In both the legal arena and the criminal investigation field, nothing is static. The law changes, either by legislative enactments or by caselaw handed down from state and federal appellate courts.
By way of example, back in 1966, the US Supreme Court returned its decision in Miranda versus Arizona, affirming constitutional protections for persons in police custody. In 2000, Miranda survived a major challenge in Dickerson versus United States but the courts have chipped away at the landmark ruling since 1966.
Police procedure and criminal investigation methodology evolved over the years as well. At the risk of dating myself, when I was a police detective, DNA as a means of identifying persons of interest didn’t exist. We relied on confessions, witness ID, and finger and palm prints, to mention a few. We didn’t have cell phones, GPS devices, LoJack, or computer databases (like ViCAP, AFIS and CODIS) . Yes, compared to today, I worked in the stone ages. We didn’t use terms such as victimology, unsubs (The FBI actually coined this phrase-it didn’t happen on the TV show Criminal Minds), and person of interest (we used the term suspects).
My point is that in writing crime fiction (I’m sure it applies equally to other genres), an author MUST do research if he or she wants to publish a believable story that readers will purchase. Readers are much more cognizant of police trends, law enforcement terminology and changes in the law.
HOW? There is no better source for modern police procedures and practices, terminology and organizational structure than police agencies, including the FBI. I developed contacts within the Temple, Texas Police Department, the Austin, Texas Police Department, the Criminal Justice Department of Coastal Bend College, and the FBI. Just don’t expect them to tell everything as they do not want to see a ‘how-to’ manual become available to the very people they’re trying to arrest.
by Alan Brenham