Another Bouchercon is in the books. Seems there will always be reasons for people to complain, and there will always be ways the convention could have been better, but overall it was a great opportunity for crime fiction lovers--readers and writers alike--to gather and celebrate. I have much to share with you, so I'll break it into a few posts. Let's kick off the recap!
I drove to Albany, so I had to leave quite early on Wednesday morning in order to make it in time to attend the tour of the New York State Police Academy. It was worth the early rise time, though, as it was a fascinating tour of both the academy and the Forensics Investigators Center.
|Mounted officers no longer exist, but this replica is in the small museum at the Academy.|
The New York State Police Academy is a 26-week, para-military training program. The current class includes 180 recruits (about 20 are female). The recruits live on the premises of the Academy Monday through Friday, and their day runs from 5:30 in the morning to 10:00 each night.
We observed a classroom setting, viewed their gymnasium, living quarters and the shooting range that is located at the Academy. They also have firearms training at an off-sight location. EVOC (driving training) is all conducted off-site at a track and former airport.
An interesting factoid they shared was that every so often a room change will be announced without any notice. The recruits have to gather their belongings and make a room change...kind of like a Chinese fire drill. This is done to help them learn to deal with stress. The tour guides (who are also instructors in the current class) said that everything happens for a reason at the academy.
|Living quarters: doors are kept open all day.|
Someone inquired about the trooper's belt. It weighs about 10 pounds and they carry their service weapon (a Glock 45), two spare magazines, an asp baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, a radio and optional latex gloves. Tasers are available to the troopers, but they have to be signed out and turned back in. They aren't issued one like their service weapon.
|A little target humor?|
|How the targets are scored.|
Following the tour of the academy we crossed the street to the Forensics Investigations Center, which was built in 1996. It was a 26 million dollar project that was funded by assets seized from drug dealers so they jokingly refer to it as "The House that Crack Built."
|Once we left this atrium, pictures were no longer allowed.|
We observed a seriologist removing evidence from a piece of clothing. Our tour guide explained that the seriologist's job is to: Identify, Localize and Preserve potential forensic evidence. Then it can be tested for DNA. From there we viewed the toxicology lab. At this location they test in impaired driving cases. Some interesting factoids that came up at this section of the tour include the fact that no other drug outside of alcohol can be consumed at the levels alcohol can. Anything else would be fatal. And the body learns to break alcohol down more efficiently the more it's consumed.
A question arose at this stop in the tour about substances that could possibly be "undetectable." The toxicologist explained that it isn't the potential to be "undetectable" so much as "unknown." There are so many substances that are simply unknown. And there is also the question of how far does a lab look. Expense can prevent scientists from being able to conduct enough tests to isolate a potentially toxic substances in the system.
And finally we were able to observe scientists working on DNA. Our tour guide spoke to the Forensics DNA Data Bank and the crimes that have been solved through this national collection of DNA. Lawyers have been working to get more crime levels included in those that require DNA collection from their offenders. He explained that people who commit high level felonies don't start out that way--they start by committing smaller or lesser crimes and build up--so by having the means to identify them early, potential crimes can be prevented.
The tours were fascinating and well worth the early wake-up call on Wednesday. So glad I was able to take advantage of this great pre-Bouchercon opportunity.
Next up, Thursday and my first panel moderating job of Bouchercon 2013. Stay tuned...