Police Search For Underwater Evidence

Police officers spent hours wading through the Mississippi Sound Thursday in search of a mannequin, a missing revolver and a piece of PVC pipe.

Those items were the "evidence" dropped in the water as part of a law enforcement training mission. Officers relied on their classroom learning to find the missing items in this hands-on exercise.

"But it's best to feed it from shore out always. Feed it from shore out. And for every sweep they make, tie a loop in it," one police instructor said. He shared techniques about using rope lines to do search patterns in the water. Rope is among the tools used as officers sweep the sound in their search for underwater evidence.

Three scenarios include the hunt for a drowning victim, recovery of an assault weapon and locating a gun used in a suicide.

Joe Pevey is deputy director of the Southern Regional Public Safety Institute, the group which put on the specialty training.

"They have to learn physiological responses the body makes, what metal does in a saltwater environment and how it can be protected, because unfortunately, criminals like to dispose of evidence in bodies of water, thinking it won't be found. We'll go out and find it."

With a few leads and this kind of specialized training, police have a much better chance of recovering evidence from the water.

Mike Warren traveled some 340 miles from Itawamba County to learn the techniques.

"We don't have a lot of training of this type up in our area, but we've got a lot of water, a lot of waterways," Warren said. "We've got the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway that splits our county right in half, and we have a lot of boating fatalities and such," said the Itawamba county deputy.

Many of these training exercises are based on real-case experiences. And such specialized skills can help solve crimes. It happened in a Biloxi murder case some 20 years ago. Pevey helped investigate the case.

"The weapon was discarded over the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge, and it took us about four days to find it," Pevey said. "Using the exact techniques that these officers are doing today, we found the weapon used in the homicide."

These officers in training also found their weapon and now have the knowledge to do it when the need arises for real.