Local law enforcement brushes up investigation skills
Distinguished author leads a seminar on homicide investigation

By Austin L. Miller
Staff Writer at Ocala.com
Janury 22, 2009

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OCALA, FL - More than 200 detectives, crime scene technicians and other law enforcement officials attended a seminar Wednesday at Central Florida Community College on practical homicide investigation for first responders and preliminary scene investigation.

The seminar was conducted by Vernon J. Geberth, president of PHI Investigative Consultants Inc. and author of five books on homicide.

The former head of the New York City Police Department's Bronx Homicide Task Force talked about basic principles important for any first responders arriving at a crime scene.

Geberth said first responders should apply the ADAPT method, which stands for "apprehend, detain, assess and protect the crime scene. And they should take notes, he said.

For detectives conducting the investigation, he stressed five components crucial to any crime scene: Being a team player, always documenting facts, preservation, using common sense and being flexible.

"Always look at each case as a continual learning experience," he told the class of men and women representing various law enforcement agencies from Marion and surrounding counties and as far away as Miami.

Dr. Barbara Wolf, chief medical examiner for the District 5 Medical Examiner's Office, said during one of several breaks that hopefully the class will create a cohesion among law enforcement agencies when working a crime scene.

"Mr. Geberth has a wealth of expertise that Maj. Blair [of the Marion County Sheriff's Office] and my office thought would be available for people who initially come upon a death scene," Wolf said. The seminar, which concludes Thursday, was sponsored by the Sheriff's Office, CFCC and the Medical Examiner's Office. Maj. Chris Blair, head of the Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit, said the lecture is "continual training" for everyone dealing with a death scene.

"We must remain sharp in our investigation because we represent the victims and their families when investigating homicides. We must always remember them in hopes of bringing closure to them so that the healing process can begin," Blair said.

Before the closure and healing process can occur, Geberth said everyone should have three things in place: First off, do it right the first time - you only get one chance. Second, things are not always what they appear to be. And, finally, remember, we work for God.

"I hope it will stick with them so whenever they come upon a scene it will click," Geberth said.

Austin L. Miller can be contacted at 867-4118 or austin.miller@starbanner.com

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