Having been a Detroit police officer for nearly thirty years, a number of incidents
reminiscent of Iago in Brentwood come to mind. The following scenario is taken from an actual case.
Three armed men enter a store and relieve the frightened clerk of the store’s receipts.
Unaware that the clerk activated a silent alarm notifying police of the robbery, the trio
Police are uncharacteristically in the right place at the right time only a few blocks away. Activating only the emergency lights, they wisely avoid using the siren, thus negating an audible notice to any suspects of a police response.
The robbers are now in full flight on foot. They observe the flashing lights of the
approaching vehicle a block away. Two of the culprits run down an alley while the third slows to a walk on the sidewalk and endeavors to compose himself. There is nervous sweat on his face and his heart beats perceptively in his chest. As the police pull alongside the walking man, he points down the alley towards his fleeing cohorts.
The offices now have two alternatives. They can do what their instinct and training tells them to do and take off in hot pursuit of the men who have obviously made themselves suspicious by their flight. Or they can observe the sweat on the walking man’s face, the fact that his heartbeat is discernable beneath his shirt and other subtle clues to his true identity and proceed from there. The first option may not result in exemplary arrests. The latter guarantees three quality arrests worthy of note.
You can see why focus on the walking man means that arrest and probable conviction of the other two will follow. But that is not what would make the exercise of the second option worthy of note.
By definition, instinct is a natural tendency, aptitude or talent. In the case of police officers, training, procedural routines, and experiencing similar circumstances repetitively tends to produce a Pavlovian response to each circumstantially similar encounter. This tendency to“cut to the chase” is more pronounced within the ranks of experienced criminal investigators. That’s a good thing to know if you are an experienced detective who wants to put your fellow detectives on the wrong track. Are you thinking about the lead investigators in the O.J. Simpson case? According to the guy you’re about to meet in these pages, you should be.
Twenty-one of my twenty-nine years in the Detroit Police Department involved general criminal investigations, sex crimes, and homicides. I was working homicide during the O.J. Simpson murder trial when I was approached by the author—my younger brother and champion of lost causes—for my assessment of the case against Simpson. I, of course, being the expert and the older, wiser brother, gave him the definitive answer based on the evidence I knew about from TV and my years of experience with similar cases.
“O.J. did it,” I said.
“But George—” he said.
“O.J. did it.”
He was a car designer. What did he know about murder investigations? Wasn’t that the reason he came to me, for my inside knowledge? I then explained to him what the tip-offs were that made O.J.’s guilt so obvious.
“I don’t think he did it,” he said. He then went to work on his latest crusade with the brand new eyes of a homicide cop. He had this theory that another plausible suspect existed, someone knowledgeable enough and close enough to the case to point the finger at O.J. Simpson the moment the police arrived on the crime scene.
After years of dedication to the task of building a case that fits the obvious and subtle facts, he invited me to look at the finished product. I did. I invite you to do the same.
Admitting you’re wrong can be hard but it’s better than staying that way.
Don’t make up your mind until you give Iago a good look for fit and finish. Test it for
mechanical defects. Kick the tires and take it for a spin.
George E. Garrison
Detroit Police Department 1970-1999