Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The good investigator understands the difference between a “task” that needs to be completed, and an investigative opportunity.

All too often, investigators – and sometimes even managers- see a performance standard as merely a “task” that needs to be completed, and misses the opportunity to capitalize on an investigative opportunity.

What am I talking about?

Think about these investigative functions – building canvasses, vehicle canvasses, review of 311 calls. If you see only the necessity to “complete the task”, without understanding the investigative opportunity each function provides, then you are missing the big picture in investigations.

Realizing the importance for the detective to get someone to tell them what happened, these simple investigative assignments may be thought of in their true measure as providing an opportunity for an investigative lead to be developed. Remembering the big secret of detective work- getting someone to tell you what happened- is sometimes the biggest hurdle the novice detective needs to achieve.

Knowing why you perform certain tasks in an investigation is critical to achieving success. If you don’t understand why you are doing something, and are merely performing the act, i.e. building canvass, because it needs to be “checked off” on the checklist, then you are missing the big picture of investigative success.

This is not just a problem for the new detective, but sometimes even for the more seasoned detective, and at times one that even the investigative manager or executive may be found guilty of. What do you expect to achieve by the task you are performing?

Take, for example, the building canvass. Knocking on doors and talking to people- isn’t this the foundation of the good detective? Can you talk to someone that may be an eyewitness? Perhaps if not a witness, but someone that may be able to provide you with background intelligence on why something may have happened, or intelligence on the area and players frequenting it, is the purpose of the building canvass. Having an opportunity to develop this information should be well sought after.

The building canvass provides an opportunity to talk to people. Certainly an investigative opportunity and more than merely a task to be completed!

So too is the vehicle canvass. Merely having plate numbers on cars recorded is only the first step. Actually reviewing the information for investigative leads is the second, and more critical, step. Is there a vehicle on the scene that appears out of place? Does the vehicle canvass provide you with an investigative opportunity, or is it merely a task that needs to be checked off?

When you begin to think of detective assignments in a follow-up investigation along these lines, seeking to determine the investigative opportunity and not merely viewing it as a laborious task, you have taken the step towards a successful detective investigator.

There’s nothing more discouraging than to hear a detective being assigned a task to be completed “because the Chief wants this done”. If you want your detectives to be successful investigators than take the time to explain what investigative opportunities are being sought.

When the detective knows why he or she is doing something, then they can be expected to do it to the best possible way they can. If they are only instructed to complete the task, for the sake of the task- and never understand why it is being performed- than you can’t really expect to get anything of value.

You certainly cannot, as an investigative manager, expect to have this detective reach any investigative potential unless you take the time to instruct “why” something needs to be done. There is no replacement for the thinking detective!

If you don’t know “why”, then how can anyone expect “positive results”?

If you don’t know “why”, then ask a question. If you are giving instructions and you don’t know why, take the time to find out first.

Investigative opportunities are limited. Don’t waste a good opportunity for success.

It’s an investigative opportunity, and not merely a task that needs to be checked off.


As noted in the 1846 Rules and Regulations for the police department, the inspection of street lamps was a very important job of the patrolman. So, too, was the arrest of anyone who tampered with these street lamps.

It is written in the 1846 Rules & Regulations that it was the duty of every Policeman, if they came upon anyone tampering with these lamps, to take them into custody and to “forthwith give information to the mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, or either of the Special Justices of said city”.

I’d like to have been there for that notification to the Mayor!

It’s also noted specifically that they needed to act against anyone who was driving greater than 5 miles per hour. Remember, that driving referred to driving a horse-drawn cart or horse 5mph! Just wonder how they were able to determine 5mph in 1896?


New York City had it first police "Medal Day" on Saturday, May 26, 1855 in City Hall Park , when the "NYC Municipal Police Department" gave out seven (7) silver medals.

"Chief of Police" George Matsell and Mayor Fernando Wood awarded six (6) of the solid silver medals for heroism and good arrests and one (1) silver medal for "meritorious service."

The first medal given out by the NYPD was awarded on August 17, 1871 and was for given for quote, unquote “meritorious conduct.” It was awarded to Patrolman Bernard Tully of the 19 Precinct (today's 17th Precinct) for the arrest of a burglar with one shot fired. And that was the only medal that the NYPD awarded in 1871.


A quote I came across regarding detectives and investigations that I thought I’d share with you.

“Computers don't make the match. Analysts make the match”.

“Computers narrow down the field of comparisons for the analyst”.

I like this thought, and use it when speaking with new investigators. This goes along the same lines as the quote from Dr. Baden, esteemed Medical Examiner to the stars.

Baden served as the Chief Medical Examiner in NYC and went on to become one of the preeminent pathologists in the country, whose opinion is sought by the media on almost all deaths of any notoriety.

Speaking at a symposium on DNA to police executives, Dr. Baden started his lecture with the following statement.

Forensics doesn’t solve homicides. Detectives solve homicides. Forensics provides the investigative tools for the detective to help solve a case. Sometimes providing an investigative lead or helping to corroborate or refute a statement, but it’s the detective that solves the homicide”.

A great statement, I thought!


May 16, 1864 Ptl George Duryea, 19 Pct, Arrest-robbery
May 16, 1947 Ptl Frank Golden, 108 Pct, Shot- accidental discharge
May 17, 1927 Det Morris Borkin, DetDiv, Shot- burglary arrest
May 17, 1930 Ptl William Duncan, 18 Pct, Shot- GLA arrest
May 18, 1922 Ptl Douglas Hay, 49 Pct, Assaulted
May 18, 1962 Det Luke Fallon & Det John Finnegan, 70 Sqd – Shot-robbery
May 19, 1931 Ptl William O’Connor, Mtd, Shot
May 19, 1997 PO Anthony Sanchez, 13 Pct, Shot- robbery
May 20, 1920 Ptl John Fitzpatrick, DetDiv, Shot-GLA arrest
May 21, 1968 Det Richard Rolanz, 103 Pct, Line of duty heart attack
May 21, 1971 Ptl Joseph Piagentini & Ptl Waverly Jones, 32 Pct – Assasinated
May 21, 1996 PO Vincent Guidice, 50 Pct, Arrest- Cut by glass, assaulted
May 23, 1919 Ptl Emil Carbonell, Mcy, Auto accident on patrol
May 23, 1927 Ptl Walter Wahl, 7 Pct, Fire rescue
May 23, 1939 Ptl Nicholas Moreno, 87 Pct, Shot- investigation
May 25, 1970 PO Miguiel Sirvent, 71 Pct, Shot- robbery
May 26, 1924 Det Bernardino Grottano, DetDiv, Shot- burglary in progress
May 26, 1947 Ptl Phillip Fitzpatrick, Mtd, Shot- robbery
May 26, 1998 PO Anthony Mosomillo, 67 Pct, Shot- arrest, warrant
May 28, 1948 Ptl Charles Meyer, Hwy3, LOD injury
May 28, 1966 Ptl John Bannon, 110 Pct, Shot- off duty incident
May 28, 1970 Ptl Lawrence Stefane, 9 Pct, Stabbed by EDP
May 28, 2000 PO David Regan, 62 Pct, Auto accident on patrol
May 29, 1963 Ptl George Crane, 23 Pct, Shot- burglary in progress
May 29, 1978 PO James Washington, HPD, Struck by elevator in rescue
May 30, 1916 Ptl Henry Schwartz, 15 Pct, Shot- investigation
May 31, 1938 Ptl Melvin Williams, Mcy Unit, Motorcycle accident on patrol