The stories may be ripped from the headlines, but the police protocol comes straight from law enforcement guidelines.
John White and James Fitzgerald, two Stockton University professors, see to it that — no matter how unbelievable the plot lines of “Criminal Minds,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Killer Profile” may be — proper police procedure is always followed.
White, 67, of Absecon, and Fitzgerald, 62, of Sea Isle City, serve in various roles as technical advisers, consultants and more on the three series, which call upon their law enforcement experience to accurately portray the legal side of crime.
“We review the script for the technical part,” Fitzgerald said. “Things like making sure handcuffs are applied properly behind a character’s back and guns are held properly.”
“Technical advisors try to inform the public,” White said.
Sometimes, that includes helping tighten the dialogue or suggesting visual cues that will move the story to a conclusion in 42 minutes, Fitzgerald said.
White and Fitzgerald led remarkably similar lives, growing up in crime-pocked neighborhoods in different parts of the country and spending 11 years as policemen in their home states of Texas and Pennsylvania, respectively, before they met online in 2008 over an unsolved death. The invite-only website for criminologists, forensic psychologists, profilers and investigators brought the two together, with the case on which they collaborated eventually declared a suicide.
Since then, they’ve continued traveling parallel paths, with White introducing Fitzgerald to the Stockton community, where both are professors, and Fitzgerald introducing White to the television crime-procedural industry. They’re also members of Vidocq, an organization that works to solve cold cases.
Both also recently wrote their first books.
Fitzgerald’s book, “A Journey to the Center of the Mind,” is the first of a three-part memoir.
White has written “In Pursuit of a Serial Killer, The Archetype Case,” the first of three planned novels featuring the same characters. The novel is “very loosely inspired by true events,” he said. The next book in the series, about a child-murdering serial killer, is based in the Atlantic City area.
And both men have had experiences with headless people. One of White’s encounters occurred during his police career in Texas, when he investigated a murder scene where a head was left on a bedroom bureau. That scene is included in the opening of his novel. Fitzgerald’s encounters happen every time he works on “Sleepy Hollow.”
Arguably, Fitzgerald, a retired 20-year FBI criminal profiler and forensic linguist, has had the higher-profile career. It was his idea to publish the manifesto that ultimately led to the capture of Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, in 1996. Fitzgerald recently signed with a major U.S. network to work on a miniseries based on the Unabomber case, and said he knows who he wants to portray him when the show debuts in January 2017.
“I’d love to get Bradley Cooper,” said Fitzgerald, an Olney, Pa., native whose character is the protagonist in the series. “He’s about the same age I was at the time, plus he’s from Philadelphia.”
White, a professor of psychology for 23 years with a private practice in forensic psychology, teaches classes on serial killers and sex crimes. His police detective background is one of the reasons he’s hired to provide expert testimony on homicide and child-luring court cases.
Despite their extensive backgrounds dealing with deviant behavior — White keeps a database of 500 serial killers in his office — the men said it isn’t their job to keep viewers of the shows from getting a good night’s sleep.
“Just enough to scare them, but in good way,” White said.