“Just one more thing ...” the rumpled TV detective Columbo was fond of saying, right before he caught that week’s killer in his or her fatal flaw that caused the whole ‘perfect murder’ scenario to unravel.
Guess what? It doesn’t happen like that. Real police work takes years of training, and is often slow, meticulous, tedious and, well, un-telegenic. Although Jessica Fletcher, Matlock, and myriad CSI characters make it look easy, and in fact encourage our own armchair sleuthing, that’s not the way it works in the real world.
Given the recent social media speculation regarding the case of Jennifer Ramsaran, the New Berlin wife and mother missing since early December, you’d think most Chenango residents had memorized each and every episode of “Law & Order.” Everyone’s got a theory, and they’re not afraid to broadcast them.
Generally, that doesn’t help law enforcement – the real men and women who are working, often behind the scenes, to get to the bottom of this and every case that comes across their collective desks. To the amateur detectives who ask via Facebook, “Didn’t the cops think of ...” – the answer is yes, they did. And probably long, long before you ever hit “Post.”
The details of the Ramsaran case, in particular, are excellent fodder for the ersatz detectives. Reappearing cell phones, abandoned cars, changes in appearance, online gaming and a perennial favorite, marital issues, combine to make a juicy story, ripe for the casual observer to chime in with what he or she thinks “really happened.”
The truth is, we won’t know what happened in the Ramsaran case until we know what happened. That sounds trite, but it’s nonetheless true. Rampant speculation on the internet or in coffee klatches won’t solve the crime, and in many cases only serves to prejudice potential witnesses – or a jury pool.
Police agencies value credible, concrete information you may have concerning cases they’re working on. They rely heavily on witness accounts and tips from even anonymous sources. If you know something, or see something relevant, for heaven’s sake tell them directly. What they don’t need is you telling them why you think it was Col. Mustard in the library with a candlestick. While it may be fun to do, it’s really not helping anyone – and can be extremely hurtful to those emotionally involved in the case. Leave the police work to the professionals.