Officer-involved shootings

Uncovering clues with 3D diagramming


Diagrams hold up in court

     A 3D diagram of an officer-involved shooting is just one piece of evidence that the jury must weigh as it decides the outcome of a case. The jury also must consider photos, exhibits of evidence from the scene and eye-witness testimony. Yet a 3D diagram is an illustrative high-profile piece of evidence that can connect most enduringly with jurors, Jordan asserts. "With a good diagramming program, we can create a virtual photo of what the officer most likely saw at the time of shooting," says Jordan. "We can show what an officer was up against, what his viewpoint was, and what the suspect's viewpoint was. That's what causes jaws to drop open and the people who need to make decisions make them better. It's like somebody took a photograph at the time of the shooting, and was looking down the barrel of the gun with the officer when they took the photograph."

Ease of use

     To be truly effective a crime scene diagramming program must be easy to use. After all, it is unreasonable to expect that every crime scene technician or police officer is a seasoned computer-aided design user. Also, while there are many drawing programs on the market, most are designed for engineering or architecture, and can be torturous to master. A drawing program that enables its user to learn how to produce a 2D diagram within 2 hours is one to strongly consider. The program should also have the capability to convert 2D diagrams into 3D views. Other suggested features include easy-to-find drawing and editing tools and a large library of symbols, most of which are available as 3D objects.

     Remember that although an officer-involved crime scene stays fresh in witnesses minds for a short time, an accurate depiction of the scene — the diagram — is what keeps it fresh in the minds of all who may be called upon to evaluate the events. Whether the diagram winds up in court in a few months or several years later, if it was created with the level of detail and functionality discussed here, authorities can rest assured the proper story will be told.

     Bob Galvin is a freelance writer based in Oregon City, Oregon. Diagrams provided courtesy of Doug Jordan, a detective and certified reconstructionist with the Eugene (Oregon) Police Department, and Trooper Eric Cannaday of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (diagram bottom right on Page 82).

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