The other part of my life: Homicide Investigation School for Crime Writers

I’m a real straight-arrow so I never get to meet the “nose-pickin’, booger-eatin’ morons” that Sgt Derek Pacifico talked about in his Homicide Investigation school for Crime Writers last weekend in Covina, California.

For a long time I’ve been collecting “stupid criminal stories”, but Derek topped them all. I just never meet AHs (figure it out) who shoot somebody in the face and think they don’t die.

A group of us at the California Crime Writers’ Conference in June 2011 heard him give a 4-hour presentation on Interview and Interrogation techniques and were spellbound. We wanted more and he dished it up for us.

Pacifico was funny, serious, thoughtful and thought-provoking. As a law enforcement trainer he’s travelled the country teaching the same material to cops. He’s worked Homicide Detail as well as all the other facets of police work and now is a Sergeant with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.

He liked us because we wanted to learn and didn’t sit there, arms crossed, giving off testosterone fumes, and the attitude of “Yeah, dude, go ahead. Teach me something I don’t know.” He was honest and forthcoming about what really lies behind the crime scene tape.

We liked him because he’s just plain likeable. From video clips we saw he’s got a line of jokey, rapport-building bullshit with criminals in the interrogation room that got him a lot of confessions. I can see why.

The case studies were particularly interesting because they provided a reconstruction of what first just looked like confusion–and probably was.

We learned how tedious it is to string a scene showing bullet trajectories, interpret blood spatter, collect insects, and sift the dirt from a gravesite. It’s not nearly as exciting as it is on TV, where a crime scene is “done” in 30 minutes instead of 36 hours.

He’s talking about setting up a conference of some length just for crime writers bringing in experts he teaches and works with. Where? To be decided.

I can’t wait.

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4 Responses to The other part of my life: Homicide Investigation School for Crime Writers

  1. Dan says:

    Sounds like you learned something you didn’t know. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • admin-mar says:

      Attended Bouchercon conference in St. Louis and saw so many new books with fresh, lively writing. Last night I talked to a homicide detective and when I asked him what he read, he reeled off the usuals, Patterson, Cussler, etc.


  2. Jodie Renner says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Mar. Sounds like the perfect experience for a crime writer.

  3. Dick Ellwood says:

    Great to hear that the Homicide for crime writers school was so interesting. I am a retired Homicide Sergeant with the Baltimore Police Department. I have a book published called, Cop Stories-The Few, The Proud, The Ugly. It contains thirty-eight short stories about my career. I have several true homicide investigations in the book. Homicide investigations can be very interesting and quite involved. We had a plaque hanging in our office that read, “No greater honor can be bestowed upon a human being than to investigate the death of another human being.” I commend Sergeant Pacifico for teaching something that can help witers better understand homicide investigations. I am working on a crime fiction book and using my expertise to come up with the plots

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