Dec. 21, 2020

Lost Person Behavior, a Rogue Investigation, and the Difference between Probation and Parole

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- This week on the Writer's Detective Bureau lost person behavior, a rogue investigation, and the difference between probation and parole. I'm Adam Richardson and this is the Writer's Detective Bureau. (suspenseful music) This is episode 103 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 looking for lost people, especially those with dementia or


autism, as well as a tool to help prevent it from happening to a loved one in the future, some perspective on a rogue investigation and explaining the differences and realities of probation and parole. First, I need to thank Gold Shield patrons, Debra Dunbar, from, CC Jameson from https://www.CCJameson com, Larry Keeton, Vicki Tharp of, Chrysann, Larry Darter, Natalie Barrelli, Craig Kingsman of, Lynn Vitale, Marco Carocari


of, Terry Swann, Rob Kerns of Knightsfall Press and Chris A. Moody of 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 To learn more about using Patreon to grow your author business or to support this podcast, check out P-A-T-R-E-O-N. (suspenseful music) Before we get into


this week's questions, I wanted to touch on something related to missing persons investigations that you might find interesting. You see, a friend of mine, actually, he's a former roommate of mine, his father went missing this week. His father's starting to have some dementia issues and he got lost while driving. This happened in another state so there wasn't much I could do other than give my old roommate some


suggestions on where to focus his and his family members' search and since he was fortunately found within a few hours, a very important suggestion on how to safeguard against this happening again in the future, which made me think of you. Not only might you find what I shared with my former roommate interesting from a storytelling perspective, it might prove very helpful if you encounter this kind of thing


in the real world as well, whether that's caring for a parent, partner, or a child, the resources I wanna point you toward might prove very helpful. Robert Koester or Bob Koester, as he's known, is a long-time search and rescue team member and expert and he literally wrote the book on lost person behavior. That's the name of it, which helps search and rescue teams locate, you guessed it, lost


persons. What Bob did was amass a database of last person cases, which, to date, total over 150,000 cases across the United States and then analyze the behavior patterns of specific categories of searches. Using this data, Bob has been able to help search teams predict behavior patterns of lost persons based upon specific factors and criteria. Things like whether dementia or autism or their age play a factor. Is this


a search for a small child? Is the person in a vehicle? Or is this for a missing aircraft? Do we think it's an abduction? Do we have reason to believe the lost person is in the water or in the snow? All of these factors were analyzed and Bob's book "Lost Person Behavior" provides insights into where search teams are more likely to find these missing people when we look


at the situation compared to the existing data. So in the case of my friend's dad, who has dementia, I know, thanks to Bob Koester's research that dementia patients have a tendency to quote unquote go until they get stuck. And they're often found in thick brush or areas where it's easy to get stuck. So I shared that with him. In fact, I found a missing dementia patient about a


month ago during a helicopter flight in exactly this situation. She was within a half mile of her home, but had walked from an open field into a very small gap between some fences between two adjacent housing tracts. It was essentially just a tight corridor with a gap of about two feet in width between each fence, dotted with eucalyptus trees throughout the corridor. I'm not really sure how she


got in there as a giant eucalyptus tree mostly blocked the access to this fencing corridor, but there she was, trapped in a two-foot-wide corridor with trees at either end. Fortunately, I got officers to her quickly and the fire department used ladders to get her out of there but it was my knowledge of lost person behavior from Bob's data that helped me know where to look. The best part


about Bob Koester's work is that all that search and rescue research data has been distilled down into a cell phone app. And guess what it's called? Lost Person Behavior, which, in my opinion, is a must-have app for anyone working search and rescue calls or any family member that is out looking for a lost loved one. It is a paid app and I honestly can't remember how much I


paid for it because I've had it for so long, but it has been worth its weight in gold. And just as you might expect, different people in different situations create different search priorities. For instance, I know that people in the autism spectrum have a tendency to seek water. It's my understanding that this is common because it can create a calming or soothing sensation when they enter the water.


And often when they've gone missing, it's because they're experiencing some sort of crisis. Now, this one is very important to me because when I get a call in the helicopter for a missing autistic child, my number one priority is to search the backyard pools in that neighborhood to make sure the child hasn't drowned. Fortunately, I haven't had any calls where that's happened but I have found a missing


autistic adult in a pond before. So you can see how this kind of research and data and mission planning can be potentially life-saving. So that kind of technical knowledge and planning is the first thing I shared with my former roommate. Then, once his dad had been found, I told him about Project Lifesaver which is a nationwide initiative to quickly locate at-risk people that habitually go missing. And the


way it works is this, the patient is outfitted with a lightweight plastic wristband, kinda like the kind you used to get at concerts or nightclubs where the end piece folds over and a little plastic locking washer clasps it shut. I remember getting one of those as a kid at a water slide once, and it's way more comfortable than the arm hair epilating adhesive wristbands that you get at


nightclubs now. But I digress. That old school wristband has a tiny RF emitter, a radio-frequency emitter, and each Project Lifesaver patient in that area has a different radio frequency, like 215.785 megahertz. That patient's name and that specific frequency number are then flagged in the police computer-aided dispatch system as being associated with that patient's home address. So when a family member or a caretaker calls 911 to say that


Uncle Fester walked away again, the police or search and rescue will respond with a radio receiver and then they'll drive, or if they have a helicopter, they may fly, around the area and triangulate where that signal is being transmitted from by that wristband. It is amazing and it works incredibly well. As far as hide and seek goes, it is definitely cheating. Rather than spending hours and hours on


a grid search of a neighborhood, we're able to drive the major streets or in my case make an orbit in a helicopter around a neighborhood and then vector our way right in to where that missing person is usually in a matter of minutes. So whenever we go on a lost person call where mental status is an issue, we give the family member or a caretaker a brochure for


getting signed up with Project Lifesaver. The last time I checked, the cost of the program was about $25 for the wristband, but that was it. No monthly fee or anything. It's just covering the cost of the wristband. So you sign up through participating police departments but you can find out whether you're in an area that supports it by going to So I hope this helps a loved


one of one of you out there or at the very least, it sparks a story idea. All right, now let's get onto this week's questions. (suspenseful music) Charles Robinson writes, "Hello, I'm working on my first novel "and while the majority of it is supernatural leaning, "one of the characters is a uniformed police officer. "I have a few questions "so feel free to answer any or none of them.


"In my story, the officer's receiving intel from a civilian "about a large-scale drug smuggling ring. "The officer's superiors ignore her "and any evidence she presents. "In order to get someone to listen, "she and her partner take it "upon themselves to infiltrate the ring "to get some hard evidence. "In the process, "her partner is shot and dies and she is suspended. "My questions are, how far would she actually


get doing "this rogue investigation? "Would she ever get back on the force "once it's proven that her superiors were ignoring evidence? "And what are the ramifications from a job standpoint "if your partner is killed under suspension circumstances? "If your superiors ignore blatant evidence "how far up can you go? "Thank you." Thanks for the questions, Charles. I definitely get what you're going for here with respect to the progressive


complications in your story. But there are a few things we need to address first. The first question is what makes this drug smuggling ring so important that the uniformed police officers feel obligated to do their own undercover investigation? There has to be a significant motivation for the protagonist to put her career and ultimately her partner's life on the line for this case in particular. The true nature of


how cases like this work is that she would forward whatever intelligence she got about this group to the narcotics detectives and then go back to her normal job. She had neither the need nor the right to know what happens after that. Large-scale cases like this can take months or years to get off the ground. And anyone not part of the investigative team should expect it to be a


black hole when it comes to hearing back about what happened or not. So to explain why this is the case, let's do a paradigm shift. Let's say our protagonist is, instead of the patrol officer, is a narcotics detective that had similar intel about this group six, nine or 12 months ago, only the narc, the narcotics detective, the narc's civilian was actually a low-level member of this drug group


that got caught with dope in his pocket. And to keep from going to jail, that civilian, that drug dealer, agrees to become an informant for the narc. So now the informant works with the surveillance team to start identifying the higher-level players in the organization. The surveillance team follows these guys day and night, while wiretaps on their phones record all of the coded conversations about ongoing drug transactions and


a reup on the drug stash is by the traffickers and the narcs are trying to determine the location of where the drugs will arrive and who is bringing in the supply. Okay, so that's what's going on at this point. Meanwhile, your boss gets a tip about an apartment being used by this group for hand-to-hand drug deals. And it comes from your uniformed officer. An apartment that the surveillance


team identified months ago. In fact you know firsthand that the traffickers aren't even using that location anymore, but because your boss appeared to do nothing about it, knowing far more about this drug trafficking group than this uniformed officer does, she and her partner decide to play narc by inserting themselves into the investigation just as the actual narcs are getting close to taking down the entire local crew, catching


them with multi-kilo resupply and identifying the out-of-town folks making the delivery. So now, the entire narcotics investigation team is livid about the two uniformed officers trying to play undercover and that doesn't even go into the partner getting killed. So the question is, is does this sound plausible? And the answer is, yes, it should because any case that involves informants or undercover detectives are shrouded in secrecy because the


lives of the UCs or the informants are at stake. So as a uniform, your job is to handle calls for service not launch deep cover investigations that, frankly, are outside of your scope, expertise, and capability which is the whole reason why we have narcotics units. Does it sound harsh? It should. And that explains how and why the department will take the stance you correctly surmised, Charles, and why


your protagonist should know better. That said, you do have a great premise for your story, especially if she gets blindsided by the fact that she was stumbling into a major investigation. The question is, what can you come up with to have your protagonist redeem herself in the eyes of the department, especially after getting her partner killed. And honestly, I can't really think of anything, but then again, I'm


not the creative one in this question. Thanks so much for your question, Charles. I can't wait to see how this story evolves. (suspenseful music) Chris Cratchman asked, "Other than age, "what's the difference "between juvenile and adult probation?" In most counties, there are two different branches of the probation department. Where I work, juvenile probation runs the juvenile hall, which is the juvenile detention facility as well as a bootcamp


for boys. Additionally, juvenile probation officers supervise wards of the court, which mean delinquents and status offenders, to ensure they obey the law and the terms of their probation. Now, I should explain that delinquents are juveniles, which in the United States means a person under the age of 18, usually between the ages of 12 and 17 that committed criminal act, or at least an act that if committed as


an adult would be a criminal act. Basically a delinquent is just a juvenile that committed a criminal act. In California, delinquents are defined in Section 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, which differs from a status offender, defined in Section 601 of the WNI, which is a juvenile that committed an offense that is only illegal due to their age. Things like being a habitual runaway, violating curfew ordinances,


or being truant from school. Unlike the adult criminal justice system, juvenile probation is an alternative to the typical arrest, prosecution, punishment, due process cycle. At least it is in California. And to be honest, once I arrest a juvenile, I rarely have anything to do with the case afterward. But it's my understanding that after interest of a juvenile, a juvenile probation officer is then assigned to the juvenile, as


I just mentioned, to ensure that they obey the law and follow any other terms they're required to. In other words, the juvenile is placed on supervision, which means the juvenile is regularly meeting with their probation officer and that PO is doing spot checks to make sure they're at home when they're supposed to be. If the juvenile violates their juvenile probation terms or breaks the law again, then the


juvenile probation officer will request the prosecutor's office file a petition against the minor. So in other words, they're gonna request that the juvenile be prosecuted for those crimes. So the steps are kind of backward in a way for juveniles. Supervision first, and then prosecution only if they mess up again. Which brings us to adult probation. Now, I'll start with the more traditional understanding of adult probation. And then


I will explain what California recently did that changed pretty much everything. When an adult is arrested, they go to jail, then either bail out until court, or they stay in jail until their arraignment, or in some states there's an initial appearance or a preliminary hearing which happens before an arraignment. Okay, I'm gonna go off on a little tangent here for a second. When you're arrested, the officer must


show that they have probable cause, meaning articulable facts that tend to show that you are the probable suspect in the crime. Some states, like Wisconsin, have formal appearances in court where a judge makes a determination on whether probable cause is present for that arrest before arraignment. In California, and in many states across the country, the arraignment is actually the first court appearance for a defendant. I should explain


that an arraignment is where a defendant enters their pleading of not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere, no contest, which is essentially accepting a conviction, but not admitting guilt. This is also where a defendant will get a public defender if they can't hire their own attorney. The reason we don't have an initial appearance or preliminary hearing before the arraignment in California is because we file paperwork at the jail


where we explain our probable cause and a superior court judge reviews those PC forms, as we call them, every few hours to ensure that there is sufficient probable cause to hold our suspect in custody. Essentially, the judge is doing this behind the scenes within hours of the suspect being booked. At least that's how it works where I am. Oh, and arraignments. Those happen within 48 business hours, or


court hours, of the suspect being booked. So if you're booked in on a Monday, you'll get your arraignment on Tuesday or Wednesday. If you're booked on a Friday and it's a three-day weekend with a Monday as the holiday, you're still getting arraigned on Tuesday or Wednesday. We still have preliminary hearings in California, but they usually occur 10 days or more after the arraignment. So these prelims, which happen


in front of a judge with the defendant and defense counsel present, are where the prosecution calls witnesses to prove to the court that not only is there probable cause for the arrest but there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a jury trial. Remember we only need probable cause to make an arrest, but we need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at jury trial. So this is a


way of proving to the court that the prosecution is on track and we're not wasting the court's time. Prelims are usually pretty short, as there are some rules that allow for hearsay, like my being able to testify as to what my partner told me she did with the evidence or whatever. So in other words, the prosecutor does not usually have to parade the entire witness list in front


of the judge. It's more of a quick peek at what's to come if the case goes to jury trial. So, at this point, the defense may see what evidence is stacking up against them and decide to seek a plea bargain or they may want to fight it tooth and nail and get a trial date set. Either way, if a plea is struck, which can happen at any point


after being arrested, or if the defendant is convicted, guilt in a criminal offense usually means sentencing. Historically, we had three different levels of crime in California. The differences being their punishment. An infraction, like a traffic ticket, is a crime that's only punishable by a fine. A misdemeanor is a crime that's punishable by a fine and/or up to one year, meaning 365 days, in county jail. A felony was


a crime punishable by one year or more in a state prison. And just to confuse you, crimes that can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning up to a year in county jail, or more than a year in a state prison, we call those wobblers. It used to be that if this was your first or one of your first offenses, the court could suspend your


sentence, meaning not immediately send you to jail or prison and put you on probation. Let's say the defendant is convicted of DUI, but it's their first ever offense. They're sentenced to three months in county jail but the judge suspends their sentence, pending successful completion of one year supervised probation with additional terms that might include things like no alcohol for a year, regular testing to make sure they don't


have alcohol in their system, and search terms, which mean they're voluntarily waving their Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches by law enforcement in exchange for the chance to not sit in jail for three months. So their PO, their probation officer in adult probation, is the one meeting with them regularly to make sure they're abiding by their probation terms. If they aren't, let's say they get


arrested again, the police officer will notify the probation officer of the probationer's arrest. Then the probation officer can put a detainer on their probationer. A detainer is essentially a hold on the suspect or probationer which prevents them from bailing out of jail on the new offense, because that new offense is also a violation of probation. I hope that makes sense. So the probationer with the new charges will


be going back before the judge pretty darn quick and not only are they facing the new charges of the new arrest, they've also violated probation. And the judge may sentence the defendant to that jail time that had been hanging over their head from the first offense. So back to the original question Christopher asked. Probation was historically that supervision you had when you dodged going to jail or prison,


which differs from parole. Parole was similar in that you were under supervision by a parole officer or a parole agent, but parole is when you've already been sent to prison, served a portion of your sentence, and then are released from prison early under the expectation that you will follow the rules, meet with your parole officer and so on, or else get sent back to prison to finish out


your entire prison sentence. In fact, when you violated parole, the violation itself carried an additional one year in prison for violating parole. Parolees called that one-year parole violation sentence a bullet. I caught a bullet for fighting with my old lady. I mentioned at the beginning the probation officers work for county probation departments, but I should mention here that parole agents work for the state because they're supervising people


being released from state prison Or at least that's the way it works in many parts of the country, but in 2011, California passed Assembly Bill 109 or AB 109 for short, which was the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011. This put everything I just explained to you on its ear. In an effort to reduce prison incarceration rates in California, and in turn reduce the costs of housing


and supervision of inmates, both in and out of prison, California changed all the rules. The state basically burdened the counties with all of the costs. So what do I mean by that? For starters, the prison got rid of most of their non non non inmates AB 109 shifted housing non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex crimes inmates from state prison to county jail. All of a sudden, county jails had to


make room for these state prisoners being dumped on them, which obviously led to early releases. So not only did county jails become overcrowded, resulting in early releases, the legal mandate called for their supervision to now be handled by county probation officers, not state parole agents. So probation officers' caseloads climbed exponentially. Not only that, courts were now sentencing new non, non non defendants to multi-year sentences in county jail.


Jails, I might add, that were not designed for long-term inmates. Previously, one year was the max anyone would be sentenced to a county jail for. Oh and remember what a bullet was? That one year sentence for violating parole. Now, if you are in what's now called PRCS or community supervision, instead of one year in state prison you face a whopping 10 days in county jail. So instead of


a bullet, they call it a flash. A 10-day flash. I should mention that PRCS or community supervision are the terms that we now use for supervising convicted felons. And lastly, I have to mention that when an inmate or a defendant is considered a non, non non, non-violent non-serious non-sex crimes inmate, that doesn't mean the person is non-violent or whatever. It means that they were convicted of a non


non non crime. So if I carjack you at gunpoint, a violent crime, but I take a plea bargain from an overworked district attorney for a felony conviction of vehicle theft, the old GTA, grand theft auto, then guess what? Because it's not the crime I committed, it's the crime I'm convicted of, which we call the controlling offense, that dictates how things go. So if my controlling offense is a


non-violent, non-serious, non-sex crime offense, like the property crime of stealing a car, then I'll be serving my sentence in county jail and be released to supervision by the probation office, not parole. And it's a pretty good bet that I'll be back out on the street in no time. So Christopher, adult probation has become the defacto community supervision department for pretty much anyone diverted from jail or released early


from prison. There are still state parole agents in California, but the state has cut the number of them significantly, all in the name of budget concerns. Despite what officially published crime rate statistics say, I can tell you our property crime rates for crimes like vehicle theft, burglary, and even armed robbery have skyrocketed in recent years. There is zero deterrence in California. Probation only works if the probationers are


actually fearful of going to jail or prison. Okay, that's enough. I'll get off my soap box now. So I hope that helps explain things for you. Thank you so much for listening this week. This show is powered by your questions. Send them to me by going to Thanks again for listening. Have a very happy holiday, regardless of which one you celebrate, and write well.