Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder Cop: A Profile of Vernon J. Geberth

PHI Seminars

Dr. Michael Baden (left) poses with Vernon Geberth
Dr. Michael Baden (left) poses with Vernon Geberth

Geberth retired as Commanding Officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, which handled more than 400 murders per year.  Rather than take a security job, as many retired cops do, he wanted to continue with his mission of educating himself and others in homicide.  So he opened a business, P. H. I. Investigative Consultants, Inc. featuring Practical Homicide Investigations®, and offered seminars to cops around the country so that they could take advantage of his experience and his protocols.  He invited several nationally known forensic scientists and medical examiners to be speakers as well.  Among them are Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Henry Lee, Ph. D, Detective First Grade Raymond Pierce, and Dr. Richard Ovens, Psy D.

Dr. Henry Lee
Dr. Henry Lee

He begins by stressing the importance of getting experience.  "Before you get to be a homicide detective," he tells students at his seminars, "you should have spent some time in the streets, rolling around with some of the folks who you're going to meet later.  People are basically good, but they also carry a lot of baggage with them.  During the course of interacting with people during a crime or homicide situation, they're going to lie, for a lot of reasons: out of embarrassment, desire not to get involved, or some personal issue you don't know about.  So you have to spend time interacting with people face-to-face under tough conditions.  Otherwise, you'll miss those important nonverbal behaviors and cues that will allow you to zero in.

Geberth delivers a class presentation
Geberth delivers a class presentation

As he taught the seminars, he found himself the recipient of additional cases. Some of the cases he presents are cases on which he consulted, while others were sent to him to review or to add whatever he could offer.  "The guys and gals who go through my class then see in their jurisdictions what I was talking about.  They implement it and call me.  So I get access to the cases."

Vernon Geberth researches photos of a crime scene
Vernon Geberth researches photos of a crime scene

Over the years, he has seen an increase in sex-related homicides, so he developed a three-day seminar to address only that topic.  He uses crime scene photos, videotapes collected from perpetrators, police documents, and even letters written by offenders to clarify for officers and detectives not yet exposed to the graphic details of such cases how the minds of such perpetrators work.  The situations he offers range from quick murders to drawn-out tortures to staged crime scenes.  Among them are the following:

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