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Postcard from Parsons: Former reporter helps police solve crimes - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Postcard from Parsons: Former reporter helps police solve crimes

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BATON ROUGE, La. -

Wadi Sawabini was an investigative reporter for Channel 3 News back in the late 1970s. Then he moved on to larger markets in Rochester and Buffalo.

"Of course, Vermont is home, but Buffalo was great place to raise a family," Sawabini said.

After eight years there, cruising the streets and producing stories for WIVB, the station owners did not renew his contract, and Sawabini began his new career-- using what he'd learned in TV and teaching it to others, primarily police.

"It's the very same techniques I used to use at WCAX-TV. We don't edit evidentiary videotape. And in the days of film, you didn't have a lot of time to edit film," Sawabini explained. "We learned some techniques about telling stories in the camera, and that's essentially what I'm teaching cops; they're using cameras to take the jury back in time to the scene of the crime."

His three-day seminars, like a recent one in Baton Rouge, split the time between classroom and field work.

"To teach our people how to use video... the proper way to use video to document scenes," said Sgt. David Fauntleroy of the Baton Rouge Police Department. "If it's someone you see every day, you don't pay attention. And yet you do pay attention when it's a professional instructor."

This instructor takes them into a hotel to demonstrate how to use videotape to be used in evidence. The technicians are taken through a number of scenarios, documenting the relationship between guns and drugs.

"We want to pan from the bedside credenza to the bag of drugs. Put a ruler next to the bag of drugs. Medium shot, close-up shot, macro shot," Sawabini instructed.

He also uses alternate light sources to discover signs of suspects.

"That's why we're wearing gloves," he told students, as the lights revealed stains invisible to the naked eye.

It is like so many crime scene investigations that you see nowadays on television. In fact, many of the officers and analysts say judges and juries now expect to see such videotape.

Melissa Farley has been a fingerprint specialist with the Louisiana State Police crime lab for three years.

"A lot of times, juries will watch the video in court when you want to convey the scene the best way you can to them. And what better way than to take this class," Farley said.

The classes cost about $130 per student per day, the cost borne by the students' sponsoring agency and occasionally the federal government.

Sawabini has been doing this now for 23 years in 46 states, Canada and Bermuda, for federal agents down to local firefighters, police officers, sheriffs and investigators. He will go anyplace to teach almost anyone who buys into his slogan: "Video is simply better."

After three days in Baton Rouge, Sawabini packs up his equipment. In a few weeks, he will be off to start a new class, this time in Chicago.

Sawabini estimates he has taught more than 7,000 agents over the last 23 years. He also teaches surveillance video techniques as well as the CSI-type course.

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