“Without the help of the Rural Policing Institute, for us to get this kind of training, would not be possible,” said Officer Dave Gallegos, training officer for the Ruidoso Police Department.
The clinic brought agents and analysts from Naval Criminal åInvestigative Service (NCIS) to discuss different types of investigative and evidence handling methods, focusing on new ways to resolve cold cases.
“We discuss forensics, interrogation, interviewing techniques, crime scene examination,” said Mike Sullivan, a cold case analyst for NCIS.
Sullivan was homicide detective for the Washington D.C. Police Department for 23 years, five in the Cold Case Unit. He’s been a cold case analyst with NCIS for 13 years. “We also talk about non-traditional methods for solving cases,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan couldn’t reveal many of those non-traditional methods. But he did cite social networking sites as one new method investigators use to close a case. For instance, tracking a suspect via Facebook might lead investigators to new information.
Sullivan added that with newer technologies and advancements in DNA and other evidence analysis, cold cases are seeing a lot more activity recently. “Technology has been very helpful in solving cold cases especially in the form of CODIS,” Sullivan said.
CODIS is the Combined DNA Index System. Basically, it is a database of all DNA evidence ever collected anywhere. It allows investigators to match DNA in the same manner they match fingerprints.
“It gives us more information and more cold case hits,” Sullivan said, citing a recent murder in California. CODIS was able to tie the suspect from that murder to the murders of three other women, that had been unsolved for several years.
The end result is more cold cases are being solved than ever.
“There’s more of an emphasis on cold cases because a lot more cold cases are being solved,” Sullivan said.
Technology might even be a new deterrent to murder as well. “Nationwide, there has been a decrease in homicides,” Sullivan said.
However, all the technology and advancements in homicide investigation doesn’t mean anything if officers aren’t trained in those methods.
“It’s hard to get the training,” said Myrna Morrison, coordinator for the RPI and former North Carolina state trooper. “It’s even harder for these rural guys.”
The training seminar, which wrapped up Dec. 9, was provided free of charge to the officers. Morrison said that while the program is directed at rural officers, any officer can attend the training. The only requirement is that at least 50 percent of participants are from rural communities.
As a result, the Ruidoso event attracted officers from all across New Mexico and hosted attendees from El Paso, Ariz., Wyo., Colo. and Utah. In turn, the conference gave the local economy a small boost during a typically slow week.
The event brought 61 officers to town and according to Chad Hersey, the RPI regional coordinator for New Mexico, many of them brought their families.
“It’s been good from a tourism point of view,” Gallegos said, adding that conference attendees have stayed in local hotels, eaten at local restaurants and shopped at local stores while they’ve been here.