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Loose Lips Sink Ships

Keep quiet in the field of you could unintentionally jeopardize a case.

September 22, 2011  |  by Steve Albrecht

Photo: Mark W. Clark.
Photo: Mark W. Clark.
"It's a 'he said, she said' case. They don't have any DNA. I don't think the woman even had a medical exam." So started a conversation between a real rapist and a helpful patrol officer, who apparently had just contracted a medical disease occasionally found in police work known as the dreaded "cranial-rectal inversion."

For some reason the cop told the crook that the homeless woman he had actually punched into unconsciousness and raped a few days ago had not undergone a sexual assault exam by a forensic nurse. So the bad guy, when he was questioned later by two sex crimes detectives, knew he was in the clear. At that moment in time, he was not just a "suspect," as in, he might have done it, but he was a true sexual predator with previous convictions for violence and prison time.

When those same detectives questioned the rapist later and said they had evidence to nail him on the assault, he looked at them directly and said, "You won't find my DNA, unless tennis shoes leave DNA. All I did was walk up and talk to her."

Puzzled as to how the suspect already knew the victim had not been examined, the detectives met with their patrol pal in blue, only to learn he was the one who had told the suspect all he needed to know.

Prosecutors want to keep their high conviction rates for sexual assault cases. So without sexual assault exams of the victim and the suspect to provide DNA as proof that the act took place, no charges were filed against the man who most likely raped the homeless woman.

You don't want this to happen to you. Here are some reminders of other wrongheaded ideas that could lead you to say or do something you shouldn't and royally muck up a case.


Go ahead and explain to suspects some legal stuff that might have evidentiary value later. Be a good sport and tell the homicide suspect that the guy in the back of the ambulance got shot three times in the back and once in the head with a .45. Help the nice rapist out by telling him that we can't find the victim's bloody clothes or that she is mentally ill, so the district attorney probably won't issue on her case anyway.

Better yet, don't bother to impound anything from inside that filthy duffel bag carried by the suspect or the victim. Who wants to go digging around a place where bloody or semen-covered clothes, knives, money, drugs, or other fruits or instrumentalities of the crime may be hidden?

In a rare case of double cranial-rectal inversion, a patrol officer who had responded to a rape scene was told by his patrol sergeant (a man who had presumably passed a promotional exam and sat through an interview panel), "Don't collect that used condom. Just take a photograph of it." So he took the photo as ordered and left it there, presumably for the victim (or someone) to dispose of that seemingly trivial piece of sexual assault evidence later.


When in doubt about evidence, shut up and impound everything. If it looks like evidence, if it's on or carried by the victim or suspect, or if it belongs to someone who may be a victim or a suspect and it's nearby, collect it.


Go ahead and give the suspect some free legal advice: "If I were you pal, I'd get myself a good lawyer; you're gonna need it."


Be like Zeus in the field; observe from on high. Once the scene is stable, watch, listen, and wait. Don't make any comments about the situation, to anyone other than other cops, and in low tones at that.

Reading the Miranda warning to an angry, frightened, or vocal suspect right after he is arrested is what TV cops do. Good cops say nothing and let suspects make as many unsolicited statements as they want, in the field, en route to the station, or on the way to jail. Let them hang themselves with their words, which is all the more reason to buy a small tape recorder and leave it running in your patrol car during their monologues.

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