Local cops get training
from renowned investigator

By Heidi Roman
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Hollywood crime shows like the new “Detroit 1-8-7” may try to show the general public what it’s like walking into a bloody crime scene, but they’ll never come close to the real experience.

Detectives never know what they’re heading into, and those first few hours after a homicide are crucial. There’s evidence that could be contaminated, officers whose egos could get in the way of the investigation and plenty of questions to be asked.

Surely there’s something to be learned from a retired lieutenant commander of the New York City Police Department who himself has been involved with more than 8,000 death investigations. That’s why the Clinton Township Police Department co-sponsored a three-day conference taught by that kind of expert.

Vernon Geberth, a New York native, taught the 24-hour seminar, “Practical Homicide Investigation,” Sept. 27-29 at Clinton Township’s ConCorde Inn. The seminar is modeled off his book of the same name.

Geberth has 40 years of law enforcement experience under his belt and was commanding officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, which handled more than 400 murder investigations a year.

Now he travels around the country using real-life examples of what investigators need to do — and what they definitely don’t want to do — after a murder.

“This is the first time we’ve co-sponsored this,” said Clinton Township Detective Lt. Craig Keith. “Some of the guys in Clinton Township, including myself, have had his training.”

Eight detectives from the township were among the 75 men and women at the conference, some came from as far away as Tacoma, Wash. The Sterling Heights Police Department and the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office also sent personnel to the training program.

“They experience 300 and change cases,” said Vernon, now president of PHI Investigative Consultants.

The seminar is meant for any officer who has the responsibility of conducting a homicide investigation or overseeing the crime scene. His lessons cover every part of the sequence of events after a murder, including the first officer’s duties, preliminary investigation, DNA collecting and fingerprinting, criminal personality profiling, managing the crime scene and the specifics of sex-related crimes.

One day of the seminar focused on the increasing use of the Internet in homicides of a sexual nature.

It is absolutely horrifying to see how offenders have utilized the Internet,” Gerbeth said. “Since the beginning of time, we’ve had sexual perverts. Years ago, we branded them or put bells around their neck.”

Today’s sexual offenders are discovered and investigated differently, in part because of the advancements in technology.

Another portion of the seminar discussed the general management of a crime scene and who should take the reigns on an investigation. There’s often more than one officer capable of doing it, but having the right person in charge and delegating the rights tasks can mean the difference between a conviction and an unsolved mystery, Geberth said.

“Most police officials are the product of their own communities,” he said. “They were born and raised there; they know their people better than anyone else.”

The majority of the officers in the seminar are local or from Michigan departments, though some traveled from out of state.

You can reach Staff Writer Heidi Roman at hroman@candgnews.com or at (586) 218-5006.