Last night's episode got me thinking.
Brass and the CSI agents are portrayed as being quite aggressive in questioning suspects or people attached to a crime.
So what is this doing for the public's perception of cops? Not much, I'd guess. I have a strange feeling many people get their knowledge of what law enforcement officers do from TV and the movies. It's a good bet to say a lot of those same viewers have never spoken to an officer and asked him or her about their job.
Unfortunately, that creates a twisted view of reality.
And that's a shame — my almost six years of experience covering the criminal justice beat in two papers tells me the officers are out there doing the best job they can — and doing it ethically and thoroughly.
Sure, it bothers cops when a defendant gets a lighter sentence than expected. Sure, there are cops out there working their beat a lot more proactively than others.
My experience has been that the good guys in Coshocton, Muskingum, Holmes, Huron and Erie counties bust their humps.
In several complicated investigations I've covered in depth, those same cops have tried to present the evidence as they saw it, not how they wanted to see it. (A pet peeve of mine when the CSIs and lab rats are discussing the case at the crime scene or in the lab.) Real-life investigators know that a prosecutor can only do as well presenting a case as the work the officer did investigating it.
My heart went out to the sex offender in (in the show) wrongly accused of killing the girl. I was as shocked as Catherine when he appeared out of nowhere to confront her in the parking garage. OK, the guy had been using an alias (Dean James? Puh-leeze!) and didn't tell his girlfriend about his conviction, but he had it right: In one fell swoop, the peaceful life he had tried to have was in the crapper.
Where is CSI's accountability? Shouldn't there be some sort of follow-up? Is a defamation suit even possible? I have a feeling we'll see more of him. Maybe he'll end up harassing Catherine (she'd better file a report about the confrontation and pulling her gun!), or worse yet, a victim.
And that brings up something else that has bothered me for quite a while on "CSI." Brass & Co. (or the "Law & Order" detectives) have no qualms about accusing someone being questioned of outlandish actions. I'm pretty sure local questioning doesn't happen like that.
During the Efaw case, the jury and court observers heard the sheriff's deputies, the prosecutor's investigator and BCI&I agent ask open-ended questions after his foster daughter was stabbed. When there was more information about the circumstances than Efaw was giving them, they asked follow-up questions. Like in the case of Rodney Dalton, the person asked one question and he was off and running.
There's an entirely other set of skills in questioning children — Lt. Randy Sommers, the prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Gravelle case did a fine job of handling those young people on the stand (or at the sheriff's office, in Sommers' case). They sure didn't get in their faces when they didn't get the information they wanted or expected. They tried a different tactic.
I have to stop from laughing every time when a co-worker asks me if Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler gets as fired up in court questioning someone as Jack McCoy does on "Law & Order."
It's been more than once that a person in court has told me, "This is so much different than in 'Law & Order.'" One intern observing court in Coshocton commented it was more civil and organized than she ever expected.
"Perry Mason" and "Matlock" have ruined it for court attorneys … TV questioning scenes make "good TV," but it's not what happens in reality.
Take the time to ask a cop or attorney about their job; I'm sure they'd love to tell you.