Det. Josh Armstrong made a point to shake hands with everyone in the room and learn a bit about them.
About 20 minutes later, as week four of the Celina Citizens Police Academy Class 3 was in session, he explained why.
“The way I spoke to you is the way I’ll talk to anyone,” he said.
And that includes homicide suspects.
He adds that the days of slamming a phone book down in an interrogation room are over. Interacting with suspects begins with the same behavior he used in the Celina Council Chambers with us that night: a handshake and a conversation.
Armstrong’s career background made him the ideal presenter for the topic of discussion on day four: he’s worked in both criminal investigations and in narcotics, and he’s got plenty of stories to tell.
“I find that people enjoy stories of cases,” he says.
Through one of those stories, we learn about the steps behind a criminal investigation. Rather than go through all the types of crimes that occur, Armstrong walks the class through a murder investigation that took place in Texarkana, where he used to work.
He sets the scene, explaining the circumstances of a shooting scene that police had been called to one day. Armstrong emphasizes the importance of learning about a suspect’s activities from the past 24 to 48 hours in relation to the crime (also known as Victimology). As we look at pictures and video footage of the crime scene, Armstrong points out a few essential details, but for the most part, there is silence as we each take in what we’re seeing from the police department’s camera. We also watch interrogation footage, and Armstrong walks us through how detectives get from asking questions to getting a confession. We also learn about the ins and outs of fingerprinting and why it’s not as easy as TV shows make it out to be.
We also get behind-the-scenes looks at three Celina-specific cases, giving us a chance to learn about the warrant process and how a local AMBER alert was handled in February 2021.
The second half of the Thursday night presentation details narcotics investigations, allowing academy members to get an up-close and personal look at marijuana, LSD, heroin, meth and cocaine -- all samples that have been collected as part of investigations in Celina.
Celina hasn’t seen large-scale narcotics problems, but Armstrong’s presentation notes that illegal drug use is a leading cause or factor in most criminal cases. The discussion gives class members an idea of how each drug has evolved over time and what their impacts are.
The deep dive into both types of investigative work gives class members a real-life look at the types of cases from someone who’s put in the time to make them reach a conclusion.