April 12, 2022

Investigating False Accusations, Alphabet Soup Body Snatchers, and Investigating Decades-Old Remains

Adam talks about investigating false allegations made against a detective, what would happen if Alphabet Soup feds barged in to take possession of a decedent, and the realities of investigating the remains of someone that died sixty or seventy years...

Adam talks about investigating false allegations made against a detective, what would happen if Alphabet Soup feds barged in to take possession of a decedent, and the realities of investigating the remains of someone that died sixty or seventy years ago.


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This week on the writer's detective bureau investigating false accusations, alphabet soup Bodysnatchers and investigating decades. Old remains I'm Adam Richardson. And this is the writer's detective bureau. Welcome to episode 120 of the writer's detective bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction. And this week we're talking about investigating false accusations, made against a detective.

What would happen if some alphabet soup feds barged in to take possession of a descendant and the realities of investigating the remains of someone that died 60 or 70 years ago. But before we get into that, I want to tell you real quickly that I put together a free lesson on the items. A detective carries every day. I go over some of the key pieces of gear we rely upon and how we use and carry them.

The lesson is about 20 minutes long. It's a 20 minute long video, which basically is just me doing a show and tell, I even reveal what goes into those pouches. You see on a uniformed officers duty belt. So if you'd like to watch the free lesson, just go to writers, detective.com forward slash E D C EDC as in everyday carry.

So for the free lesson on crime fiction, protagonists everyday carry it's writers, detective.com forward slash E D C. This week's first question comes from Ryan Elder who writes hello again. I hope things are going well for you. And I appreciate all your valuable input. I was wanting to ask you another question for a story I'm writing. I want to write so that a detective goes to a witnesses house to ask her some questions,

and I wanted to write it so that she later accuses the officer of seducing her sexually. And she says that she slept with him and now feels bad about it because he did it to influence her testimony. The officer is innocent and her accusation is not true. And she's just trying to drive wedges in the case, by trying to compromise the investigating officers reliability.

But I'm wondering how far the police would go to investigate if he tainted the witness and the case, or not since they are probably used to false confessions, but also not wanting the case to be possibly compromised either. Would they order that officer to turn over his clothes, for example, so they can examine them for her DNA if she accused him the next day or what would be the procedure here with such an accusation.

Thank you very much for any input on this. I really appreciate it again as always. Oh, you're very welcome, Ryan. Let's see what we can do for starters as a male detective, I am keenly aware of if or when I might be alone with a female and the chance for any allegation of impropriety that might result from that and our standard operating procedures account for those kinds of situations,

I would not go to a female witnesses home alone. I would bring another detective with me, or if I didn't have one, at the very least, I would have a patrol officer go with me to the house. Also, the entire interaction would be at the very least audio recorded. This is the kind of situation where a patrol officer's body-worn camera can prove their weight in gold.

In fact, it's been policy throughout my entire career, meaning pre in car computers before we had in-car cameras or body-worn cameras that when you transport someone of the opposite gender in your car, you advise dispatch of that and you give your starting mileage and ending mileage. And when you say this on the air, the dispatcher replies back with the time. So all of that is recorded and timestamped because radio traffic on main dispatch channels are recorded as well as all calls into 9 1 1.

So this helps substantiate that you took them straight to jail without delay. So when the false allegation comes later, that I took my arrestee down a dark alley to assault them for 10 minutes or whatever they're claiming I can pull the dispatch recording and they'll hear a timestamped recording and mileage something where I would say David too, and route to county jail with one x-ray x-ray meaning female starting mileage 0.0,

and then dispatch would reply back with at 1523 hours. And then when I got to jail, I would say David to 10 97 county jail ending mileage 1.6, meaning my call sign David two. I have arrived at the location of the county jail. And my ending mileage is 1.6. So I've driven 1.6 miles and dispatch would then say at 15, 26 hours. So it's clear that I just went over a mile and a half about in three minutes and I didn't add 20 miles.

And it didn't take me 30 minutes to do that transport. So that kind of helps fight any allegations that may result later on. Now, of course, most patrol cars nowadays, and some detective cars have GPS tracking, which is part of having an in-car computer system. So all of that is recorded as well, but to get back to it, if your character goes to her house on his own,

without a partner and without recording the interview, or he records the interview, but she alleges that the intimate stuff happened after the recorder was turned off. Then this will absolutely turn into an internal affairs investigation. You phrased your question as quote, she later accuses the officer seducing her sexually, and she says that she slept with him and now feels bad about it.

And quote, so the internal affairs investigator will need to determine one, did the act actually occur. And two is the witness now slash victim alleging a rape or a consensual, but inappropriate and in violation of department policy, a consensual sexual encounter. So did this occur and if so, is it a felony or is this a violation of department policy? Most departments have a policy against any kind of sexual acts with suspects,

witnesses, and informants. And if there's a policy, it means someone did something that made the department need to write it down. If you know what I mean. So there is a rule against it when this happens, not when the act happens, but with the internal affairs investigation, beginning as a result of the false allegation, your protagonist will likely be pulled off of the case.

And a new officer or detective will be assigned to take over that investigation. So this witness isn't really doing much to derail the investigation itself, just the life of your protagonist, who, by the way, we'll certainly be interviewed here in the United States. We have what we slang only call PO bar, which is short for peace officer bill of rights. Now,

this is one of those things that TV tropes usually get wrong, where the protagonist is under threat of losing their assignment to transfer or demotion or some outright job loss, right? PO bar, which is law governs how departments are required to handle internal investigations and the disciplinary process. It expressly states what rights the officers have and that we can't lose pay without due process.

It's similar to being a tenured professor. You just can't demote me or transfer me for doing my job, or because you don't like me. You have to show malfeasance on my part. Now I see this a lot in shows where an investigation leads to places that make the upper brass in the department uncomfortable. And then someone tells the protagonist to back off.

It does not work this way. And you can't threaten to boot me out of the detective bureau because I'm getting too close to the truth. If you do, I have recourse, I will not only get my detective position back. I will likely have a pretty sizable lawsuit against the department for violating my rights. Another key thing to understand, since we're talking about internal affairs investigations is that rank does not play a role in an investigation.

If I'm the detective assigned to the internal affairs unit or office of professional responsibility or professional standards or whatever flavor they're calling it nowadays, the IAA, the internal affairs unit in the department, you're writing about. If I'm just a low lead detective and I'm investigating something, a Lieutenant or a captain did, where there several ranks above me, their rank does not supersede my authority as an IAA detective.

They cannot pull rank and order me to stop my investigation. So let's get back to your scenario, Ryan. I would definitely launch an investigation. They would interview your protagonist. This detective that's had the allegations levied against him and he'd have the right to have either an attorney present or at the very least a rep from the police officer's association, the union that the officer belongs to present during that interview,

I would also get a copy of the witness interview recording that was made by the detective. If there was one as well as any dispatch recordings and yes, potentially seize his clothing. If the investigators believed he committed a crime like rape, I don't know that they could go so far with their investigation if it's a department policy violation, but if they were trying to seize the clothes and get any kind of DNA samples and that kind of stuff,

they would likely need a search warrant to do so, just like any other rape suspect, they would also encourage the complainant, that female witness to submit to a sexual assault examination in an effort to collect evidence, knowing that she's lying in this scenario, I would assume that she would decline to do so. Meanwhile, a new detective would be taking over the case and working to solve it.

Ultimately when it's proven that the witness falsely reported this sexual encounter, she'd likely be criminally charged in filing a false report and possibly even charged with interfering with a police investigation. If it's determined that her motivation was to derail or delay the investigation, she was a witness to, Before we get to our next question, I just need to quickly thank my Patrion patrons for supporting the show,

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who asks if a John DOE is found in a hotel room, and when you start putting out feelers to find out who the person is, a couple of agents from the federal alphabet soup comes in and demands the body and all documentation. What would happen next? Oh, alphabet soup gets a free phone call from the jail cell. In all seriousness. This would turn out to be what we call a big fat soup sandwich,

a big old mess. The short answer is that the feds would not get to take the body without some sort of federal court order. And while the feds might get a copy of whatever documentation we have, they do not expunge any records we've created, meaning you can't take my report and force us to delete what we wrote. It's ours to keep now the body of the decedent is 100% under the purview of the coroner or medical examiner,

depending on which ever type of agency you have in your story setting. The next question I have is why would an alphabet soup agency want the body in documentation in the first place? If it's wit sec, like a witness protection type thing, then that argument is no longer valid as there's nothing left to protect. Now that he's dead. The only other thing I could think of would be a national security type thing,

and you'd have a hard time convincing a judge to outright bar another public agency from doing their duty. Now that the person is dead. You might have a federal judge order, the local coroner to delay the public disclosure of the death or something similar to sealing the contents of a search warrant for a reasonable amount of time for whatever this thing is, is kind of causing a hiccup to,

to transpire or not give away. But if someone came into my medical examiners office claiming to be a federal agent and trying to take a body out of a freezer, you can expect to call the nine one one from the receptionist. If things got heated, mainly out of concern that the supposedly agent isn't one at all as this would be so out of the ordinary.

And if the supposed agent actually was legit, there would be a lot of bosses on both sides of the argument getting involved. Honestly, if an alphabet soup agency really did have a legitimate and super secret reason to claim a body like that, it would come from the top down. I'd expect a senior FBI official that already knows the police chief to make a call first and ensured that this happened as quietly and as smoothly as possible.

I know that doesn't play out as dramatically for a scene, but it's about the only way I can think of this happening without it turning into a pissing match between agencies. And even then it's still probably would This week's. Next question comes from Elizabeth Candon of Elizabeth camden.com who writes, hello, Adam, thank you for your wonderful podcast. Thanks Elizabeth. In my manuscript,

a human skeleton is found curled up in the hollow of a tree out in the wilderness, the medical examiner estimates, the person died between 60 and 70 years ago, but can find no cause of death. And there were no reported missing persons during that time period in this small rural town. My question is how urgent would the county Sheriff's office consider this case since there's no proof it was murder?

Would they launch a full investigation? Would they draw on state or federal experts or would this quickly get relegated to a cold case file many thanks for your insight. Thanks for your question, Elizabeth. If the EMI cannot determine the cause of death. In other words, they can't say it was related to a crime. Then the Sheriff's department probably would not get involved at all.

At least not with an official investigation. In other words, it would be a medical examiner's case in that it's the remains of a Jane or John DOE, but it isn't necessarily a Sheriff's criminal investigation as no crime has been alleged. Now the Emmy would likely make attempts to identify the remains and they would very likely notify the Sheriff's department. Kind of like you alluded to in your question about whether it tied into a cold case,

and there's not being a missing persons case reported to that department at least. But other than that, that would probably be about it, you know, seeing for tied into a cold case or to see if they have any records going back that far that might indicate who had been reported missing back then, they would probably be mindful that this person could have been reported missing to another agency elsewhere.

Like if this were a hiker in the wilderness that were from somewhere else, there would be no way for the local agency to know about it, depending on where your story is set. It's pretty unlikely that there are many records still around from the 1950s or sixties, unless it related to something big, like an unsolved kidnapping or suspected murder or cold case where some records clerk at some point thought the case worthy of being recorded to microfilm,

or maybe laser fish a little later on, which would have likely been the way that they archived old paper records to that microfilm in the seventies or eighties, where I work, it's hard to find detailed records of many cases that predate the mid 1980s, which was when records started becoming computerized. Only the major cases seem to be archived at some point, like I was kind of alluding to a second ago,

someone had to decide whether a case was worth archiving or not. So a stolen bike report, a petty theft report, a vandalism report, a runaway juvenile report from 20 or 30 years prior. So if I'm a data analyst in the 1980s, would that seem like a waste of my time and money to archive, right? Especially when we're talking about paying to have those reports burn to microfilm.

I mean, nowadays our copy machines can just scan paperwork into a PDF and send it right to a digital archive without any real costs associated to it. But back then, that was not the case. Now as an investigator for the medical examiner, if they are super motivated or intrigued and not already slammed with work, they might go to the local or surrounding newspapers or other local jurisdictions and start looking through their archives,

especially for the newspapers, looking through their microfilm archives of past newspapers in an attempt to find an old news story about someone going missing back then, and maybe do some research on who owned the property, where the remains were found. But a 10 year window is a lot of microfilm to have to read through before we go. I would like your help with something.

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