Cleveland Police Department Homicide Unit
Cleveland's Detective Kathleen Carlin took to Facebook and Twitter to answer questions from fans of The First 48. Here are the results.
Darlene Chandler: Why is the first 48 hours so crucial in the investigation, besides gathering evidence?
Detective Kathleen Carlin: People are more likely to talk in the first 48 hours because their memories & emotions are raw over what's happened. Once they've had time to talk with friends/family, they re-think cooperating, change events to what others are saying, disappear, or move on with their life and don't want to be involved.
Jan Hunter: Do you ever have fans of the show come up to you and want autographs?
Detective Carlin: Yes, and it has helped open doors to talk with people.
Chris Dinero-Hood: What do you like most about law enforcement in the detective area? What sets that apart from other areas?
Detective Carlin: In other units, the detective has the victim to tell them what happened, but homicide victims can't speak for themselves. It's our job, as a homicide detective, to speak for them. I think the families deserve to know what happened to their loved one and have the person(s) responsible held accountable.
Lauryn Colatuno: Did you grow up in Cleveland? If so, what's it like to work homicides in your hometown?
Detective Carlin: I was born and raised in Cleveland and am proud to work for the citizens of Cleveland. I think it's important to investigate these homicides and identify the suspects involved. No child should be afraid of going outside to play.
Michelle Lynn Barr: How has your career changed your personal life?
Detective Carlin: When I first started on the Cleveland Police Department, we worked a different shift every month so it was difficult to make any long term plans. Since working in the Homicide Unit, we are on call 24/7 for Use of Force Investigations as well as being on call one month out of three 24/7 for homicides. Between the work hours, court hours and call ups, your personal life kind of takes a back seat. That's why it's so important to make the most of the time you have with your family/friends.
Ashley Jacobs: Do you ever feel frustrated when the suspects don't want to talk when you know all the evidence points to them?
Detective Carlin: Absolutely but a suspect has a right not to talk or incriminate themselves. I find it more frustrating when witnesses refuse to cooperate even when they knew the victim.
Dave-Anna Coven: Has there ever been a case that made you want to give up and find a new career because of the crime scene?
Detective Carlin: I've never found a case that made me want to quit but there have been cases that made we wonder how someone could do that to another human being.
Nicole Seaborn: How do you separate your emotions from your crime scene? Have you ever had to walk away because your emotions get the best of you?
Detective Carlin: It's difficult to separate your emotions but I work with a great group of people and am able to rely on them for the worst crime scenes. There have been times when viewing a scene that I had to take a moment and walk away just because of the gruesomeness of the crime, especially when it involves children.
Chris Ray: I am very interested in joining the Harris County Sheriff's office in the near future. Any advice for a 30-year-old upstart?
Detective Carlin: I would check with Harris County and find out what their requirements are to join their department. When I started in 1989, there wasn't an age restriction but Cleveland has since implemented a maximum age for hire of 35. Sometimes being older when you start can be an advantage because of maturity and life experiences.
Jon Gillispie MacNeal: How do homicide detectives protect themselves from emotional overload and burnout? Must be pretty hard to handle.
Detective Carlin: I find spending time with family keeps me sane and having a sense of humor helps immensely.
Ceanaitta Harris: What are the requirements to become a homicide detective?
Detective Carlin: Each department will have their own requirements. Cleveland Police requires you to have a minimum of 5 years experience on the department before applying for the Homicide Unit and even then that doesn't mean you will get in the unit.
Chris Zurawski: What advice do you have for people who want to be a homicide detective?
Detective Carlin: Start out in basic patrol and learn the police job then become a detective to gain experience with interview/interrogation, evidence collection, and court room testimony.
Sherry-ann Moonoo: Do you still get surprised by the murders?
Detective Carlin: Yes, criminals still surprise me at their viciousness and cruelty to others, especially family.
Brittney Clerk: How many hours of sleep do you guys usually get?
Detective Carlin: It depends on what shift I am working and how many cases we are working.
Alicia Stryker: How difficult is it to be present at the autopsies of these individuals?
Detective Carlin: We do not witness the autopsy of our victims. We receive the autopsy results from the Medical Examiner upon completion.
Varrinique's Family Page: Being that you're working all types of hours, what types of hobbies do you practice during your down time in order to unwind?
Detective Carlin: I enjoy hiking, bowling, golfing, traveling or just sitting and reading a good book. Anything that will help me decompress.
De Bellofatto Keimach: Do you find that people respond more positively/differently to you because they can see what real police work is like as opposed to what we see on dramatic crime shows?
Detective Carlin: Not that I've noticed.
Paola Sanchez: Do you ever stay in touch with the victims' children long after everything has been resolved?
Detective Carlin: There are family members of victims that still call to talk. I don't reach out to the children because I don't want to bring up bad memories but if I am contacted by family I am happy to talk to them and answer any questions.
Katie Gammon Bays: When you arrive at a murder scene, is there something you always do first, no matter what?
Detective Carlin: Talk to the first responding officers. What the officers saw and/or heard when they arrived on scene can be the most important piece to solving the case.
Famcasillas Munoz: When you finish the investigation, who cleans up the crime scenes?
Detective Carlin: It depends on if it's an indoor or outdoor scene. If it's on public property, we request the assistance of the fire department to clean up the scene. If it's indoors on private property, there are clean up companies available to the families.
Mc Shanky: How long did it take you to make detective?
Detective Carlin: I became a general duty district detective after 4 years of basic patrol and a homicide detective after 13 years of being a district detective.
Chris Johnson: Is there an old, unsolved case that haunts you more than others?
Detective Carlin: All my unsolved cases haunt me but cases involving children bother me the most.
Anthony Cox: What's the strangest thing that has happened in an interview during your career?
Detective Carlin: A suspect appeared calm when he was initially brought into the interview room but over a period of 10 minutes he became agitated. The suspect began spinning around in his chair and chanting in an unrecognizable voice. The spinning became faster and the chanting became louder until we had to physically restrain him.
Patricia Ramig: What is the average length of time that an officer stays in homicide?
Detective Carlin: It depends on the individual really.
Jamie Soltis: Do your co-workers ever play practical jokes on you?
Detective Carlin: Detectives are constantly playing jokes on each other. It is one of the ways we relieve some of our stress when working long hours on a difficult case.
Kat Lynn: Why do you hunt around for bullet casings in the dark? Wouldn't it be better to guard the scene and wait until it gets light?
Detective Carlin: Witnesses are often kept at a scene until we arrive. We use the witnesses to establish suspect and victim locations at the time of incident and will then look for physical evidence at the scene. We don't want to keep witnesses for longer than necessary. If we don't look right away evidence may be lost. However, we regularly return to scenes in the daylight hours to ensure we have located all evidence relating to a crime.
Ricardo Quinones: When LeBron made The Decision to take his talents to South Beach, did you burn his jersey? Who would you take: LeBron or Kyrie Irving?
Detective Carlin: No because I wasn't a fan of his to begin with. I am, however, a Cavs team fan.
Learn more about Detective Kathleen Carlin and the Cleveland Police Department Homicide Unit.