Thursday, August 30, 2007

Questions and Answers

by Joyce Tremel

Welcome to what I'm calling "Law Enforcement Thursdays." For the near future, I'll be posting every Thursday while our other Thursday blogger, mother-to-be Kristine, moves to Fridays--once a month. Hopefully, you won't be stuck with me every week--I plan on bringing in guest bloggers every once in awhile.

We'll start off LET with questions and answers. Is there some kind of police procedure you'd like to know more about? Is there a scene in your book that you'd like to make more realistic? Did you just get arrested and want to know what's next?

Ask away!


Lee Lofland said...

I have two questions. Who investigates murders in Pennsylvania? Is it the local police department, the state police, who?

I found it interesting to learn that investigators for the prosecutors offices handle all murder investigations in Massachusetts.

Next question:

How far outside your city limits do police officers have jurisdiction? Some states, such as Virginia have a 300 foot allowance. Anything over that distance the officer is out of bounds and the arrest becomes illegal (unless he is in hot pursuit).

Joyce said...

Hey, who said you were allowed to ask questions? That's not fair!

Pennsylvania is weird--in more ways than one. In some areas, especially rural areas that don't have their own police depts, the state police handle things.

Here in Allegheny County, we have a county police force and also a sheriff's dept. The sheriffs handle things like warrants, court security, etc. The Allegheny County Police dept. handles investigations. (Adams County--where I did a lot of research--is very similar.)

If there was a murder in Shaler Township, here's what would happen: After the initial call, the patrolmen would secure the scene, and call out one or both of our detectives, in addition to the lieutenant on duty and probably the chief. The detective would call out county homicide, the ME, etc. The case usually goes to the county detectives with ours assisting. All lab work and evidence would go to the county crime lab.

It's different in the City of Pittsburgh. Even though they're part of the county, they have their own force and their own homicide unit. Every once in awhile, there's talk of consolidating the city and the county depts, but nothing ever comes of it. Neither one wants to give up their autonomy.

As far as jurisdiction goes, I'm not really sure that there are any laws. It seems to me to be more of a courtesy thing around here. If a cop goes to a neighboring jurisdiction, they let that dept. know what's going on and ask for an assist. (ie. "We have a warrant for so and so, can you meet us at the house.")Two of our neighboring towns are very small (one is only one square mile). They have their own police forces, but we are constantly assisting them. I've never heard of an arrest being illegal around here because it was made in another jurisdiction.

ramona said...

I have one, Joyce. I'm in Delaware, but let's assume it's all the same everywhere.

At Borders, the night of the Harry Potter party, two state police officers were there for security. (Although, who knows, maybe they were fans, there to pick up their books!) I also notice a state trooper at a local movie theatre. Can that kind of work provide a decent side income? What kind of security jobs are available?

Lee Lofland said...

Pittsburgh operates like most places.

On the jurisdiction thing, I wasn't asking about when an investigation invloves another department and officers ask them to go along. That happens everywhere, but it's the officers who work in that jurisdiction who'd have to make the arrest. The visiting officer could not do so legally. I guess I didn't make myself clear (that's nothing new!).

I was asking what distance, if any, outside of your city limits can your officers make a legal arrest. There will be a code section in the law books that spells this out.

Officers only have police powers in areas where they're sworn. They just can't go out in the county or the next town and make an arrest unless they've been sworn in to do so.

Lee Lofland said...

Hey Ramona, there is a huge public uproar going on here in Boston about officers working overtime and part time jobs. Figures have surfaced showing some officers earning in excess of $200,000 last year (with overtime; part time work is extra). I'd say it's profitable.

ramona said...

Good info to know, Joyce. I was thinking in terms of "access"--how to have a cop character appear in various places where he's working, but there is not necessarily a crime. I didn't realize it was so lucrative. That's something to think about, too.


Anonymous said...

What are some ways in which the Shaler detectives would assist the county detectives in investigating a murder?

Lee Lofland said...

Thanks, Joyce. This question comes up all time and it seems the answer is different for each locality.

Have fun on your day off. Sounds as if you're having a real relaxing day.

Joyce said...

Kristine, I'll tell you how it worked on one case from a few years ago. It's been adjudicated, so it's okay for me to blab.

Officers were dispatched to a house for shots fired. (The victim's brother managed to climb out a second floor window and call for help.) When the officers arrived, they found two females and a male who had been shot. One female and the male were DOA. The other female eventually died too.

The first female victim was found on the steps, shot in the back. The male in the hallway at the bottom of the steps and the other female in I think the dining room.

This investigation was different than some because we knew who the actor was. He was identified by the victim's brother as her ex-boyfriend who apparently had been stalking her for sometime. When they were together, they had numerous domestics and she was advised to get a PFA (which she never did). The male victim was her current boyfriend, and the other woman was her sister. The actor shot the boyfriend first, the the victim as she tried to escape up the stairs, then the sister when she came in to see what was going on.

In this case, a whole lot of investigation wasn't needed, other than the usual crime scene stuff. Our Shaler detectives worked on tracking down the actor who was eventually apprehended at his mother's house. The county detectives stayed at the scene.

They really work together on most things. Things are rarely entirely turned over to the county. They just have more resources than we do. They all get along well, too. You don't see resentment between agencies like they show on TV.

Joyce said...

Yeah, Lee. Real relaxing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joyce!

Joyce said...

Lee, I got an answer for your jurisdiction question. According to the PA Crimes Code, section 8953 "Any duly employed municipal police officer who is within this Commonwealth, but beyond the territorial limits of his primary jurisdiction, shall have the power an authority to enforce the laws of this Commonwealth or other perform the functions of that office as if enforcing those laws or performing those functions within the territorial limits of his primary jurisdiction in the following cases:"

In short, the cases are serving a court order, hot pursuit, request for assistance, permission by the chief in that jurisdiction, when on official duty and he witnesses an offense, or any time he witnesses a felony and identifies himself as a police officer.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Hi Joyce! What if a "real" cop (aka a homicide detective) was the boyfriend of an amateur sleuth (say, a TV journalist). If she was getting too deeply involved in an investigation (an investigation that was not his case, or even his jurisdiction), because she was trying to protect a friend (and also break a story), what would he be likely to do? Warn her off? Dismiss her efforts? Blow up? Thanks for any insights you can provide! Best, Kathryn

Joyce said...

Hi Kathryn! Nice to see you here.

That's a tough question and there's probably no one single answer for it. My guess would be he'd warn her off and maybe call whoever is working the case to find out just what kind of danger she could be in. Cops love to talk to each other about their cases.

I can see where you could have all kinds of conflict between the cop and the journalist. He'd want to keep her safe, and she'd want to help her friend and maybe get a story out of it.

Lee, if you're around, maybe you can give your perspective on this.

Mamajo1 said...

Hello, All.

Can someone explain the DUI Procedures in Allegheny County.

One of my sons was arrested on a DUI in Rosslyn Farms, PA.

He passed all of the field sobriety tests.

The arresting officer was not satisfied & took him to Ohio Valley Hospital for a blood draw.

It is my understanding that the officer then takes the secure blood samples for transfer to the Allegheny County Crime Lab for processing.

The results are still not available & he is scheduled for a hearing before the magistrate on Thursday, September 6th.

Joyce said...

mamajo--I only noticed your comment today. Sorry!

If he passed his field sobriety tests, I'm not sure why they requested a blood draw, unless his tests were borderline or your sone didn't tell you everything. They would need probable cause for the blood test.
It's not unusual for the blood results to take awhile. Since they're not back yet, at his hearing the magistrate will "continue" the hearing and reschedule it for a later date. Make sure your son attends the hearing anyway, so they don't issue a warrant for his arrest.