During the latest session of the Waxahachie Citizens Police Academy, detective Ron Clayton demonstrated how crime scenes are worked and investigations done.
“As detectives we get called out to crime scenes. Patrol did their job in securing the scene and they have tape up. There is one way in. Everybody who crosses the tape, that officer is writing their name down,” Clayton said.
“That list will be part of the case file,” he said. “This is a neat tool to keep people out of the crime scene because they know once they cross it they are on that list and are liable to be subpoenaed to court. That is a big deal. It is really a serious point because the only people that have been there are the victim and the suspect.”
When processing a scene, detectives look at everything that could be connected to the victim as evidence. They’re also looking for items that don’t belong or are out of place such as a garden shovel that is in the living room or furniture that has been knocked over. While checking the scene for evidence it is important that detectives look in every direction – up, down, left and right. When a piece of evidence is spotted before it is moved it is photographed from several distances, Clayton explained, saying that a ruler is photographed along side to provide scale when photographing evidence, which might be anything from shell casings to a cut on a hand.
“Before you collect any evidence, wear gloves and booties and possibly even a full Tyvek suit. You can’t John Wayne this stuff anymore. So with evidence collection we use paper and plastic,” he said.
“In my opinion, everything goes in paper because it breathes. For the collection of knives and pistols we have boxes to put them in that are designed for that.”
If it’s the scene of a homicide Clayton said it’s important to get an identification of the person, which can be done in several ways: by looking through a wallet, purse or going through a person’s mail. Detectives also work to identify anyone else who they might want to question relating to an offense.
Clayton also talked to the students about questioning people and the Miranda warning, saying the only time a person needs have his or her rights read is when detectives are asking questions pertinent to the case. Questions about what a person’s name is, date of birth or medical problems do not require the Miranda warning be given, he said.
Once back at the station Clayton explained that, when working the case, detectives take additional statements, make phone calls and conduct interviews with victims, witnesses and suspects. If a detective determines there is enough evidence to move forward, he then goes before a judge to get a warrant signed and then executes it.
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