Yesterday I had a chance to spend three hours with real crime scene and other law enforcement professionals, along with 75 mostly mystery writers and including some other Crimespacers, in an event sponsored by MWA-New York, at Katherine Gibbs of all places, where they've branched out from training pink collar workers to offering an associates degree in criminal justice. I use an amateur sleuth precisely so I don't need to master the forensic details, but we all need some artistic verisimilitude, and this was a very cool way to pick up some ideas in that department. The stars of the afternoon were two K-9s with very different personalities, one with an NYPD handler and the other with a Statie. But the other sessions--with detectives from the Crime Scene Unit who demonstrated a lot of their paraphernalia, a hostage negotiator, and cops who talked about interviews and interrogations--were lively and informative. One of my buddies suspected the guy next to her of being a crook: all his questions were about whether you could beat this test or that. (Short answer: No. And that applies to disguising scent to throw tracking dogs off, scrubbing out bloodstains, and many other kinds of evidence.) The most immediate result for me was that I realized that I have to make a bigger deal of the cops shooing everybody out and sealing off the scene in my most recent ms. The crime scene investigators may be through in a couple of hours or working 30 or 35 hours nonstop. (I assume Crimespacers don't need to be told that TV CSI, where the crime scene officers interview witnesses and do their own lab work, is, er, fiction.) As one detective said, "You don't want us to be called in to your apartment. We do a lot of damage." I immediately imagined a scene in which my protagonist might come home to find the body of a total stranger in his living room, be asked to leave until the crime scene investigation is complete, and come home to find a giant hole in the living room floor. Yep, that's what they do if they have to: muddy footprint on the floor? If they can't get the impression any other way, they'll take the whole section of flooring. Bloody handprint on the wall? Same thing. I asked about compensation. "Oh, yes," the detective said. "If you sue, the city will pay."
lively and informative too.