Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

These are the names that are listed on the Vietnam Memorial of the men from my hometown of Linden, NJ who died in that war.  

I grew up with George Farawell.  We played baseball together from Little League through high school.  George had a great sense of humor and was a very good ballplayer.  

Eddie West sat next to me in study hall at Linden High School.  He was a good guy who looked forward to joining the Marines.  

Otto Ostenfelt was from my neighborhood.  He found his niche in the Marines and was going to make it a career.  

Pete Scott was the older brother of one of my best friends.  He introduced us to the music of Bob Dylan and Bo Diddley before he enlisted in the Air Force.

Memorial Day is a special day in which we honor the fallen, those who died in the service of our country.  All of these men had dreams and goals that were never fulfilled.  It is for us, the living, to pause on this day and remember their sacrifice, and to silently thank them for every day we live in freedom.

They will not be forgotten.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Somebody Wrote a Book About It

My father was one of the simplest yet smartest men I ever met.  He always told me that if you don’t know how to do something, somebody who does wrote a book about it.  He taught himself how to type when he was 50 by reading a book and practicing at night after work.  He would read every article and book he could find about his passion, golf.  He not only played golf, he knew golf.

The same goes for investigating.  Want to know the proper way to investigate a crime scene, how to preserve evidence, how to interview someone, how to interrogate a suspect, how to do surveillances etc., there’s some expert out there who wrote a book about it.  

Now with the internet, you can find these books on-line. You can also contact a legal book store near you for assistance. You can also locate the expert authors themselves on-line and contact them directly.  Most of them would be only too willing to share their knowledge and assist you on a case.  The key thing is to be pro active.  So if you want to learn your trade and get good at your craft, read a book about it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Get out of the office

As a private investigator, do you ever find yourself spending too much time in your office?  It is a necessary evil, what with writing reports, making calls, doing computer searches, sending out invoices, marketing clients etc.  But sometimes I think we can become chained to that office chair.  What’s more, I believe some of an investigator’s most important skills can erode because of it.

Let’s take interviews for example.  One of the most important skills an investigator can possess is that of interviewing.  It’s how we gain critical information which helps us solve cases.  How often have you foregone a personal interview for a phone one?  Oh sure, it’s quick and easy.  But there’s a price to be paid.  It is difficult to develop a rapport with a witness in a phone interview.  Your just a faceless voice on a phone.  How many times have you hung up the phone and realized you didn’t ask an important question or you felt pressed for time.   

In an in-person interview, I’ll spend 10/15 minutes talking to the person about their home, garden, hobby etc. before I get into the interview itself. People love to talk about things that interest them, and they become relaxed with your presence.  You can get a lot more information that way then just going right into questioning them.  You’re also developing and maintaining your people skills.

I think in this technology age we have a tendency to rely too much on the computer.  Don’t get me wrong, computers are great.  They have made our lives and our jobs infinitely easier.  But there is a price to pay, and that is we can become office bound.  If you don’t develop and utilize your people skills, you’ll lose them.

Being out of the office and on the street is like exercise.  You feel better, think clearer, and most important, you can make things happen.  I can’t tell you how many important interviews I got, how many neighbor tips I received, and how many important witnesses I was able to subpoena just because I went out there and did something.

I had a veteran police detective tell me when I first started out as an investigator that you don’t solve cases by sitting in your office waiting for the phone to ring.  You have to go out there and make things happen.  So push yourself away from that desk, turn off your computer, grab that case file and get out there and do something!  You’ll feel better for it and you’ll solve cases.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When I became a police officer in 1976, we were issued .38 caliber revolvers.  When I retired from the LAPD in 1998, they were issuing 9 millimeters to all the recruits going through the academy.  There was a big difference between carrying a revolver with six rounds versus an automatic with 15 rounds (One in the chamber and 14 in the magazine). With the .38, we carried 6 round speedy loaders to reload. I see officers today carrying two and sometimes three extra magazines on their gun belt.  Each magazine carries an additional 14 rounds.  That’s a lot rounds that can be generated in a gunfight.

With all this firepower available, why do I think officers should carry a backup gun?  Here’s three scenarios that will explain it.   In scenario one, an officer gets engaged in a gunfight with an armed suspect.  The suspect fires the first round, wounding the officer in his shooting arm and preventing him from drawing his weapon.  He is now basically unarmed, as it would be very difficult if not impossible for him to reach across and draw his weapon with his non-shooting hand.  If he carried a backup gun in the opposite side front pants pocket, however, he can rearm himself and engage the suspect.

Scenario two involves an officer who becomes engaged in a life or death physical altercation with a suspect.  At some point the suspect either grabs or is in the process of wresting the gun from the officer’s grasp. If the officer is carrying a backup, he can arm himself and engage the subject.

My last scenario is a real nightmare.  Somehow the officer gets in a situation where an armed suspect has the drop on him.  He may be able to pretend to give up his service weapon while drawing his backup gun and engaging the suspect.  This is a worst case scenario, but some officers have been put in this situation and survived it.

Something to remember about a backup gun.  It’s supposed to be a hidden.  I knew officers who used to stick it inside their gun belt.  You could see the gun butt sticking out.  That’s definitely not hidden.  You should be able to get to it quickly with your non-shooting hand.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t recommend an ankle holster. You have to reach down to your ankle to draw it.  That costs precious seconds you don’t have.  It inhibits you from running in a foot pursuit, and more importantly, it can easily become loose.

You should be able to get to it quickly with your non-shooting hand.  I recommend putting it in the opposite front pocket from your holster.  It should be small enough to be inconspicuous.  For years I carried a 2 inch barrel, five shot .38 in a leather pocket holster that fit just right in my pants pocket.  I would also have a tailor drop my right front uniform pants pocket (I’m left handed) two inches so the gun butt wouldn’t stick out.

Things can go bad on the streets in a blink of an eye.  In a life or death gunfight or physical altercation, a backup gun may just save your life.

Friday, May 4, 2012


During my police career, I put many suspects in prison for crimes they committed.  There were two cases, however, where I proved that the arrestee didn’t do it.  What was even more extraordinary was that both of these arrestees were two of the biggest jerks I ever handled. 

The first case involved the suspect being arrested sitting in a stolen car that had been taken in a residential burglary.  He had a lengthy arrest record and had already done time in prison.  When I interviewed him at the police station, besides being an incessant chatterbox who just wouldn’t shut up, he tried to tell me that a guy had picked him up and had given him the keys to the car.  He had fallen asleep in the car and was subsequently arrested by some uniform officers.  When it came time for his court date, he asked to see me.  In the lock up interview room he told me that the suspect who had given him the car was also in the lockup that day.  He saw him on the transportation bus from the jail to the court lockup and had even gotten his name.  I followed up on it and was able to prove that his story, incredible as it sounded, was true.  I was able to get the charges against him dropped, and filed burglary and auto theft charges against the other individual.  From that day on, every time he saw me either on the street or when he was at the police station, he always made it a point to thank me.

The second case was another residential burglary.  When I interviewed the arrestee at the police station, he was very arrogant and antagonistic.  As memory serves me, he had been identified by a witness and the case seemed very strong against him.  As I got further into the investigation, however, it became apparent that he hadn’t committed the crime.  When I went to court and requested the case against him be dropped, the public defender told me that his client was one of the most obnoxious persons he had ever represented.  That being said, he didn’t do the crime, and he was subsequently released.

Here’s the bottom line: As an investigator, your job is to find the truth.  If someone is charged with a crime, no matter what his background or record is, if he didn’t do it, then he goes free and you continue your search for the guilty party.  That’s what justice is all about.