Come on admit it. You all have that favorite TV show you love where the show starts, some major crime happens and within the hour (including commercials) the bad guy is caught prosecuted and in jail. It’s a satisfying ride, right? Justice served swiftly and fairly and in an hour or less. It is always amazing, they lift a fingerprint (every time) or get DNA they then take to some laptop, phone or tablet, upload it and the analysis magic happens and then BOOM – a match!! The next scene they are kicking in the door of that person and rifling through their belongings looking for evidence and taking them in for questioning. The police throw all sorts of evidence at them, there is the inevitable stare down between the good guy and bad guy and case closed! Such a thrilling episode…..
Well, then there is real life. What does real life for a small town NH police officer mean? Well for one, LOTS of paperwork. We respond, take the initial report look for evidence, take it back process it ourselves, document it, photograph it, seal it in evidence packaging, draw a report, then a property number then it goes to the one and only forensics lab in the State. The lab is located in Concord with specific hours, and you can’t just go at any time since an appointment to drop your evidence off is needed. Then, it gets prioritized in several different categories. Was it property crime? Is there a known suspect? Are there charges or a court date pending? – Depending on the answer, your evidence may end up at the bottom of the stack. Most of the time, this is the case. Now, the waiting game begins. It could be months and sometimes years before you have any results. But then still, now what?
The officer has a lot more paperwork to do. Depending on the severity of the case, we could draft a warrant and try to locate the person or it goes to the County Attorney Office where the case is looked at to see if it is deemed a “prosecutable” case. If so, then a date for Grand Jury is set. They only meet once a month and you are one of 23 towns that also only has the one date a month to go in front of the Grand Jury. If you are lucky, then the case is heard within 3 months of the completed case being sent up. Now, during that time, the victim in the case gets more and more frustrated and questions arise: What is going on? How come there has not been an arrest? Are you even taking my case seriously? Are your officers properly trained?
TV shows such as CSI, NCIS, The Closer are all good TV shows, but that is just it; it’s a show. It’s entertainment. Even more “real time” shows such as Live PD do not show the behind the scenes parts such as reports and paperwork. This does not attract potential watchers as we can all watch most of our own co-workers doing paperwork. It is not a ratings driver is it?
I wanted to put out this bit of “insider information” so that the public was aware of the hurdles and issues that arise when attempting to investigate and work a case. It is frustrating for our victims and for our community and hopefully this insight provides a little more understanding as to the process we have to follow while conducting our investigations.