Interview with an NCIS Agent (Part 2)
MM: I worked a cold case that involved a sexual murder. The body was tied in an unusual manner. The knots demonstrated sophistication but were quite honestly out of my realm of experience. Our suspect was an enlisted sailor. We found an expert within the Navy on nautical knots and lashings. He was able to examine the bindings and his conclusions were very helpful. He was able to demonstrate that the knot binding her wrists could be tied one handed by someone familiar and skilled with it. Our original assumption from its complexity was that she was either unconscious by this point (though that did not fit the MO) or that he would have had difficulty controlling her with both hands busy on the knot. This working theory of ours was quickly changed. Of further interest was his identification of which rating (military specialty) the sailor that tied these knots would have had as well as his experience level. He noted subtle irregularities (a right over left, instead of left over right) that allowed him to offer the opinion that the sailor was likely near the end of his first enlistment but not established in his second 4 years at the time this was tied. This matched our suspect to a “T”.
F4F: How large is the NCIS? Are there a lot of offices and laboratories or is it pretty centralized?
MM: NCIS has about 1400 Special Agents, about 70 are Marine Special Agents, additionally there are intelligence analysts and support staff. The NCIS is broken down into field offices with a headquarters in the Washington DC area. They recently moved from the Navy Yard (of the TV show fame) to Quantico Virginia where they are co-located with the other military investigative organizations. NCIS uses the US Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillam in Atlanta. During time of specialized forward deployment special labs have been set up such as in Iraq to expedite forensic processing in the region. There are fewer than 20 field offices. A field office typically covers a large geographic region such as the southeastern US or Northwest US. They may also cover Europe, Japan, and other foreign regions such as the Middle East. Field offices are led by a Special Agent in Charge (SAC). Each Field office has NISRA’s assigned under it. These are Resident Agencies that are led by a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) and serve a particular military base or command. The strength at each NCISRA is dependent on their mission and coverage.
F4F: Can NCIS agents arrest any military officer, even a high ranking officer (such as an Admiral) or do they have to go through a special process?
MM: Generally the jurisdiction lies initially with the location of the crime. When a suspect is identified it shifts to the suspects military commanding officer and the Military Investigative Office (MIO) that would serve them. For instance, a Soldier that kills a sailor on a Marine Base certainly poses some issues. Ultimately the soldier would be formally charged and tried through his/her chain of command so the Army CID would have the investigation at that point. Initially The NCIS would work this as the crime occurred on their base and a suspect is normally not instantly identified. In short, all of the MIO’s have a great working relationship as we so often overlap. It is also important to have these with the local and state police as often the crime is in their jurisdiction and we assist.
F4F: Tell us a little about your new text book Death Scene Investigation
MM: The foundation for Death Scene Investigation actually came about when I helped author a crime scene field guide for NCIS. Don Housman and I worked on that original project along with input from quite a few Special Agents. That guide was so helpful to me that I hoped to put out a civilian version. By some twist the Death Scene Investigation Procedural Guide actually was finished before the civilian Crime Scene Investigation Guide (which I am co-authoring with Don Housman). The Death Scene Investigation Procedural Guide is a spiral bound, 260 page guide book meant to be carried in your cargo pocket to the scene. It suggests step by step procedures for almost any death scene you might encounter (if you think of one I missed, let me know, I’ll get it in the next edition). The guide starts with a simple decision matrix that allows you to evaluate the evidence in context and determine an investigative direction. It emphasizes “red flags” for when an accident isn’t an accident etc… From recovering bodies from shallow graves, fields or water to determining approximate time since death, collecting evidence, processing fingerprints from the body (the bad guys) to collecting maggots and footwear impressions. An easy to follow procedure is laid out.
Posted on July 27, 2012, in Characters and tagged crime, Crime Scene, csi, death scene investigation, detective, fiction, forensics, medical examiner, Michael Maloney, murder, mystery, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, NCIS, police, Special agent, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.