Imagine how a police officer’s job would be if our workday was 60 minutes long, with commercials. The onslaught of law enforcement television programs certainly provides entertainment value; however, I wonder to what level they distort one’s perspective of the entire criminal justice system and perhaps, to a certain degree, taint a potential jurors point-of-view.
Let’s recap what we know from television. We know that all crime scenes leave an abundance of witnesses and DNA evidence. We also know, after a quick commercial break, that the witnesses all have the same version of what occurred and they are able to narrow down the suspect list to a few key individuals.
Time for another commercial.
Throughout that two minute break the DNA and fingerprint evidence has been submitted and already returned suspect list further refined. Time for another break after which they conduct a few one-minute interviews where one suspect points the finger at the other and WHAMMY off to court they go - time for another commercial and perhaps a doughnut break.
While these shows truly have entertainment value, they lack reality and often provide a significant disservice to true victims of crime as well as the law enforcement profession. Witnesses rarely, if ever, see the same thing. Contrary to popular belief, fingerprints cannot be obtained from every surface known to man and not every crime scene has buckets of DNA evidence.
This leaves the solving of crimes to great dispatchers, police officers, investigators and a host of additional support personnel. Each person plays a significant role in the often tedious tasks of evaluating a crime scene, combing through the evidence, and compiling to make sense of the different statements and how they correlate with the physical evidence, so that an arrest may be made.
Once all that is done, it is then sent to the appropriate prosecuting office for consideration of charges and, if approved, an arrest is made and a court date is set. All of this is rehashed at court, which can last from a few minutes for a simple crime to several days or even weeks for more complex cases; or, perhaps as quick as 60 minutes, with commercials.
John Chase can be reached via his e-mail address at Jchase@bcnv.org.