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March 2001

Volume 70
Number 3
United States
Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, DC 20535-0001

Louis J. Freeh
Director Features
Contributors' opinions and statements
should not be considered an
endorsement by the FBI for any policy,
program, or service. Employing the Safe Streets Task Force
Safe Streets Task Force
The Attorney General has determined
that the publication of this periodical is
By David M. Allender 1 concept can help law enforcement
agencies reduce crime in their
necessary in the transaction of the
public business required by law. Use communities.
of funds for printing this periodical has
been approved by the Director of the
Office of Management and Budget. Media Trends and the Public Law enforcement should develop a

The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Information Officer
By Dennis Staszak
10 liaison with the news media to create a
sound public relations program.
(ISSN-0014-5688) is published
monthly by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, 935 Pennsylvania
Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Interviewing Self- With the proper preparation and
20535-0001. Periodicals postage paid
at Washington, D.C., and additional
mailing offices. Postmaster: Send
confident Con Artists 16 strategic approach, investigators can
take advantage of the character traits of
address changes to Editor, FBI Law
By Scott O'Neal
con artists.
Enforcement Bulletin, FBI Academy,
Madison Building, Room 209,
Quantico, VA 22135. The Psychological Law enforcement administrators

Influence of the Police Uniform 27 seriously should consider their uniform
By Richard R. Johnson
John E. Ott
Associate Editors
Glen Bartolomei
Cynthia L. Lewis
Bunny S. Morris
Art Director
Brian K. Parnell 7 Focus on Surveillance 15 Book Review
Assistant Art Director Surveillance Optics Grave Words: Notifying
Denise Bennett Smith
Survivors About Sudden,
Staff Assistant
Linda W. Szumilo 14 Bulletin Reports Unexpected Deaths
Video Surveillance Selection
This publication is produced by Crime Scene Investigation 22 Case Study
members of the Law Enforcement
Communication Unit, Gunshot Detection Systems Asian-on-Asian Kidnapping
William T. Guyton, Chief.

Internet Address

Cover Photo
© Mark Ide

Send article submissions to Editor,

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, FBI
Academy, Madison Building, Room
209, Quantico, VA 22135.

ISSN 0014-5688 USPS 383-310

Safe Streets Task Force

Cooperation Gets Results

“W orking together comprised of state and local law active part in the case included the
works” represents a enforcement officers and FBI FBI Indianapolis office and the
favorite adage of an agents, operates in many cities Metro Gang Task Force (MGTF),
Indianapolis, Indiana, community throughout the United States.3 comprised of Indianapolis Police

leader 1 in the city’s federally The investigation into a violent Department (IPD) officers.

funded Weed and Seed2 effort. In criminal street gang known as the

the spirit of the statement, many New Breed illustrates how the co- Gang History and Rules

agencies with a wide spectrum of operative efforts of the Safe Streets The New Breed gang started

responsibilities have cooperated to Task Force concept can get results. within the confines of the Illinois

successfully renovate several inner- Operating in such cities as India- prison system. To illustrate con-

city neighborhoods. One partner- napolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Louis- tempt for the existing gang subcul­

ship strengthened by interacting as ville, and Cincinnati, the gang was ture, the founder of New Breed re-

members of Weed and Seed is the involved in a wide range of criminal portedly encouraged members to

Safe Streets Task Force. Formed by activity.4 Task force officers in In- violate many conventions of the

the FBI in 1992 to combat gangs dianapolis opened their case in mid- gang world. Leaders indoctrinated

and violence, the initiative, 1997. Safe Streets units taking an gang members in the belief that the

March 2001 / 1
“ ...many agencies with
a wide spectrum of
responsibilities have
cooperated to
Frank Nitti, Gotti, and Capone. De­
tectives discovered the answer
when they read that the gang traced
its lineage back to Sicily. In addi­
tion, the writings spelled out the
rank and authority of the Don. This
successfully renovate tidbit of information, when added to
several inner-city other facts, enabled detectives to
neighborhoods. determine that Vino was in charge
of the local operation and enjoyed

Lieutenant Allender serves with the

Indianapolis, Indiana, Police Department.
” considerable power and authority.
Also, the law section of the gang’s
document revealed the motive for
some of the violence investigators
encountered. All in all, the
document helped provide a focus
for how to attack the organization.
income derived from criminal activ­ order. The story then rambled, but
ity constituted the main purpose for left the reader with the impression Preliminary Steps
the organization. The largest source that the gang had functioned in an In order to establish an identity
of profit for the gang came from the unbroken line for over 1,000 years. in Indianapolis, New Breed gang
illegal distribution of narcotics, The closing gave gang members members engaged in activities that
most notably heroin. strong suggestions on how to live would lead to a citation for a traffic
To promote fidelity to the gang, successful and productive lives. infraction or a custodial misde­
as well as establish a foundation for The gang document had a more meanor arrest. When taken into cus­
order and control, leaders borrowed ominous side, however, when it en­ tody, the suspects presented an Indi­
from the rules and guidelines estab­ tered the realm of discipline. All ana drivers license as identification.
lished by the Black Gangster Nation members of the organization had to When officers checked the authen­
(BGN) gang. Task force officers re- sign an 11-point oath of allegiance ticity of the license, they would dis­
covered copies of the gang’s rules to the New Breed. For example, one cover that the information supplied
and history or “bible” from the rule stated, “We don’t lie, steal or was accurate and the license valid.
trunk of the local leader’s vehicle. cheat among us. Our word is our Task force detectives subsequently
The document instructed adherents bond. We die for that....”5 Punish­ determined that the name listed on
to commit to the three “Ls” of Love, ment for any transgression was the license presented by a New
Life, and Loyalty. A code of con- “unforgivable, penalty is FINAL.” Breed member often would be an
duct set out a number of rules to live Task force officers discovered dur­ alias. The detectives found that
by, such as restricting gang mem­ ing the investigation what the “FI­ some Indiana Bureau of Motor Ve­
bers from incurring financial debts NAL” judgment entailed and how hicles (BMV) personnel were issu­
they could not repay in a timely strongly individual New Breed ing fraudulent driving licenses. The
manner. The history identified the members believed in their code. detectives worked with the Chicago
“Don” as the ultimate authority fig­ The paperwork gave investiga­ Police Department (CPD) and the
ure in all matters, traced the basis tors valuable insight into the mind- FBI's Chicago office to establish the
for his power back to the time of set of the New Breed. They had real identity of several gang mem­
Hannibal, and identified Hannibal’s pondered why a group of African- bers. CPD examiners compared fin­
“first born son, by a Sicilian American gang leaders preferred gerprints of persons arrested in In­
woman” as the original leader of the nicknames, such as Velle, Vino, dianapolis with prints they had on

2 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

file. Detectives from Chicago as­ To develop the drug dealing applied by IPD uniformed officers
sisted by viewing photographs and case against the gang, task force de­ to trafficking locations.
providing print examiners with tectives worked with Indianapolis
names of possible suspects to FBI agents. Cooperating individu­ Efforts Intensify
shorten the process. Because of this als provided information and made As the case evolved, task force
effort, officers discovered that a controlled purchases of heroin at officers employed several surveil-
number of persons had arrest war- the direction of police. Together, lance techniques, especially a fed­
rants, including one for murder, on investigators gathered enough intel­ eral communications wiretap order
file in Chicago and apprehended ligence to introduce an undercover on the main cellular telephone used
these individuals. Officers also officer to New Breed members for by the New Breed. Prior to applying
alerted BMV to the problem. BMV the purpose of purchasing heroin. for the wiretap authorization order,
used internal audit and control Task force plainclothes units pro­ detectives checked with the tele­
methods to halt the issuance of the vided backup for the undercover phone service provider to determine
bogus licenses and terminated officer, engaged in a limited num­ the amount of traffic on the gang’s
those employees involved. ber of proactive stops, assisted one cellular telephone account. In 4
Next, information surfaced another with surveillance on gang months, the account registered over
linking the gang to the illegal “clon­ members, and gathered intelligence 35,000 calls. The tap lasted 75 days
ing” of cellular telephones. Cloning on narcotics trafficking locations. A and required constant monitoring of
serves a dual purpose for criminals. cooperating individual supplied the the telephone and the conversa­
They can avoid the monthly charge, tions. MGTF members, FBI agents
and law enforcement cannot obtain from several field offices, India­

an account history or accurately napolis West District Neighbor-
trace an account holder. Tracing the hood Resource Officers, and the
account holder represents a neces­ IPD’s narcotics unit combined to
sary step prior to conducting elec­ As the case evolved, cover the wiretap. The majority of
tronic surveillance. A uniformed of­ task force officers offi- cers who assisted in monitor­
ficer from IPD’s North District employed several ing the wiretap continued to work
made a traffic stop and a custodial surveillance on unrelated matters while the elec­
arrest for a traffic offense, which tronic surveillance was in place.
led to police interdiction of the
techniques.... Undercover controlled transactions
cloning operation. The officer con­ continued while the wiretap was in

tacted the task force detectives with operation. The intense efforts lasted
information uncovered during the 5 months, including the 75 days of
traffic case. The detectives obtained electronic surveillance.
a search warrant based on the task force with a cellular telephone In planning for the wiretap, task
officer’s information and their own number used by gang members to force administrators realized that
interview with the traffic offender. arrange transactions involving the the operation not only would prove
The detectives received technical wholesale purchases and later the labor intensive, but require careful
assistance from cellular telephone street-level sale of heroin. As a re­ adherence to legal issues as well.
representatives while preparing and sult of the earlier seizure of cloning Before the electronic surveillance
executing the search warrant. They equipment, the gang had to legally could start, all officers scheduled to
located and recovered cellular obtain the phone, which had an monitor the phone received special­
phones and equipment valued at identifiable account holder. Elec­ ized training on how to properly
approximately $100,000. The re­ tronic communications became capture conversations. Federal
moval of this illegal source of com­ increasingly important to New guidelines respect some conversa­
munication proved invaluable later Breed as the gang attempted to tions, even among criminals, as pri­
in the investigation. shield their operation from pressure vate. For this reason, the officers

March 2001 / 3
had to listen carefully to what the money belonging to the gang, re- investigators from the FBI, the Indi­
suspects said. If it became readily solved the matter, and would disci­ ana University Police Department,
apparent that the subject matter fell pline Sonny. Frustrated task force IPD Homicide, and MGTF pieced
within one of the protected catego­ officers could only wait and wonder together the shooting scenario. Re­
ries, the officers had to stop the re- what and who would be involved in portedly, New Breed members had
cording and cease monitoring. The the gang discipline. agreed to purchase crack cocaine
law, however, allows for periodic On the next evening, India­ from a nongang member. An argu­
checks to determine when the pri­ napolis East District uniformed of­ ment broke out during the transac­
vate conversation ends and the sus­ ficers received a radio call to inves­ tion and an exchange of gunfire en-
pects return to illegal activity. tigate a suspicious vehicle on the sued. One man died, and the
northeast side of the city. The offic­ surviving victim sustained a .45-
Gang Violence ers found a male murder victim in- caliber gunshot wound to the face.
During the course of the New side the car. The man had been dead The killers fled, believing both vic­
Breed investigation, the real danger for several hours and was identified tims to be dead.
to society from this type of gang as a gang member. As the investiga­ Unfortunately, these murders
became evident in the number and tion progressed, task force officers represent much of the violence
type of criminal acts it committed in determined that this victim was problem in Indianapolis. A local
addition to drug dealing. One Sonny. crime analyst summed up the city’s
evening, while monitoring conver­ Investigators also obtained in- situation by stating, “The largest
sations on the wiretap, officers formation allegedly identifying category of homicides in Indianapo­
overheard the leader of the India­ three additional New Breed mem­ lis involve groups of chronic of-
napolis faction, Vino, complain of bers for involvement in another ho­ fenders with ties to the drug trade.
being robbed. Talk indicated that an micide that occurred on the Indiana These groups include formal gangs
armed robbery involving stolen like the New Breed, as well as less
cash had occurred earlier that day.

organized neighborhood crews. The
Vino suspected a gang member common link seems to be drug
known as Sonny and ordered sev­ distribution.”6
eral other New Breed gang mem­ Cooperative efforts
bers to locate this individual. Con­ Other Successes
led to solving other
versations throughout the evening Cooperative efforts led to solv­
indicated that members searched
cases as ing other cases as investigators met
diligently for the suspect. Officers investigators met and and shared information. Officers
did not know Sonny’s identity, but shared information. seized a stolen car from one New
they understood that the punish­ Breed member. Arson units solved

ment for gang members who broke a suspicious vehicle fire after task
New Breed rules often allegedly force detectives supplied them with
was death. Although task force de­ information that a New Breed mem­
tectives used all of the means University-Purdue University at In­ ber, having a domestic dispute with
available to them, they failed to dianapolis campus. The detectives his girlfriend, intentionally set the
identify or locate the threatened working the New Breed case be­ vehicle on fire, which also resulted
gang member. Late in the evening, a lieved the death was related to their in the destruction of an innocent
monitored call informed Vino that investigation after learning that neighbor’s vehicle. Task force of­
gang members had found the sus­ they had encountered one of the two ficers arrested numerous individu­
pect. The caller did not give a loca­ shooting victims earlier while als on outstanding warrants as they
tion. Subsequent conversations in­ investigating the cellular telephone routinely checked known gang
dicated that members had recovered cloning. Working as a team, members and their associates for

4 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

new charges filed by other officers Employees at this central location working together made numerous
neither involved in nor knowledge- then scheduled groups of inmates to felony arrests for a wide range of
able about the gang investigation. see the doctor. They assigned in- offenses. However, this success re­
Task force detectives estimated mates to a group based on when sulted from many long hours logged
that in excess of 45 tangential they received the request forms at by all of the officers involved. The
arrests resulted from the main the central unit. The gang's lieuten­ wiretap exercise alone required ap­
investigation. ant learned that if he filled out re- proximately 3,600 hours worked by
quest forms for himself and the per- officers engaged in monitoring the
Challenges son he wished to see, then traffic. This total does not take into
Situations arose throughout the submitted them at the same time, account the time spent by officers
case that proved challenging for the the forms would arrive at the medi­ reviewing and transcribing the
investigators. For example, officers cal unit together. No corruption was tapes. Surveillance, controlled nar­
learned that incarcerated New involved, just an ingenious inmate. cotic buys, preparation and execu­
Breed members were holding meet­ To avoid future problems, inmates tion of search warrants, and the
ings among themselves inside the no longer fill out medical requests completion of the paperwork re­
county jail. When questioned, sev­ for others. As an additional precau­ quired by the case took many thou-
eral of those who had cooperated tion, jail personnel moved New sands of additional hours.
with police confirmed this informa­ Breed members throughout the cor­ Moreover, the amount of suc­
tion. The underlying theme of the rectional system, placing some in cess achieved in this operation
meetings dealt with the need to other counties. was in direct proportion to the
maintain a united front against law amount of cooperation between the
enforcement. Those not inclined to Conclusion various agencies. The Safe Streets
follow this dictate were threatened The investigation of the New Task Force concept made this coop­
with serious bodily harm or death. Breed gang in Indianapolis, eration possible. The lead investi­
Investigators faced the possibility Indiana, was successful. Officers gators had an existing working
that investigative leads would dis­
appear and lengthy trials ensue. The
officers suspected corruption
within the jail system and quickly
scheduled a meeting with jail
Working together, detectives
and jail personnel found and cor­
rected the problem. Following nor­
mal procedures, jail personnel dis­
persed gang members throughout
the jail population. However, a
high-ranking New Breed lieutenant
wished to maintain control over the
members. He studied the jail system
and found a flaw. In order to
see medical personnel on a
nonemergency basis, an inmate
filled out a request form and turned
it in to the appropriate authority © PhotoDisc
who forwarded it to a central unit.

March 2001 / 5
relationship due to past interaction neglect other duties. In all, skillful strategically links concentrated and enhanced
law enforcement efforts (weeding) with health
on the task force. Resources and blending of resources enabled law
and human services (seeding) to prevent and
expertise available to the FBI en­ enforcement to remove a large num­ deter further crime.
abled an in-depth investigation of ber of violent criminal street gang 3
For additional information on Safe Streets,
the targets. FBI electronic surveil- members from the Indianapolis see Douglas Shur, “Safe Streets: Combining
Resources to Address Violent Crime,” FBI Law
lance equipment enhanced the abil­ area.
Enforcement Bulletin, April 1995, 1-8.
ity of investigators to penetrate the 4
Investigation indicates that the gang may
inner workings of this criminal have operated in as many as 12 cities in 8
enterprise. Local officers shared 1
Olgen Williams directs a local community 5
This text was printed in italics in original
their knowledge of suspects’ center and has spearheaded Weed and Seed document.
identities, habits, and methods of efforts in Indianapolis since their inception. 6
Ed McGarrell is a faculty member at
operation that proved invaluable to 2
Since 1991, Operation Weed and Seed has Indiana University and directs the Crime Center
detectives. Combined staffing re- attempted to control violent crime, drug at the Hudson Institute.
trafficking, and drug-related crime and to
sources enabled the task force to provide a safe environment for residents to live,
devote personnel to the investiga­ work, and raise their families. The program
tion without causing any agency to

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6 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Focus on Surveillance

Surveillance Optics
By Carlyle Poindexter

T he binocular stands as perhaps the single

most valuable piece of equipment in the
professional surveillants’ arsenal. However, some
misunderstanding seems to exist among even sea­
should examine the basic features of binoculars and
some fundamental purchasing considerations.
soned investigators as to what constitutes an effective All prism-based binoculars are similar. Each has
optical device. Given the myriad of manufacturers four basic features that agencies must consider when
boasting the benefits of their new and miraculous choosing a system. These include magnification,
“space-age” designs, this proves unsurprising. light-gathering ability, field of view, and practicality.
Careful review of a binocular advertisement,
however, usually reveals an emphasis on one particu­ Magnification
lar capability of the binocular. Unfortunately, that one Magnification refers to the binocular’s ability to
feature often decreases the effectiveness of other magnify the image the viewer focuses on. Expressed
important ones. For example, one manufacturer as a “power,” magnification signifies how much
claims to produce a binocular with an amazing closer the image will appear to the viewer, as opposed
magnification of 30 times. What is not advertised is to observation with the naked eye. For example,
that the same unit will suffer an inherent loss of light- viewers using binoculars with 10x (10 power) magni­
gathering capability and destabilization of the image, fication will see images at one tenth of the true
perhaps serious enough to prohibit handheld use.1 To distance from them, or 10 times closer. The first
avoid this type of disappointment and to choose the number that appears on the binocular housing repre­
correct optical equipment, criminal justice agencies sents the power. Therefore, a binocular labeled 10x50

March 2001 / 7
possesses a 10 power magnification. Bearing this obtrude because of the housing required to contain the
magnification principle in mind, it becomes obvious additional optics. Larger lenses further increase the
that a higher power binocular allows surveillants to likelihood of reflections, which may alert the subject
position themselves at a greater distance from the to the surveillant’s presence.
subjects of their investigations. While beneficial to The opposite applies to a binocular used under
discreet surveillance, this increased capability causes low-light conditions. The housing size and chances of
unavoidable decreases in the performance of other reflection become less important given the cloaking
features of binoculars. properties of darkness. In addition to the larger
Greater magnification results in a loss of light- objective lens, some binoculars, used predominantly
gathering ability, a decreased field of view, and a for low-light observations, have a special chemical
decline in image stability. To increase the size of the coating that enhances efficiency by partially prevent­
viewed image, additional optics become necessary. ing collected light from escaping. A low-light level
In turn, those optics cause a significant loss of the binocular usually possesses a lower magnification as
binocular’s ability to trap and retain light. Simply well. Less light is necessary to magnify and transmit
put, “more glass eats up more light.” The field of the image to the eyepiece. Lower light allows surveil­
view (i.e., the width of the area that the viewer lants to position themselves closer to subjects, hence
can see) decreases, requiring more the logic behind a lower magnifi­
effort to center the image. In cation power. In short, big lenses
addition, the image becomes equal good light gathering, which,
unstable, making it increasingly in turn, creates big binoculars.
difficult to focus on fine details,
such as motor vehicle registrations
and facial characteristics. “ ...a compact,
handheld binocular
may offer a strong
Field of View
Field of view denotes the
width of the focused image as it
Light-gathering Ability magnification, but appears through the eyepiece.
This feature signifies the prove ineffective in Field of view, typically expressed
binocular’s ability to gather and any light condition in feet, is based on what an
efficiently use ambient light (i.e., other than broad individual can view at 1,000 yards.
available environmental light daylight. A wider field of view tends to

without benefit of light-enhancing facilitate quick image acquisition.
devices, such as infra red). The When choosing binoculars,
size of the objective lens (the glass agencies should select the largest
optic on the far end of the binocu­ field of view available without
lar) determines the amount of light that the binocular moving to a special “wide view” unit. Although
can collect. Lens size, expressed in millimeters, readily available, wide-view binoculars have demon­
represents the second number found on the binocular strated some shortcomings when used in the field.
body. For example, a binocular labeled 10x50 has a Many lose image quality near the limits of the field of
50 millimeter objective lens. The objective lens view. Therefore, agencies should scrutinize the image
measurement chosen will depend largely on the quality before purchasing wide-view units.
surveillant’s needs for day or nighttime use. A lens
for daylight use requires no more than four times the Practicality
magnification of the binocular. Any greater lens size This feature includes a binocular’s durability,
may collect an unnecessary level of light. Because the size, and suitability for a variety of surveillance
human eye can use only so much light, an excess can needs. Surveillants may subject binoculars to a broad
cause eye strain over a prolonged surveillance. A range of environmental conditions. Humidity, tem­
binocular with a larger objective lens also tends to perature fluctuations, and rough handling associated

8 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

with field use can affect the quality of the transmitted in one eye; therefore, the individual focus capability
image. Misalignment of the optics caused by jarring takes into account this human vision variation. Out-
can degrade a binocular’s usefulness quickly. Fortu­ of-focus viewing through a binocular leads to eye-
nately, modern well-fabricated units are largely free strain and the inevitable accompanying headaches.
of the flaws caused by weather. Solid construction Second, an agency should choose binoculars
and the addition of a rubberized cover on most made by a reputable manufacturer and sold through a
binoculars have increased their shock resistance and reputable dealer. Respected manufacturers will
durability, while various guarantee their products, while
nonreflective finishes have en­ knowledgeable dealers can
hanced their discreetness. explain proper focusing and more
Size is certainly a practical technical issues, such as binocu­
factor for surveillants, who can lar alignment and how to recog­
find cumbersome binoculars nize optical flaws. Last, an
uncomfortable to hold for long agency must test the binoculars
periods of time. Fatigue from before purchasing them and
supporting several pounds of glass remember the old adage that “you
makes it difficult to manually hold get what you pay for.” Agencies
a stable and focused image. When must expect to pay a higher price
using binoculars with larger for quality equipment. The
objective lenses, surveillants may purchase of a well-made binocu­
need a window mount or tripod, lar will ensure comfortable, clear
making the unit even more difficult viewing and quick target acquisi­
to move or effectively disguise. tion. Small extras, such as
Obviously, an optic system of this size would not chemical lens coating and durable rubberized finish,
work for a mobile, e.g., vehicle, bicycle, or foot, can pay big dividends in the field.
surveillance. On the other hand, a compact, handheld
binocular may offer a strong magnification, but prove CONCLUSION
ineffective in any light condition other than broad Criminal justice professionals understand the
daylight. What, then, represents an acceptable importance of quality equipment. Often, though, they
compromise? may overlook the binocular when considering equip­
A binocular with a combination of features ment purchases. Agencies and individuals must
suitable for a wide range of surveillance needs examine their needs and budgets before deciding how
constitutes the most effective choice for most criminal best to use their limited funds for equipment pur­
justice agencies. Such a unit has between 8x and 12x, chases. By looking at the magnification, light-gather­
with an objective lens no smaller than 50 millimeters. ing ability, field of view, and practicality of various
This combination represents a “middle ground,” optic systems, these purchasers can increase their
offering good magnification without any noticeable chances of obtaining quality units that fulfill their
light-gathering loss. Image stability appears more than operational and budgetary requirements.
adequate in this range, and the field of view lies
between 250 and 350 feet at 1,000 yards. Endnote
The author based this article on his knowledge gained as a private
PURCHASE ADVICE investigator and by interviewing manufacturers and sellers of binocular
Before an agency purchases binoculars, it should equipment.
consider three main issues. First, the agency should Mr. Poindexter heads a private investigation firm in Raleigh,
try to choose a binocular with individual eyepiece North Carolina.
focusing capability. Most people have stronger vision

March 2001 / 9
Media Trends and the Public

Information Officer

© Mark Ide

D uring the past 20 years, the These changes have contrib- translates into a sound public rela­
news media has struggled uted to a number of media trends tions program—a crucial compo­
to meet a changing set of that affect the public information nent of effective law enforcement.
challenges and opportunities. To- officer (PIO) individually and the Law enforcement proactivity with

day, conglomerates own many of law enforcement community orga- the media begins with an in-depth

the media outlets that families once nizationally. Some trends have understanding of the current role

owned. Tremendous cutbacks in evolved progressively for many and function of the media and

news gathering have resulted in dra- years while others, such as empha- characteristics of the journalism

matic changes in the appeal of the sizing crime reporting during an ac- profession.

profession and how the media cur- tual reduction in violent crime sta­

rently views their public responsi- tistics, represent more recent trends. Newsroom Changes

bilities. More than ever before, the Progressive law enforcement Most media companies have

media, as a profit-making center, agencies that have institutionalized experienced a monetary decrease

has a vigilant eye on ratings, sub- proactive media relations programs for newsroom operations, which

scriptions, and advertising dollars. understand that this endeavor translates into layoffs, budget cuts,

10 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

smaller wage increases, and more
hours of work. Within the past
few years, media companies have
eliminated more than 3,100 news-
room jobs.1 Fewer human resour­
ces have resulted in less employees
“ Law enforcement
proactivity with the
media begins with an in-
to cover the news functions of liais­ depth understanding of
ing, investigating, preparing, and the current role and
reporting. function of the media....
Competition represents one of

the main reasons for newsroom
downsizing. It has forced the media
to buy new equipment and redesign
newspapers to include new page de- Special Agent Staszak serves as a media relations instructor in the
sign, format, and color.2 Substantial Law Enforcement Communication Unit at the FBI Academy.
improvement expenses have fo­
cused on greater efficiency and
profits, resulting in cutbacks and
starting salaries of approximately
$20,000 per year for a journalist.3 better understand the job of a other for news. A progressive po­
Besides financial issues, report­ reporter. PIOs will have a much lice department will make sure that
ers experience frustration in other greater understanding of the diffi­ good stories reach the media. To do
areas as well. To make information culties reporters face when they at- this, each department should bring
more newsworthy, editors some- tempt to reduce 20 pages of notes newsworthy issues to their PIO’s
times exert their influence on the into an article printed in a 6-inch attention.
size and angle of journalistic ef­ newspaper column. Ultimately, this Consistency and fairness with
forts. They emphasize packaging to results in a win-win situation be- all media outlets marks a corner-
get the maximum coverage by mak­ cause PIOs, as well as reporters, stone of effective media relations;
ing an article or newscast more ap­ learn about each other’s profession. therefore, departments should make
pealing to a wider group of readers the same information available to
and viewers over a geographical TV Ratings and Newspaper all reporters. In addition, agencies
area.4 Circulation who trust PIOs with information
Because of these issues, a law Most television executives be- concerning research on an upcom­
enforcement agency’s PIO prob­ gin their day by viewing their pro- ing story or program should respect
ably will encounter a news reporter gram ratings from the night before. the wishes of confidentiality ex-
struggling to become a subject-mat­ Similarly, newspaper administra­ tended by reporters. Reporters will
ter expert in many areas and content tors examine circulation statistics. remember a betrayal of their enter­
to have landed one of the few jobs These numbers reveal whether prising efforts during the competi­
in the media.5 Recognizing that the viewership and newspaper sales tion for news.
reporter may not know the differ­ have increased or decreased.6 Obvi­ The overwhelming search for
ence between subpoenas, indict­ ously, with higher ratings and circu­ news should warn law enforcement
ments, or summonses, proactive lation, more profits come from that the media will get their story
PIOs should assist the reporter in increased advertising money. Be- one way or another. Cooperating
learning about and understanding cause of the fierce competition with the media remains the most
the law enforcement profession. among the numerous media outlets reasonable avenue for PIOs to take
Likewise, PIOs should use contacts for readers, viewers, and listeners, to advise the public of the
with the media as an opportunity to the media tries to “out scoop” each department’s position. Ultimately,

March 2001 / 11
the reporter and the reader or viewer When establishing a relation- considering reporters’ deadlines,
probably will understand the ship with a media representa­ hectic schedules, extent of subject-
agency’s viewpoint. tive, PIOs should determine the matter knowledge, and the competi­
background and ethical standards of tion they face. A misleading and
Media Mergers the reporter. Good reporters will not oversimplified story in the news
Media mergers represent the hesitate to explain to PIOs what may result.
newest and most far-reaching trend considerations and factors they use Realizing the importance of an­
in the media and entertainment in­ in creating a story or writing an ar­ swers to the why and how questions
dustry. Cable and long-distance ticle. Second, representatives of the to the reporter, PIOs must provide
telephone companies have joined to media should be willing to provide information that will result in an
form large conglomerates.7 These PIOs with their supervisor’s or accurate piece of investigative re-
mergers result from relaxed regula­ editor’s name and phone number. If porting. The PIOs should anticipate
tions concerning ownership.8 The the media representative fails to do the why and how questions and pro-
Federal Communications Commis­ this, a caution flag should raise in vide as much information as law,
sion repealed its regulations con­ the PIO’s mind. regulations, policy, and common
cerning financial and syndication sense dictate.
interests, which gave networks, in­

vestors, and major corporations the Crime Reporting
power to own and syndicate pro­ For several years, the media has
gramming, and has resulted in their heralded the fact that serious crime
ability to own and control more of A progressive has decreased in the United States.
their product.9 police department Oddly, increased media coverage of
The wave of media mergers will make sure that incidents of crime have occurred.
sweeping the country will continue, good stories reach Several reasons exist for this trend.
pushed forward with the help of re­ the media. First, for years, the media has given
laxed federal regulations. Large priority to this type of news, and old

companies will continue to acquire habits remain hard to break.11 Sec­
and sell newspapers. The era of the ond, consumers of electronic and
local paper will end as giant corpo­ printed media still follow crime
rations of the publishing business coverage. Polls show that this infor­
acquire them. Complete News Coverage mation still holds people’s inter-
As a result, law enforcement The recipe for constructing a est.12 Third, crime coverage is easy,
should remember that with media complete news story requires that it loaded with good visuals and sound
mergers and buyouts, liaison that contain the who, what, when, bites, and relatively inexpensive to
once existed with the media may where, why, and how of the issue. cover.13 A news station simply has
change quickly. Bonds of trust can Reporters may find that the acquisi­ to listen to a police scanner, send
break when a new owner begins cut­ tion of requisite information satis­ out a reporter, get pictures and
ting operating costs and releases fying the why and how questions sound bites, and broadcast it. The
higher-paid employees and then re- proves very difficult to obtain. Law fact that many viewers and readers
places them with others for half the enforcement usually does not pro- say that crime news is important to
salary. The owner’s determination vide this information immediately. the community remains another rea­
to make a profit and a name for the As journalists attempt to report on son for covering criminal matters.
new company, as well as the the why and how of a crime, they They want to know crime patterns
reporter’s desire to move on to a begin to speculate on motives for and how to find a solution for them
larger media outlet, can ruin the the crime and actions of the po- before they get larger.14
former liaison with law enforce­ lice.10 The possibility of speculation In view of the media’s reluc­
ment agencies. becomes even more acute when tance to decrease the reporting of

12 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

criminal matters, law enforcement 5
Matthew Robinson, “The Big Media Make Part of Reporter’s Job, But It Cuts Both Ways,”
must continue furnishing details of Big Errors,” Investor’s Business Daily, July 28, USA Today, November 1, 1999, sec. A, p. 29.
1998, sec. A, p. 1. See also Sydney H. Richard Moran, “More Police, Less
criminal activity, but it also must Schanberg, “The News No One Dares To Crime, Right?” New York Times, February 27,
establish a strategy for soliciting Cover,” Washington Post, August 29, 1999, 1995, sec. A, p. 15. See also Fox Butterfield,
community and media interest in sec. B, p. 1. “Serious Crime Decreased for Fifth Year in a
nontraditional issues, such as pro- Robert Samuelson, “Network Fadeout,” Row,” New York Times, January 5, 1997, sec.
Washington Post, January 13, 1999, sec. A, p. A, p. 10.
active programs for a safer commu­ 1. See also Howard Kurtz, “On Web, Newspa­ 12
Howard Kurtz, “The Crime Spree on
nity. To garner media interest, law pers Never Sleep,” Washington Post, Septem­ Network News,” Washington Post, August 12,
enforcement must become better at ber 7, 1999, sec. E, p. 1. 1997, sec. D, p. 1. See also Philip S. Cook,
packaging their messages and mak­ Lorraine Woellert, “Deal Makes Douglas Gomery, Lawrence W. Lichty, The
News Corp. No. 1 in Stations Owned,” Future of News, (Washington, DC: The
ing them more attractive.15 Washington Times, July 18, 1996, sec. B, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1992), 14-15.
p. 7. See also Stephen Labaton, “Many Associated Press, “TV News Puts Focus
Conclusion Media Voices of a Few Merged Masters,” on Crime, Study Says,” Washington Times,
These trends represent only a New York Times, September 12, 1999, sec. 3, May 12, 1997, sec. A, p. 7. See also the New
p. 1. York Times News Service, “Broadcast of Man’s
portion of the changes taking place 8
Paul Farhi, “Their Reception’s Great,” Death Rekindles a Debate in Los Angeles,”
in the media. Although the media Washington Post, February 16, 1997, sec. H, New York Times, November 28, 1999, sec. A, p.
has undergone some radical p. 1. 16.
9 14
changes in the past 20 years, it still Paul Farhi, “Too Close for Comfort,” Fox Butterfield, “Crime-Fightings About
Washington Post, January 7, 1996, sec. H, p. 1. Face,” New York Times, January 19, 1997, sec.
remains one of the most powerful See also Paul Farhi, “Clap If You Love Mega- 4, p. 1.
forces in U.S. society. As a result of TV!” Washington Post, September 12, 1999, 15
Michael Winerip, “Looking for an Eleven
that power, some law enforcement sec. B, p. 1. O’Clock Fix,” New York Times Magazine,
personnel may dislike, fear, or mis­ Richard Harwood, “The How and Why of January 11, 1998, sec. 6, pp. 31-63. See also
It All,” Washington Post, August 14, 1997, sec. Bridget Samburg, “Deep Into Crime,” Brill’s
trust the media. Law enforcement A, p. 21. See also Philip Meyer, “Confrontation Content, January 2000, 88-91.
professionals can influence the me­
dia process; therefore, they should
create a liaison with the media to
ensure accurate reporting. If PIOs Suggested Reading
understand how ethical reporters
and journalists think and realize • James Fallows, Breaking The News (New York, NY:
what factors influence their profes­ Vintage Books, 1996).
sion, they can deal successfully • Herbert J. Gans, Deciding What’s News (New York, NY:
with the news media. Vintage Books, 1980).
• Clarence Jones, Winning With the News Media (Tampa,
Endnotes FL: Video Consultants, Inc., 1996).
Richard Harwood, “When Downsizing
Hits the Newsroom,” Washington Post, April 2, • Howard Kurtz, Media Circus (New York, NY: Times
1996, sec. A, p. 13. See also Clarence Jones, Books,1993).
Winning With the News Media (Tampa, FL:
Video Consultants, Inc. 1999), 1-8. • Martin Mayer, Making News (Boston, MA: Harvard
Jon Katz, “Old Media, New Media and a Business School Press, 1993).
Middle Way,” New York Times, January 19,
1997, sec. 2, p. 1. • James W. Robinson, Winning Them Over (Rocklin, CA:
Richard Harwood, “Lost Muscle of the Prima Publishing and Communications, 1987).
Newspaper Guild,” Washington Post,
December 15, 1995, sec. A, p. 25.
• Larry J. Sabato, Feeding Frenzy (New York, NY:
Howard Kurtz, “The Bad News Starts at The Free Press, 1993).
Work in Nation’s Newsrooms,” Washington
Post, October 30, 1995, sec. A, p. 1.

March 2001 / 13
Bulletin Reports

Video Surveillance Selection

The National Institute of Justice presents the Video Surveillance
Equipment Selection and Application Guide by David J. Atkinson,
Val J. Pietrasiewicz, and Keith E. Junker. The 80-page guide helps
law enforcement and corrections personnel select and apply video
surveillance systems to their
needs by analyzing an array
of surveillance requirements.
The guide sets forth video’s Crime Scene Investigation
technical parameters and how
they relate to law enforcement Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for Law Enforcement by
needs. It also discusses costs the Technical Working Group on Crime Scene Investigation of the
and potential benefits and National Institute of Justice addresses fundamental principles of
limitations of video surveil- investigating a crime scene and preserving evidence that yield
lance. For copies of the report reliable information. Law enforcement and other responders
(NCJ 179545), contact the responsible for protecting crime scenes, preserving physical
National Criminal Justice evidence, and collecting and submitting the evidence for scientific
Reference Service at 800-851- examination represent the targeted audience of this research report.
3420 or access its Web site at It is not a comprehensive or rigid scheme of activities, but a guide for law enforcement that recognizes the authority of federal and
state statutes, case law, and local policies and procedures. The
report also contains a glossary and lists of references and contact
organizations. To obtain a copy of the report (NCJ 178280),
contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 800-
851-3420 or access its Web site at

Gunshot Detection Systems

Random gunfire represents a significant problem in many large cities throughout the United States.
Lorraine Green Mazerolle, Cory Watkins, Dennis Rogan, and James Frank have prepared a research
brief for the National Institute of Justice on this problem and the use of gunshot detection technology
by local law enforcement. Random Gunfire Problems and Gunshot Detection Systems summarizes the
findings from field studies of two gunshot detection systems, which police installed in a Dallas, Texas,
neighborhood with high levels of random gunfire. The brief also outlines officers’ perceptions of the
detection systems and their use of gunshot detection technology. For a copy of this research brief (NCJ
179274), contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 800-851-3420 or access its Web
site at

14 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Book Review

Grave Words: Notifying Survivors About relevant aspects for law enforcement departments
Sudden, Unexpected Deaths by Kenneth V. concerning death notification preparation, support
Iserson, M.D., Galen Press, Ltd., Tucson, teams for the department members and other
Arizona, 1999. surviving family members, command and specific
Grave Words guides law enforcement manag- officer liaison efforts, financial and other benefits
ers in developing policy for sudden and unex- available for the surviving families, and the
pected death notifications. It offers excellent chaplain’s involvement. All of this critical infor­
communication skills and checklists necessary for mation is then supported by a comprehensive
officers to professionally deliver tragic news to example of a department line-of-duty death policy
surviving loved ones and coworkers. that managers can modify easily to their agency,
This book addresses various personal and no matter what size.
professional protocol interfaces, and the content Contained in section four is a compilation of a
can be applied to all law enforcement agencies at survey response from survivors, including their
various levels. It provides invaluable information questions and answers. This section also includes
on avoiding the common clichés that survivors how to prepare for the planning and interfacing
could interpret negatively, which could cause a with the media on disaster crashes and environ­
violent response toward the bearer of the death mental catastrophes, high-profile incidents, or
news. other major criminal events where death occurs.
The author presents a wealth of practical and Grave Words includes a total of 39 well-
demonstrated information on all of the logical developed matrix tables that support the various
steps in death notifications. In the first section of chapters. The quality and applicability of the
the book, the author chronicles what phrases book’s content is validated in its 2-page acknowl­
professionals must know and how and when to edgments from many experienced death notifica­
best use them. This section explains how to avoid tion professionals.
using words and comments that can mentally Grave Words is a must-have book for all law
damage the survivors of the victims of homicides, enforcement or criminal justice officials tasked
suicides, accidental and unexpected deaths, as with death notification. It can help officers lessen
well as department personnel who die in the line the negative, stressful impact on themselves and
of duty. The author includes an 11-page checklist the receivers of such painful news by offering
that law enforcement administrators can use to some simple, yet proven, procedures. Addition-
develop protocol for delivering sudden and ally, it can help administrators establish policy and
unexpected death notifications. procedures for death notifications; develop
In section two, the author focuses on lists of survivor assistant programs; serve as a reference
common hostile responses by survivors to the or guide for chaplains; and offer support for
news of the victim’s death. This information department grant funding requests for such items
proves beneficial for notification personnel by as policy development and departmentwide
preparing them to better cope with various training.
emotional responses by the survivors. This
section also provides a table on how to help Reviewed by
survivors before, during, and after a funeral and Larry R. Moore
memorial service. Certified Emergency Manager
Most compelling is the information in section International Association
three that includes two specific chapters on the of Emergency Managers
tasks that officials who deliver death notifications Knoxville, Tennessee
must face. A unique 7-page checklist covers the

March 2001 / 15
Con Artists

© PhotoDisc

K nown as con artists, scam

crimes out of desperation (eco­ suffered did not result from inten­
artists, swindlers, shysters,
nomic stress, drug/alcohol abuse), tional misrepresentation. Also, too
grifters, bunco artists, or
or because of their environment often, their skillful deception dis­
fraudsters, these criminals perpe­
(family violence, gang/peer influ­ suades criminal investigators, pros­
trate a significant portion of the
ence), or who simply represent ecutors, or both from pursuing
large-scale and sophisticated fraud
greedy opportunists. Con artists them.
schemes that victimize individuals,
commit crimes because it pays and Con artists tend to act irratio­
banks, businesses, and government
because swindling is easier and nally—their criminal behavior
agencies. They are the figures be-
more exciting than working for a more the result of flawed character
hind most fraudulent investment
living.1 And, when confronted with than of adverse social conditions or
plans, advance fee loan schemes,
their deceptions, these predators greed alone. Successful con artists
and many other white collar crimes,
feign bewilderment and frequently are charming, manipulative, and
such as bank and insurance fraud
turn the tables on their victims. Un­ able to exploit the innate trust and
and illegal telemarketing. Members
fortunately, scam artists too often greed of many people. Their over-
of this class of criminals differ from
convince victims that they have not abundance of self-esteem is exag­
most others who may commit
received harm or that any loss gerated by their lack of respect for

16 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

others. These individuals lack em­
pathy for their victims and guilt for
their parasitic lifestyle.2 Addition-
ally, most challenging for law en­
forcement, con artists can be intelli­
gent, confident, and masterful liars.
“ Law enforcement
must prove intent
The interview of con artists rep­
witnesses to the
resents a significant challenge in the formulation of intent
investigation of frauds committed do not exist.

by this type of criminal. The con
artist often sizes up an interviewer
to determine their expertise in the
particular financial/business deal­
ings involved in the fraud and then Special Agent O'Neal serves in the FBI’s
attempts to explain the “misunder­ Albuquerque, New Mexico, office.
standing” using jargon the con artist
perceives the interviewer will not
understand, which presents a
unique challenge for fraud investi­ swift conclusion. Even when a sub­ and admissions of intentional
gators. Due to a general lack of re­ ject interview fails to yield a full misrepresentations.
gard for the abilities of others, these confession, it affords law enforce­ A former federal prosecutor,
subjects do not fear interrogation by ment the opportunity to document who now advises white collar
law enforcement, and their willing­ information to further build a case criminal defense attorneys, identi­
ness to talk freely makes them over- so that the prosecutor can decide fies attempts by white collar crime
confident, which provides an whether, or how, to charge the suspects to cover up their crimes as
opportunity for a prepared investi­ subject. one of their biggest mistakes: “a
gator. An investigator in the role of Approaching the subject inter- dangerous pitfall occurs when the
an interested interviewer, as op­ view with the focused goal of ob­ client starts falsely denying culpa­
posed to an authoritative interroga­ taining a confession may not prove bility about the specifics of his al­
tor, can take advantage of the char­ practical in cases targeting experi­ leged offense....” 5 Experienced
acter flaws of financial swindlers. enced con artists. According to one fraud investigators know that
With the proper preparation and expert in the area of interviewing many financial scam operators will
strategic approach on the part of and interrogation, “Suspects con­ consent, sometimes eagerly, to an
investigators, evidence produced fess when the internal anxiety interview. Con artists with high
from subject interviews of con art­ caused by their deception out- self-confidence frequently do not
ists can become the key to success­ weighs their perception of the seek the counsel of an attorney,
ful fraud prosecutions. crime’s consequences.”3 However, confident that they possess suffi­
con artists who think nothing of cient wisdom and skill to deflect
PLANNING THE INTERVIEW cheating people out of their life sav­ allegations of fraud. This confi­
STRATEGY ings do not experience internal dence may come from past experi­
In fraud cases, as in all criminal anxiety.4 When an assessment of the ence in fooling a variety of victims
investigations, the subject inter- subject’s background and personal­ and even criminal investigators and
view presents important opportuni­ ity indicates a practiced con artist prosecutors. In fact, record checks
ties. A properly obtained confes­ indisposed to confessing, a more often reveal references to the sub­
sion most often will bring the practical and often achievable goal ject in law enforcement indices. In­
investigation and prosecution to a is to elicit false exculpatories vestigators frequently discover past

March 2000 / 17
complaints that law enforcement to mix a degree of truth into their often yield false exculpatories. If
took no action against or investiga­ solicitations. With experience, con investigators adequately document
tions that failed to produce criminal artists become familiar with the the original misrepresentations,
charges. questions their intended victims fre­ they will obtain significant circum­
Oftentimes, prosecutors de- quently ask and prepare to reduce stantial evidence of criminal intent.
cline prosecution of fraud cases be- doubts with ample and impressive- Fraud investigators routinely
cause of insufficient proof of the sounding facts and figures. There- obtain a subject’s tax, brokerage,
subject’s intention to defraud. Law fore, investigators must prepare ad­ and business documents, as well as
enforcement must prove intent cir­ equately before confronting con bank account records from both the
cumstantially—eye witnesses to the artists. Fundamental preparation re- subject’s and victim’s accounts.
formulation of intent do not exist. quires the following: a thorough de- Analysis of these documents will
Evidence of past involvement in briefing of all victims; analysis of allow the investigator to follow the
fraud schemes and documented all pertinent documents; familiar­ money obtained by fraud from the
false exculpatories related to the ization with all aspects of the victim to the subject’s personal ben­
pending investigation help demon­ scheme (including the legitimate fi­ efit, known as the conversion. For
strate criminal intent. False nancial and business concepts that example, in a recent advance fee
exculpatories can include state­ the scheme is based on and the typi­ loan fraud scheme, one of the vic­
ments contrary to established, le­ cal features of the specific fraudu­ tims lost a $100,000 advance fee in
gitimate, financial principles and lent scheme); and a review of the an attempt to acquire a $5 million
procedures when evidence of the subject’s background. loan. The victim mailed an advance
subject’s training and experience fee, in the form of an endorsed gov­
precludes the excuse of ignorance. ernment check payable to the vic­

For example, a subject involved in a tim, in response to the subject’s
kickback scheme and experienced false representation of a require­
in the distribution business claims ment to purchase a bond to secure
that 90 percent represents a stan­ In fraud cases...the the loan. A paper trail, beginning
dard markup on a common product subject interview with the canceled check, snaked
when, in fact, a markup of 30 to 45 presents important through two brokerage accounts,
percent is customary. Statements in opportunities. one business bank account, the
contradiction of documented repre­ subject’s personal bank account,
sentations made to victims also are and then on to businesses where the

significant false exculpatories. Es­ subject purchased a new luxury car,
tablishing a pattern of false a big-screen television, and furni­
exculpatories effectively can dem­ ture for his house. In the subject
onstrate intent. With adequate Fraud investigators must docu­ interview, among numerous false
preparation and patience by the in­ ment and review details of all writ- statements, the subject stated that
vestigator, the subject interview of ten and verbal representations the he had entrusted the victim’s
a con artist will provide such a subject has made to victims. Writ- $100,000 to a person he believed
pattern. ten documents and audio recordings would purchase a bond and origi­
provided by or made with the assis­ nate the $5 million loan. The state­
PREPARING FOR THE tance of cooperating victims or elic­ ment not only provided a false ex­
INTERVIEW ited by undercover agents will pro- culpatory, but it also revealed that,
Proficient con artists deceive vide the best evidence. In the as a defense, the subject intended to
victims by sounding authoritative. subject interview, specific ques­ portray himself as a victim.
They demonstrate a unique ability tions concerning details of repre­ In preparation for the subject
to appear as prosperous experts and sentations made to intended victims interview with a known con artist,

18 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

investigators must become familiar Therefore, law enforcement agen- the criminal to contact a lawyer,

with all aspects of the scheme. Ex­ cies should query consumer com- who usually will advise the subject

amples illustrating the importance plaint centers, such as the National not to agree to an interview.6 How-

of sufficient preparation include the Fraud Information Center, the U.S. ever, self-confident con artists usu-

widespread and highly profitable Office of Consumer Affairs, the ally agree to meet without consult-

international fraud schemes that so- Better Business Bureau, and state ing attorneys. These criminals often

licit investments in “prime bank in­ attorney general’s offices. Search- readily agree because they want to

struments” and “standby letters of ing civil court records occasionally find out how much the investigator

credit.” Schemers attract victims by leads to discovery of civil lawsuits knows about their schemes, and

claiming that these financial instru­ filed by victims who did not report they feel confident that they can

ments are freely transferable and the fraud to law enforcement. Be- sidetrack the investigation.

generate large returns when traded cause con artists often make a ca­

in secondary markets. In reality, reer of fraudulent schemes and Initial Contact

prime bank instruments are com­ sometimes leave a trail of bankrupt Law enforcement officers may

pletely fictitious, and genuine shell companies, law enforcement call subjects on the telephone to ar­
standby letters of credit, which should make a search of federal range a meeting for the initial con-
banks around the world issue pursu­ bankruptcy files standard proce- tact or make an unannounced en­
ant to strict policies, cannot be sold dure. Investigators also can find counter at an office or residence.
legitimately on secondary markets. evidence of a criminal’s shady past After the appropriate introduction,
Before interviewing a subject who in local newspaper articles using investigators should advise subjects
operates such sophisticated fraud public source databases. that they have received a complaint
schemes, or any scheme involving about their financial dealings and
financial instruments, investigators CONDUCTING THE would like to discuss the matter.7 In
must thoroughly research and un­ INTERVIEW most cases, con artists gladly agree
derstand in detail the legitimate and In many white collar crime and make themselves available for
fraudulent aspects of the particular cases, a criminal investigator’s ini- extended periods. If a subject resists
scheme to become prepared to ask tial contact with a subject prompts cooperating, the investigator should
the subject pertinent questions and
to accurately record the subject’s
true and false statements in the
course of an interview.
Law enforcement should re-
search the subject’s background
when preparing for an interview.
When a preliminary investigation
indicates an experienced scam art­
ist, comprehensive research be-
comes essential. Past involvement
in fraudulent activity, and false de­
nial of the same, certainly contrib­
utes to proving intent. Officers
should not limit background
searches to internal law enforce­
ment databases—evidence of past
involvement in financial fraud
may exist in numerous places.

March 2001 / 19
explain assertively that a serious when a question concerning a stan­ general, and, specifically, experi­
crime has been alleged. Investiga­ dard financial procedure elicits a ence in the area related to the fraud
tors also should prepare to proceed response the investigator knows is scheme.
with an adversarial interview/inter- false, investigators should appear to
rogation. If a subject readily agrees accept the answer and ask for spe­ Admissions
to an interview, the investigator will cific details. Instead of attempting After extracting the full story
find a tone of polite professional to “set the hook,” the investigator from the subject, an investigator
inquiry more effective, as opposed should “feed more line” to achieve may begin confronting the subject
to aggressive accusation. In such an the goal of eliciting numerous, de- with discrepancies. A practical tac­
atmosphere, subjects will display tailed false exculpatories. tic is to start with minor issues that
varying degrees of nervousness, but the subject may perceive as mini­
the subjects’ degree of confidence mally damaging. For example:

generally will remain high. Their “You stated earlier that you told Mr.
belief that they maintain the upper Smith that he would receive a return
hand will continue, and they will of 8 to 10 percent on the investment
usually answer questions with little ...investigators can you offered. Correct?” After the
hesitation. subject confirms the representation,
elicit significant proof the investigator advises the subject
False Exculpatories of criminal intent in that Mr. Smith produced a written
Throughout an interview with a the form of false document that promised an average
self-confident con artist, patience is exculpatories and return of 25 to 35 percent. Admit­
fundamental. To obtain the neces­ admissions. ting to making an incorrect state­
sary facts and elicit false ment to the investigator and con-

exculpatories, the investigator must firming the promise made to the
allow the subject to describe the de- victim should not seem too compro­
tails of the “opportunity” offered to mising to the subject. When the
victims and the specific representa­ subject has admitted the less serious
tions made to victims. Con artists In this stage of the interview, discrepancies, the investigator can
tend to get off track and give dis­ the investigator must focus on thor­ attempt to elicit more incriminating
jointed, long-winded answers to oughly documenting details of the admissions. For example: “You
straightforward questions. The in­ subject’s description of the contacts stated earlier that you made it clear
terviewer must listen carefully over and communications with victims. to Mr. Smith that there were risks to
a long period of time while subtly Because the investigator initially the investment and that the return of
guiding the subject back to perti­ indicated an interest in particular principal could not be guaranteed.
nent matters. financial transactions, not in the Correct?” After the subject con-
If investigators do not reveal subject as a criminal suspect, it may firms the statement, the investigator
their knowledge early in the inter- be prudent to complete the inquiry produces proof to the contrary—a
view, the subject’s lack of aware­ into the facts of the related fraud tape recording of a call from the
ness of the investigator’s detailed scheme before addressing back- victim to the subject or a written
knowledge of the fraudulent ground matters. Beginning with document, prepared by the subject,
scheme and the subject’s represen­ personal questions could cause sub­ in which the subject confirms guar­
tations and promises made to vic­ jects to raise their defenses. After anteed principal and interest. An
tims represent a key advantage. In­ covering the facts, the investigator example of an effective follow-up
vestigators who pounce on false should inquire into the subject’s question would be, “When you told
statements that subjects make may background, including education, Mr. Smith there was no risk to prin­
lose their advantage. For example, financial and business experience in cipal, you indeed intended to use his

20 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

money to purchase extremely high- Yet, even when faced with an character traits that make con artists
risk future contracts. Correct?” In overwhelming case against them, so successful to their advantage.
response, the subject will either ad­ self-confident con artists still may In fraud investigations, the re­
mit to a significant intentional de­ refuse to admit to intentionally quirement of proving that a subject
ception or come up with an even harming the victims of a fraud intended to defraud poses a signifi­
more incredulous lie. scheme. Notwithstanding the cant challenge. By allowing over-
subject’s defiance of reason, an in­ confidence to compel subjects to
Confessions terview that has produced a pattern talk freely and to continue their de­
Confessions by con artists are of false exculpatories will have con­ ception during an interview, inves­
rare, but not impossible to obtain. If siderably enhanced the prospects tigators can elicit significant proof
the interview yields significant ad- for prosecution. of criminal intent in the form of
missions from the subject, the in­ false exculpatories and admissions.
vestigator should then attempt Additionally, this approach
to elicit broad statements of can increase the chances of
© DigitalVision
confession. For example: obtaining a full confession.
“Mr. Thompson, you de- Developing proficiency
signed your entire investment among fraud investigators in

program to make money for conducting subject inter-

your personal benefit by mak- views can increase the

ing representations you knew number of successful fraud

were false to people who re- prosecutions and, therefore,

sponded to your advertise- reduce the number of

ment, knowing that they scam artists for whom crime

would not send the money if pays.

you told the truth about what

you intended to do with it.

Correct?” If the subject 1
Robert D. Hare, Without
agrees, the investigator thor­ Conscious: The Disturbing World of the
oughly should debrief the subject CONCLUSION Psychopaths Among Us (New York, NY:
for details of the admitted fraud Self-confident con artists have Pocket Books, 1993), 84.
Ibid., 44.
scheme and knowledge of other “a head for numbers and the social 3
John Reid and Associates, The Reid
fraud schemes (experienced con skills to move easily in financial Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation
artists usually can provide names circles ...[and their] potential for (Chicago, IL: Reid and Associates, 1986), 44.
and schemes of other swindlers). profit is enormous....”9 These crimi­ Supra note 1, 54, 194.
Solomon L. Wisenberg, “Federal White
However, a confession rarely nals are charming, manipulative, Collar Crime,” http//
comes this easily, and the investiga­ and pose an unquestionable threat _2.html; accessed January 29, 2001.
tor will need to employ established to society. The same skills and char­ 6
interrogation techniques.8 At this acteristics that deceive individuals, Investigators should avoid creating a
custodial situation requiring Miranda warnings;
point in the interview, the subject banks, businesses, and government however, they should refer to departmental
should feel less confident about out- agencies create a special challenge policy and applicable court rulings to determine
witting the investigator. Though for criminal investigators confront­ their agency’s requirement.
possibly unable or unwilling to feel ing these subjects. With adequate See Michael R. Napier and Susan H.
Adams, “Magic Words to Obtain Confessions,”
or express remorse, con artists will effort in preparing for and planning FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 1998,
put their personal interests first and, the confrontation, along with a me­ 11.
therefore, may comprehend the thodical approach, persistence and 9
Supra note 1, 119.
benefit of prompt cooperation. patience, investigators can turn the

March 2001 / 21
Case Study
Asian-on-Asian Kidnapping spite of the father’s initial denial of a problem and
subsequent lack of cooperation, the police safely
Understanding Cultural recovered the 9-year-old girl, apprehended the
Influences suspects, and secured the ransom.
By Michael Berkow and Bucky Cox Why might parents jeopardize their child’s
safety? In this case, the victims and the suspects were
of Asian descent and significant anecdotal evidence

S outh Pasadena, California, is a small commu­

nity located between the cities of Los Angeles
and Pasadena. Despite its location, most residents
choose to live there for the small town atmosphere, an
suggests that most of these types of crimes go unre­
ported. This, and other seemingly abnormal behavior,
can cause officers many problems when they investi­
gate Asian-on-Asian kidnappings.
outstanding school district, and a low crime rate. In Initial Response
fact, violent crime rarely occurs there. The first officers on the scene faced what ap­
However, on December 22, 1998, a man knocked peared as a fairly standard crime scene, albeit the
on the door of a wealthy Asian’s residence located in victim’s father spoke limited English. Fortunately,
a hilly, suburban area of South Pasadena. He held a these initial officers and supervisors did not follow
wrapped Christmas present in his hand and asked for their first instincts—to string crime scene tape, call
the resident by name. When the occupants opened the for evidence technicians, and begin processing the
door, two other men, wearing Halloween masks and house for related evidence—but, instead, immediately
toting guns, forced their way into the house. initiated covert tactics. They removed all police
Within minutes, the gunmen bound and gaged the vehicles from the area, parked the evidence techni­
occupants—the parents of the owners, two cousins, cian vehicle inside of the victim’s closed garage,
and a housekeeper—and locked them in a back shifted police communication from radios to cell
bedroom and then forcibly took the homeowner’s phones, and immediately notified the local office of
9-year-old daughter from the home. Before leaving, the FBI.
one of the gunmen instructed the family not to call the The police set up the command post at the South
police if they ever wanted to see the girl again. Pasadena police station because of the immediate
One of the occupants ultimately freed herself and availability of equipment (e.g., multiple telephone
then called the victim’s mother at her place of em­ lines, a copier, and white boards) and physical
ployment, who in turn called 911 to report the crime. location of the building. Less than 2 hours after the
However, before the police arrived, the father of the mother reported the crime, and long before additional
victim came home. When South Pasadena officers law enforcement personnel arrived on the scene, the
reached the scene, the father attempted purposefully kidnappers placed the first call to the victim’s family.
to tell the police that nothing was wrong and that the Although police had arranged to monitor and record
call had arisen from a domestic dispute. The officers calls to the residence, they did not expect the kidnap­
prudently insisted on searching the house and found pers to call the victim’s father’s cellular telephone.
the other occupants still bound in the back bedroom. Luckily, officers recorded the conversation by using a
After sorting out the information, the officers began a portable tape recorder, although most of the recording
kidnapping investigation. only captured the father’s side of the call.
If the officers had not insisted on conducting a The police initially contained the individuals who
thorough initial investigation and had accepted the had the first contact with the suspects—the grandpar­
vague explanations of the father at the front door, this ents, cousins, and housekeeper—and removed them
kidnapping may have gone unreported. Luckily, the from the crime scene to the police station. The police
officers pursued the issue, and less than 48 hours debriefed them and obtained a composite sketch of
later, the police resolved this case successfully. In the one unmasked suspect. Simultaneously, joint

22 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

teams of local detectives and FBI agents were placed number from which the suspects called through the
in the house with the victim’s parents to monitor and use of the caller identification feature on the phone.
manage the calls from the kidnappers. Then, by using a criss-cross directory, investigators
obtained the address of the phone, which turned out to
Investigation be a payphone. After a few calls, investigators
This case progressed quickly as the suspects narrowed down a specific geographic area that the
frequently contacted the family. Immediately, officers suspects called from.
divided their investigative strategies into a four- While at the outset investigators used this cum­
pronged approach. First, they processed evidence bersome method to determine the suspect’s location,
from the crime scene. This meant standard crime they arranged to get this information directly from the
scene considerations (e.g., fingerprints, photographs, cellular phone company. In doing so, the police could
and sketches), including composite drawings prepared obtain the number and location of the phone the
through witness/victim interviews. While this material suspects were using while the call was in progress.
initially would unlikely cause an immediate arrest, it In addition, because of the pattern of calls, investiga­
would prove critical in the tors believed the suspects used
ultimate prosecution of the case. the same pay phones to contact
The second approach more other accomplices either immedi­
closely resembled a common ately before or just after calling
reactive investigation, whereby
officers considered leads pro­
vided by the victim’s parents.
Who did they believe could do
“ ...the officers
attempted to identify
the victim’s parents. With assis­
tance from the district attorney,
investigators secured immediate
search warrants for the records
this? Why would the kidnappers and locate the from these pay phones in order to
target their family? Who would determine additional numbers the
kidnappers through
know about their access to funds? suspects may have called.
Third, the officers proactively technology and
Officers quickly deployed
attempted to identify and locate surveillance. plainclothes surveillance teams
the kidnappers through technol­ into the areas around the pay
ogy and surveillance. This proved
the most active and fast-moving
portion of the investigation and
demanded a major effort to get ahead of the suspects
” phones that the suspects used.
Police intended to locate the
kidnappers while they were still
using the phone, identify them, and possibly follow
as opposed to merely reacting to their demands. Last, the suspects to the safe house where they held the girl.
the officers investigated the parents and their poten­ On the tenth and final call of the first night, the
tial role or link to the crime. kidnappers called the victim’s father to provide
During the early hours of the first day, investiga­ instructions on passing the ransom. Surveillance
tors focused their efforts on the third strategy— officers went immediately to the location of the pay
getting ahead of the suspects. Police in South Pasa­ phone and arrived while a suspect was still talking
dena notified the Los Angeles County District with the victim’s father. After the call, officers
Attorney’s Office of the case and requested a deputy followed the suspects to a residence and identified the
district attorney to assist with the investigation. The vehicle used.
district attorney assigned to the case had a great deal
of experience in electronic surveillance (i.e., wiretaps Surveillance and Tactics
and pen register) and search warrants. Early in the morning on the second day, the
Although the police could not effectively tape- department held a briefing for more than 100
record the first call by the suspects to the victim’s surveillance officers. Lead investigators provided the
father’s cellular phone, they did obtain the telephone officers with the composite sketch of the one

March 2001 / 23
Initial Considerations

As with any kidnapping, but especially Asian-on-Asian, investigators should review some
basic considerations.

• Ensure the victim is really gone: Because should remain with, and monitor, the
cases exist where the child was not missing, victim’s family and covertly cover the
but rather hiding, officers should thoroughly outside of the house.
search the entire house. • Plan for additional personnel: With multiple
• Secure the scene and go covert: Particularly in suspects, police managers should have
Asian-on-Asian kidnappings, subsequent to additional personnel available to replace
the crime, suspects often drive by the house officers working the case to avoid
to ensure the victims have not called the exhaustion.
police. Law enforcement should conduct the • Arrange for aerial assistance: When pos­
usual crime scene processing (e.g., gathering sible, airplanes or helicopters can prove
evidence, controlling and isolating witnesses) invaluable for surveillance. Managers
as covertly as possible. should consider having back-up aircraft
• Arrange for legal/prosecution assistance on available as well.
the scene: Legal issues will arise on these • Plan for logistics: Coordinators should
fast-moving cases and police will need ensure the availability of translators,
judicial orders to access phone records, as cellular telephones, radios, extra batteries,
well as get emergency wiretap authority. portable tape recorders, and electronic
• Anticipate the need for technology and tracking devices. When possible, officials
surveillance teams: As early as possible, law should record the serial numbers of the
enforcement should prepare to receive, trace, ransom bills or arrange with the Federal
and record any calls on all phones and Reserve Banking system to provide marked
identify the suspects and their locations. or recorded bills.
Police should arrange for numerous surveil- • Plan for a difficult ransom drop location:
lance teams and consider using narcotics Suspects usually choose locations that are
officers versus typical plainclothes officers in most comfortable for them. In these cases,
unmarked patrol cars. this location is often within their ethnic
• Set up adequate communications from the community, which may impose additional
command post: Police managers need to difficulties for ground surveillance units.
communicate and coordinate covertly and Police should consider using an electronic
securely with those officers remaining with tracking device on the moneybag.
the victim, the surveillance teams, and the • Record keeping: For accurate case manage­
technical officers. ment and successful prosecution, detailed
• Monitor the victim’s family: In the event the record keeping remains paramount through-
suspects return to the victim’s home or the out the investigation. Managers can use one
family withholds information or tries to make of many commercial software packages
direct contact with the suspects, officers available.

24 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

unmasked suspect who entered the home and photos the father’s car and constantly monitored his
of the suspects and vehicle taken by the surveillance location and movements as he traveled to deliver the
team. Police officials arranged for a helicopter to ransom.
assist with surveillance. Historically, kidnappers work At the time the victim’s family delivered the
alone or in very small groups. By contrast, in an money, the surveillance teams were following over 10
Asian-on-Asian kidnapping, multiple suspects usually different suspects and monitoring multiple locations.
participate in the crime. This increases the need for After the father delivered the money, the surveillance
air surveillance assets and covert ground personnel to teams maintained visual contact until the victim
help make law enforcement efforts less vulnerable to called her mother. Police promptly intercepted this
exposure. call, identified her location, dispatched units to that
Police managers then deployed the surveillance location, and alerted other officers of her freedom. As
teams to cover the pay phones the kidnappers most soon as officers had custody of the girl and confirmed
likely would use. Managers her safety, the surveillance teams made the arrests.
explained two key rules to all of
the officers involved. One, if Conclusion
they spot the girl, intervene only This South Pasadena case
if they can do so safely. And,
two, do not allow the suspects to
identify them as part of a police
“ These investigations can
often prove complex for
ended in success—suspects
arrested and ultimately con­
victed, victim returned un­
harmed, and all of the ransom
During the night, police any law enforcement money returned. These investi­
secured emergency wiretap agency and require gations can often prove complex
authority for the victim’s home advanced planning and for any law enforcement agency
phone, her father’s cell phone, forethought by police and require advanced planning
and the telephone of the resi­ managers. and forethought by police
dence identified during surveil- managers.

lance. Although officers stayed Kidnapping for ransom has
with the victim’s family at their proved a way of life in many
residence to maintain the integ­ countries and it appears that
rity of the investigation and most émigrés remain unaware of
because investigators feared the family would stop how serious American law enforcement reacts to
cooperating, officials did not advise the victim’s child abductions. Due to the growth of Asian-on-
family that the wiretap also included their home Asian kidnappings, law enforcement must develop a
telephone. Due to the potential language barrier, plan, prior to an event occurring, on how to handle
police had Chinese translators at the monitoring site these types of cases and their associated problems. In
to provide real-time translation of the demands by the doing so, managers will help their departments
kidnappers. become better organized and, more important, suc­
On the final day, the family lost faith in law cessfully resolve such malicious crimes and deter
enforcement’s ability to safely retrieve their daughter future occurrences.
and, thus, stopped cooperating. The suspects arranged
with the victim’s family to receive the ransom, and Chief Berkow heads the South Pasadena, California, Police
the family believed that if they simply paid it, the
kidnappers would release their daughter. The father Mr. Cox, retired special agent in charge of the FBI’s Los
refused to allow police to place a tracking device in Angeles, California, office, currently serves as the vice
the moneybag and would not allow law enforcement president of security for a private firm in Philadelphia,
to accompany him to the drop site. Anticipating Pennsylvania.
this, police placed a covert tracking device on

March 2001 / 25
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Author Guidelines
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The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin is an effective writing techniques.
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Submissions for specialized departments, such as accuracy, analysis of the information, structure
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26 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The Psychological Influence of
the Police Uniform

M ost people can identify The crisp uniform of the police police officers, the famous “Bob­
law enforcement offic­ officer conveys power and author­ bies” of London, wore a dark blue,
ers by their official po­ ity. When officers put on their uni­ paramilitary-style uniform. The
lice uniform. When citizens on a forms, citizens believe that they color blue helped to distinguish the
busy street need help, they scan the embody stereotypes about all police police from the British military,
crowd of pedestrians looking for the officers. Research has suggested who wore red and white uniforms.
distinctive uniform of a police of­ that clothing has a powerful impact In 1845, the city of New York estab­
ficer. Normally, drivers who arrive on how people perceive each other. lished the first official police force
at an intersection and find a person The police officer’s uniform has a in the United States. Based on the
in a police uniform directing traffic profound psychological impact on London police, the New York City
willingly submit to that person’s others, and even slight alterations to Police Department adopted the dark
hand directions. Criminals usually the style of the uniform may change blue uniform in 1853. Other cities,
curb their unlawful behavior when how citizens perceive them. such as Philadelphia, Boston, Cin­
they spot a uniformed police of­ The police uniform represents a cinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, and
ficer. Many parents teach their chil­ tradition as old as the field of law Detroit, quickly followed by estab­
dren to respect and trust a person in enforcement. In 1829, the London lishing police departments based on
police attire. Police academy re­ Metropolitan Police, the first mod- the London model and included the
cruits relish the day when they fi­ ern police force, developed stan­ adoption of the dark blue, paramili­
nally wear their official uniforms. dard police apparel. These first tary-style uniform.1

March 2001 / 27
Today, most U.S. law enforce­ and physical appearance are impor­ research revealed that both students
ment agencies continue to select tant in the initial development of and teachers rated photos of stu­
police uniforms generally dark in social relationships.4 Studies have dents dressed in private school-type
color with a paramilitary appear­ revealed that physical appearance, uniforms as having higher scholas­
ance. Agencies may prefer dark col­ including clothing, remains the fac­ tic ability.9
ors for their ease in cleaning and tor used most often in developing a Additionally, the uniform worn
their ability to help conceal the first impression of someone5 and by a police officer elicits stereo-
wearer in tactical situations. Dark has an even greater effect than types about that person’s status, au­
colors help hide stains and keep of­ personality.6 thority, attitudes, and motivations.
ficers hidden from criminals, espe­ In early social interactions, The police uniform identifies a per-
cially at night.2 However, why do clothing has a significant psycho- son with powers to arrest and use
most agencies insist that patrol of­ logical influence on people’s per­ force and establishes order and con­
ficers dress in uniforms? Perhaps, ceptions. In one study, personnel formity within the ranks of those
the uniform actually psychologi­ administrators rated the compe­ who wear it by suppressing indi-
cally influences the public’s per­ tency of similar female job appli­ viduality.10 The police uniform can
ception of officers. cants. They consistently rated the have extraordinary psychological
women in conservative, slightly and physical impact. Depending on
The Social Significance masculine attire as the most compe- the background of the citizen, the
of Clothing tent.7 In another experiment, both police uniform can elicit emotions
Individuals seek clues about high school students and teachers ranging from pride and respect, to
others from their appearance. rated pictures of female athletes fear and anger.
Clothing provides one powerful dressed either in uniforms or casual
clue to an individual’s background3 clothes. Participants perceived all The Power of the Police Uniform
and serves as a mental shortcut to of the athletes in uniform as being Research has supported sugges­
identify a person’s sex, status, more professional, possessing tions about the police uniform’s
group membership, legitimacy, au­ higher ability, and having more power and authority. In one study,
thority, and occupation. Clothing team spirit. 8 Similarly, other individuals ranked 25 different oc­
cupational uniforms by several cat­
egories of feelings. The test sub­
jects consistently ranked the police

“ Psychological
tests have found
that individuals
uniform as the one most likely to
induce feelings of safety.11 In an-
other experiment, participants con­
sistently rated models as more com­
petent, reliable, intelligent, and
helpful when pictured in a police
associate colors uniform, rather than in casual
with specific clothes.12 When an individual wear­
moods. ing a police-style uniform stood on
a sidewalk near a corner, drivers

Mr. Johnson, formerly an Indiana State Trooper and a military police officer, is an
investigator with the Kane County, Illinois, State’s Attorney Office and a criminal
justice professor at Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois.
committed fewer turn violations at
that intersection. This occurred
even though the uniform did not
represent a real police department
in the area, and the individual did
not display a badge or weapon.13

28 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

In one experiment to test the uniform. In one experiment, stu­ the blazer and concealed their
power of the police uniform, a re- dents viewed black and white draw­ weapons under the coat.19 When
search assistant randomly ap­ ings of three styles of police uni­ other agencies heard about Menlo
proached pedestrians on a city street forms. Two of the uniforms Park’s attempt, over 400 other po­
and ordered them to either pick up a represented a traditional paramili­ lice departments in the United
paper bag, give a dime to another tary style, but lacked a duty belt or States also experimented with a
person, or step back from a bus weapons. The third, nontraditional blazer-style uniform.20
stop.14 The research assistant alter­ uniform consisted of a sport coat, or After wearing the new uniforms
nately wore casual clothes, a milk blazer, over slacks and a shirt with a for 18 months, the Menlo Park po­
delivery uniform, or a grey, police- tie. Although students ranked all lice officers displayed fewer au­
style uniform bearing a badge but three uniforms similarly for objec­ thoritarian characteristics on psy­
lacking weapons. Only the police- tivity and trustworthiness, the chological tests when compared to
style uniform resulted in a high rate blazer-style uniform ranked slightly officers in the surrounding jurisdic-
of cooperation from citizens. More- higher for professionalism.17 How- tions.21 Also, after wearing the uni­
over, obedience to the police-style ever, a similar experiment using forms for over a year, assaults on
uniform usually continued even af­ color photos found the traditional, the Menlo Park police decreased by
ter the research assistant quickly paramilitary style uniforms ranked 30 percent and injuries to civilians
walked away and did not watch to as more honest, good, helpful, and by the police dropped 50 percent.
ensure compliance.15 competent than the blazer Originally, the department thought
uniform.18 the uniform changes resulted in
Changes in the Uniform Style these decreased rates, but other
Although the police uniform in variables factored in at the same

general suggests the authority of the time. The number of college-edu­
wearer, details about a police cated officers in the department in-
officer’s uniform, such as the style creased dramatically and the
of hat or the tailoring, can influence agency abolished its traditional au­
the level of authority emanating
The crisp uniform tocratic management style during
from the officer. Study participants of the police officer this same time period.22
in one experiment evaluated photo- conveys power and In 1977, after using the blazer-
graphs of uniformed male and fe­ authority. style uniform for 8 years, the Menlo
male police officers wearing nine Park Police Department determined

different styles of head gear, includ­ that it did not command respect;
ing no hat at all. Even though psy­ therefore, they returned to a tradi­
chological tests showed that partici­ tional, paramilitary-style uniform.
pants perceived the officers to have A final evaluation showed that, al­
authority under all of the circum­ In 1969, the Menlo Park, Cali­ though assaults on officers had
stances, the type of hat varied the fornia, Police Department discon­ dropped during the first 18 months
level of authority attributed to the tinued their traditional navy blue, of the new uniform implementation,
officer. The traditional “bus driver” paramilitary-style uniforms and the number of assaults steadily be­
garrison cap and the “smoky bear” adopted a nontraditional uniform gan to rise again until it doubled the
campaign hat conveyed more au­ hoping to improve police-commu­ amount of the year before the uni­
thority than the baseball cap or no nity relations. The new, nontradi­ form change occurred. During the 4
hat at all.16 tional uniform consisted of a forest years after the Menlo Park police
Many studies have addressed green blazer worn over black returned to a traditional uniform,
the influence of eliminating the slacks, a white shirt, and a black tie. the number of assaults on their of­
paramilitary style of the police Officers displayed their badges on ficers dropped steadily.23

March 2001 / 29
Experiments with hats and the light colors with goodness and darker uniforms received far more
style of the police uniform suggest weakness and dark colors as strong, penalties for roughness than teams
that changes in the design of a po­ but evil.26 On psychological inven­ in lighter uniforms, supported this
lice uniform can have an effect on tories, test subjects rated lighter col­ experiment. Again, these results
the perceived authority, power, and ors as more pleasant and less suggest that referees negatively per­
ability to control. Does the color of dominant. Dark colors, on the ceive teams in darker uniforms.30
the uniform psychologically influ­ other hand, elicited emotions of Moreover, experiments have
ence the people who view it and anger, hostility, dominance, and suggested that athletes act more ag­
have an effect on the officer wear­ aggression.27 gressively when dressed in dark col­
ing the uniform as well? Color has a considerable impact ors. One researcher asked college
on clothing and perceptions of the students dressed in black jerseys
The Influences of Color wearer. When people rated pictures and grouped into teams of five to
Many police departments in the of models for attractiveness, cloth­ rank which sports they would most
United States use darker colors for ing color appeared the most com­ like to play. The students consis­
their uniforms, such as black, blue, mon determinant.28 Individuals per­ tently ranked the most aggressive
brown, green, or grey. Just as with ceived job applicants wearing dark sports, such as football and rugby,
the style of the police uniform, the business suits as more powerful and at the top of the list. A new group of
color of the uniform also has mean­ competent than those who wore students dressed in white jerseys
ing. Psychological tests have found lighter colored suits.29 Another in­ repeated the experiment. This
that individuals associate colors teresting study found that referees time, the students selected less ag­
with specific moods. For example, gressive sports, such as baseball or
people generally associate red with basketball.31

excitement and stimulation, which Applying the results of these
explains why agencies often use it studies in color to the police uni­
for flashing emergency vehicle The police form suggests that darker police
lights. These tests also have found uniform also uniforms may send negative sub-
that individuals associate the color may influence conscious signals to citizens. A
blue with feelings of security and the safety level dark police uniform may subcon­
comfort and the color black with sciously encourage citizens to per­
power and strength.24 of the officer ceive officers as aggressive, evil, or
Studies of both U.S. high who wears it. corrupt and send a negative mes­
school and college students have sage to the community. The experi­

found that students perceived light ment with the colored jerseys also
colors, such as white and yellow, as suggests that police officers in dark
weak, but also as good and active. uniforms subconsciously may act
The same students perceived dark who viewed several videotaped more aggressively; therefore, de­
colors, such as black and brown, as plays of a football game more likely partments should consider modify­
strong and passive, but also as bad. assessed stiffer penalties against a ing police uniform colors.
Cultural influences did not affect football team wearing a black uni­ In one experiment, researchers
these results, which did not vary form than against a team wearing a presented subjects with color pho­
with the race of the students.25 brightly colored uniform. The refer­ tos of two traditional paramilitary-
People in Europe, Western ees consistently perceived the team style uniforms. One of the uniforms
Asia, Central Africa, and the in black as more aggressive. An consisted of the dark navy blue shirt
Middle East had similar perceptions analysis of all professional football and pants commonly worn by mu­
of colors. Across all cultures stud­ and hockey teams in the United nicipal police agencies today. The
ied, people consistently associated States, which found that teams in other traditional uniform resembled

30 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

that of California sheriff’s deputies, impact on the officer’s safety. weapon on people wearing jeans

consisting of a khaki shirt and dark Interviews with prison inmates who and a T-shirt and carrying a gun in

green pants. Although subjects have murdered police officers indi- their hand. A plainclothes officer

ranked both uniforms similarly as cate that the killers often visually chasing a burglary suspect through

good, honest, helpful, and compe­ “sized up” the officer before decid- backyards at night risks being shot

tent, the lighter colored sheriff’s ing to use violence. If the officer by a home owner who believes the

uniform rated noticeably higher for looked or acted “unprofessional” in officer is a criminal. The uniform

warmth and friendliness. Because the assailant’s eyes, then the assail- helps both citizens and fellow po­

the sheriff’s uniform only has a ant felt capable of successfully re- lice officers identify the wearer as

light colored shirt, with the pants sisting the officer. A dirty or having a legitimate purpose for tres­

still very dark,32 a half dark uniform wrinkled uniform or a badly worn passing, using force, or carrying a

sends a better message than the all duty belt may convey to suspects weapon.34

dark blue or black uniform. that officers have complacent atti­

With today’s focus on commu­ tudes about their job. This compla- Conclusion
nity-oriented policing and efforts to cency can invite violence.33 The uniform of a police officer

present a friendlier image to the conveys the power and authority

public, the color of the police of the person wearing it. Re-
officer’s uniform might make the search has shown that clothing,
task more difficult than neces- including the police uniform, has
sary. Because of citizens’ nega- a powerful psychological im­
tive psychological perception of pact. When individuals come
dark colors, they may perceive a into contact with each other, they
police officer in a negative man- subconsciously search for clues
ner partly because of the about the other person to under-
officer’s uniform color. If refer- stand the context of the encoun­
ees believe athletes wearing ter. The police uniform repre­
black exhibit more aggressive sents a powerful clue to the
behavior, citizens might perceive wearer’s authority, capability,
officers in black uniforms as and status.
more aggressive than those wear- Additionally, research has
ing lighter colored uniforms. revealed that the uniform has a
subconscious psychological in­

Officer Safety Concerns fluence on people, based on the

The police uniform also may person’s preconceived feelings

influence the safety level of the about police officers. Citizens in

officer who wears it. Dark col­ the presence of a person in a

ored uniforms may elicit subcon­ In many situations involving police uniform cooperate more
scious negative feelings from citi­ the use of force, the fact that a po- and curb their illegal or deviant
zens, who may perceive the officer lice officer has a distinguishable behaviors.
as aggressive, and subsequently, en- uniform can help prevent the Alterations to the traditional,
courage them to consider violent officer’s injury or death. An officer paramilitary police uniform can re-
action when confronted by the in plainclothes risks harm by citi- sult in changes in public percep­
police. zens and other officers as a result of tions. The style of the clothes, the
In addition to the color, the con­ misidentification. In certain sce- type of hat worn, the color of the
dition of a police officer’s uniform narios, almost all police officers material, and even the condition of
and equipment also can have an immediately would draw their the clothes and equipment have an

March 2001 / 31
influence on how citizens perceiveb 9
D. Behling, “School Uniforms andb Altering the Police Role,” Journal of Police
officers. For these reasons, policeb Personal Perception,” Perceptual and Motor Science and Administration 4 (1976): 21-27.b
Skills 79 (1994): 723-729.b Supra note 19.b
administrators bseriously bshouldb 10
Supra notes 2 and 4 (Joseph and Alex;b 22
Supra notes 18, 19, and 20.b
consider btheir buniform bpolicies.b Shaw).b 23
Supra note 18.b
Selecting a uniform style, followingb 11
S. Balkin and P. Houlden, “Reducing Fearb 24
M. Luscher and I. Scott, The Luscher
regulations on properly wearing theb of Crime Through Occupational Presence,”b Color Test (New York, NY: Washington Squareb
Criminal Justice and Behavior 10 (1983):b Press, 1969); L. B. Wexner, “The Degrees tob
uniform, maintaining uniforms, andb 13-33.b Which Colors Are Associated with Mood-b
designing policies to address whenb 12
M. Singer and A. Singer, “The Effect ofb tones,” Journal of Applied Psychology 38b
officers bmay bwear bplainclothesb Police Uniforms on Interpersonal Perception,”b (1954): 432-435.b
should command serious attentionb The Journal of Psychology 119 (1985):b J. Williams, “Connotations of Colorb
157-161.b Names Among Negroes and Caucasians,”b
from bdepartment bmanagers. bAfterb 13
C. Sigelman and L. Sigelman, “Authorityb Perceptual and Motor Skills 18 (1964): 721-b
all, the uniform stands as one of theb and Conformity: Violation of a Trafficb 731; J. Williams and C. McMurty, “Colorb
most bimportant bvisual brepresenta-b Regulation,” Journal of Social Psychology 100b Connotations among Caucasian Seventhb
tions bof bthe blaw benforcementb (1976): 35-43.b Graders and College Students,” Perceptual and
Motor Skills 30 (1970): 707-713.b
profession.b 26
Supra note 24 (Luscher and Scott); F.b

Adams and C. Osgood, “A Cross-cultural Studyb
of the Affective Meanings of Color,” Journal of
Endnotes Cross-cultural Psychology 4 (1973): 135-156;b
L. M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in
American History (New York, NY: Harperb
...police J. Williams, J. Moreland, and W. Underwood,b
“Connotations of Color Names in the U.S.,b
Collins, 1993); and C. D. Uchida “Theb administrators Europe, and Asia,” Journal of Social Psychol­
Development of the American Police: Anb
Historical Overview,” in Critical Issues in
seriously should ogy 82 (1970): 3-14.b
P. Valdez and A. Mehrabian, “Effects ofb
Policing, 2d ed., eds. R. Dunham and G. Alpertb consider their Color on Emotion,” Journal of Experimental
(Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1993).b
E. W. Grosskopf, “The Role of Policeb
uniform policies. Psychology: General 123 (1994): 394-409.b
D. J. Radeloff, “Role of Color inb
Uniforms,” Law and Order, August 1982,b Perception of Attractiveness,” Perceptual and

Motor Skills 70 (1990): 151-160.b
D. G. Myers, Social Psychology, 4thb 29
M. Damhorst and J. Reed, “Clothingb
Edition (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1993),b Color Value and Facial Expression: Effects onb
186-217.b Evaluations of Female Job Applicants,” Social
N. Joseph and N. Alex, “The Uniform: Ab Behavior and Personality 14 (1986): 89-98.b
Sociological Perspective,” American Journal of 30
M. Frank and T. Gilovich, “The Darkerb
Sociology 77 (1972): 719-730; S. B. Kaiser The This experiment was conducted byb Side of Self- and Social Perception: Blackb
Social Psychology of Clothing (New York, NY:b psychologist Dr. Leonard Bickman.b Uniforms and Aggression in Professionalb
Macmillan, 1985); L. Shaw, “The Role ofb L. Bickman, “The Social Power of theb Sports,” Journal of Personality and Social
Clothing in the Criminal Justice System,”b Uniform,” Journal of Applied Social Psychol­ Psychology 54 (1988): 74-85.b
Journal of Police Science and Administration 1b ogy 4 (1974): 47-61.b 31
(1973): 414-420.b J. Volpp and S. Lennon, “Perceivedb 32
Supra note 18.b
S. J. Lennon and L. L. Davis, “Categoriza-b Police Authority as a Function of Uniform Hatb 33
R. Adams, T. McTernan, and C.b
tion in First Impressions,” The Journal of and Sex,” Perceptual and Motor Skills 67b Remsberg, Street Survival: Tactics for Armed
Psychology 123 (1989): 439-446.b (1988): 815-824.b Encounters (Northbrook, IL: Calibre Press,b
6 17
B. Connor, K. Peters, and R. Nagasawa,b D. F. Gundersen, “Credibility and theb 1980); A. Pinizzotto & E. Davis, “Cop Killersb
“Person and Costume: Effects on the Formationb Police Uniform,” Journal of Police Science and and Their Victims.” FBI Law Enforcement
of First Impressions,” Home Economics Administration 15 (1987): 192-195.b Bulletin (December, 1992): 9-11; C. Remsberg,b
Research Journal 4 (1975): 32-41.b R. Mauro, “The Constable’s New Clothes:b The Tactical Edge: Surviving High-Risk Patrol
S. Forsythe, M. Drake, and C. Cox,b Effects of Uniforms on Perceptions andb (Northbrook, IL: Calibre Press, 1986).b
“Influence of Applicant’s Dress onb Problems of Police Officers,” Journal of 34
Interviewer’s Selection Decisions,” Journal of Applied Psychology 14 (1984): 42-56.b
Applied Psychology 70 (1985): 374-378.b J. Tenzel and V. Cizanckas, “Theb
M. Harris, S. Ramsey, D. Sims, and M.b Uniform Experiment,” Journal of Police
Stevenson, “Effects of Uniforms on Perceptionsb Science and Administration 1 (1973): 421-424.b
of Pictures of Athletes,” Perceptual and Motor J. Tenzel, L. Storms, and H. Sweetwood,b
Skills 39 (1974): 59-62.b “Symbols and Behavior: An Experiment inb

32 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The Bulletin Notes
Law enforcement officers are challenged daily in the performance of their duties; they face each
challenge freely and unselfishly while answering the call to duty. In certain instances, their actions
warrant special attention from their respective departments. The Bulletin also wants to recognize
their exemplary service to the law enforcement profession.

While en route to his duty station in

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, U.S. Officer
Park Ranger Glenn Sherrill came upon Gross
a vehicle parked along the road with
damage indicating the vehicle was
involved in a rollover accident. Ranger
Sherrill found a single, conscious, 73-
year-old occupant lying across the front
seat of the vehicle. The victim said that
the accident occurred about 4 hours
Park Ranger Sherrill before and he believed his neck was Officer Rodgers
broken and could not move. With
temperatures below freezing, Ranger Sherrill covered the During routine patrol,
victim with blankets, cleared a partially obstructed airway, Officer Jimmy Rodgers of the
and radioed for an ambulance. Because no other traffic would Tallassee, Alabama, Police
have likely passed the accident scene that evening, Ranger Department, approached a man
Sherrill’s actions resulted in the man’s survival. who was trying to commit
suicide by jumping off a bridge.
As Officer Rodgers neared, the
man jumped and both of his legs
Michigan State Trooper Daniel King, cleared the bridge. Officer
of the Manistee Post, responded to a Rodgers managed to grab the
request to help transport an uncoopera- victim by the leg and pull the
tive subject. After the subject was placed man over the railing back onto
in a holding cell, Trooper King noticed the bridge surface. Determined
that the man had become quiet and to succeed in his demise, the
lethargic, and his breathing, was slow man continued his attempt to
and laborious. Then, the subject stopped climb back onto the rail. Officer
breathing and Trooper King immediately Rodgers held the man until
began rescue breathing until the man was assistance arrived, and the man
able to breath again on his own. It was could be removed safely from
State Trooper King
later determined that the subject suffered the bridge. The courage and
from a series of seizures that affected his breathing. Trooper selfless actions of this officer
King’s quick reactions saved the man’s life. prevented a suicide.
U.S. Department of Justice Periodicals
Federal Bureau of Investigation Postage and Fees Paid
Federal Bureau of Investigation
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin ISSN 0014-5688
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20535-0001

Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

h Call

The patch of tthe

he ccity
ity of Lincoln, Alabama, Police The patch of the Frederick County, Maryland,
Department relates
relates the city’s history and the area’s Sheriff’s Office depicts the two coats of arms for which
ancestry, including a Revolutionary War soldier; the county could have been named. The upper left and
crossed arrows, which denote its Indian heritage; a lower right portions are from the Lord Baltimore family
depot, which signifies the contribution the railroad coat of arms and the upper right and lower left come
made to tthe
he city’s growth; and the year the town’s name from the Frederick the Great family coat of arms.
changed from Kingsville to Lincoln.