Several times a week, you can see how crimes are investigated in Las Vegas, in New York (Side note: Can you believe they "fired" Joe Torre?) and Miami.

If you believed what is on TV, you would think that overtime is not an issue, that resource scarcity in terms of well-qualified employees and adequate public dollars is not a problem in forensic science. As well, you would think that crime scene investigators are called out from the lab to every scene in the field.

To borrow a phrase: "That is only on TV."

In Londonderry, indeed in all police departments throughout New Hampshire, crime scenes are investigated by uniformed police officers o,r in larger agencies, detectives. Their training begins formally at the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council's 13-week academy.

There, officers learn the basics of police work. A small part of their work focuses on the investigation of criminal cases. For the most part, though, recruits learn how to shoot, they learn very basic self-defense, and they learn about the laws of arrest, search, seizure and motor vehicle.

The real work of learning about investigations comes when the newly trained police officers return to the home department. Here in Londonderry, criminal investigation training begins in the 12-week field training program most agencies have. It continues with on-the-job training and the in-service training at the police academy, and occasionally with the training put on by various third-party programs like the one offered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The gumshoes' training to be crime scene investigators continues when they are assigned or promoted, depending on the agency, to detectives. There the officers receive more specialized training that focuses on interrogation techniques and crime scene management. The on-the-job training continues apace.

For all the wonderful technology shown on the TV, usually all detectives brings along to a crime scene is their brain, their experience, a notebook, maybe a recorder, a camera, curiosity and patience. That and their pride and commitment to the job. The reality is that often by the time the cops return from the crime scene, the message box is full, paperwork needs to be fixed, and the lieutenant has asked them to follow up on another case.

The truth of crime scene investigation, in fact the truth of any aspect of law enforcement, is that people who care work hard on the case. It's the people who work as detectives who make the difference, who compile the facts, make the observations, who explain the law, who hold the hand, who write the reports, draft the warrants and give the testimony, all of which helps to bring the bad guys to justice. The reality: There are no labs that give immediate results; in fact, the results may not come in for months.

Justice, if it comes, comes in years, not in an hour, or two if the show is continued until next week or next season. This is not a criticism of the state lab, rather, it is a recognition that in real life, when someone's house is burglarized or a sexual assault investigation comes in, it is handled by a detective with limited time and forensic resources, and a boatload of other cases that are all important to the people victimized by crime.

Keep that in mind this Thursday at nine.


Londonderry police Capt. Bill Hart's column appears Fridays in the Derry News.

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