What's It Really Like Being a Homicide Detective?
As a criminal defense attorney, my dealings with homicide detectives are always in opposition. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some homicide detectives that hate me. My job is to attack their case, attack their credibility, and their knowledge, in defense of someone that very likely committed the crime in exactly the manner the detective is on the stand describing. So homicide detectives, and FBI agents when I'm in federal court, and I have a complicated relationship.
But, most of the books I write deal with FBI agents and homicide detectives chasing down the most sick and depraved killers I can think of. So it's interesting for me to read how others view the detectives, and to craft an objective view of them.
And I think I do have a more objective view than most, because I've seen both sides of the good and evil perpetrated by the boys in blue.
Most of the detective novels I've read paint homicide detectives (and police in general) as saviors of the human race that can do no wrong. Well, sorry, but that ain't reality. The reality is that I've had detectives and police officers fabricate evidence to get convictions against people that pissed them off, I've seen them abuse inmates and detainees on videos I later obtained, and yes, I've seen them hurt and even kill people. In fact, at a recent preliminary hearing, we asked an officer if he had ever been disciplined. He stated no, then thought about it a second longer, and then said, "Well, I'm under investigation for rape. I guess that counts."
Seriously? He had to think about it and then said he "guessed" being under investigation for rape qualified as discipline? We sued the department and the county/city to get our hands on the findings of this investigation. Rather than give it to us, the county/city dismissed the case against our client entirely. A scary thought that they let our client go so they wouldn't have to release the results of a rape investigation against one of their officers.
But, some of the best people I know are police officers, too. People that put themselves in danger to help others selflessly.
It's like any other profession: there are good ones, and there are bad ones. And you have to take the good with the bad. Detectives may have a skewed view of us defense attorneys as well, but they have to simply take the same stance. There's good and bad in every profession. And the detectives have to understand that defense attorneys are the common citizen's only defense against an overzealous, powerful government (anyone that's had to deal with the IRS knows how scary government can be).
But what's it like to walk in a homicide detective's shoes? Here's an interview with a nearly thirty year veteran of the LAPD robbery-homicide squad. I would recommend checking out the full film One-Eight-Seven as well.