Searching for clues was the order of last week's Citizens Police Academy.
Using all of the training we'd received during the past 10 weeks of the academy, Payson Police Sgt. Tom Tieman guided us through the complex maze of gathering the minutia with skill and accuracy.
"The result of these actions is conviction and imprisonment," Tieman said.
He outlined the detailed and exacting method in which incriminating evidence must be found, collected and stored to succeed in arrest, prosecution and conviction.
We saw simple procedures we have come to take for granted thanks to Hollywood crumble before our eyes, such as picking up a gun with a pencil in the barrel (it scratches the rifling and changes the bullet characteristics). You pick it up by the edges of the trigger guard. You never fold fabrics in on themselves. That can contaminate blood patterns. And whatever you do, keep the media and the public out of the actual crime scene.
Following procedural overview, we tramped out into the forest to find evidence of a break-in at a local store. The soda machine had been broken into and money taken. A witness saw a man in a plaid shirt go off into the woods. We found footprints heading into the woods. No Bruno Maglis, but the Nikes were distinguishable just the same.
A cigarette butt, a pop can and a hammer were found. We took fingerprints off the pop can, the graphite powder so thick it looked like we plucked the can from an arson scene. But we still got our print.
Back at the parking lot, we spied a man fitting the description of our suspect. My partner, Heather Lewis, and I approached the suspect with trepidation and began to casually interrogate him.
When we got too close to the suspect, we were gently reminded by our instructor, Sgt. Todd Bramlet, to always remember officer safety and maintain a safe distance.
Heather jumped into action, demanding to see the suspect's hands. He refused, and by the time she was done, he was spread-eagle on the ground, face down, chewing concrete.
Adding to the drama of the scene, Sgt. Bramlet changed roles and was now playing the suspect's father. The 6-foot, 7-inch, 350-pound sergeant stomped up to us aggressively this must be witnessed first-hand to truly appreciate it and demanded to know why we had detained his son.
Neither Heather nor I could ever be mistaken for mild-mannered females, and drove him off with equal fervor and aggression.
After checking out all the details, we did indeed have our man, but the paperwork would be mountainous as we responded to the excessive force charges.
I think I'll stick to nursing.