Crime Scene by Esther
As the editor of Police-Writers.com and a retired
police officer turned author I have occasion to
read a lot of books written by
police officers. Through the website I was
contacted by former New South Wales (Australia) Police Officer
Esther McKay; and, ultimately received a copy
of her book. What I received was a well-written memoir of a crime scene
What struck at first is that cop work is cop; it doesnt
matter if you are walking my former beat in downtown Los Angeles or riding in
McKays crime scene investigators truck. To mimic Jack Webb, the stories are
true, only the locations have changed. Riding along in McKays journey you
will find out that our Aussie brothers and sisters definitely have a language of
their own; indeed, just as cops have our own secret language, McKay adds
witches hats, ambros and Salvos to the lexicon of the international police
The deeper you read into
Esther McKays work the further you delve into
the seriousness of her message. Time wise, Esther and I started our careers at
about the same time. While the
technology of policing was increasing rapidly,
the technology and information about protecting police officers was seriously
lagging. As the decade of the 1980s progressed, the demand to recover more
evidence for DNA (and other examinations) increased, yet the idea of Universal
Precautions for Bloodborne Pathogens had yet to find its way to the street cop.
At about the same time, Esther and I seem to be having the
same questions about the wisdom of contact with chemicals, fluids, smoke and
debris at crime scenes. It seems we were prepared to battle bullets, knives and
fists but not microbes. For me, the this aint right moment came at the scene
of a stabbing. The victim, cut from ear to ear, was only two blocks from a
hospital. My partner and I looked at each other and made an unspoken,
instantaneous decision the victim would not survive the wait for paramedics.
Somehow, I ended up in the back seat of the cruiser, with the victims head and
shoulders in my lap as I tried to staunch the flow. I dont really remember my
partner driving to the hospital we were just at the crime scene one moment and
hospital the next. While there was only a little blood on my face, my uniform,
arms and hands were drenched.
The power of McKays work is that it evoked that, and other
memories. The second and related theme of McKays work is the world-wide law
enforcement training paradigm of sink or swim. I am not certain how, but it
appears we all learned police work on the fly. When you combine the intensity
of the crime scenes Esther McKay investigated with the universal sink or swim
training you get to the real root of her work: the psychological toll on cops.
As we journey with Esther we experience the unrelenting
series of call outs, the contact with others grief, the death and injury, and
its mounting toll on a good cop. While we as readers see the signs, the players
cant. Foremost, because at the time Esther McKay was playing the cop game the
psychological impact was only just being understood and discussed, but rarely
acted on. In fact, today, we are still seeing cops (apparently around the
globe) pursue relief down blind alleys like alcohol.
Esther McKays book is for every cop, sergeant
and police manager. Its for those of you who want to join the ranks; and,
those of you who are the loved ones. All the signs, blind alleys and ultimately
the right paths are laid out. I think, perhaps, the afterword which is written
by a doctor sums it up best: Crime Scene is also a significant contribution to
the literature of police work because it outlines the insidious nature of the
traumatic effects of crime-scene work.
You can obtain additional information about Crime Scene and
Esther McKay at:
About the Reviewer:
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA is a 24 year
veteran of law enforcement. In his retirement he is a university professor and
writer. He is the author of
Leadership: Texas Hold em Style; and, is
currently working on.
From NYPD to LAPD: An Introduction to Policing.
You can view Raymonds complete CV at