Kerrian’s Notebook readership was up again in 2015! Double wahoo!! More than ever, it seems as if readers and professional writers that follow the Notebook most enjoy learning about the nuts and bolts of crime as well as the crime fighters that take care of the bad guys.
The Top Ten favorites from 2015 are listed in reverse order. Click on the title to read that post.
Did your fave post of the year make the list? Let us know in the comment section below.
To all the Kerrian’s Notebook readers all over the globe:
Your comments, reactions and enthusiastic participation through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, emails and on the site itself, mean the world.
Many thanks for continuing to follow us as we travel around the country doing research, collecting odd stories and sharing weird facts about fires, EMS scenes, crime, and the people charged with helping the community when bad things happen.
Kerrian’s Notebook fans are the best on the planet!
*Photo taken by Patti Phillips at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas.
Our cross country trip to visit sis in Texas wound down with a stop in Waco, about 200 miles southeast of Wichita Falls. The destination was the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, built to celebrate the storied Rangers and home to several thousand artifacts and impressive bronze statues displayed throughout the complex.
Guided tours are the usual way to see the exhibits, and a movie about the history of this colorful organization is a great way to start the visit. We have been to dozens of historical sites over the years and seen many informational presentations, but none quite like this. The Rangers have had moments that were less than stellar during their nearly 200 year existence, and while the movie generously praises the many successes of the group, it does not flinch from relating the scandals that tarnished their reputation during part of the last century. Happily, varying the organizational style and recruitment techniques since then has worked to make the Texas Rangers a strong law enforcement entity, respected around the world.
A bit of history:
With the blessing of the Mexican government, a colony of about 300 families was created at the Northern edge of Mexico in the early 1800s, with the reputed Mexican goal that it would have a bigger claim to the contested land. This outpost was also supposed to act as a buffer between Comanche territory and Hispanic holdings. However, attacks on the settlement became so violent and frequent that in 1823, Steve Austin (with permission from Mexico) hired a group of men to keep the families safe and protect the frontier from Indians, bandits and other marauders. With that mandate, the Texas Rangers were born. They are the oldest state law enforcement agency in the USA.
In the beginning, the Rangers were mostly farmers, not cowboys, and had to provide their own horses and guns. The newly formed band was battling against the best light cavalry in the world, the Comanche Indians, and had to learn how to fight on horseback, rather than as foot soldiers in the tradition of English linear formations of battle they were used to. I’m more of a stand-and-shoot kinda guy, and have only ridden a horse while it walked very slowly, so the idea of having any kind of accuracy with a rifle while on a galloping animal? Boggles the mind.
The Comanches and other native tribes were determined to keep the settlers from gaining a bigger foothold and fiercely defended their territory. While some Native Americans today dispute the way ownership of the land was handled back then, that area was a political geographical hotbed at the time, with several governments claiming rights to the territory.
When fighting became too intense and/or widespread for the original few dozen men to handle, others volunteered to help or were hired temporarily, and it was possible to serve as a Texas Ranger in the Frontier Battalion for as little as six months at a time. There were spies, scouts, mounted riflemen – as varied as the needs of the campaign at hand. The men were promised $1.25 a day, to be paid when Austin raised enough money. That early bunch was the stuff of novels and movies – larger than life characters, living on the open range as they assisted the army, making decisions on their own, saving lives and keeping the peace, whenever they were called upon to do so.
Texas became a Republic in 1836, then a State in America in 1845, and the role of the Rangers changed as the political climate and the growing population required.
We were surprised to hear how few Texas Rangers there have been. In times of heavy conflict, the ranks swelled to 450, but after funding cuts and being split into four companies statewide in 1901, there were only 80 men in total. A few years ago, the numbers rose to 100, and even now in 2015, there are still only 150 commissioned Rangers for the entire State of Texas. That’s less than one Ranger for each of the 254 counties in the State.
Having said that, there’s a definite air of confidence surrounding each of the Rangers we met. You never doubt that they have the experience, the training and the skills to handle any situation that arises. One of the legends that feeds the mystique is a statement attributed to Capt. Bill McDonald. McDonald was sent to Dallas to prevent a prize-fight from being held. A rowdy crowd was getting out of hand, and when he arrived alone, he told the alarmed mayor, “Ain’t I enough? There’s only one prize-fight!”
In 1935, the Texas Rangers came under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety and the Senior Ranger reports directly to the Director of the DPS. These days, the 150 commissioned, active-duty Rangers are divided into companies spread across the State. They are located in Houston, Garland, Lubbock, Waco, McAllen, San Antonio, and ElPaso, with the central headquarters in Austin, the state capitol.
Click on the links for additional information:
Next time: “What does a Texas Ranger do?”
*Photos by Patti Phillips, taken in Waco, Texas
Detectives on TV have great jobs. They swoop into a crime scene after it’s been secured, and the Crime Scene Techs take care of all the evidence collection and any photography needed. The Patrol Officers take the statements and canvas the neighborhoods. All the stars of the shows need to do is solve the crime using their brains and years of experience in assessing homicides just like the one in front of them. You’re pretty bright and always solve the imaginary mystery ahead of the TV cops, so you could do that, right?
Be careful what you wish for, because not every town has special people assigned to be detectives and you may have to move to the big city in order to realize your dream.
In smaller towns, the police departments are too small (think “Jessie Stone” on TV) to have fancy labs, and the crime scene tech may be the same guy that answers the phones at headquarters. Any detecting is most likely done by the police officers themselves.
The sometime ‘detectives’ in smaller jurisdictions don’t have as many murder cases to work as in the big cities, so their time may be spent catching speeding motorists, or figuring out who broke into the liquor store after hours or how the Fitzer barn happened to burn down. There may be robberies, burglaries, domestic abuse, runaways, assault, and potential arson cases to resolve, and if there is more than one case at a time that comes into the local office, the investigations may be handed off to the county or state law enforcement agencies. In big cities, however, the need for detectives may be serious enough to create divisions that specialize in robbery or homicide or arson or cybercrime or gang activity.
The reality is that being a detective of any kind may be fascinating work, but Homicide Detectives have long hours (rarely 9 to 5) and are awakened in the middle of the night when a body is discovered. The investigation must be conducted while the leads are hot. If the killer isn’t caught within the first few days, the trail gets cold and the case gets tougher to solve. Sometimes, because there is not enough local manpower available or even a lab to process evidence, cases that require forensic analysis are handed over to county or state agencies.
What does it take to be a detective?
Training/Education – larger cities and/or state and federal agencies, or private corporations, require criminal justice degrees for investigator/detective spots. If you’d like to investigate insurance fraud, art forgery/theft, or mail fraud, additional specific training will be expected.
A candidate for the position of Homicide Detective would most likely start out as a patrol officer, having gone through the Police Academy first. Some cities require criminal justice degrees, or four-year college degrees in order to advance, so patrol officers interested in shifting the focus of their careers, may have to attend college in off hours. In smaller departments, detectives are sometimes chosen because of a special aptitude for spotting crime scene details. Some departments require candidates to pass special written/oral tests. At this point, there is no national standard for either minimum educational requirements, or training, to be a Homicide Detective.
Skills – Homicide Detectives must be able to organize information, work for long hours, be physically fit, be emotionally able to deal with the terrible things they will see, and have a strong stomach. He/she can’t be bothered by blood, or body parts scattered around. In order to be effective, they must be able to interrogate witnesses without having them clam up. They should be able to ask questions that require other than yes and no answers. Immediately after a crime has occurred, the detectives must be able to discover the facts, sort out the details, determine the oddities of a case, and deal with grieving widows and relatives and neighbors.
Not really interested in murders, but want to solve those sexy art fraud and insurance fraud cases? Cybercrime sounds cool to you?
In that case, you need:
Pretty much what a Homicide Detective needs, but without dealing with the blood.
Like digging through seemingly unrelated facts in order to come up with the ‘who, what, where and how’ of a crime? Then a ‘why’ so that motive can be established?
Maybe you could be detective. 🙂