Observing Los Angeles

South LA homicide detective: what do you want to know?

ChristopherBarling-guardian.jpgLAPD detective Christopher Barling is the homicide supervisor for the 77th Street station in South Los Angeles — which has 250 open homicide cases. He agreed to "open up about his life and his work" with online readers of the UK newspaper The Guardian. Barling talks in the set-up about how his days go and how the job has changed — think Twitter. He'll be back to answer readers' questions. Sample:

First of all, there is never a typical workday for a homicide detective. I work what's called a 9/17 shift, which means that I work nine-hour days, nine out of 10 weekdays, with weekends off. However, since I am the homicide supervisor, I am always on call....

When a murder occurs it is rarely during business hours; it is usually between 10pm and 3am. So, on those days, my watch officially starts when I arrive at the crime scene. I then assess if more detectives need to be called in to start early and start handing out tasks to be completed.


I began working as a homicide detective in 1993, and technology is the biggest change over that time. When I first started working cases, we didn't have computers. We use to handwrite all reports and then typed them on a typewriter. Now everything is done on a computer. In 1993, we just had blood typing that was used to help identity people to a crime scene. Now DNA is used, which can identify an individual using his DNA to one in a billion, quadrillion or greater. There was no social media or surveillance cameras. The technology of today has greatly helped detectives build circumstantial evidence in their cases. We now also pass information out on Twitter on @LAPD-CGHD, @LAMurderCop and @77thHomicideCop.

Please remember, real detective work is not what you see on television shows like Law and Order, CSI and Dexter. We usually don't solve a case in an hour, or find scientific evidence everywhere....

Homicide detectives tend to be some of the most committed officers in any police agency and never want to go home without solving their case. But truth be told, we can't solve a case without the community's help and not every homicide case gets solved. However, just because it isn't solved does not mean that it is not being worked. Every year detectives solve anywhere between 60-70% of the cases, but only about 30-40% are from that calendar year. The rest of cases, which make up the difference, are from the previous years' cases.

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