Divers and Evidence Part 1: The Lies We Tell Ourselves

*If you just landed here, this post is part of an ongoing series that examines the issues around public safety divers and evidence dives. To get the most out of this post, I recommend you first read the previous post right here.

Time to brush the dust off your imagination and put it to work.

The night is just deepening into full dark when you settle into your favorite spot on the couch. 

It’s been a long day, and you are so looking forward to watching some mindless TV and not caring about anyone else’s problems for a while.

The screen flashes as you surf the channels, eventually coming to rest on a movie that immediately catches your attention, even though you don’t recognize it.

On the screen is a diver. Of course it caught your attention. 

A few more seconds tick by and a cop enters the left side of the frame, approaching the diver who is kitting up on the shoreline of a lake. 

The cop begins talking to the diver and gesturing at the water, making sweeps of his hand.

Their discussion washes over you with clarity.

Cop: “The witness said he chucked it in over there. She’s not giving me much though.”

Diver: “OK. Any idea how far out he threw it?”

Cop: “No. And I doubt I’ll get anything better out of her either. That’s why we called you, anyway. This dude is our primary suspect in that shooting from earlier.”

Diver: “Ugh. The one that killed the kid walking home from school?”

Cop: “Yep. We have ballistics, and he owns a gun of the same caliber, but we can’t find it. If it’s in here like she said it is, then we can match the ballistics and solidify the case. Without it, we’re too light to make a solid conviction.”

Diver: “So this guy going to jail hangs on me finding this gun. Super.”

******************************

Let’s freeze that daydream right there. 

Seems like a reasonable dive. Right?

Get in there, find the murder weapon, help put the bad guy in jail.

Right?

Well, what if that diver was you

What additional questions would you ask? What additional questions should you be asking?

What are you forgetting that could jeopardize the case?

Remember that story… We’ll be coming back to it later.

This is always the spot in the conversation where the defensiveness starts…

  • “The case is the detective’s problem, not mine.”

  • “I’m just doing what I’m told. That’s all there is to it.”

  • “This is the way we’ve always done it and nothing has gone wrong. We’re fine.”

  • “No case is going to fall apart because of the divers. That’s crap.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard some version of these, or even said them ourselves if we are willing to be honest.

But are they really true?

Here’s your first challenge…

None of them are true.

Not only are they not true, but each statement tries so hard to push responsibility onto someone else…

So the speaker can avoid the actual truth.

Being the best at what we do is our responsibility and there is no running from it. 

  • If we serve areas that get cold, we learn to ice dive so we can operate when the water is frozen. 

  • If we serve areas with deep water, we learn deep diving and ROVs.

  • If we serve areas with high levels of industrial runoff, we learn contaminated water diving. 

  • If our jurisdiction has swift water, we learn swift water diving.

  • If our area has a lot of submerged drainage pipes, tanks, sewer stations, or other submerged areas, we learn confined space diving.

  • If we are being called for evidence recovery to further a criminal investigation… we should be learning underwater evidence collection!

When the call comes in, it is our responsibility to be prepared to answer it. Regardless of whether we feel it’s “our job” or not…

Otherwise there’s no reason to call you.

We all swore an oath of service, and that oath means there are people who trust us to do the best job we can.

Always being prepared is not easy…

Being excellent rarely is.

But someone has to be…

And that someone should be you. 

Up to this point, you probably didn’t know what you didn’t know.

And that’s OK. It’s not your fault.

But…

Ignorance of the rules doesn’t change the rules…

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