Since my first day on the job, one of the hard and fast rules of policing in this town is when there is a murder, the Homicide Unit takes full control of the assignment. As a patrol officer, you protect the scene and patiently – or impatiently – make sure no one crosses the police line, and wait for the detectives to arrive.
What you NEVER do is speak with witnesses, or molest the crime scene in any way. Well, that used to be the policy.
On Sunday night at approximately 5pm, we had our first homicide. The victim was shot multiple times and was pronounced at the hospital. We were ready to head to the scene, then were informed the victim expired. The Homicide Unit was notified, which absolved us of any responsibility. So, we went back to our usual grind of robberies, assaults, etc.
About a half hour later, the Night Commander called the division and asked where we were. Well, we were sitting at our desks because Homicide was handling the job. The Commander – who used to be the commander of Homicide – demanded to speak to our supervisor. The Commander then told our supervisor that we were to send two detectives and a supervisor to the murder scene and to start interviewing witnesses.
The supervisor asked the Commander if he was joking – I thought the same because I never heard of anything close to this – and he was not. At all. The supervisor has a good head on is shoulders, so he acknowledged the order, but called the Homicide Unit to let them know what was going on…
The Homicide Unit was not pleased.
The Homicide Commander said, “Please don’t do that.” He continues, “We’re sending out a team soon, but if the Commander gave you an order, head out, walk around a little bit, but please don’t do anything.” Our supervisor laughed and replied, “I can do that.”
When I got out of the police academy, I was sent to one of the most violent districts in the city. I responded to my first homicide my third night on the job, and the guy died as I was pulling him out of the car. During the next six years, I saw so many homicides that they stopped registering. “Oh look, another dead guy.” I also learned the rules for Homicide Unit. Quickly.
One of their absolute rules involves their people doing all the paperwork. I have been assigned shootings where I did hours of work, than the victim dies, and Homicide takes over. They swipe your file, shred all your interviews, and start fresh. It’s infuriating, but that’s their policy. The Commander knew this, but he wanted us to go out and take interviews which were simply going to be jettisoned.
I honestly don’t know what happened to this department in the last twenty-six-plus years, but it is unrecognizable from the department I joined. None of the upper echelon bosses give a damn, the street supervisors are mostly incompetent, and the police officers are young and stupid.
P.S. – By the way, we had another homicide in the same district a few hours later. Not one patrol supervisor came over the air to ask for conditions, flash on the doer, etc. Our supervisor asked for flash information over the radio, and one officer said, “Well, there was a party. A big party. And they wouldn’t tell me who was at the party, or was around the party.”
Everyone in my squad heard that gibberish, and we all doubled over in laughter.