Friday, June 11, 2021

Crime and Crime Again

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

neon light ~ live stream ~ Criminal Minds ~ BAU ~ chicken and dumpling

It was submitted by:

I am kind of crime obsessed.

I like psychological thriller novels that include some kind of murder or someone in the investigative realm outside police who helps solve murders. My favorite character in Discworld is the copper Terry Pratchett uses to explore the failings of modern policing, the gray areas of morality and ethics, race, and class. I've read a number of true crime books in my time, and I've even read a couple by John E. Douglas, one of the founding members of the Behavior Analysis Unit (BAU), about his work there with serial killers (I can't recommend the Netflix show Mindhunters that is based loosely on his life). I got my bachelor's in criminal justice and almost completed my masters in forensic counseling. There's honestly not a day that goes by that I'm not at least listening to part of an episode of a true crime podcast (hit me up for recommendations!!) and maybe even a live stream if it's free. I've also spent 14 years now writing and helping people serving time in prison. I couldn't make a career of it, but I'm still trying to do my part. But I've never really been able to enjoy crime procedurals like CSI, Law and Order, or Criminal Minds.

They make it look too easy.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think police work harder than they make it seem on tv. I'm absolutely for abolishing the police, but if no one has explained it to you, that doesn't mean there will no longer be services that solve violent crimes. In an ideal situation, there would be a variety of response units based on what is needed at the time--counselors, social workers, addiction and harm reduction services, units focused on community building and crime prevention, AND units to respond to and investigate violent crimes. It's unfortunately true that police now rarely solve murders or prevent violent crime. If anything, the lack of response often seen in major cases allows for violence and murder to happen in the first place and if not that then the crime scene is fucked from the start (cough Jon Benet cough). Property is rarely recovered and often taken by the police themselves under civil asset forfeiture laws even if you didn't commit a crime. I think the culture of policing needs a complete overhaul and that as a society we put things on police that never should have been their sole responsibility. We need a do over, to gut the infrastructure and completely replace it. Right now it's kind of like chicken and dumplings that have been left to cook too long. All your dough has turned to mush and what you got left is formless goop that might work as a gravy in a pinch, but it sure as shit ain't like it's supposed to be.

And still... even I think these shows make it harder for the people attempting to solve crimes. There is no way under the sun even if you find the murderer standing over the body with the murder weapon in hand that cases can be closed in the amount of time these shows suggest. And they tend to make it seem that forensic evidence is always a key factor in crime solving. Forensic evidence isn't present in every case, and even if it is, the things presented for our entertainment as being infallible just aren't. How many episodes of these shows present bite mark evidence as the smoking gun that solves the case? Bite mark evidence isn't nearly as concrete as these shows make it seem. In fact, a lot of folks believe it's as much bullshit as lie detector tests. At best they are tools to try to coerce a confession, and even confessions can be wrong. Plenty of people confess to crimes they didn't do either under duress or because of mental illness. But these shows always make it seem like there are giant neon arrows pointing to a clean, definitive solution.

And I mean, yeah, they're supposed to entertain. We're supposed to realize it's been made easier for a time slot. Only we don't. The CSI effect has been documented for some time now as having a negative effect on how people perceive crime and the science behind solving it. You can lift someone's fingerprints off a car that was recently broken into, but unless you have that person on camera or with the property from the car, all youve proven is that person touched the car. Any defense attorney worth spit can tear that case into shreds in court. But people seem to believe DNA and fingerprints are always there and always the answer.

They're also not very good at showing how wrong the police get things. So despite how many stories are in the news about people spending 30 years in prison only to be exonerated later, people believe when the police arrest someone, they had good reason to, that they're typically right, or at the very least that if they hadn't done *something* wrong they wouldn't be there. The data doesn't support that. But here we are with prejudiced juries who walk in being more trustful of police than anyone accused of a crime because in every fictional police procedural they watch, the police are always right and are the good guys, the heroes.

All in all, I think these shows can probably be a lot of fun for people, but they're also damaging in a culture that no longer easily tells the difference between truth and fiction. We've seen it with the rise of Qanon, the response to misinformation and how easily it spreads, how difficult it is to get someone to change their minds once a belief is there. I don't think they should be banned by any means, but I also wish they would finally manage to die out.

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

Wandering Web Designer

What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom


  1. I love shows like Criminal Minds, even thought I know it isn't nearly as easy as they make it look. I guess it's the drama behind it for me. But I think the practice as a whole fascinates me. To be able to look at nothing and see something in it. It's like a super power.

  2. I love to watch true crime shows as well (keeps hubby on his toes lol), I loved Homicide Hunter and a few others. I love the explanation of ways to change the policing it's the first time I've really understood and I think it makes a lot more sense. Different crimes needs different responses and until we figure that our we're missing the boat.

  3. I don't like the fiction shows because not only do they solve crimes by means and in time frames not possible, but in many of those shows the characters don't even act within the confines of what their job would allow. I do love and watch a ton of true crime shows.
    And I do believe we need to completely change how we police in this country. The court system could use a huge overhaul as well, but I guess that's a subject for another day.

  4. Absolutely fascinating, Jenniy! Like so many of my peers, I swallowed the 'forensic evidence' part of detecting whole. Thank you for giving me a broader perspective!