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Day 7, US research trip, Believe No One

Believe No One takes Fennimore & Simms to the United States Mid West.
These blogs document the places we visited and people we met during the research trip.

Monday, 7th May 2012

Designated seating for suspects

Designated seating for suspects

We’re being shown around the interrogation rooms just as police officers bring a suspect in, and the arresting officer invites us to observe part of the interview.  The two way mirror which is a staple of TV cop shows isn’t used much anymore. Interviews are recorded, and they prefer instead to use a remote link to a conference room, where others can view the interview on a monitor and offer advice during breaks.

The suspect is handcuffed with his hands behind his back, but he’ll have to be handcuffed in front so he can sign his Miranda waiver and any statement he makes. The young officer conducting the interview is polite and low key – they’re just having a conversation. The suspect was arrested burgling a house. He claims it’s a friend’s house. He was worried about the dog locked inside and broke in purely out of concern. He gives the names of two people who can corroborate his story, and the officer leaves the room to go and check. He comes in to the conference room to explain what he’s doing, and an older officer comes in. He gives us some background on the man in the interview room, keeping a close eye on the video screen the whole time. He stops mid-sentence and says, ‘What the hell is he doin’?’  The suspect is bending down, almost to the floor, hands still cuffed behind him. At first it looks like he’s taking off his shoe, but no – he’s dug in his pocket and taken out his wallet.

By now, the interviewing officer is back with the suspect. Still polite, he says, ‘What’re you doin’?’ the suspect mumbles something unintelligible. ‘I’ll take that.’ ‘Mumble…’ ‘No,’ the officer says. ‘I’ll take care of it.’ The officer remains in the interview room while he checks the suspect’s wallet. Tucked in a corner he finds a tiny, 1cm square sealable baggy. ‘Is this meth?’ he asks. The suspect says, ‘Yes it is.’

The young officer comes through to the conference room with the baggy he’s just confiscated. Even though the suspect has admitted to possession of methamphetamine, they have to prove that the drug is what he thinks it is. So now the officer needs to do a presumptive field test. He takes a tiny quantity of the white powder from the bag, puts it in a field test bag and seals it. The test bag contains 3 ampoules – one to test for each of three different commonly found drugs. Three ampoules, three different reactions. You break the ampoule relating to the drug you’re interested in, then you shake. They call this type of test ‘pop and shake’ test. It turns dark blue – which confirms that the suspect is indeed in possession of methamphetamine. The sample will have to be sent to the lab for testing, but he can charge the suspect with possession on the basis of the field test. Possession of methamphetamine in Oklahoma is a felony, which carries a prison term from 2-10 years, and a $5000 fine.


Lineup - a redundant resource?

Lineup – a redundant resource?

From here, we go through to line-up. Tulsa went to photographic line up because of the difficulty of getting people in to swell the numbers. The problem with photo lineups, we’re told, is that people don’t look for the face they saw, but compare the photos and identify the person who most closely resembles the perpetrator. Many police officers, including senior police, want to go back to physical line up.

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