Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 1

Writers' Police Academy turns murder and mayhem into a three-day thrill ride for writers. 

Lee Lofland, who organizes WPA with Guilford Technical Community College and High Point Library, watched the new recruits come in after planning all year. He wrote his mother hen account of Thursday night as Day One, "All My Children." 

My fourth year working behind the scenes shifted into gear Friday morning. Between directing recruits to firearms training and peddling souvenirs, I caught part of Detective Sluder's session on Human Trafficking. He taught us the difference between trafficking (crime against a person, involuntary) and smuggling (crime against the state, voluntary), and told us about the NHTRC resources and hotline

Katherine Ramsland
Dave Pauly
Friday afternoon brought more free time to hear Katherine Ramsland and Dave Pauly teach about cold cases. There are over 150,000 cold cases (since 1980). 

Katherine got to help verify the body of Jesse James. "It's great fun to dig up old people," she said. 

Dave warned that a lot of murders show no signs of forced entry — the victims let intruders schmooze their way inside. (As I was writing this, I talked to a power company rep through my locked, glass door and told him to leave the paperwork outside.)

In a crowded afternoon session, Katherine (Dr. Ramsland) explained the difference between serial killers, mass murderers and killing sprees. The definitions have changed over the years, but basically, serial killers have a down time between killings, and they plan to go on killing without getting caught. Spree killers are on the move, in sort of a suicidal car-jacking supply-stealing escape, and don't stop until someone stops them (I'm thinking Bonnie and Clyde). Mass murderers have been building up some sort of grudge or anger for years, and retaliate in an explosion of killing — not necessarily the person or people who started the grudge.

Dr. Dan Krane gave an entertaining and technical presentation on DNA forensics. As a novice DNA genealogist (who solved a 137-year-old missing person case last year), I was fascinated. 

He told us what tiny amounts are needed for a DNA sample, and the importance of how the results are presented in court. In one case, a man was convicted on a partial DNA profile, when that same profile could have applied to at least three other people at the scene. 

And you only need about $50-60,000 to start your own crime lab. 

WPA throws in a few surprises every year. Instead of a speaker for the Night Owl session, we left the hotel to watch felony traffic stop procedures. 

Traffic stop with an unknown number of suspects in the car.

"Keep your hands in the air and walk backwards."

Don't mind Lee. He's just taking pictures for The Graveyard Shift.  ;-)

Here are Lee's Friday photos


Lee Lofland said...

What a fantastic recap, and thanks for all you do for the WPA. You are very much appreciated!

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Thanks, Lee!