On a recent episode of A&E's The First 48, the camera zooms in on Detective Caroline Mason applying lip liner and sliding on stylish sunglasses.
"I gotta have my J.Lo glasses," she says just before her Memphis Police Department (MPD) homicide team heads out to solve one of the city's many murders.
On The First 48, a reality show in which investigators from a handful of major cities have 48 hours to arrest and charge homicide suspects, Mason is known as a chic investigator with a closet full of trendy clothing and too many shoes to count. But in Memphis, the 19-year MPD veteran is known for her high homicide solve rate.
The only African-American female in the homicide department, Mason was recently nominated for America's Most Wanted's All-Stars, an online contest in which AMW viewers cast votes for their favorite first-responder.
Voting is open through April 15th on www.amw.com. The winner will be announced next month.
-- by Bianca Phillips
Flyer: How did you become an officer?
Mason: I was going to school to be a nurse, and I got a part-time job at Ike's on Park Avenue. A girlfriend of mine who worked in cosmetics said the police department was hiring. She said I could make $1,300 every two weeks. We applied, and we both got the job.
I worked in Crime Stoppers for three years. It was right across the hall from homicide. I'd always go over there and ask the guys if I could see the pictures. They were always gruesome, and it just seemed like something I really wanted to do.
Well, a year after I came to the police department, a good friend of mine was murdered. I would go over there every day to see how they would try to solve it. That inspired me.
What's your murder solve rate?
Out of the 20 or so cases I had last year, I only have one that remains unsolved.
On The First 48, you wear a special black blazer to interview suspects. Does it really help you get confessions?
It was kind of blown up by The First 48. [The camera crew] came to my house. They filmed inside my closet to show how I'm a shop-aholic. I love shoes and bags.
They wanted me to pick up a particular blazer and say, "This is my interview blazer. I get most of my confessions in that."
Isn't it kind of a depressing job?
A hard thing about dealing with death is that when I see that body out there on the street, I can't look at it as a human being. I have to look at it as a science, because now it's evidence. I have to figure out what happened to this person, why it happened, and who did it.
The worst part of that whole scenario is telling the victim's family that their loved one has been killed at the hands of someone else. I actually have to do the notification myself. It's heartbreaking.
Any other downsides to working homicide?
Last year, my son graduated from Dexter Middle to go to Cordova High School, and right when he went across the stage, I got called out. I missed going to dinner with him and the other boys.
If I go on a date, I always have to drive, because if we get a homicide, I've got to go.