There’s nothing wrong with a detective carrying their own individual “cheat sheet”. If it helps you get your job done, why not?
I learned a method many years ago after a conversation I had with Dan Kelly, then the Commander of Queens Homicide.
Dan Kelly, a department legend who will be the subject of a more detailed review in a separate posting, was known by many as the “Dean” of Homicide investigations.
One lesson I observed was his reference to a set of index cards he carried in his jacket pocket. I soon learned the value of the Kelly Method.
Today’s investigator cannot expect to remember each and every procedure, guideline or reference point with the multitude of investigations he or she is tasked with on a daily basis. Neither can the specialist in homicide, arson, sex crimes or any other investigative specialty.
The method adopted by Dan Kelly, which I have learned to adopt to my own preferences, utilizes index cards. Maintaining a reference card on specific tasks to be performed at a scene is a good way for the investigator to keep the investigation on track.
I suggest that detectives, especially those newly assigned, take the Crime Scene Guidelines checklist and shrink it down to fit on the back pages of their notebook. So too can this be shrunk and placed on an index card.
As a squad commander, the utilization of an index card on your major incident investigations can help you keep track of tasks that need to be performed, results of tasks accomplished, and a quick reference on the status of these investigations.
An axiom I have always preached to new detectives is the idea that good detectives don’t need to have all the answers, but should know where and who to go to in order to find the answers.
You quickly date yourself when you mention the importance of a detective’s “rolodex” of contacts; todays detective is more likely to be maintaining his phone book directly in his smartphone- blackberry, iPhone, Android etc – than to be using a handwritten rolodex.
Just a point to consider, though. If your electronic phone book crashes, do you have a hard copy to replace it with?
Any method you may adopt, whether it be index cards, checklists in your notebook, or cram notes on your forearm- if it helps you stay on track with your investigation, it’s worth it.
LIEUTENANT DETECTIVE DAN KELLY
Two years ago, on March 30, 2009, Retired Lieutenant Detective Dan Kelly passed away.
Readers can search this site for “Dan Kelly” and find several articles I wrote over the years related to Dan.
My posting today regarding Index Cards is a direct result of Dan sharing his investigative expertise with The Minister many years ago.
Last May 2010 the paddleball courts at Astoria Park were dedicated to Dan. Links to several newspaper stories that appeared regarding this event are included later in this blog.
I am reproducing here a blog I posted several years ago that I think you will find of interest. If you have been reading this site for some time, you may recall it. If you are a new reader, you will certainly appreciate it.
DAN KELLY: DEAN OF NYPD HOMICIDE INVESTIGATORS
I recently came across a copy of a 1991 magazine article written by Robert Martin about Lt Daniel Kelly, Jr – “Dean of NYPD Homicide Investigators”.
It appears that this may have been written for a John Jay College publication; the photocopy is clear as to the time line – Fall 1991 – but does not include the periodical information. It seems that the author was a Detective Captain taking a college course at the time.
I know Dan for quite a number of years, as Dan was the C.O. of Queens Homicide when my father worked there. Dan was the C.O. during the hey-days of the late 80’s into the 90’s, and had a supervisory staff that included Sgt. Fred Cornicello, Sgt. Phil Panzarella, and Sgt. Robert Plansker, as well as Sgt. Tom Gray.
Quite a number of department notables came through this area, and speak quite favorable of Dan Kelly even to this day. Dan retired a good number of years ago, but he certainly warrants a spot in the department’s notorious past commanders. The Eddie Byrne case was just one of the more notable cases that are too few to mention.
I will reprint part of the article here, as I found it very interesting, and perhaps you will too.
“On this particular night, a new homicide had occurred. I was in the office of the Queens Homicide Task Force being briefed as to what had taken place. Numerous theories were being tossed about and the recent crime was compared to some homicides that had taken place in the recent and distant past. The source of this information was Lt. Daniel J. Kelly, Jr., Commanding Officer of the Queens Homicide Task Force. It occurred to me then, that Dan Kelly was a living link to the history of the NYPD, particularly in the area of homicide investigations in Queens. While we continued to work, I knew that I had found the subject for my paper. That solved problem number one. Problem number two would be to talk Dan into doing an interview with me. Dan Kelly is a quiet, humble individual and not one to “blow his own horn.” When I approached him with the interview idea he suggested other people who he thought would be more interesting and informative. But through a combination of pressure, pleading and cajoling, I was able to get Dan to agree to do an interview regarding his experience on “the Job.”
Dan joined the department in October of 1952, made Detective in 1956, Sergeant in 1963 and Lieutenant in 1967. Except for brief stints in uniform, when promoted to Sergeant and Lieutenant, he was involved in homicide investigations since 1956; almost thirty-five years.
When asked about his most memorable cases, Kelly replied, “Since 1973 I have investigated the killings of seventeen police officers in Queens, all have been important and all but one of these investigations was successful.” He names the Byrnes case and the killing of PO Scott Gadell in a shootout in Far Rockaway, as two of the most memorable.
When asked which one case sticks out in his mind, Kelly mentions the Scarangella / Rainey shooting in the 113 Precinct, which occurred in April 1981. In this case, two uniformed officers on routine patrol attempted to stop a van which had been seen in the vicinity of numerous burglaries. When the van stopped, two individuals jumped out and fired over thirty rounds at the two officers in their radio car. Officer Scarangella was killed and his partner, Officer Rainey, was severely wounded.
Kelly points to this case as being a “text book investigation” in that it covered the four major investigative steps that must be covered in a successful cases.
These steps are:
A. The Crime Scene
B. Interview / Interrogations
D. Record Checks
Through much hard work and the use of these techniques, the two killers were identified, tracked down, arrested and convicted. Kelly says that he and many of the Detectives that work for him, consider this case the most satisfying of their careers.
On the other side of the coin, Kelly did not hesitate when asked for his most frustrating case. “Howard Beach” he answered, “was four months of constant pressure and criticism. The news media and politicians put a lot of pressure on us and it made for a very frustrating case.”
At this point I asked Lt. Kelly to tell me step by step his response to a homicide scene.
“I usually get notified by phone, so before I leave the station house I stop at the desk and try to get a computer printout of the job. By looking at this I get some ideas, who called, what time, what unit responded, were there any other calls that may have had something to do with my job. This way I’m not pulling up to the scene completely in the dark as to what happened.
I also let the Desk Officer know that his switchboard operator might be getting calls with information about the homicide. If I have the manpower, I will leave one Detective in the office to take these calls, if not, I ask the switchboard operator to get as much information as possible from anyone calling.
In route to the scene you pray that the uniform personnel have established a criome scene, they have kept unauthorized personnel out of the scene and they have identified and detained any witnesses.
When I arrive I usually go directly to the body, and try and determine if the person was killed where the body fell or perhaps killed elsewhere and dumped, or assaulted at some other location and ran until he dropped at this spot. I then take a few steps back and enlarge my field of view. At this point, I look for areas where a witness may have seen what happened, areas to canvass.
One trick that Detectives have been using for years is to conduct a canvass after the crime at the exact location, time and day as the original crime took place. People are creatures of habit. So if you have a homicide go down on a certain corner at Friday night at 7 pm, it’s a good idea to have Detectives conduct a canvass of the same corner on the following Friday night at 7 pm. Chances are good that you will come up with someone who saw something, if not the homicide itself, some other thing out of the ordinary which did not seem important to them at the time.
The importance of the canvass is it gives you the independent witness. The witness who is not a friend of the victim or the perpetrator. It is this witness, with no ax to grind, who will give you a true, unbiased picture of what really took place.
It is crucial to get all the available witnesses interviewed as soon as possible, and if at all possible to get these interviews on audio tape. These interviews must be documented, along with such things as the assigned Detectives arrival on the scene, what time, who was there, his impression of the scene, a sketch and such factors as weather and lighting conditions.”
One thing that troubles Kelly is his belief that crime scenes are not held for long enough periods of time. “We, in New York City, give up the crime scene too soon. I know it’s a question of numbers and the volume of homicides in the city make it tough, but once you give up a crime scene, you can’t get it back. I would like to hold onto them longer.”
I asked if he believed the old adage “the first forty-eight hours after a homicide are the most important.” “That’s true”, Kelly replied. “If you get out quick with enough manpower, you will get the answers with a canvass, background checks, fin ding the independent witness and the motive. The only aspect that is not usually finalized is the scientific aspect, which again is a reason to hold the scene longer.”
We then moved onto the topic of what Dan looks for when interviewing potential members for his squad. “I look for investigative experience, knowledge of the law, attitude is very important and patience. For a Detective to be a good interviewer or interrogator, he must have patience. He must use that patience, and a good knowledge of the crime to get as much as he can from the subject, while giving up as little as possible.”
Lt. Kelly retired in August 1991, reaching the maximum age for active service in the department. I asked him, “Dan, when you walk out of the office door for the last time in August 1991, how would you like to be remembered by those still on the job?” Kelly thought for a long time, and then replied, “He knew his job, he did his job.”
For forty years, Dan Kelly knew his job and did his job like no one else has ever done it.”
Note from me: So much of what Dan Kelly said about homicide investigations in 1991 are so true to this day! Much of what he says in this piece are standard detective investigative tasks, which I myself use even to this day, when instructing at the CIC and the Homicide Course. The more things change…
LINKS TO ASTORIA COURTS STORIES ABOUT DAN KELLY:
Dennis Hamill, who attended the paddleball court dedication wrote this about Dan Kelly in the Daily News.
“After a week of putting away stone cold killers, Lt. Detective Dan Kelly, known as the Dean of Homicide Detectives, spent most of his weekends in sweltering summers and icy winters here on Court A of the paddleball cages of the Steinway Park Playground on 38th St., near 21st Road in Astoria, the neighborhood where he died in 2009 at 80 - about 20 blocks from where he was born.
But this neighborhood he loved and never left doesn't forget one of its favorite native sons, that everyone called "Buddy."
This was June 11, 2010 and about 250 people, most of them NYPD detectives, are gathered in this concrete oasis in the middle of working-class Astoria to honor this man who was formed on these tough streets, attended Public School 85, Junior High School 141, Bryant High and Baruch College.
Kelly joined the NYPD in 1952, after serving in the Army during the Korean War, earning his gold detective shield in four years, and making lieutenant in 1967”.
One of those interviewed by Dennis Hammill of the Daily News was Bill Clarke. Bill, a retired Detective from NYPD went onto much fame as a producer for the television series NYPD Blue.
Said Clarke about his former boss, Dan Kelly, "He was very methodical, always put all his information on 3-by-5 index cards, kept track of the names, the details, the associations. He was a real manager. And a great man. You will not find anyone on The Job who has a bad word to say about Dan Kelly."
The emcee of the event was Hon. Gregory Lasak, Supreme Court Justice in Queens.
Lasak emcees the event with a perp walk down memory lane:
"In July of 1980, Detective Abe Walton of the Street Crime Unit was in a social club in the 106 Precinct. When the place was stuck up, he tried to prevent it and wound up getting murdered."
Lasak said that when the shooter was finally tracked down, Dan Kelly was the first one through the door to take down the suspect.
"The legend of Lt. Kelly spread across the city because the SCU covered the whole city," Lasak says.
Dan Kelly would head 17 cop killing investigations in his career, including one in which a captain - Ray Kelly - who would eventually become commissioner, helped capture the suspect in the Carter Hotel in Times Square.
"Dan was a fantastic cop," Commissioner Kelly says. "He had a unique talent to analyze crime scenes, canvass a neighborhood, interview witnesses, and interrogate suspects. I got to see his outstanding work first hand."
Lasak reminds us that in the 1980s, Dan Kelly supervised the Yeshiva University shootings, spotted the license plate involved in the infamous upstate Brinks armored car robbery in South Ozone Park and personally intervened, successfully investigated the high-profile murder of Police Officer Edward Byrne by crack kingpins in 1988.
And for 35 years, until he died last March 30, Kelly unwound from the mayhem of his city by playing paddleball every weekend with his pals here on the courts that now bear his good name.
"I thought very hard about the best way to describe my dear friend Dan Kelly," says Judge Lasak. "Simply, when you were in his presence, you were in the presence of greatness."
"Dad was a simple man who inspired us to do the right thing," says his daughter Patricia Montano.
"He was a boss who made you feel like you worked with him not for him," says Bill Clarke. "Like I said, Dan Kelly was the best boss ever on The Job."
Why not take a look at some of these articles linked here?
Wall Street Journal:
NY Daily News
FROM THE LEGAL DESK: MITIGATION
While not a regular course of the investigation conducted by most detectives, this is a term that you may hear the ADA refer to. It is certainly a term that your retired brethren and other friends in the private or corporate sector will be quite familiar with.
Mitigation is the term that is used to make the actions one performed in a crime handled in a manner that is less rigorous in the courts.
The best way I could put it in normal, everyday terms is that mitigation is the defense answer to “a good excuse”.
Crimes are at times committed under circumstances which are not justifiable nor excusable, yet they show that the offender has been greatly tempted; as, for example, when a starving man steals bread to satisfy his hunger, this circumstance is taken into consideration in mitigation of his sentence.
In civil cases, mitigation comes into play when the matter of judgement is explored.
Mitigation refers to the lessening of something.
For example, when an employee files a claim for wrongful discharge, he/she may seek to recover damages for lost wages. However, if he/she fails to seek other employment, the court may limit the amount of damages for lost wages to those that the court deems to be a reasonable period of unemployment, under the reasoning that the employee failed to mitigate damages by obtaining other employment. In a further example, when a person is injured in an auto accident he/she may seek damages for injuries. However, if he/she fails to get medical attention and an infection develops, the court may exclude recovery for medical bills, lost wages, and suffering related to the infection.
Mitigation is an affirmative defense. What the defense is saying, in essence, is that, yes, the defendant committed these acts, but he had a reason for doing it. And they would like these reasons to be taken into consideration by the judge, and the jury, in the determination of sentencing or damages to be awarded.
Mitigation is a required process that must be explored in all capital offenses.
It is mandated by the Supreme Court that a mitigation investigation be conducted in all capital crime cases. A capital crime is a crime punishable by death penalty.
Mitigating factors can play an important role lowering the death penalty to life in prison or a long prison term. The mitigating factors for capital crimes vary from state to state. The general mitigating factors include the age of the defendant, first time offender and extreme mental or emotional distress.
A capital offense, once a conviction has been handed down, must undergo an investigative process of mitigation that includes a psychiatric evaluation, investigation of the family background, and any other contributing factors – a “social history evaluation”, which must be taken into consideration.
The area of mitigation is a specialty of many private and/or corporate investigators.
Defense counsel in death penalty cases are required to investigate all aspects of the client’s life history and present all possible mitigating factors. The goal of a mitigation presentation is to take the jury for a walk in the defendant’s shoes.
NOTORIOUS NEW YORK: 210 EAST 46 STREET
Constantino Paul “Big Paul” Castellano (June 26, 1915 – December 16, 1985)
On December 16, 1985 at 5:30pm Gambino Godfather Big Paul Castellano and his driver Tommy Billotti were gunned down on the sidewalk, IN FRONT OF 210 East 46 Street, while John Gotti and Sammy The Bull Gravano watched from the car parked on the northwest corner of 3rd avenue and 46th street.
Both Big Paul and Billotti would be shot six times.
With the death of Castellano, John Gotti would then take over as the Dapper Don of the Gambino Crime Family.
Constantino Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, also known as “Big Paulie” (or “PC” to his family), was an American Mafia boss in New York City.
He succeeded Carlo Gambino as head of the Gambino crime family, at the time, the nation’s largest Mafia family.
In 1985, he was one of many Mafia bosses arrested on charges of racketeering, which was to result in the Mafia Commission Trial; in December of that year, while out on bail, Castellano and his bodyguard were shot to death outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan on the orders of John Gotti.
Note From The Minister: I’ve eaten at Sparks Steak House. While it is one of New York’s Notorious crime locations because of these killings outside, and it is certainly nicely decorated inside, I would give it only Two Stars as its steak is concerned!
THOMAS BYRNES: FIRST CHIEF OF DETECTIVES?
Regarding the noted department character THOMAS BYRNES, who is known as the First Chief of Detectives, I have the following information that was provided by Michael Bosak- true department historian and keeper of the history- regarding Byrnes.
Bosak notes that, as you know, Thomas Byrnes wasn’t really NYC’s first ‘Chief of Detectives’.
But he was the first to hold that position with the rank of ‘Inspector’ and then again as ‘Chief Inspector’.
He held the rank of ‘Inspector’ as ‘Chief of Detectives’ while he temporarily held the position of “Acting” ‘Superintendent of Police’ [Chief of Department] at the same time.
NYPD ‘Superintendent of Police’ William Murray was out extended sick. So Byrnes had the department create a new rank just for him: ‘Chief Inspector’.
Later he would actually become ‘Superintendent of Police’ and later was the first to hold the title of, “Chief of Police” on the NYPD. (Only four men got to hold that title, equivalent to today’s ‘Chief of Department’.
Teddy Roosevelt then forced him to retire.
Teddy Roosevelt, often referred to as the Police Commissioner, actually held the title President of the Board of Police Commissioners.
Teddy, in his annotations, said it was his very first priority as ‘President of the Board of Police Commissioners’, to force Thomas Byrnes out of office.
Byrnes was later shown to be a rather corrupt individual.
This was brought out later during his own sworn testimony in front of the Lexow Commission hearings in 1894, charged with investigating corruption.
He was a mega millionaire back then, in 1894, and couldn’t account for a penny of his wealth or how he obtained any of it. All on an annual salary of $3,000 a year.
The Lexow Commission unbelievably didn’t pursue it and let him retire.
Although coming under fire after his retirement, Thomas Byrnes was certainly a noted character in the early days of this department.
I have been fortunate to get my hands on a copy of a small publication that Thomas Byrnes wrote in 1898, titled A Detectives Secrets. This publication, which sold for 5 cents at the time, is written by Ex-Chief Thomas Byrnes, and is his contribution on “How To Become A Detective and How To Succeed As One”.
I thank Michael Bosak, again, for his effort on turning me on to the availability of this publication. Future postings on this site regarding this publication are most certainly to appear!
I truly believe that as real police professionals we should seek to not only further our education in our chosen field, but should be aware of current issues and practices not only around us locally, but on a global scale.
In this means I have posted issues concerning worldwide matters related to policing and investigations.
As it relates to current economic issues, we are not alone here in New York City, or even in these United States. Economic impact is striking worldwide, and issues concerning policing, and matters of salary, benefits, and working conditions of government workers worldwide is in the forefront of the news.
London is no stranger to these issues either.
I came across the following 15 minute video on You Tube, in which a reporter for the Guardian newspaper in the UK rode along with members of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Territorial Support Group, as they policed the recent large scale demonstration on the streets of London of the March For The Alternative.
This demonstration was aimed at government spending cuts.
It is certainly a well done video on what our brothers in London are going through, and worth the fifteen minutes of viewing.
Here in New York we have not yet seen the demonstrations that have erupted on some of the streets of our European counterparts.
The writer of a British police blog, Police Inspector Blog, makes mention of some of these demonstrations, where “a dozen police officers were surrounded and beaten by a masked mob in Sackville Street, off Piccadilly”. “Hardly the police state they spend almost every day writing about. Light bulbs filled with ammonia and military grade thunderflashes wrapped with coins were thrown at police lines. I suppose it makes a difference from the bottles of piss favored by the students”.
You can view this documentary video at:
“LEST WE FORGET…” THE NYPD MEMORIAL
April 6, 1937 Ptl Daniel Sullivan, Mcy Unit, motorcycle accident
April 6, 1953 Ptl Sam Katz, 32 Pct, Shot-investigation
April 6, 1955 Ptl John Conlon, 28 Pct, Injuries sustained on patrol
April 10, 1937 Det Michael Foley, 9 Sq, Shot-robbery arrest
April 10, 1950 Ptl Louis Balzano, line of duty incident
April 10, 1960 Ptl Vito Valenzano, 20 Pct, LOD heart attack
April 12, 1929 Ptl Andrew McLean-Wood, NFI
April 13, 1961 Ptl Robert Dugo, 6 Pct, LOD heart attack
April 13, 1988 PO Anthony McLean, PSA2, Shot- investigation
April 14, 1907 Ptl George Sechler, 16 Pct, Shot – arrest
April 14, 1929 Ptl William Schmeller, 32 Pct, Accident – auto pursuit
April 15, 1857 Ptl Stephen Hardenbrook, 9Dist MetroPDNY, Stabbed-arrest
April 15, 1932 Ptl James Morrissey, Traffic F, Auto accident on patrol
April 15, 1968 Ptl John Banks, ESU, LOD heart attack