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Old 01-02-2013, 02:12 AM   #1
rosehips
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quick vocab questions re: mug shot books

Hi all,
After searching I still can't find a term for books of mug shots people can look through to identify a suspect. Also, I'm wondering if those are still in use, or would a PD have everything on computer, and sit a witness in front of a computer, instead?

My mc is a psychic and "saw" a criminal in a vision. Her bf is a police detective and gives her access to the books/computer. Could he do this openly?

Thanks for all replies in advance!
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:14 AM   #2
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I've heard it called a mug book, but they may have a more professional term for it.
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:33 PM   #3
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Since no one with more knowledge than I have has replied, I'll add that you can probably have this either way in a story, either a mug book or a computerized version. If needed, you could always explain it simply enough: "We've just put our mug books on computer . . . "

As for the second part of your question, a police officer using private personal information for his own use is a big no-no in some departments (there has been a couple of State Troopers disciplined here for such things), but probably winked at in other departments (a small town sheriff's office, for example, where everyone is related in some way). However, I don't think there would be much problem with showing someone who could conceivably have information about a crime (however far-fetched) a mug book; criminal records are public, while certain other information is for official police business only.
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:26 AM   #4
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A word of caution...

The practice of allowing a witness to randomly plow through a collection of mug shots, whether book-bound, a database, or loose pics, without first getting the best description possible from the independent recollection of that witness is generally discouraged as poor investigative technique. It can be counterproductive and taint any subsequent identification by that witness. Witness memories are notoriously malleable and prone to suggestion, whether deliberate or inadvertent.

If the initial interview of a witness yields a good description, the investigator can prepare a "photo spread" (usually six or more) of potential suspects that meet the general description - similarity of appearance is important. If any identification is made, it should be reasonably positive, and is typically followed by a traditional live "line up".

OTOH, if no identification is made from a photo spread or line up, that fact must still be documented because this investigative action will be reviewed by the court (assuming an arrest is subsequently made).

Misuse of LE resources by officials or unauthorized individuals is generally against policy and/or statute. Penalties and sanctions can run the gamut from administrative discipline/termination to civil/criminal prosecution.

If you want to keep your MC as one of the "good guys", and keep her boyfriend out of a jam, you'll need to find a way to legitimize your MC's access to such resources - like as a consultant, or ad hoc task force member, or IT support... etc...

I think your premise is interesting - write it! Good Luck!
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:37 AM   #5
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Thanks, Alleycat. That's very helpful!

ETA: Thanks, Ironmike. Your response came in just as I was thanking Alleycat. I have to reread what you said, and I may have a question or two for you...

ETA2: Okay. I really appreciate your input, Ironmike, and I'll make sure to have the bf detective take down a full description before having her look at photos (although I still will probably have her flip through the books, as the point is that she doesn't find any matching photos). It's interesting to know that it might well get the detective in trouble, because the mc has a nemesis in the same department, and she (the nemesis) would be pleased to have some ammunition like this.

So my question is, how would one become a consultant or an ad hoc task force member (IT support would not work)? This could be the solution to the crisis created by the nemesis after my mc looks at the books. Thanks for your help!
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Last edited by rosehips; 01-03-2013 at 01:45 AM.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:05 AM   #6
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An ad hoc task force is a group of investigators assembled for a specific purpose/investigation/case. They may be from different agencies with a jurisdictional interest, or from within the same agency.

If the case involves aspects or evidence that is unique, unusual, or esoteric - anything sufficiently beyond the expertise of the assembled investigative personnel - the overall authority may grant certain recognized (civilian) experts in their respective fields some level of clearance to participate as authorized consultants.

IT gurus are typical examples, bordering on trope status.

It's not that unusual for psychics to approach LE with information; but it's never recorded that the psychic became an active TF support member (even if it did happen in a peripheral sense). However, if the proffered info is accurate there's an unwritten norm that the psychic has to prove his/her innocence in the acquisition thereof - especially if only the perpetrator would reasonably have such knowledge.

This direction might give your story a whole new dynamic...
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