Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 23:26:16 -0700 (MST)
From: thekoba  (K J WALSH)
Subject: General Investigations Bureau
Cc:,, thekoba , snail ,

Dear Joel,

I received a telephone message from the officer with whom I'm to do the ride along. She will be unable to do it the 28th and suggested 5 October. I'm to telephone her during her shift monday for exact details.

Tonight we met at Phoenix Police Headquarters for a presentation by Lieutenant Rob Robinson of the Squaw Peak Precinct and the General Investigations Bureau. We saw several videotapes, and the main emphasis of the class was the nature of evidence and ways to obtain information regarding a crime. We were asked to analyze some videos of armed robberies and tell what we could learn about the suspects. Usually height is the main thing learned about the suspect. As most armed robbers wear masks, exact identity is not usually revealed by surveilence cameras. Sometimes tactics can also be a clue. In one of the videos the robbers all used the Weaver stance instead of the isoceles stance when aiming their pistols. This initially suggested that they were police officers, as relatively few civilians are instructed in that stance (it's covered briefly in the Arizona concealed carry course, but most shooters used the isoceles stance). He eventually dismissed the idea since they did things few cops would do--they turned their backs on potential threats. Sometimes the positions of the robbers can provide clues as to where to look for forensic evidence. Quite a common method is DNA testing of places where hands have been on counters. In another case, Lt. Robinson showed a video of a convenience store robbery in which one suspect takes a candy bar and puts it in his pocket and claimed that he was later aprehended and identified by the serial number on the candy bar which he still had in his pocket (it showed a box number which had been purchased by that store).

He explained that when witnesses have all seen something, one thing officers try to do at once is to separate them and keep them from talking to each other about what they have seen so that they can get separate stories from everyone. He talked about the importance of not contaminating a crime scene and very careful forensic work. He said that it was a single act of carelessness that ensured OJ Simpson's acquittal. According to him, when the bodies of Nichole Brown-Simpson and Mr. Goldman were found, an officer wanted to cover their bodies to keep gawkers from seeing them. He took a blanket from Nichole's bed and put it over them. Later OJ's DNA was found on both of their bodies, but since other testimony revealed that OJ and Nichole had been having sex even after their marriage was over, it remained possible that OJ's DNA had been on the blanket from their sexual encounters and that it was only on their bodies because it transfered from the blanket after the officer used it to cover them.

Lt. Robinson readilly admitted that eyewitness testimony was very unreliable, and proved the point by staging a crime before the unsuspecting class. A "janitor" (a police sergeant we later learned) stole his cell phone while he was talking. We were asked to write up separate descriptions of the janitor. There was quite a diversion of opinion among the class regarding his description.

The class were about equally divided as to whether he was White or Hispanic, and one said he hought he was Asian (he was White and non- Hispanic, a German-American). Opinions on his age ranged from 25 to 65 (he was 49). Opinions on his weight varied from 140 lbs. to 280 lbs. (the correct value was 202 lbs.). Opinions on his height varied from 5'9" to 6'1" (6'0" was correct). Only about one-third of those in the class correctly stated that he was wearing glasses. About half of us, however, correctly identified him in the six-photo lineup. Almost everyone was correct that he had a mustache but no beard.

My own performance was mediocre. I was correct about race and precisely correct about height. I was very close in weight (I guessed 200 lbs.). I underestimated his age (I guessed 35) and failed to notice his glasses. I also failed to identify his picture and thought he was one of the other men pictured. In short, if I had to identify someone in court, I would have to honestly say that there would still be reasonable doubt.

Lt. Robinson ordered that the doors be closed durin the presentation. He was evidently anxious that no one whose background had not been checked have access to this information. He said this was instituted a few years ago after one of the students was on a ride-alone and the officer with her ran her name in the car and found numerous arrest warrants.

He did not go into a lot of interrogation tactics, although he said that the police were allowed to lie to try to get a confession. I didn't learn much over and above why Copwatch emphasizes that it is almost never in a suspect's interests to talk to the cops and that it is best to refuse to answer any questions.

There was a video of a fellow with a mask and a shotgun who stayed at a convenience store and kept buying things, never committing any robbery. He was still arrested for conspiracy.

The class ended with a video of a notorious shootout involving the Los Angeles Police and some very well-armed bank robbers that took place in February 1997 and lasted 34 minutes. That was thrilling, but not a great deal was learned from it.

Next week we go to the Police Academy site near South Mountain for a presentation by the Bomb Squad.



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