Officers Brush Up on Homicide Analysis 101 Author of the Investigation 'Bible' Imparts His Wisdom to Area Police

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Byline: Tony Gordon Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Vernon Geberth leaves no doubt about where he is from and whose side he is on.

His "New Yawk" accent booms through the conference room as he holds forth on what he considers the evils of the world - namely murderers, defense attorneys and police administrators.

"In this room we are going to talk cop," Geberth says to his class. "We don't have time for politically-correct niceties because we are talking about murder and the deviant individuals who do it."

Regarded by many as the best in the business of educating police in the art of investigation, Geberth taught his "Practical Homicide Investigation" course to 108 officers this week at the Ramada Inn in Waukegan.

A retired police lieutenant commander from New York City, Geberth learned his trade investigating homicides in the South Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s when the area was a model of what was wrong with urban society.

His course, which costs police departments $395 per attending officer, blends techniques in refinement since Cain squared off against Abel with the latest advances in forensic science.

"We contracted with Vernon because his program has the best reputation," said Lou Tessmann, commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, which sponsored the seminar.

"Some of our officers have already taken the course and have nothing but praise for it."

Unlike other instructors, Geberth does not rely on his own impressive resume alone but brings examples from throughout the country.

"This course is not for everybody, just as not everybody should be a cop and not every cop should be a homicide detective," Geberth said. "We will look at dozens of cases and what the detectives did to solve them, and you will learn skills to apply to your own cases."

A woman in Flint, Mich., is murdered by gang members because she reported them selling dope out of a house next to hers, and detectives crack the case by turning one member of the gang against the others.

A mob hit in a New York restaurant is solved because the shooter stepped in sugar that spilled from the victim's table and an investigator collected what was left for a match.

A detective in Arlington, Va., is rebuffed by his counterparts in a city 50 miles away when he suggests there is a pattern in a series of rape murders in both cities but persists in pursuing the leads and eventually sends the killer to the electric chair.

A veteran of 5,000 homicide investigations who has consulted on 3,000 other cases, Geberth insists there are five qualities present in every good investigator.

"Three skills are external - you must master the arts of teamwork, documentation and preservation of the crime scene," he said. "You will also need common sense and mental flexibility because an investigation will take 180-degree turns in midstream and you can not go into a case with an agenda. …