Police Procedurals − think Inspector Banks or John Rebus or books by Henning Mankell − focus on crime, investigation and verdicts. They are one of the most popular genres of genre fiction with readers and writers.
RCMP Sergeant Patrice Poitevin shared his expertise after 32 years on the force at the Ad Astra SciFi and Fantasy Conference last weekend. For those who couldn’t be there, some tips from his Police Procedural 101.
- Accuracy brings your story to life. Get the details right. Don’t do anything to pull your reader from the story. Sgt. Poitevin takes a personal interest. His wife Linda Poitevin writes a paranormal detective series as well as romance novels.
- Forensic Science, including DNA, can be the key to proving guilt or innocence. Chain of custody is important. Evidence gathered at the crime scene must be carefully managed to prevent contamination. That’s why you see the forensics unit in full body covering. Extraneous visitors including bigwigs are kept away by whoever is running the scene who could be the cop on patrol who found the crime.
- The CSI Effect drives real detectives crazy. “It doesn’t happen as fast as on CSI. It doesn’t happen in an hour.” Juries expect things to be as simple as on TV. “ DNA sequencing takes 48-72 hours. They have to grow it in the lab to test sufficiently.”And though big police force in major centres have their own labs others rely on Ontario’s Centre of Forensic Sciences lab in Toronto. The forensic material backs up the giving of evidence in court. The CSI Effect − that cases get solved in an hour − can affect the jury’s perception of the case put forward, and the evidence.
- Basic police work – asking questions – is critical. Without that, the scientific evidence is no help.
Tomorrow − Investigative Techniques