expect the prosecution to elect not to file that case. If the Brady Lister has anything tangible to do with that case.
So to the second part of your question, Chris, any of the lying bigotry or criminality we just talked about are no-nos for your character. And this is one of the reasons why the Maverick detective trope is so unrealistic. Detective bad-ass doesn't have time for a search warrant. He just needs to know who's, sculled a crack for murdering the love interest. In the previous novel on a moonless night,
he uses his level 12 lockpicking in ninja skills to sneak into the prime suspects apartment and finds the murder weapon. Detective bad-ass takes the murder weapon as evidence and sets out to stock the killer. Now, detective dumb-ass just entered a lock dwelling with a specific intent of committing theft, theft of evidence. Sure. But still theft, which is the crime, the felony of burglary.
So not only did the detective ruin the chances of charging the suspect with the murder, he's now also going to be prosecuted for burglary. And he's going to end up on the Brady list, but now let's level up your Brady list, knowledge as a plot device, many authors ask about quote, letting a suspect off on a technicality and quote in your stories,
right? One way you can use Brady as a technicality is have an officer on the Brady list, have something to do with your inciting incident. Let's say detective dumb-ass has been demoted to officer dumb ass. Pardon? My French and S in is assigned to, to the records division, or is now a dare officer or something where he shouldn't be involved in an investigation.
And he ends up making a crucial discovery in your case, that might be something where the DA's office initially declines to prosecute the case because officer DeMoss is Brady reputation. And that office says they will not use him as a witness in any way, shape or form at which point, your main character, not on the Brady list has to figure out how to prove this case,
knowing that anything resulting from dumb acid, sorry, officer DeMoss, his actions won't make it to the trial. Just an idea, but again, in the real world, the right thing is the fire. The officer, if the accusations are substantiated and his actions really were that damaging to his reputation in the eyes of the court. Thanks again for the question,
Chris, Amy also went to writers, detective.com forward slash podcast to send in this question, can you please talk about what information would be included in an APB and how effective they might have been in the pre-computer days? Thanks. And I love the podcast. Thanks, Amy. And all points bulletin or APB is just another term for a, be on the lookout or BOLO or BOL.
And honestly, I really don't know of any agencies, at least around me that actually call it an APB. Despite me using APB is the name of my monthly mailing list newsletter with curated links to stuff, crime fiction writers want to learn about smooth segue, right? Oh, writers, detective.com for it's less APB to join. Anyway, EPB BOL, BOLO,
whatever you want to call it, essentially it would include the same things you'd see on any wanted poster today. Name, date of birth, physical description, the want, which would be the crime or crimes that are wanted for. And if they have a vehicle associated with them, the vehicle description, license plate, make model, color of the car,
that kind of thing. And if there was any kind of mention of weapons or any weapons used in the crime that they're trying to recover, those are the things that would be on their computers in one form or another have been around for a long time. So to say pre-computer days let's first assume that we're talking pre PC days, pre-modern computer days, like let's say the 1960s and 1970s,
the police department may not have had computers for their reports or any kind of in-house databases, but they probably had a teletype machine think of it like an automated Telegraph transcription machine that spat out the messages via a dot matrix printer. If you're too young to know what a dot matrix printer is, it's the printer they still use at Jiffy lube and a few auto parts stores where you have to tear the whole punched edges off the sides.
And the letters are printed out in a series of dots off and on NCR paper, which you don't ever want to hold between your teeth because when it sticks to your lips, it's really painful, nevermind story for another day. Teletypes when we send out a teletype, regardless of whether it's a bulletin, a message or an official request for something we choose where we want the message to go.
Do I want it to go to a specific police department say to request they do a next of kin notification at a specific address, or do I want it to go to all of the agencies within my county within a several county region or the entire state entire groups of states like the Pacific Northwest, or do I want it to be a nationwide bulletin? These teletype machines communicated with each other within,
and let's the national law enforcement telecommunication system, which still exists to this day only it's evolved into a secure computer network, which in addition to sending those, teletypes kind of like an official email really also serves as our connections to other official databases. Like the department of motor vehicles, criminal history is and all that kind of stuff. Since teletypes predate everyone,
having computers, I would guess that its predecessor would be the telegram or the Telegraph itself. I would hazard a guess that only the most heinous crimes would be sent as a bulletin via Telegraph. If we're talking pre teletype and even then, how would one know how to identify the suspect? We've certainly made it harder to get away with crimes since the days of the wild west and telegrams.
Thank you so much for listening this week. This show is powered by your questions, as you just heard, send them to me by going to writers, detective.com forward slash podcast. Thanks again for listening. Have a great week and write well.