About Site Filming
With the prevalence of video everywhere online, you’d think that the FBI would be on the bandwagon, taking video footage of every scene they investigate. But when I participated in the FBI’s 10-week Citizen’s Academy, presented by the Miami office, I’ve learned that’s not true.
The Bureau does use videotape in a number of ways — for example, in videos for education and training purposes. In 2015, they produced a film about an emergency response scenario at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus in Virginia. Last year, several agents came to Broward College in South Florida, where I teach, to present a film about a naïve college student recruited by the Chinese government as a spy – based on a real life incident.
The most newsworthy relates to the fatal shooting of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier LaVoy Finicum. The Bureau released the video in order to provide “an honest and unfiltered view of what happened and how it happened,” according to comments made by Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
Bretzing continues, “The plane is following the vehicles, and the camera sometimes pans from one vehicle to the other, a white truck in front and a Jeep in back. At other times when the vehicles are in a fixed location, the plane is flying in a pattern over that location. Because of that flight pattern, there are portions where trees obscure what is happening.”
I thought it was interesting that the press release included this note: “Pilots use Zulu Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), when they fly. Zulu time is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Therefore, although this footage was taken on January 26, 2016 in Oregon, the date/time stamp on the video shows just after midnight January 27, 2016.”
I can see how small details like that might confuse people or make them believe that the footage had been altered in some way. And how the obscured vision could also cause questions or controversy.
This video covered an ongoing action, however, rather than filming a crime scene, which is an area that I cover in my new book, The Next One Will Kill You. I learned that the Bureau has a policy against taking video footage of crime scenes as part of evidence gathering. Here’s an excerpt from the book that explains why.
“The FBI never takes video footage of a scene,” I said, remembering what I had learned at the academy.
“You never know what might get into the video that might turn out to be prejudicial to a case down the road,” I said. “Like, an agent joking in the background could show evidence of prejudice.”
“Video gives you too much information,” I said. “It makes it hard to focus in on what’s important. Taking still pictures makes you pay attention to what you want in the shot. You have to make conscious decisions about angles and lighting and what to include or leave out.”
“Very good.” We watched as the photographer turned his camera on the crowd that had assembled to watch us work.
I’d heard that it was true that criminals often returned to see first-hand the destruction they had wrought. And whoever rented the warehouse might have come over to see what was going on. So shots of the crowd might prove useful in the future.
I watched as the photographer moved in closer to the bay itself. Another agent, a blonde woman, recorded a paper list of everything that was photographed, including the specifics of each exposure. It was all part of building a case for prosecution.
A third agent had a pad and pencil and was drawing sketches of the property. With a drawing you could remove unnecessary detail that crowded a photo, and the act of drawing helped the eye focus on what was important.
I loved my time at the Citizen’s Academy, even the sessions about job applications and paperwork, because I learned so much. I covered page after page of my notebook with information and it was a real struggle not to throw it all in the first book of my Angus Green series!
To see some FBI videos: https://www.fbi.gov/news/videos
To learn more about the FBI Citizen’s Academy: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/partnerships_and_outreach/community_outreach/citizens_academies
About the Book
The Next One Will Kill You: An Angus Green Novel (Angus Green Series, Book 1)
If Angus Green is going to make it to a second case, he’s needs to survive the first one.
Angus wants more adventure than a boring accounting job, so after graduating with his master’s degree he signs up with the FBI. He’s assigned to the Miami field office, where the caseload includes smugglers, drug runners, and gangs, but he starts out stuck behind a desk, an accountant with a badge and gun.
Struggling to raise money for his little brother’s college tuition, he enters a strip trivia contest at a local bar. But when he’s caught with his pants down by a couple of fellow agents, he worries that his extracurricular activities and his status as the only openly gay agent will crash his career. Instead, to his surprise, he’s added to an anti-terrorism task force and directed to find a missing informant.
It’s his first real case: a desperate chase to catch a gang of criminals with their tentacles in everything from medical fraud to drugs to jewel theft. With every corner in this case―from Fort Lauderdale’s gay bars to the morgue―turning to mayhem, Angus quickly learns that the only way to face a challenge is to assume that he’ll survive this one―it’s the next one that will kill him.
About the Author
Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction. His website is www.mahubooks.com.
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The Next One Will Kill You by Neil Plakcy. Diversion Publishing (November 15, 2016). ASIN: B01KUAGZ0I. 207p.