Part II: Caylee Anthony Insights

Note: This is the second of a three part posting on items of interest from the Caylee Anthony investigation.

3. Case Management: When there is an investigation that involves national attention like this one, thousands of tips from the public are generated. When police are contacted via a tipline, a standard form that includes about everything that you can think of is completed. Once the information is taken, it is entered into a database and then forwarded to one of the case's investigators for follow-up--unless it involves exigent circumstances; as those are sent to the agency's call center for response by patrol units. The two primary differences in using a tipline versus calling 911 or the department's non-emergency number are the logging of the call (tipline calls are easier for officers to track and organize) and the response time by police (the follow-up on tipline information is slower as it has additional desks to visit)

High-profile cases that receive lots of tips can quickly become chaotic for administrators. As you can imagine, some information sent to police is from citizens who genuinely believe the tip is valuable—though later it is determined to be unrelated to the case. Unfortunately, many tips are called in from unstable people and/or jokesters that tie-up valuable resources—as all calls need some type of verification. As a result, logging, tracking, and investigating potential leads in the high-visibility cases requires efficiency and organization.

At my old department, I remember the high profile investigation of a serial killer who was responsible for several restaurant murders causing panic in our jurisdiction. Due to the media exposure, my department was inundated with thousands of tips. The volume and tracking became so much of a burden that the chief appointed two sworn non-investigators to develop and implement a modified case management system that could be used to keep pace with the leads. As it turned out, three people had called the tip line and identified the subject who was eventually arrested and convicted of the murders.

Fortunately, that system aided investigators in linking the three separate leads, developing suspect information, and finally matching physical evidence from the crime scenes. As more information on the Anthony case is released, I will be watching to see what type of case system was used to manage the Anthony leads, and if faulty practices led to the water department employee’s calls being lost or not being thoroughly investigated.

One additional thought on the use of the tipline in the Anthony Case. One report listed the reason for not following-up on the water department employee's second call was that an investigator determined that the location described had already been searched, and the information was discarded. Understanding the limitations of even good searches is essential as physical evidence can be missed. Specific information (like a bag) about an area should be viewed as a new lead and investigated thoroughly--not only for the integrity of the case, but in relation to the department's liability as well. Similar missed evidence scenarios occurred in the well-known Chandra Levy investigations, and two cases that I have read much of the information available--the Ray Gricar and Beau Ramsey missing person cases.

In the Gricar case, a shallow waterway was searched by police divers a few times (near where is car was recovered) and considered "clean." Months later, a fisherman found Gricar's laptop submerged in the primary area that had been searched. Again police conducted a limited search and found nothing else. A few weeks later, investigators now with egg-covered faces, were presented with the laptop's missing hard drive--recovered by a boy and his mom skipping rocks a few yards from the area where the laptop had been found.

In the Ramsey investigation, the missing person's motorcycle was found adjacent to a less-traveled road. Despite an unsuccessful yet intensive searches of the wooded areas in the area of the find, a citizen later located the man's decomposed body in heavy brush less than three miles from the location of his recovered motorcycle. In sum, ruling out information based on the "we already looked there" theory has historically been shown to be a risky approach.

I'll post Part III: Caylee Anthony soon, and here is the link to Part I.


Anonymous said...

There are certainly many variables in the conduct of searches. But in the Gricar case, aren't you assuming that the laptop and hard drive were present in the water when police conducted their searches?

Signed -- a Penn's woods, semi-intelligent, civilian free-thinker.

Slamdunk said...

Excellent point free-thinker--yes, I was speaking under that assumption (that the laptop was present) based on probabilities.

My reasoning is that it is of higher probability that the searchers missed the laptop and hardrive in the murky Susquehanna River as opposed to the alternative. I believe that it is unlikely that a person or persons would risk being noticed by returning to the populated area near Mr. Gricar's recovered vehicle, to discard the laptop in the water. Also, the police seemingly missed the laptop's harddrive during the second full search of the waterway--unless the person or person(s) returned a third time to drop the hard drive in that same water. As a result, searchers missed the evidence at least once.

With the information that the hard drive was heavily damaged from being in the water for an extended time coupled with it being a less likely risk that someone would throw the laptop and harddrive into the water near a busy area, it is believable that searchers just missed the evidence multiple times in their searches.

Considering the hundreds of easy ways that could be considered to effectively despose of a laptop (and that police have no idea what happened to Mr. Gricar), I don't see it likely that someone would risk their liberty by throwing the evidence in the water at the Lewsiburg bridge--unless they were motivated to make police look foolish and I have not seen any other indications that this is being considered.