CSI hate you


I cannot freakin’ stand CSI-type TV shows. My work as a street cop has exposed me to reality instead of the ridiculous shark-jumping nonsense I see on those shows. All the bad guys on the show get broken by the awesome interrogators, and go from saying “I’m innocent” to “All right copper, I did it! And I’ll tell ya why I did it!”

Those shows reminds me of “Encyclopedia Brown” stories. If you’re too young to remember Encyclopedia Brown, he was a genius kid in a children’s fiction book series who solved petty crimes. His antagonist was always the neighborhood bully, Bugs Meany. Bugs would steal something, give a cover story to Brown, and Brown would catch him in a lie. The conclusion would always be, “When confronted with his lie, Bugs confessed.”

Well, crap. That bastard Encyclopedia Brown made me go into police work expecting guilty people to admit guilt. But amazingly enough, that rarely happens. And when I say “rarely,” I mean, like almost never. Okay, it happened once in the last 18 years. People just don’t admit to guilt, no matter how obvious it is.

I could go on for hours about incidents that illustrate this. A teenage boy was burglarizing his elderly neighbor’s house when the police arrived. He fled out the front door with a stolen .357 revolver in his waistband, screaming “I didn’t do anything!” at the pursuing officers. A suspect led us on a long car chase in a stolen car, then fled on foot to the middle of a waist-deep bayou, and yelled “What? What did I do?” when we arrested him.

Then there was the guy who tried to commit a strongarm robbery at a gas station. I later caught him as he was breaking into a car. He jumped into his truck, sped home and ran inside. When another officer and I wrestled him into handcuffs, he screamed in panic, “Why are you doing this to me?”

The point I’m trying to make is that plenty of criminals will claim innocence, even in the face of overwhelming, unquestionable evidence of guilt. But I do have a favorite “innocent criminal” story. When I think of this one, I’m not sure if it drives me to tears or laughter.

So there I was, minding my own business, patrolling down a dark deserted street on night shift. I stopped at a red light, heard an alarm and looked around. In a shopping center to my left, the front doors of a convenience store were smashed in.

I pulled into the store’s parking lot. The doors had been driven through, not just broken into. A huge section of the plate glass window and the doors were destroyed, and tire tracks marked the concrete in front of the store. This wasn’t unusual, our more enterprising burglars like to drive cars into convenience stores to steal ATMs.

Blue paint had been scraped from the car onto what was left of the door frame. I looked through the destroyed opening into a mess of broken glass, smashed aluminum and overturned displays, and saw a blank spot where an ATM had stood. I keyed my radio and called it out.

Instead of dispatch answering, a good friend of mine called out, “Chris, I just got flagged down by a witness to the burglary! I’m following the suspect vehicle now!”

Other officers jumped onto the radio to back him up. I had to stay at the scene, which really sucked because when he ran the plate it showed the car was stolen. This stop had the possibility to turn into who knew what kind of a mess, and I wanted to be there for it. But they stopped the stolen car and arrested the driver and passenger without incident. A few minutes later officers brought the suspects back to the convenience store. A wrecker followed them with the stolen car.

I took one look at the suspects and knew in a second who we were dealing with: crackheads. These guys were scrawny and haggard looking. Patchy beards adorned their pale, pockmarked faces. They wore old, torn clothes dotted with tiny shards of broken glass.

Their car was an old blue piece of crap Chrysler New Yorker or something like that, not the kind of car any legitimate thief would steal. I knew, without reading any report, that the car’s owner had given it to a crack dealer in exchange for a couple of crack rocks. Then he reported it stolen when the dealer didn’t return it, and eventually these two guys wound up with it. Where I worked, most of our reported stolen cars were “crack rentals”.

The front of the car was damaged and still had pieces of glass all over it. In the back seat of the car I saw a scattered mix of candy bars, bags of chips, lottery tickets, soda bottles. . . and an ATM. I guess you could say all signs pointed to these guys being guilty.

We pulled the driver of the stolen car from the back seat to question him. This guy was in his mid-40s, way taller than me as I recall, with shaggy light brown hair. Someone had already checked his criminal history. He had a bunch of felony arrests, mostly for drugs and burglary.

He was toast. I was Encyclopedia Brown and he was Bugs Meany. Based on the truth we’ve all learned from CSI shows, the burglar’s next words to me would have to be a confession.

Crack addict burglar stood there with the most innocent look I have ever seen on another human being’s face. I didn’t even have to ask him what he had done, he told us on his own.

“Officer, I’m glad you stopped us. We were looking for the police. We were driving past this convenience store and saw a truck drive through the front door. They put the ATM in the bed of the truck and drove away. So we followed them, and the ATM fell out. The truck got away, but we thought we should put the ATM in our car and take it to the police station. We were headed there when we got stopped.”

Our reaction was a mix of silent disgust and loud laughter. I asked the burglar, “And what about the damage to your car? And all the candy, chips and soda in the back seat?”

Our burglar didn’t hesitate with his answer. “What damage? What stuff in the back seat?”

I wasn’t stunned by his answer. That’s how people usually react when they’re caught. A phrase I had heard from another officer popped into my head: people like you make me tired. I walked my totally innocent suspect back to the patrol car and put him in. He protested his innocence the entire time and was still running his mouth when I slammed the door. I think he was hurt that I didn’t believe him.

I went to the second suspect, sitting in a different car. This guy had at least a bit of dignity. When I asked him for his story, he looked away and mumbled, “Sir, I don’t think I should say anything.” I could respect that, so I left him in peace.

What amazing lesson in life and humanity can we learn from this? First of all, don’t do crack. Second, don’t burglarize convenience stores. Third, if you’re going to lie to the police, at least try to make it believable.

And last, if you’re going to steal an ATM, it would be nice if there was actually money inside. These two dumbasses stole a cash ticket machine. It prints out a receipt, you take that receipt to the clerk and he gives you the money. There was no money in the machine.

Take that, CSI.

7 Responses to “CSI hate you”

  1. 1 marc

    WOW, You mean the CSI shows are a bunch of BS.

    • Marc,

      CSI shows are ridiculous. They make people think that DNA can be recovered in all cases, that every suspect confesses when caught, that multiple suspects are interrogated together, and that hardcore evidence technicians charge in to arrest suspects. Although I’ve never seen it myself, I’ve heard rumors of juries finding defendants not guilty because they think every case is supposed to have as much evidence as cases on CSI. I find those rumors believable because I’ve been on calls where, for instance, an unknown suspect threw a rock through a house window, and the homeowners wanted us to get DNA samples from the rock. CSI shows are about as close to reality as Spongebob Squarepants is to life on the ocean floor.

      • Well we need to remove CSI from television and start airing prime time re-runs of pre-DNA re-runs of Murder she wrote. I think that will help sort these situations out.

  2. I had a business associate who had been a CSI guy in San Bernardino County, California. His specialty…blood spatters. He disliked CSI because, as he said, “I’ve never arrived at a scene in a Hummer and wearing sunglasses at 0300, but I have pulled up in the family van wearing pajamas, a robe and slippers”.

  3. 7 Adam

    My friend recently retired after 40+ years as a criminalist, and the secret truth is that labmonkeys AND field guys have a secret love/hate affair with the whole CSI series. He says that hey all get a huge laugh out of things like instantaneous DNA results (well anything less than two weeks, anyway), and all of the Blade Runner-esque, scifi computer enhanced voodoo that’s used to fill up the plot holes left by sloppy writing.

    Don’t EVER play a CSI drinking game with a criminalist or labmonkey – they will crush you – and the hangover won’t be pretty…

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