I’m a real straight-arrow so I never get to meet the “nose-pickin’, booger-eatin’ morons” that Sgt Derek Pacifico talked about in his Homicide Investigation School for Crime Writers last weekend in Covina, California.
For a long time I’ve been collecting “stupid criminal stories”, but Derek topped them all. I just never meet AHs (figure it out) who shoot somebody in the face and think they don’t die.
A group of us at the California Crime Writers’ Conference in June 2011 heard him give a four-hour presentation on Interview and Interrogation Techniques and were spellbound. We wanted more and he dished it up for us.
Pacifico was funny, serious, thoughtful and thought-provoking. As a law enforcement trainer, he’s traveled the country teaching the same material to cops. He’s worked Homicide Detail as well as all the other facets of police work and is now a Sergeant with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.
He liked us because we wanted to learn and didn’t sit there, arms crossed, giving off testosterone fumes, and the attitude of “Yeah, dude, go ahead. Teach me something I don’t know.” He was honest and forthcoming about what really lies behind the crime scene tape.
We liked him because he’s just plain likeable. From video clips we saw he’s got a line of jokey, rapport-building bullshit with criminals in the interrogation room that got him a lot of confessions. I can see why.
The case studies were particularly interesting because they provided a reconstruction of what first just looked like confusion—and probably was. We learned how tedious it is to string a scene analyzing bullet trajectories, interpreting blood spatter, collecting maggots for testing, and sifting the dirt where the homicide occurred. It's not nearly as exciting as it is on TV, where a crime scene is “done” in 30 minutes instead of 36 hours.
Pacifico is talking about setting up a conference of some length just for crime writers, bringing in experts he teaches and works with. Where? To be decided.
I can’t wait.
Mar Preston, author of crime fiction No Dice, is today’s guest blogger, filling in for Jodie Renner, who recently edited Preston’s second police suspense-mystery, Rip-Off, also set in Santa Monica, California. You can email Mar at email@example.com, and find out more about her two Detective Dave Mason police mysteries, No Dice, and soon, Rip-Off, at www.marpreston.com.