Transfer theory: What are you leaving behind? Part I
It is a cold and stormy night. (Don’t all great crime novels start out this way?) You get the call over the crackling radio to respond to an address regarding a strange smell. You arrive and by peeking through the window you discover a grisly murder scene inside the residence. Radioing for reinforcements, you clear the residence for any other people including potential murder suspects.
You next set up your crime scene tape to make sure all the neighbors, lookey-lou’s and unnecessary command staff stay a safe distance away. Before you re-enter the crime scene you make sure to don your latex gloves and paper booties so you don’t carry in anything from the outside in or, worse still, carry anything from inside the crime scene, home with you. CSI 101, right?
Question: Is it really possible to leave nothing and take nothing?
People generally lose 50 to 100 hairs a day. The chances of one of them falling into your crime scene somewhere are highly likely. I am almost certain that no officer ANYWHERE keeps a shower cap or hair net on his duty belt just to insure he doesn’t accidently shed into the crime scene.
You have probably touched stuff without a glove on. A light switch so you can see the crime scene better, the doorknob when you entered the residence, the body to see if the person was deceased or still breathing. Fingerprints and DNA – you leave traces of yourself behind every time.
What about what you carry away with you? You carry stuff on your shoes from trace amounts of blood that you cannot see, spit, bugs or feces ingrained in the carpet, carpet fibers, other peoples shed hair! If you brush against something, whatever is on the walls or lamp or doorway goes with you. This is called Primary Transfer. We all know it happens and this is why most of us choose to leave our work boots at work or take our uniforms off in our garage and straight into the washing machine. We don’t want to bring any of that with us into our homes where others can be contaminated with it. If you come home and walk into the house with contaminated clothes on, you may leave trace amounts on the carpet and then your child may crawl across it and get this trace on them! This is called Secondary Transfer.
A Different Way of Thinking
Lets talk about a slightly different type of scene. A traffic stop. You spot a driver committing a traffic violation and pull them over. As you walk to the window they immediately start in with the age-old response of the unjustly afflicted, “There are drug dealers and murderers out there and your wasting time stopping me?” Or, “I pay your taxes!” You can really insert any of the traditional one-liners you want because we have all heard them. Most officers who get this type of reaction from the public are immediately on the defensive. Being this officer, you may have a carefully crafted smartass comeback in your repertoire or you may just respond with a stoic “sign here.” The point is that the customers attitude still makes you angry even if you choose not to show it and you carry that away with you. This is ALSO Primary Transfer but just on a mental or emotional level.
Lets take it one step further shall we? If the person you deal with has a bad attitude and in turn you become angry when you leave, will your anger reflect onto the next person you come in contact with? Will the way that first person reacted affect your dealings with another and in the theory of Secondary Transfer, will that third person then have a crummy attitude? Will you be the vehicle that spreads the bad attitude?
How Contagious are YOU
If you have been doing this job for even a minute you have undoubtedly come into contact with at least one angry parolee, gang member, public drinker or even innocent law abiding citizen who immediately responds to you with detest only to later say “I’m sorry officer, I’ve just had bad experiences with others cops.” When that happens, you silently curse that previous officer because his actions made your job more difficult! How often have you been guilty of being that initial officer who makes the next officers job more difficult?
The next time you make a contact on the job, think about what part of yourself you are leaving behind, physically or otherwise.
How contagious are you?