Sunday 6 May 2012

ORWA Homicide Lecture

The Ottawa Romance Writers Association just had the most amazing lecture from a retired Lieutenant-Detective from Homicide.  I have six pages full of notes to transcribe about police procedures, investigations and fun to share homicide facts.  The lecturer, Steve Roberts, was full of funny stories about crimes he investigated.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a workshop so much.

Several things he said stuck with me.  One was that people are predictable.  The majority of murderers are not criminal geniuses.  They get stressed  both before and after the crime, realizing what they've done and begin to react instead of thinking.  They drive their own cars, talk on their cell phones, take their usual route home.  He told us that most people want to unburden their conscience and end up making very detailed confessions.  Then they relax.  Often, the first thing they'll ask for after a confession isn't a lawyer, but for something to eat.  They've been running on adrenaline and now it's crashing.

He talked about how most homicide detectives are adrenaline junkies.  The thrill of the hunt drives them.  Solving the puzzle is meat and drink to them.  Once the criminal is caught, the chase is over and they get their own crashes.  I can see how searching through the crime scene or a statement and finding the tiny inconsistency which will start the whole cover-up unravelling could be an intoxicating obsession.  Certainly anyone who enjoys a good mystery would sympathize.

He was honest that the work is gruesome, with long hours of painstaking labour.  Most of the time, it would actually be quite boring to tell about.  He talked about needing the patience and the mental fortitude to do the work, something which some detectives can't manage.  They get overwhelmed and have to either quit or find something to numb the pain.

His most useful skill?  The ability to be understanding with all manner of individuals, from the nine-to-fivers, to the criminal and drug world, to the court and lawyers.  He was very emphatic about not putting people into convenient boxes with convenient labels to make ourselves feel better.  It's important to see people as people, no matter what they've done.  If you're judgemental and come down on them, they'll clam up and you'll never get the information you need.  But by treating his suspects with respect, he was often able to create a rapport and get them to open up with all the details the prosecution needed.

All in all, it was an amazing opportunity to gain insight into a world few of us will ever experience.  There are more lectures of this sort coming up on the ORWA calendar and I will definitely be signing up for them.

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