Writers’ Police Academy Online is officially open, with a brand new June 25, 2022 class, new website, new design, new server, and exciting new, user-friendly live/online and on-demand courses currently in development. Class formats are video, audio, and/or text, or a combination of one or more. Details about the June class are below.

In the meantime, here are a few tidbits of information.

Why do law enforcement officers train by repetition – over and over again?

Each time an officer draws their weapon they perform a series of movements—place hand on the pistol, grip the pistol, release retention devices that prevent someone from taking the officer’s sidearm, remove pistol from holster, aim the gun toward the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, place finger on trigger, and finally, fire the gun.

Because officers train repetively, performing those same actions at the firing range, over and over again, the brain builds heavy-duty motor neural conduits

At the same time, myelin, a fatty substance, forms a layer of insulation that surrounds nerve cell axons. Myelin also escalates the rate at which electrical impulses move along the axon

As a result of repetitive firearms training, shooters build a high- speed connection that provides the ability to perform the “grip, release, aim, shoot” sequence without having to direct thought resources toward the details of the movement.

Instead of losing precious fractions of a second to analyzing “what’s step one, two, three, and four” the officer reacts instinctively to a threat.

WPA Scholarships Available for Writers’ Organizations

As a way of giving back to the many writers and writers organizations within the crime-writing community who’ve supported the Writers’ Police Academy over the years, we’re pleased to offer your organization a free registration/scholarship to the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

For details, please ask a board member of your group to contact Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn.com. The process is simple, request a scholarship and it will be yours to award to a member of your organization.

*Scholarship covers registration fee only. Hotel, travel, and banquet are not included.

Interactive 3D Police Lineups Improve Witness Accuracy

The capability of eyewitnesses to correctly recognize a guilty suspect from someone who’s totally innocent of a crime is known as discrimination accuracy.

Since misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S., it is paramount to develop better discrimination accuracy when it comes to police lineups.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology developed new interactive police lineup software that allows witnesses to view lineup faces in 3D. Using the program, witnesses can rotate and maneuver the faces of potential suspects to various angles that most likely correspond to the orientation of the face they remember from the crime scene.

During the experimental study where over 3,000 test witnesses observed a video of a crime in progress, results were astounding. Without a doubt, accuracy improved significantly when the witnesses viewed the lineup from the same angle at which they had seen the offender commit the crime. The results were better still when witnesses rotated the lineup faces to match the angle of the culprit’s face in relation to how they saw it while the crime was in progress.

15 Survival Tips for Real and Fictional Officers

  1. Remember these three words. You will survive! Never give up no matter how many times you’ve been shot, stabbed, or battered.
  2. Carry a good, well-maintained weapon. You can’t win a gun fight if your weapon won’t fire.
  3. Carry plenty of ammunition. There’s no such thing as having too many bullets.
  4. Treat every situation as a potential ambush. You never know when or where it could happen. This is why cops don’t like to sit with their backs to a door.
  5. Practice shooting skills in every possible situation—at night, lying down, with your weak hand, etc.
  6. Wear your body armor.
  7. Always expect the unexpected.
  8. Everyone is a potential threat until it’s proven they’re not. Bad people can have attractive faces and warm smiles and say nice things, but all that can change in the blink of an eye.
  9. Know when to retreat.
  10. Stay in shape! Eat healthy. Exercise.
  11. Train, train, and train.
  12. Use common sense.
  13. Make no judgements based on a person’s lifestyle, personality, politics, race, or religion. Treat everyone fairly and equally. However, remain alert and cautious at all times.
  14. Talk to people. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. After all, it’s often a bit tougher to hurt an officer they know and trust.
  15. Talk to people. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. After all, it’s often a bit tougher to hurt an officer they know and trust.

Presented by Writers’ Police Academy Online – “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes”

June 26, 2022

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST

Registration is OPEN for this fascinating live, online seminar taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland. Session covers staging, profiling, character development, and more!

Sign up today at writerspoliceacademy.online

While you’re there, please take a moment to sign up for the latest updates, news, tips, tactics, and announcements of upcoming courses and classes.

About Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 Dr. Katherine Ramslandcrime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.

In addition to the Writers’ Police Academy Online website moving to a new server, The Graveyard Shift is officially and finally up and running on the same server. Its new look is underway. The Writers’ Police
Academy is next to make the move and to receive an overhaul.

By the way, there’s still time to sign up for the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy!

Click here to view 2022 WPA hands-on sessions

If you’ve already registered please reserve your hotel rooms asap!

Reserve Your Room

Hilton Appleton Hotel Paper Valley
333 W College Ave, Appleton, Wi. 54911 – Phone: 920-733-8000
When calling, request reservations for the Writers Police Academy Block or, if reserving online, select dates of stay and enter group code 0622WRPA.

Online Reservations

Writers’ Police Academy Merch

Writers’ Police Academy merchandise is available through our Zazzle store, including the 2022 t-shirts in a variety of colors.

Click here to view the selections. 

Together we can better the world of crime fiction, one scene at a time.

Police officers are not trained to shoot to kill, nor do they shoot to wound. Again, officers are not taught to kill. I know, the recent death of George Floyd was extremely disturbing, but the actions of the officers involved are NOT the result of police training. I’m fairly confident that their actions, for whatever reasons, were not taught in any U.S. police academy. Nor were they necessary, proper, or even humane. But more on this in tomorrow’s article.

For now, let’s dive into another topic that, too, is often confusing to some people. And I understand how and why the subject matter is a bit perplexing so I’ll try my best to clarify. The topic … do police officers shoot to kill, or do they shoot to wound?

While we’re at it, we’ll also address the questions and statements we all see time and time again, most typically during the aftermath of police-involved shootings.

“Why didn’t he shoot the gun from the bad guy’s hand?”

“Shoot the bastard in the shoulder. Cain’t shoot anybody when his shoulder’s all shot up.”

Or, “Shoot ’em in the leg. That’ll stop ’em.”

Police officers are trained to stop a threat to human life

U.S. police officers are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants. Contrary to the beliefs of some, U.S. streets are not battlefields where cops shoot first and ask questions later. It cannot and does not work that way. Yes, the current rioting and mob violence (not the peaceful protests), unfortunately requires a heavier than usual approach, but this is not the norm. Still, police are not taught to kill anyone.

In a perfect world there would be no crime and we’d all be safe, all the time. But our world is FAR from perfect; therefore, cops are tasked with arresting those who break the law. They don’t make the laws, just enforce them.

Unfortunately, some bad guys choose to not be arrested and will do whatever it takes to remain free, including trying to kill police officers. They may also choose to seriously harm or kill others during the commission of their crime(s). These two scenarios are the cause of officers having to use deadly force to stop the threat to the lives of others, and to themselves.

Back to the earlier statements—police officers are not taught to kill anyone, nor are they taught to “wound” anyone. Officers do not aim for hands, feet, knees, firearms, knives, etc. Instead, during a deadly force confrontation—when lives are at stake—officers are taught to shoot center mass, meaning the center of their intended target. If all they see is the suspect’s head, then that is their target. If they see the entire body they then aim for its center (center mass).

Center Mass

Why aim for center mass? Common sense answer – because it is the largest available target, which makes it the easiest area to hit when under extreme duress during an incident that sometimes happens within a fraction of a second.

The reason behind not shooting to wound is pretty simple, actually, and here’s why. Most police officers are not skilled award-winning sharpshooters. Not even close. To expect them, or anyone, to hit a fast-moving target, such as an arm or leg, while under duress, is unrealistic. Hands and arms can move across the body as quickly as 12/100th of a second. From hip to shoulder in 18/100th of a second. The time it takes a police officer to pull the trigger on one of the faster reacting trigger pulls, that of the Glock, is a slow 1/4 of a second. And that’s if the officer has already drawn his/her sidearm and has it pointed at the suspect.

It’s nothing short of impossible for an officer to see the threat, react appropriately, unsnap the holster, perform the required series of motions to free her weapon from the security holster (I’ll bet many of you didn’t know there was a combination/series of actions required to remove an officer’s pistol from a security-type holster), think about what she’s doing, decide whether or not the threat is real and, if so, pull the trigger. Oh yeah, she’d also have to take time to aim for the smaller targets—arms, hands, or legs. Impossible. No way. No how. Can’t and won’t happen, not even on her/his best day.

Another point to remember regarding how quickly shooting situations unfold. In many, many instances, there is not a single portion of a second to spare, including enough time to shout, “Drop your weapon!” Or even to yell, “Stop!” 

Here’s a video of an actual shooting scenario that occurred during a traffic stop. Watch how quickly the shooting unfolds.

Then there’s this. Suppose an officer is engaged in an intense shootout, and they are intense, believe me (been there, done that), and while returning fire as bullets zing and zip past, they somehow miraculously hit the suspect’s arm, or hand, or foot? Some people believe that once a person is shot they automatically drop to the ground and surrender. This is NOT always the case.

I’ve seen bad guys continue shooting after being struck by several rounds. Actually, I was in a shooting situation where the bad guy continued to shoot after having been shot in the head once and in the center of his chest four times. Even then he hopped up and ran several yards. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I was the detective who’d shot him. I was also the detective who ran him down and tackled him. So being wounded, even severely wounded, does not necessarily stop a threat to human life.

Besides, a shot to the arm leaves the suspect’s free hand to continue his attempt to kill the officer or other potential targets, such as a wife, husband, a bank teller, a child, and, well, you get the idea. A shot in the leg leaves both hands free to continue firing at officers. Wounding someone, hoping that’ll stop them from killing is stuff you see on TV. It’s just not that way in real life situations.

In addition, a bullet wound to the leg can be just as deadly as one to the chest. A shot that severs a femoral artery could cause the person to bleed death within a matter of a couple of minutes, or less.

Stop the threat. That’s the intended outcome of the use of deadly force.

Now, back to shooting to kill. I’m not aware of any police agency in the U.S. that teaches/trains officers to kill. Not one. Besides, how many sane people would sign on with an agency if they were told they must kill people as part of their daily duties—write speeding ticket, respond to kids playing in traffic, kill the guy standing in front of the Piggly Wiggly, go on lunch break.

During a shooting situation, officers typically do not have time to aim. Instead, they revert to their training—draw, point, and shoot for the center of the target.

Shootings involving police officers most often happen in a matter of seconds or less, and usually at very short distances—a mere few feet. In fact, these close-range situations occur so often that officers train quite a bit at shooting from short distances, without taking aim. They’re taught to draw and point their weapon at the center of the target, or as close as they can get to the center.


Again, even at greater distances, there’s still no time to stop, take a proper stance, draw a weapon, take careful aim, ask the offender to stand still so the officer won’t miss and hit an innocent bystander, and then fire. So officers shoot for center mass, the largest portion of the body they see. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Keep this in mind. Rounds that strike center mass could certainly cause the death of the suspect, but death is not the intended outcome. The goal is to stop the threat and to do so the greatest chance of hitting the target is to aim for the largest portion (center of the torso). If a bad guy surrenders the moment he sees that the officer has drawn their weapon and fully intends to use it, the threat is then over and the officer must switch fro ma deadly force situation to one taking the suspect into custody. That’s always the goal, to make the arrest, not to take a life.


There it is, the word sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the movie “Mary Poppins.” Now, say it out loud. Or, if you prefer, say it in reverse – dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes. Either way, it takes us somewhere between one and two seconds for it to roll off our tongues, give or take a tenth of a second or two. That’s pretty quick, yes?

I suppose I could stop here and let you go about the remainder of your day with this ear worm digging its way into your brain:

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious


Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay…

But let’s stick with the time it takes to say that word. For me it’s somewhere between 1.01 seconds and 1.22 seconds, depending upon how quickly I start after clicking the button on the stopwatch.

Now, imagine that you’re a police officer who’s responded to a call where a suspect used a baseball bat to beat his spouse and children. You arrive at the scene and hear yelling, screams, and children crying from inside the home. You knock. No answer. Still more screaming. You force open the door and rush inside where you’re immediately faced with a man pointing a handgun at a badly battered woman. He begins to turn toward you. How do you respond to the threat, and how long does it take to do so?

Well, your body and brain must first of all figure out what’s going on (perception). Then the brain instructs the body to stand by while it analyzes the scenario (okay, he has a gun and I think I’m about to be shot). Next, while the body is still on hold, the brain begins to formulate a plan (I’ve got to do something, and I’d better do it asap). Finally, the brain pokes the body and tells it to go for what it was trained to do—draw pistol, point the business end of it at the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, squeeze trigger.

To give you an idea as to how long it takes a trained police officer to accomplish those steps, let’s revisit Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep, and that wacky word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Remember, it takes us a little over one second to say the entire word. Try it. You’ll see.

New Picture (3)

To put this scenario into perspective, a police officer’s quickest reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds. That’s far less than half the very brief time it takes Bert to sing that famous word, and certainly not enough time to stop, draw a weapon from its holster, take aim, yell a bunch of commands, check for passersby, look for accomplices, and, well, you get the idea.

So, when confronted with a potential deadly force situation, officers must perceive/identify the threat, evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, and then set that plan in motion, and they must do so in the time it takes to say “supercali.” Not even the entire word—about the time it takes to blink.

Go ahead, try it. Blink one time and then think about all the cool things you could accomplish during the time it took to quickly close and open your eyes.


During a traffic stop in Arkansas, a passenger in a vehicle shot at officers, killing one. The man fired the first round at the face of one officer. That shot occurred in less than supercali. Actually, it was more like, su-BANG!

The suspect then continued to fire at the other officers on scene, shooting several rounds during our imaginary supercalifragilisticexpialidocious timeframe. The officers were not able to return fire.

How about you? Are you able to make extremely complex decisions in less than a second? How about decisions that involve life or death?

Blink. A suspect just fired a round at you.

I dare say that many of us can’t decide what to select from a fast food menu within that scant time frame.

Blink. Round number two. Have you managed to draw your pistol yet?

Sure, it’s super easy to look back at deadly force incidents and offer opinions as to how they should, or should not have been handled. But only the people who were there at the precise moment the trigger was pulled know the real story. They alone know how they perceived and reacted to the threat to them and/or others.

Again, officers often have less than a second to react, and a lifetime to deal with the decision, if the officer survives the encounter.

SU …

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.34.57 PM

Tomorrow, more about the arrest of former police officer Darek Chauvin. We’ll also discuss the cause(s) of George Floyd’s death, and that a second video confirmed my early predictions.

By the way, our internet is finally back in service. For a solid week, Verizon worked on the lines in front of neighbor’s home. He’d called to report his service was out and they eventually arrived a couple of days later. Once they’d repaired whatever was wrong with the neighbor’s line they packed up and left. Within an hour of the line of five trucks leaving, our internet shut down.

After several calls and online chat sessions with support, rebooting, testing lines and devices, they finally answered my pleas to have someone come out … three days later.

Of course, I’d already told them about the earlier work in the neighborhood, but they dismissed my theory that the crew did something to cause our outage. Instead, they insisted that something was wrong inside our house, and they went through a checklist – kids playing, and breaking the equipment, dogs or cats or mice or hamsters or lions or tigers or bears possibly chewing through a line? Is your power on? Did you unplug the router and forget to plug it back into the receptacle? Etc. I explained to the man that we have no kids living with us. We have no pets. There had been no power outages. Mice understand that to enter our home is to die. So they remain outdoors along with the lions, tigers, and bears.

So a tech showed up Sunday morning at 9 a.m. He checked the equipment mounted to the outside of our house and says to me, “There’s no service coming to your device.” The thought that went through my mind was … Well, duh.

So off he goes out to the street where, from inside his truck, he begins to glance up to the tops of telephone poles, one after the next. He did this for nearly an hour. Then he returns to the pole in front of my neighbor’s house, the place where the crew had perched for a week while working on the lines. The pole that I’d said over and over was most likely where they’d find the trouble. It was self-inflicted, I’d said. Thy caused a problem where no problem existed..

The tech called me to say a part was missing from one of the boxes at the top of that pole. Of course, he didn’t have the part with him, which meant that a different crew member/technician would need to come out to replace the missing do-dad. But he couldn’t do the work that day. Instead, he would come the next afternoon.

Anyway, on the forth day there was internet, and the world was once again whole.

Oh, and a new water heater was installed an hour or so prior to the return of Verizon service. Yep, the old one conked out the morning of the day the Verizon service shut down. It was that kind of weekend.

As always … Please, no politics, religion, gun rights or wrongs, or other hot button topics/comments. This blog is strictly for delivering fact. If, on the rare occasion I decide to offer an opinion I make sure that it’s clearly stated that I’ve done a dumb thing by swerving to the outside edge of where fact meets opinion.

This article is not one of those times. Nor is it any attempt to poke a stick into Joe Biden’s eye for his recent comment about training officers to shoot bad guys in the leg instead of center mass. However, the former vice president’s comment was indeed the prompt for today’s information. I wanted to let you know some of the the reasons why officers are not trained to shoot arms and legs. The simple answer is that doing so could be a death sentence for the officer.

Anyone who’s attended the Writers’ Police Academy’s firearms simulation training knows how quickly deadly situations erupt, and that many times there’s barely time to think or blink before the bad guy fires off a round in your direction. There is no time to take aim, particularly at a moving leg or arm.

Finally, speaking of the Writers’ Police Academy, there’s still time to sign up for a spot at MurderCon!


You. Will. Survive. Three of the most important words I heard during my entire time attending the basic police academy.

Several years later it was I who was drilling the phrase into the minds of hundreds of recruits. After all, thoughts of my survival speech, and many others like it in academies across the country, could be the catalyst that gives the much-needed shove after an officer is badly wounded and is teetering between giving up and pushing on to live another day. Indeed, three very important words to remember.

You. Will. Survive.

Sure, rookies know it all, or think they do. They’re fresh out of a lengthy and grueling training period that prepares them for whatever could come their way. Well, almost everything. The world still toss out surprises.

But there they are, shiny faces and short hair. Ill-fitting uniforms and new scratch-free equipment on their brand new duty belts that still smell of freshly-dyed leather and oil. New information fills their brains (“Do this. Don’t do that. Watch this and look for that.”).

The’ve just completed Hell Week (defensive tactics where pain rules the day) so arrest techniques are fresh in their minds. Their shooting and driving skills are sharp. They are nothing short of walking, talking, hyper-vigilant cop machines who can run fives miles while drinking protein shakes, cleaning their sidearms, and reciting Black’s Law Dictionary in reverse order, from ZZZZ BEST to A FORTIORI.

The point is, rookies are probably far more alert than the officer who’s been on the job for several years.

Why is it that more experienced officers have a strong tendency to become—here it comes, the dreaded “C” word—complacent?

Well, like other professions, doing the same thing over and over and over again becomes a bit tiresome, especially when that same-old, same-old involves the same two people time and time again (“He hit me.” “No, he hit ME!”). Unfortunately, it’s often the 300th time you respond to Junior, Jr.’s trailer out on Route 5 that he decides to shoot a cop. It could be the meth or the Jack talking, but dead is dead. There “ain’t” no coming back from that mistake.

Complacency kills cops!

So remain alert, even after you’ve been on the job for 30 years. Charm and your good looks will only get you so far. Not everyone thinks it’s adorable that your spare tire loops over your gun belt in several places.

Watch the Hands!

Always watch the hands!

Sure, the eyes are sometimes telling and they telegraph intentions, but it’s the hands that kill, not the eyes. Watch the hands. If you cannot see them then it is imperative that officers consider the person to be armed.


A suspect’s actions and even clothing are often strong indicators of their intentions. I know, the “action” part is self-explanatory, but how could a person’s dress be an indication of future intent to commit a crime, or to assault an officer? Picture a man wearing a long coat in the middle of August, in Atlanta. That’s an indicator that the man, or woman, could be armed and are using the coat to hide the weapon. Or, suppose a person refuses to show his hands? He may not be armed but there’s no way an officer could know until the hands are seen.

So far, in 2020, 157 officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. 29 of those deaths were caused by gunfire. Of those shooting deaths, if the past is any indication, there’s a strong possibility that at least some, if not most of the officers didn’t have their weapons unholstered at the time they were shot. Those who didn’t have their weapons drawn were most likely approaching a house, a suspect, or a vehicle to make initial contact. Remember complacency? Happens to the best of us.


By the way, a new killer arrived in 2020—COVID—that, as of this writing, has claimed the lives of 80 law enforcement officers who likely contracted the disease during the performance of their officials duties, while contacting members of the public.

Never relax too soon!

When is the time to relax and let down your guard? Easy answer. When the call is complete and you’re safely away from the scene.


There’s an old saying that goes something like this (I apologize if the wording is off), “Waiting buys time. Distance buys time. Time buys survival.” I’m not sure where or when I first heard the phrase, but it’s stuck with me for many years, and I imagine the words, as sparse as they are, saved my rear end a few times over the years.

So …

  • Call for backup. And then wait for them to arrive before proceeding!
  • Never rush into a scene. Assess it first. Be certain it’s safe to enter.
  • Until backup arrives, if possible, it’s imperative that the officer maintain a safe distance from a suspect (I know, this is not always possible). Remember, you cannot be stabbed from a distance and chances are the bad guy couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when firing a gun (however, he might be an expert), so keeping your distance and finding cover are vital.
  • Maintain focus. Thinking about your kids ballet recital is nice, but save those tutu thoughts for after the shootout. FOCUS!
  • Keep your back to the wall! By this I mean to never allow anyone to move out of your sight, especially behind you.

  • When conducting traffic stops at night focus the beam of your spotlight on the target vehicles driver’s side mirror and your takedown lights switched on to cause a bright glare in their rearview mirror. This prevents the driver and passengers from seeing movement to their rear.. If alone, circle behind the patrol car and approach the suspect vehicle on the passenger’s side. Doing so gives the advantage of surprise because the driver is typically watching to see the officer in his side mirror and then at his window. This slight advantage allows the officer time to see what, if anything, the driver is holding, hiding, reaching for, etc. Passing behind her patrol car also prevents the officer from becoming illuminated by headlights, making her an easy target should someone in the car have bad intentions.
  • Political correctness. I’m sorry but a citizen’s inconvenience is not as important as the lives of people, including that of the officer. Sure, it’s irritating to be the subject of a traffic stop and to have the officer ask that you keep your hands where he can see them, but it’s more important to the officer that they live another day. He/she doesn’t know you or your intentions. And you don’t know that the officer received a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for a car description matching yours, telling him it was involved in an armed robbery of the Piggly Wiggly in your neighborhood, the reason he stopped you.

Think about that for a moment. The officer stopped a car, believing the driver was armed and wasn’t afraid to use his gun. He stopped that driver fully aware that he was placing himself in danger to protect the lives of others, yet the driver complains because the officer asked to see his hands.

Keep in mind that it was political correctness that contributed to the shooting deaths of five Dallas officers and the wounding of nine others. The shootings occurred during a protest where officers were ordered to not wear protective gear because some people thought it appeared too scary and militaristic. So those lives were taken and the others affected for the rest of their time on this earth because leaders didn’t want to offend someone. The lives of the officers obviously meant nothing to politicians. So no, officers are not keen on political correctness when it compromises their well-being and the safety of citizens, and the very people handing down these stupid orders.

To sum up, officers should remain alert, take nothing for granted, assume nothing, trust no strangers (and some friends), watch everyones’ hands, stand with their backs to a wall, any wall, all while calling for backup, unholstering their weapons when necessary, clearing their minds of everything other than the scene before them, running toward gunfire to save the lives of others, and remembering that …

You. Will. Survive!

*To learn more about officer survival click the highlighted link above (You. Will. Survive.).


It’s been over a dozen years ago since I wrote the first word on this blog, and before I did I made the decision to avoid the really hot and controversial issues, such as gun control, politics, and racial issues. However, today I’m making what is probably a one time exception with this piece on racism. But it’s important to me to air this, at least one time. Still, this is not an op-ed piece. It’s strictly fact based on my own personal experiences and firsthand knowledge.

Before I begin, though, please understand that I am proud to be an American and I still believe in this country. Current issues may not be popular, just, or they simply rub some the wrong way, but the only way to reach a solution is to address it thoughtfully and truthfully. Sure, there are some serious problems right now, but as Americans it is our duty to make things as they should be.

Okay, here goes …

I grew up during the time when schools were segregated. It was a time when whites ruled supreme over water fountains, bus and restaurant seating, and often to be first to see medical professionals.

In the south where I grew up it was common to have a “colored woman” come to the house once or twice a week to clean up after white families. My mother, at the time, was experiencing a few serious health issues so our father set out to find someone to help out. His advertisement didn’t specify a particular race, just someone who could handle household duties to allow my mother time to heal. Annie Mae was the woman who answered the call.

In our house, Annie Mae pretty much raised us kids. Sure, she was there to clean and do the laundry and a bit of cooking, but she also doled out orders that we kids had better follow, or else. Believe me, we adhered to Annie Mae’s rules. Homework was done before we went out to play, and we scrubbed away the sweat-caked dirt rings from our necks before sitting down to one of her delicious meals.

Annie Mae enjoyed watching “her stories,” the soap operas that dominated daytime TV, and no one, and I mean no one, dared to make a sound until the last dramatic moment came to a close. She’d have a glass of iced tea and maybe a cookie or two while perched in the easy chair clinging to each word spoken by Laura Spencer (General Hospital) or Joanne Gardner (Search for Tomorrow). Then, after last of the daily cliffhanging endings  she’d head into the kitchen to begin dinner preparation.

Annie Mae loved my younger brother best and spoiled him until he was rotten to the core.

Annie Mae was a black woman who was born and raised in the south. And yes, we knew of the history even though we were Yankee transplants to the south. We knew of slavery and of the difficult and harsh lives black people endured.

One of my uncles owned a house that Harriet Tubman used as part of her Underground Railroad. I was nearby, at the home of my grandparents when conspirators intended to blow up a courthouse where H. Rap Brown was to be tried for inciting race riots. I definitely knew the story.

We loved Annie Mae, unconditionally, and we didn’t for one moment see her as someone of a different race. To us she was merely a large woman with a smile as wide and bright as the keys on a new Steinway piano. She was a wonderful, loving woman who simply answered a “help wanted” ad, and who was very good at what she did. Most of all, she was family to us. She gave us hugs when our grades were good and threatened to switch our bottoms when they weren’t.

One day, when I was in the 7th grade, our studies were interrupted by the principal’s voice booming from the loudspeaker that hung above the wall-to-wall chalkboard at the front of the classroom. He announced that starting the next year, 8th and 9th grade students would be reporting to a newly-formed junior high school—what was then the “black high school.”

Well, the panic that set in among many of the students and their families was like that associated with the bread and milk aisles of grocery stores when snow or a hurricane is in the forecast. Actually, during the first week or two after the announcement it was more like the paper products and disinfectant aisles at grocery stores during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, that bad and that frenzied.

There was a mad rush, one that I couldn’t for the life of me understand, to enroll masses of white kids in private schools, even if it meant transporting children to the next county. Some were sent to military schools. All to avoid having to attend school with the “negras,” a term many of the locals in those days used when referring to African Americans.

Part of the reaction to integration was evidenced by the frequent billowing clouds of smoke that rose from behind the tree line at the back of the old drive-in theater. I knew it was the KKK who were there burning a cross while spewing hateful words. My parents didn’t approve and did their best to keep that sort of thing from us. But we knew. All the kids knew. And we speculated who’s faces were behind the white, pointed hoods when, as a group, they sometimes marched down the main street following their leader, a figure wearing a bright red getup. What I didn’t know was why they burned the crosses each Friday night.

What was so doggone bad about black folks? I just didn’t get it.

The first day of school the following year was a big change for all of us. One of the first things I learned was that some of the black kids didn’t want to attend school with white kids any more than some of the white kids wanted to go to their school. But they didn’t have the option of tucking tail and running off to a private school because there were none for them to attend. They were stuck with us.

Kids, though, made the transition without a single problem, and we did so quickly. New friendships were formed and the sports teams were integrated for the first time ever. A few of them went on to win regional and state championships. Band members and cheerleaders worked things out among themselves, and life went on.

Not the same for the parents, though. Some refused to allow their kids to attend school functions, band trips, and “oh, hell no” my child will not shower with “them” after gym class and football practice. But, kids continued to move forward in spite of parents’ attempts to hang on to the way things used to be.

We just didn’t see the big deal about the different races. We were all kids and we were friends.

Now, let’s turn a few pages on the calendar to my time with a southern sheriff’s office, and to the real point of this piece.

The issue of race separation was alive and in full swing there at the sheriff’s office, and it was shocking to me because many of my fellow deputies were some of the same people I’d known in high school and junior high. A few were on my football team. We’d worked together to win championships, blocking and tackling the same people. Again, we’d been friends.

Therefore, and needless to say, I was equally surprised and shocked to see the duty schedule and how the deputies were assigned. Simply put, blacks worked with blacks and whites worked with whites. Rarely were the two mixed on any given shift. As a result, the friendships we’d known just a few years before were not as close as they once were. The races simply didn’t mix, not there anyway. And, the ranking deputy, a captain, on the “black crew” made it known that he didn’t like white people, and the same was true in reverse for the ranking white deputy, also a captain.

When the African American deputies hauled a person of color to the jail, the offender more often than not received a super stern lecture about shaming their race with their bad behavior.

With all of that said, though, I was the “crossover” deputy because I was often assigned as the token white guy to work with the black deputies. There was no tension between us whatsoever. We were all law enforcement officers on the job and great friend when off-duty. I trusted them with my life and they trusted me with theirs. And it came to just that a few times.

Our boss, the county sheriff created racial tension because of the manner in which he handled the scheduling of deputies.

This same sheriff created another type of discrimination by refusing to allow women to carry firearms or to work as patrol officers. He believed a woman’s place was in the office answering phones or working as dispatchers or jailers/corrections officers. Female deputies were not permitted to attend the police academy.

Now let’s turn a few more pages on the calendar to the time when I’d made the transition to a city police department. There, race didn’t seem to be an issue. Everyone—all ethnicities—worked together and we backed one other when the times were tough.

However, I soon discovered that the same wasn’t true regarding one particular officer. I first learned of this trouble when I was working internal affairs cases. A citizen reported that a white officer was targeting black people, especially regarding traffic offenses. The citizen asked if we’d review the officer’s stats to see if his suspicions were correct. I did, and he was. In fact, the officer had written very few traffic tickets for white people, and those who did receive a summons were typically from outside the city. But the number of summons for people of color was through the roof.

I asked the officer about the stats and his reply was that he couldn’t explain it. So, I did what IA folks do, I sent in an informant—an attractive young woman (he considered himself a ladies man). On their first meeting (she was wired), she brought up race issues and the officer quickly told her, “I hate n*****s. I see one coming my way and they’re gonna get a ticket. N*****s, n*****s, n*****s, I hate all of them.”

Needless to say, the officer lost his job. But what about all the people who’d received traffic tickets? Worse still, the department then had a huge image problem associated with racism. All it takes is one bad apple and the rot spreads through the community like a plague. And, of course, there were  similar issues of black officers doing similar things to white citizens. It happens. People are people. They do what they do. Cops are no different than you or your neighbor.

Someone asked me just today if cops are trained to pull over cars with black people inside. I responded by saying this … “Regarding the training of police officers, which includes treating everyone fairly. Any actions other than that are solely those of individuals.

Racism is not a reflection of officer training any more than the actions of any person within other groups of people, including families. Serial killers do what they do yet we don’t accuse their entire family group of having the privilege of earning a bonus when the killer takes a life. 

When an officer does something morally wrong or illegal it’s totally against the grain of their training.”

During our police academy training it was mandatory that we learn and understand the meaning behind the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Each morning, before the day’s instruction began, we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then remained standing while reciting the Code of Ethics. We did this as a group, with one loud and collective voice. The Code of Ethics was firmly pressed into our minds. We were taught to live and work according to the code.

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice.

I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminal, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession … law enforcement.

Anyway, the point of this rambling concoction is to point out that, yes, racism exists in law enforcement, no doubt. Just as it does within other professions and walks of life throughout the country.

I despise racism from any side, and I truly do not like seeing how race divides the nation. I especially don’t like seeing people exploiting or fabricating racial issues in order to sell newspapers, magazines, TV shows, etc., especially when they do it no matter how badly it harms others.

How serious is racism today? Well, I’ll leave that one for you to ponder. Remember, I don’t offer opinions on racism, religion, gun control, and other hot button issues. They’re poisonous topics. Besides, my purpose is to provide factual information to aid writers in bringing realism to their stories.

Rodney King said it best when he asked, “Why can’t we just all get along?”

*Please do not use this blog as a forum to argue racial or political agendas, gun control, religion, or cop bashing. Let’s keep the conversation civil, as always. Otherwise, I’ll simply delete your comments.


George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died Monday night—Memorial Day—after being handcuffed and held to the ground by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Officer Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck, apparently using his body weight to press his left knee against Floyd’s flesh. After several minutes Floyd became unresponsive.

The incident continued for an incredible length of time, eight minutes, I believe, with bystanders pleading with the officer to release the hold. They frantically called on other officers to intervene, and when it became clear that Floyd was slipping into unconsciousness they begged officers to check the man’s pulse. One person was heard saying that Floyd’s nose had begun to bleed.

For the entire agonizing event that continued far too long, Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. He said he was in pain and he even, albeit a weak attempt, called out for his mother. Not one of the officers checked Floyd for signs of life, nor did Officer Chauvin release pressure to Floyd’s neck. And, for reasons unknown to us for now, officers made no attempt to place Floyd inside a patrol vehicle, opting to keep him lying facedown in the street with his hands cuffed behind his back. They could’ve at the very least rolled him over on his side to help him breathe.

Initial reports stated that Floyd had resisted arrest when officers responded to a fraud-in-progress call. However, there was no inkling of any sort of resistance during the time Officer Chauvin held his knee against Floyd’s neck. In fact, Floyd said he’d comply and get inside the car, but was unable to stand to do so. We hear him say this on the video.

Everyone who’s watched the video captured by a bystander has seen a man who “died at the hand of another,” which is the definition of homicide.

Keep in mind, though, homicide and murder are not always the same, and that difference could be key when this case reaches the court, and it will do to court

Homicide v. Murder.

All, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.

That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.

New Picture

Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. All people who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And all cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.

It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.

Murder is an illegal homicide.

Here’s the Legal Sticky Wicket

The Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force policy PERMITS chokeholds and neck restraints as long as the officer is properly trained to apply the technique(s). However, their use is not allowed when a subject is complying with commands/not resisting arrest. It’s possible that Officer Chauvin will use department policy as part of his defense. We do not yet know if he’d received this special training. We’ll soon see.

Minneapolis Police Policy Regarding Neck Restraints and Choke Holds

5-311 USE OF NECK RESTRAINTS AND CHOKE HOLDS (10/16/02) (08/17/07) (10/01/10) (04/16/12)


Choke Hold: Deadly force option. Defined as applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway (04/16/12)

Neck Restraint: Non-deadly force option. Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints. The MPD authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint. (04/16/12)

Conscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure. (04/16/12)

Unconscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure. (04/16/12)


  1. The Conscious Neck Restraint may be used against a subject who is actively resisting. (04/16/12)
  2. The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances: (04/16/12)
    1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
    2. For life saving purposes, or;
    3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.
  3. Neck restraints shall not be used against subjects who are passively resisting as defined by policy. (04/16/12)
  4. After Care Guidelines (04/16/12)
    1. After a neck restraint or choke hold has been used on a subject, sworn MPD employees shall keep them under close observation until they are released to medical or other law enforcement personnel.
    2. An officer who has used a neck restraint or choke hold shall inform individuals accepting custody of the subject, that the technique was used on the subject.

I wasn’t in Minneapolis when the event occurred, therefore, like everyone else who wasn’t on the scene, I cannot offer an informed opinion, or facts, regarding the events that led to the arrest, placing handcuffs on Floyd’s wrist, or the takedown that resulted in the officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck. However, the video makes clear the events that followed.

Use of Force During an Arrest

When someone uses force to resist an arrest, officers must then use the amount of force necessary to gain control of the person. Normally, this means the officers must use a greater force than that used by the suspect. If not, the combative suspects would always win the battle to run off and continue their criminal activity.

Police officers receive a fair amount of training in the areas of defensive tactics and arrest techniques. They’re taught how to handcuff properly, how to utilize various compliance tactics, and how best to defend themselves against an attack. The object is always to gain control and cuff the suspect’s hands behind the back, with everyone involved remaining injury free, if possible. Again, though, when a suspect resists arrest officers must do what it takes to bring the situation to a quick resolution. The longer it goes on the more chance of injury.

FYI for writers—The ground/sidewalk/pavement/hardwood, etc. provides a sturdy surface that’s used to pin hands, legs, arms, etc. to prevent further movement. Can’t get them to the ground? A wall or car hood also serves the same purpose. Otherwise, the suspect, who’s often much stronger than the arresting officer, could easily fight their way to freedom while severely injuring the smaller officer(s).

Officers Must Use Only the Amount of Force Necessary to Make the Arrest

Before going further, let’s talk about the chokehold and neck restraint. Just so you know, I have quite a bit of experience in this field—I’m a former police academy master defensive tactics instructor and instructor trainer. I’m one of the early members of a defensive tactics federation. I have a strong background in Aikido and Chin-Na. I’m trained in knife- and stick-fighting. I ran my own school. I’ve taught rape prevention and self-defense for women at numerous colleges and at my facility. I’ve trained private security, military, and I’ve trained and taught executive bodyguards.

Chokeholds and Other Neck Restraints

Chokeholds were once taught in police academies across the country. I learned it during basic academy training and later taught the technique at the police academy. Although, we (in Virginia) stopped teaching it many years ago because the tactic could cause death, and did. I’d like to point out that when applied and released properly, the tactic is effective and safe. Still, death had occurred and we stopped teaching it in favor of techniques that are much safer to utilize.

The details of Floyd’s death and the one I mentioned that occurred in Virginia are quite different. Floyd did not appear to be resisting during the time the officer pressed his knee against his neck. The Virginia case, in the mid 1980s, began when someone called the sheriff’s office to report that a relative was acting in a bizarre manner.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived and was instantly attacked. This particular deputy was a huge and very powerful man. And when I say huge I’m talking Incredible Hulk big. I deeply appreciated seeing him arrive when I called for backup. He was a fantastic “equalizer” when we were outnumbered. He and I once arrested a man and then stood back to back to fight our way through a large, angry mob who were hellbent on freeing our prisoner. Yes, I was extremely pleased to have him with me to face that crowd.

Anyway, the subject of the “person acting bizarre” call was a polar opposite of the massive deputy—below average height, and wiry.

To the deputy’s surprise, when the man attacked he immediately went for the officer’s sidearm. The deputy fought to retain the weapon while using his free hand to fight off the violent suspect. Then, in an incredible display of strength, the man ripped the deputy’s leather holster from his gun belt. Yes, he tore the thick leather as easily tearing a sheet of notebook paper.

While battling for control of the man, the deputy managed to grab the firearm (still inside the torn holster) and tossed it onto the roof of a nearby outbuilding. He did so to prevent the man from using it kill anyone.

More deputies arrived to help restrain the very strong and extremely violent man, trying every pain compliance tactic in the book to subdue him. But nothing seemed to work. He simply didn’t feel pressure applied to his joints and nerves. Even with several grown men trying to restrain him he continued to struggle and resist.

After several minutes of fighting and scuffling, a deputy pressed a knee on the side of the man’s neck. His resistance slowly eased and he soon lost consciousness. When he did the deputy immediately released the pressure to his neck. EMS was called and they transported him to the hospital. Unfortunately, he suffered cardiac arrest and died the next day.

Same Tactic Applied, Same Outcome, But Far Different

In the Virginia case, as soon as the deputies felt the suspect stop resisting they quickly reduced the level of force and released the pressure on the man’s neck. They turned him on his side to help him breathe. EMS arrived immediately and began lifesaving procedures.

The Minneapolis officers continued to apply the conscious neck restraint tactic even though Floyd had stopped resisting arrest (at no time during the minutes long video do we see him resisting).

Then, when it was clearly apparent to bystanders, and viewers of the video, that Floyd had lost consciousness, the officer continued using his knee to apply pressure to Floyd’s neck.

At no time did either of the officers attempt to help Floyd breathe, even after he’d lost consciousness. Nor did they check for a pulse.

When EMS arrived, they checked the carotid pulse, walked calmly back to their vehicle where they and others retrieved a gurney. Then officers and EMS workers dragged Floyd’s limp and unresponsive body across the asphalt pavement to the stretcher. Together, they lifted Floyd and placed him on the gurney for transport. When they did Floyd’s head lolled to one side.

There was no sense of urgency.

Again, I wasn’t there so I have only the video as a means to form a slight educated opinion. It will be interesting to hear details as they become available. Since I only report facts, not my opinion, this is all I have to report.

Although, I must say that the video is painful to watch, for several reasons. None of them good.

The Video

Here’s the video of the incident. I caution you that it is graphic. View at your discretion. If seeing someone suffer is not something you care to see, then I urge you to not watch.

Ready on the left? Ready on the right? Ready on the firing line. Commence firing!

Those words, or something similar, are heard by officers all over the country as they attend their annual mandated firearms qualification. Yes, at least once or twice each year all officers receive word to report to the range to qualify with their duty weapons.

Many officers, for the first time since the last mandatory qualification, pull out their handy-dandy gun cleaning kits to spruce up their sidearms. Then, with pistols all clean, shiny, and properly oiled, a few begin to feel a bit of anxiety creeping up. Suppose I don’t qualify? What happens if my scores aren’t high enough? You know, my eyesight is a bit weaker since last year. What if I miss the entire target? Will I lose my job?

Well, those are worries that should never arise because officers should be required, or at least encouraged to shoot more often. Practice by repetition is the key to firearms proficiency. Budget woes should never affect or stand in the way of an officer’s ability to defend himself/herself.

However, ammunition and training time are often one of the first things to go when funds grow tight. But that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’ll probably remain. So cops deal with what they have, which sometimes isn’t much.

Firearms In-Service Training

Some departments do little more than have their officers line up on the range, wait for the command to fire, and then blast away at stationary paper targets, hoping they’ll punch enough holes in them so they can pass the minimum qualification requirements. Then they call it quits until the next year. Short, sweet, and cheap. But is that enough to survive in today’s increasingly dangerous world? No, it’s not.

How Many and What Kind of Attacks?

Each year the FBI collects data regarding the number of law enforcement officers who were assaulted during that particular 12-month period. For example, In 2018, from the 546,247 officers working for a total of 11,788 law enforcement agencies across the U.S., a whopping 58,866 officers were assaulted while performing their duties. To break it down a bit further, that’s 10.8 officers assaulted per 100 sworn officers.

Attacks With Injuries Received

  • 24.7 percent of the officers who received injuries in 2018 were attacked with hands, fists, or feet (personal weapons).
  • 8.4 percent of the officers were attacked by persons wielding knives or other edged weapons.
  • 6.1 percent of officers were attacked with firearms.
  • 16.0 percent of the attacks on officers who were carried out by subjects using weapons other than those listed above.

In the years from 2009-2018, 9,857 were injured by edged weapons, 439,719 by personal weapons, and 80,692 were injured by suspects who used “other” dangerous weapons to carry out attacks. During the same time period 21,954 officers were injured by firearms.

Many of the over 21,000 officers who were victims of firearm attacks were killed during shootouts with armed suspects, NOT in gun battles with stationary paper targets.

Now, I’m not saying those officers weren’t properly trained. Nor am I suggesting they didn’t respond appropriately to the threats to their lives. Not at all. Sometimes you do everything right and the worst still happens. What I am offering is that there are numerous techniques and tactics that could and should be taught to each and every officer. Things that could help them in the field.

Classroom time is great, and necessary, and goodness knows there’s a mountain of wonderful books and research material available.


Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide for Writers, is a how-to, behind the scenes book designed especially for writers. The book can be found in public schools and university libraries all across the world, on the shelves and desks of thousands of writers, including many top, bestselling authors, on the nightstands of fans of police TV shows and people who’re interested in learning about police officers and procedures, in police departments, police academies, and more.

Book “learnin'” is great, however, it’s a must to incorporate hands-on exercises into police training whenever possible. This is also why the Writers’ Police Academy came into being—so that writers can experience the same training as what’s offered to and required of police officers and investigators.


International bestselling author Tami Hoag, Writers’ Police Academy 2016.

As I stated earlier, officers learn some skills best through repetition, and it’s the “over and over again” training that helps officers learn to react almost instinctively to various threats and situations. Then, when/if those events present themselves, officers will revert to their training and react appropriately.

Therefore, it is an absolute must that officers spend at least some time training under “threat” situations. After all, suspects on the street are simply not going to stand perfectly still with their hands hanging at their sides so that officers can squeeze off 50 or 60 rounds at them. So why should officers train as if they’re going to someday face a one-dimensional faceless paper bank robber?

Believe me, facing a live person who’s shooting at you is far different than shooting at an ink-blotted paper rectangle. Everything changes when a human suspect pulls the trigger, sending a bullet toward your head. Your brain has to suddenly shift from “it’s only a paper target (paper-man, or flat-man, syndrome)” to HOLY S**T HE’S TRYING TO KILL ME! mode.

Sure, some practicing with stationary targets is necessary. That’s how cops learn the basics. But what else could they do to better prepare themselves for the real bad guys?

Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter, Writers’ Police Academy 2015 – Firearms Simulator Training

1. Shoot in low light situations. Not all firefights are going to happen at noon. In fact, many, if not most shooting situations occur at night. So why practice all shooting in the bright sunshine? And practice shooting while holding a flashlight!

2. Tactical reloading. Spend lots of time practicing reloading while under fire (pretend of course). When performing reloading drills, officers should practice discarding/dropping the empty magazine. You do not want your hands full, trying to reload while bullets zip by your head. However, when/if possible, shooters should place the empty magazine where it’s easily accessible for future reloading, if necessary.

3. Practice shooting while using various objects as cover. The practice will then come naturally when in the field. Always use cover!


4. Officers should  always face their target (never turn their backs on the shooter!). However, some departments have the officers first shoot from closer ranges (5 or 7 yards), and then when they’re finished at that distance they turn around and casually walk back to the next firing point. NO! They should back up to the next point. This instills the habit of always facing their aggressor.

5. Strong and weak hand shooting. Always, always, always practice shooting with either hand. The possibility of entering into a firefight with an injured strong hand is always a possibility. If it does, officers certainly want to be able to at least hold, point, and shoot their firearms with some degree of accuracy.

6. Practice shooting at moving targets. Bad guys do not stand still. Neither do cops when they’re in a firefight. So why always practice shooting at stationary objects? I cannot stress this point enough.

7. Spend time on firearms training simulators. Simulators are great tools for preparing officers for real-life scenarios. They’re also great for pointing out weaknesses in stressful situations. I’d rather correct my errors in a classroom, not after I’ve caught a couple of rounds to my torso.


Firearms simulations training, Writers’ Police Academy 2010.


International bestselling author Lee Child and, to his left, world-renowned forensic anthropologist Elizabeth Murray—firearms simulator training, Writers’ Police Academy 2012. Th shooter to Lee’s right is Dr. Murray’s sister.

Finally, and this is to the officers out there, practice, practice, practice. Repetition, repetition, repetition! What you do during training is what you’ll do on the street. I guarantee it. So even if your department doesn’t offer extra time on the range, you do what it takes to find somewhere to practice shooting. Your life may soon depend on your ability to use your weapon effectively.

Be safe! Your lives matter to a lot of people.

Police academy training can be extremely intense at times. And, in most training academies the major source of a recruit’s stress stems from  knowing they must successfully complete the program to remain employed with their departments. Anything below a passing score could result in immediate unemployment status.

In some areas academy recruits attend on their own dime, hoping that earning a police academy certification will land them a job with a police department or sheriff’s office. Paying your own way to attend a police academy is a roll of the dice that’s similar to the football draft, where outstanding players receive contracts while non-drafted players sometimes wind up as high school coaches or teachers. Fail a police academy and you may find yourself swinging a nightstick in a shopping mall.

Tuition and Sponsorships

Public Safety Academy tuition costs at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), a former home of the Writers’ Police Academy, is approximately $1,200 ($4,300 for out of state tuition). In addition, there’s an extra fee of approximately $1,100.00 for uniforms, textbooks, and supplies. However, recruits have the opportunity to  obtain a sponsorship from a N.C. law enforcement agency.

A sponsorship occurs when a department backs the recruit with an unofficial/unwritten intention of hiring the person once they’ve successfully completed the academy. No guarantees, though. Still, the college/academy will waive the tuition fee for department-sponsored recruits. But the recruits are required to pay the $1,100 uniform, books, and supply fees out of pocket.

*This system is in place in North Carolina and may not be an option in other states where recruits must already be employed by a law enforcement agency prior to attending a police academy.

Police Academy Firearms Training

Before moving forward, I’d like to for say, thanks to author Donnell Bell and her response to a police firearms training question posted on the fabulous Crimescene Writer Q&A forum. In fact, the question is one I often receive from writers so I thought I’d expand a bit on her absolutely correct answer.

The question and Donnell’s answer is the basis for today’s article. If you’d like to learn more about Crimescene Writer and to take advantage of the numerous experts there—law enforcement (state. local, FBI), firefighters, medical examiners, attorneys, etc.—who answer questions from writers, please do click the link above and sign up. You’ll be glad you did, I guarantee.

Next, please keep in mind that standards vary from state to state, city to city, county to county, and department to department. However, all firearms training taught to police officers boils down to safety, when to shoot and why you should or shouldn’t, laws regarding using deadly force, and achieving a successful score on the firing range. And again, SAFETY! SAFETY! SAFETY!

As many of you know, I served as a police officer, a deputy sheriff, a corrections officer, and finally as a police detective. Firearms training for Virginia corrections officers is a bit different than that of a law enforcement officer, but I’ll save that information for another time.

Today, I thought it would be nice to offer the complete training objectives of firearms training in Virginia as set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). It is a minimum standard that is mandatory training for all officers. Academies may add to this standard but they may not cut corners by skipping steps.

Here are the minimum firearms training objectives. Please note that a successful score on the firing range is 70%. Officers there or in the other locations I’ve mentioned today are not required to shoot a 100% score.

Here’s a mystery for you to ponder. I won the award as top shooter in my academy class. My final score was 99%. There is a specific reason why I did not shoot 100% even though I could have done so, barring a sneeze or seizure at the time I pulled the trigger to fire the last round. Some of you may know why, but it is not something I’ll share in a public forum. Hmm …

Following the Virginia training objectives, for comparison, you’ll find those of Massachussetts, New Mexico, and Northern Virginia’s training academy. I’ve included the latter to illustrate that guidelines within the same state are different. The Northern Va. academy requires a higher range score than that of the state minimum.

This post is a bit lengthy so please bear with me and I believe you’ll find the information a bit useful and interesting. If not, well, I’ll see you tomorrow … 🙂

Off we go …

Police Academy Firearms Minimum Training Standards

Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS)

Firearms Training Objectives 

1. Given a written exercise, identify nomenclature of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

2. Given a practical exercise, demonstrate prescribed procedure for cleaning weapon. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.1.1. Identification of the correct terms to identify weapons and parts of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

7.1.2. Demonstration of prescribed procedure to prepare weapon for cleaning. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon) Remove magazine or empty cylinder Remove round from chamber Double check weapon to make sure it is empty

7.1.3. Identification of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

7.1.4. Demonstration of the use of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon) Field strip weapon Clean components Inspect for damage and imperfections Lubricate Reassemble Safely test for proper function

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Identification of the correct terms to identify weapons and parts of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

2. Demonstration of prescribed procedure to prepare weapon for cleaning. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

a. Remove magazine or empty cylinder

b. Remove round from chamber

c. Double check weapon to make sure it is empty

3. Identification of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

4. Demonstration of the use of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

a. Field strip weapon

b. Clean components

c. Inspect for damage and imperfections

d. Lubricate

e. Reassemble

f. Safely test for proper function

Performance Outcome 7.2.

Using proper hand grip and observation, draw department issued weapon from holster. (revolver or semi-automatic weapon)

Training Objectives Related to 7.2.

1. Given practical exercises, use a good and consistent combat grip with a safe and efficient draw from the holster following prescribed drawing techniques using the officer’s approved handgun and holster. (revolver or semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.2.1. Draw and fire

7.2.2. Draw to a ready position

7.2.3. Draw to a “cover mode” simulating the covering of a suspect together with the issuance of the verbal order “Police – Don’t Move!”

7.2.4. Using standing, kneeling, and prone positions

7.2.5. Use of covering and concealment while maintaining visual contact with the threat

7.2.6. Reloading while concentrated on the threat and not the weapon

7.2.7. Clear handgun stoppages

7.2.8. Reholster weapon

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Draw and fire

2. Draw to a ready position

3. Draw to a “cover mode” simulating the covering of a suspect together with the issuance of the verbal order “Police – Don’t Move!”

4. Using standing, kneeling and prone positions

5. Use of covering and concealment while maintaining visual contact with the threat

6. Reloading while concentrated on the threat and not the weapon

7. Clear handgun stoppages

8. Reholster weapon


a. Gripping: using sufficient strength to hold a weapon on a plane so that the projectile will travel on a line to the target

b. Lifting: having adequate strength to lift the weapon to eye level while maintaining safe control

c. Range of vision: should be such that a person can focus on one object (sights) and still see an image of the target

d. Strength: overall strength should be a minimum of being able to perform normal task without fatiguing quickly

e. Breathing: holding breath for a minimal time in order to complete the task of firing the weapon

f. Cover mode: finger outside the trigger guard until you are on target and have decided to fire

Performance Outcome 7.3.

Clear stoppage in semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Demonstrate safe handling of weapons on the range and on and off duty.

Training Objectives Related to 7.3.

Given a practical exercise:

1. Demonstrate the techniques for clearing stoppages in pistols or revolvers.

2. Demonstrate safe handling of weapons on the range and how to do so on and off duty.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.3.1. Techniques for clearing stoppages: Semi-automatic pistol Failure to fire Failure to feed Failure to eject Failure to extract Revolver When trigger is pulled and revolver does not fire When trigger gets tight and cylinder will not turn When there is a squib load

7.3.2. Demonstration of safe handling of weapons on the range and identification of safe handling of weapons on and off duty.

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Techniques for clearing stoppages:

a. Semi-automatic pistol

1. Failure to fire

2. Failure to feed

3. Failure to eject

4. Failure to extract

b. Revolver

1. When trigger is pulled and revolver does not fire

2. When trigger gets tight and cylinder will not turn

3. When there is a Squib load

2. Demonstration of safe handling procedures of weapon while on the range and identification of safe handling procedures of weapon on and off duty.

Performance Outcome 7.4.

Fire a hand gun in various combat situations using issued equipment.

Training Objectives Related to 7.4.

1. Fire the officer’s issued/approved weapon during daytime/low light and/or night time combat range exercises using issued/approved loading device, issued/approved holster and flashlight with 70% accuracy on two of the approved courses of fire.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.4.1. Demonstrate dry firing and basic shooting principles.

7.4.2. Using proper marksmanship and reloading fundamentals, fire a minimum of 200 rounds with issued (or equal to this) ammunition in daylight conditions using issued/approved weapon prior to qualification.

7.4.3. Qualify on two of the below selected courses with approved targets under daylight conditions using issued (or equal to this) duty ammunition, weapon, duty belt and holster: Virginia Modified Double Action Course for Semi-automatic Pistols and Revolvers, 60 rounds, 7, 15, 25 yards shooting.  (See Appendix A shown below) Virginia Modified Combat Course I, 60 rounds, 25, 15, 7 yards shooting  (See Appendix B) Virginia Modified Combat Course II, 60 rounds, 25, 15, 7, 5, 3 yards shooting (See Appendix C) Virginia Qualification Course I, 50 rounds, 25 to 5 yards shooting (See Appendix D) Virginia Qualification Course II, 60 rounds, 3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix E) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course I, 50 rounds, 5 or 7, 25 yards shooting (See Appendix F) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course II, 36 rounds, 3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix G) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course III, 50 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix H) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course IV, 60 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix I) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course V, 50 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix J)

7.4.4. Fire a minimum of 25 rounds on a low light and/or a minimum of 25 rounds on a nighttime course for practice prior to qualification using the agency issued or approved handgun, duty holster and loading device. Fire a minimum of 25 rounds on a low light and/or a minimum of 25 rounds on a nighttime qualification course with a 70% qualification score on each course. Fire a minimum of 12 rounds with use of a flashlight in Appendix B or Appendix C above. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of three methods of flashlight use with a weapon. Identify the correct target threat by using flashlight techniques and weapon in hand. Low light and nighttime practice and qualifications courses with time limitations and distances will be established by the school, agency, or academy board. Fire from point shoulder positions, cover down positions and barricade positions. Fire using strong and weak hand as appropriate: Standing position Kneeling position Prone position Reload the weapon with emphasis on utilizing tactical reloads where appropriate Correct any weapon stoppages that may occur

7.4.5. Fire familiarization drills using a minimum of 50 rounds (10 per position) with issued (or equal to this) ammunition to include: Moving forward and backward (officer and/or target). Moving side to side (officer and/or target). Use of cover and concealment. Shove and shoot. Seated straight/90 degrees to simulate shooting from a vehicle.

Performance Outcome 7.5.

Secure weapons while off duty. (revolvers, semi-automatic weapons)

Training Objectives Related to 7.5.

1. Given a written exercise, identify reasons for and methods for avoiding firearms accidents while off duty.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.5.1. Reasons for security Prevent injury and unauthorized access Minimize theft opportunity (separate ammunition from the weapons)

7.5.2. Methods for security Lock box Loaded Unloaded Trigger lock Unloaded Cable lock Unloaded Disassemble weapon

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Reasons for security

a. Prevent injury and unauthorized access

b. Minimize theft opportunity (separate ammunition from the weapons)

2. Methods for security

a. Lock box

1. Loaded

2. Unloaded

b. Trigger lock

1. Unloaded

c. Cable lock

1. Unloaded

d. Disassemble weapon

Performance Outcome 7.6.

Carry a firearm when off duty. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Training Objectives Related to 7.6.

1. Given a written exercise, identify the factors to consider when carrying a firearm while off duty. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.6.1. Identification that an officer must comply with department policy relating to carrying a firearm while off duty and qualifying with the off duty firearm.

7.6.2. Identification of statutes that regulate the carrying of firearms while off duty.

7.6.3. Identification of the impact that alcohol consumption may have on judgment relating to use of firearms while off duty.

7.6.4. Identification of conditions that should be maintained while carrying a firearm off duty.

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Identification that an officer must comply with department policy relating to carrying a firearm while off duty and qualifying with the off duty firearm.

2. Identification of statutes that regulate the carrying of firearms while off duty.

3. Identification of the impact that alcohol consumption may have on judgment relating to use of firearms while off duty.

4. Identification of conditions that should be maintained while carrying a firearm off duty

a. Concealed

b. Cecure (retaining device)

c. Accessible

d. Law enforcement identification with weapon

e. Jurisdiction

f. Training

5. Identification of response to being stopped by on-duty officer:

a. Upon being challenged, members will remain motionless unless given a positive directive otherwise.

b. Members will obey the commands of the challenging member, whether or not he/she is in uniform. This may entail submission to arrest.

c.  Members will not attempt to produce identification unless and until so instructed.

d. If circumstances permit, members may verbally announce their identity and state the location of their badge and credentials.

e. Members should ask the challenger to repeat any directions or questions that are unclear and should never argue with challenger.

f. Challenged members will follow all instructions received until recognition is acknowledged.

Basic Firing Range Course for Academy Recruits


APPENDIX A – 60 rounds, 7, 15, 25 yards shooting.


Targets- B-21, B-21X, B-27, Q

60 ROUNDS, 7 – 25 YARDS

Qualification Score: 70%

Each officer is restricted to the number of magazines carried on duty. Magazines shall be loaded to their full capacity. Range instructor shall determine when magazines will be changed.

PHASE 1 – 7 YARD LINE: With loaded magazine, on command fire 1 round in 2 seconds or fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

1. On command draw and fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

2. On command draw and fire 6 rounds strong hand and 6 rounds weak hand in 20 seconds for semi-auto and 30 seconds for revolver, make weapon safe and holster.

PHASE 2 -15 YARD LINE: Point Shoulder Position

1. On command draw and fire 1 round in 2 seconds or 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

2. On command draw and fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, holster and repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

3. On command draw and fire 6 rounds in 12 seconds, make weapon safe and holster.

PHASE 3 – 25 YARD LINE: On command fire 6 rounds from prone, 6 rounds from kneeling and 6 rounds from standing until 18 rounds have been fired in 75 seconds for semi-auto, strong hand; for revolver,

90 seconds, strong hand. The order of position and use of cover/concealment and decocking is optional with the instructor.

SCORING – B21, B21X targets – use indicated K value with a maximum 300 points divided by 3 to obtain percent.

B27 target – 8,9,10,X rings = 5 points, 7 ring = 4 points, hits on silhouette = 3 points divided by 3 to obtain percent.

Q target – 5 points inside the bottle, 3 points outside the bottle on the target. Divide by 3 to obtain percent.

Louisiana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST)

Basic Firearms Qualification:

  1. On a 25-yard range, equipped with POST approved P-1 targets, the student, given a pistol or revolver, holster and 240 rounds of ammunition, will fire the POST firearms qualification course at least four times. Scores must be averaged and the student must:
    1. Fire all courses in the required stage time;
    2. Use the correct body position for each course of fire;
    3. Fire the entire course using double action only, except in case of single action only semi-automatic pistols;
    4. Fire no more than the specified number of rounds per stage;
    5. Fire each course at a distance not appreciably lesser nor greater than that specified;
    6. Achieve an average score of not less than 96 out of a possible 120, which is 80% or above;
    7. Have all targets graded and final score computed by a POST-certified firearms instructor.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee

Annual Qualifications:

      1. Each officer shall successfully complete the MPTC Basic Qualification Course for each weapon at least once per year with:
        1. A minimum score of 80% and
        2. 100% round accountability. (See below for illustration of MPTC target.)
      2. While duty ammunition is not required for the qualification course, the caliber used forqualification shall be identical to that used for duty ammunition.
      3. The target used for qualification shall be the standard MPTC-approved target. (See belowfor approved targets.)
      4. The number of rounds needed for each weapon system is as follows:

Semiautomatic pistols = 50

Revolvers = 50

Patrol rifles = 50

Shotguns = 25

Less-lethal shotgun = 8

Less-lethal 40mm = 6

Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy

Performance-based objectives for Firearms Training and Driver Training are tested in the classroom and at the firearms and driver training ranges, and include both written examination questions and practical performance based testing. Recruits are required to score a minimum of 70% in each component. If a recruit fails to meet minimum standards after two attempts, the recruit will be scheduled for re-training at a later time. The recruit will receive remedial training and will be given up to two additional attempts to meet minimum standards.

New Mexico Public Safety and Law Enforcement

Qualification course:  Day (50 round course) – A minimum score of 80% is required.

  1. Qualification course:  Night (25 round course) – A minimum score of 80% is required.  Low-light conditions would include parking lights from vehicles, naturally existing light, or other light that is just enough to identify a threat.

Finally, officers are required to maintain their shooting skills and must re-qualify annually.

Many officers enjoy shooting and do so regularly at firing ranges. Some departments provide ammunition for extra training, if their budget allows. If not, officers fund their own practice time.

It’s not unusual to see officers reload ammunition at home on their own time. Doing so is for target practice and results in a substantial monetary savings. However, only department issued ammunition may be carried while on duty and in off-duty weapons.

Police officers must attend training academies where they learn the basics of the job. In Virginia, for example, it is required that new officers receive a minimum of 480 hours of basic academy training that includes (to name only a few subjects):

  • Professionalism
  • Legal
  • Communication
  • Patrol
  • Investigations
  • Defensive tactics and use of force
  • Weapons, including firearms, baton, chemical, etc.
  • Driver training

The list sounds simple but, believe me, the training is grueling and physically and mentally challenging and demanding. It’s also quite stressful because if a rookie happens to flunk any portion of the academy they are immediately returned to their department where it’s likely their employment will be terminated.

Of course, academies and individual departments may add to the basic curriculum, and they often do (mine was longer), but they may not eliminate any portion of the training that’s mandated by the Department of Justice and/or the state.

In addition to the basic police academy, in order to “run radar,” officers are required to successfully complete a compulsory minimum training standards and requirements course. This course is specifically for law-enforcement officers who utilize radar or an electrical or microcomputer device to measure the speed of motor vehicles.

The Basic Speed Measurement Operator Training requirements include the following:

  1. Attend a DCJS approved speed measurement operator’s course
  2. Pass the speed measurement testing
  3. Complete Field Training

Virginia State Police Basic Training

Academy training for the Virginia State Police (VSP) is much more intense and lengthy than that of local academies.

VSP academy training includes 1,536 hours of instruction covering more than 100 sessions that range  from laws of arrest, search and seizure, defensive tactics, motor vehicle code, criminal law, and much more.

A troopers basic training is completed in four phases.

  • Phase I – The first 12 days are at the Academy at which time the students receive abbreviated training.
  • Phase II – Pre-Academy Field Training—up to four months—at which time the students ride with a FTO.
  • Phase III – Return to the academy for 26 weeks of Basic Training, completing both classroom and practical courses.
  • Phase IV – Following graduation from the academy, troopers complete an additional six to eight weeks of field training with a FTO.

What Happens After Local Officers Graduate From the Academy?

Once local police and sheriff’s deputies complete the minimum of twelve weeks of academy training (remember, some are longer), the law enforcement officers are then required to successfully complete a minimum of 100 hours of approved field training. This is on the job training, working in the field under the supervision of a certified field training officer (FTO). FTOs, by the way, must attend and successfully complete a training program that qualifies them to train officers in the field.

The mandatory minimum course for FTOs shall include a minimum of 32 hours of training and must include each of the following subject matter:

a. Field training program and the field training officer.

b. Field training program delivery and evaluation.

c. Training liability.

d. Characteristics of the adult learner.

e. Methods of instruction.

f. Fundamentals of communication.

g. Written test.

During the field training portion of a rookie’s beginning days on the street, their FTOs are evaluating their performance while at the same time protecting them and the public from harm. Working as an FTO is a tough job. I know, I’ve done it. You’re forever watching to make certain the rookies do not accidentally violate the rights of citizens, and you’re constantly on high alert, watching for the unexpected. This is because you’re responsible for everything that could happen. And, you’re watching for two people instead of one.

FTOs typically allow rookies to get their hands dirty by handling calls, getting the feel of driving the patrol car on city streets or county roads, conduct arrests, etc. They serve as a crutch, to prevent missteps. They’re leaders and they’re teachers. They are the final barrier to the officers going out on their own, a day most new officers salivate for in anticipation.

That first night alone in your very own patrol car is a highly desired moment. It the official sign that you’ve made it. You are finally a police officer. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of boxes that must be checked off by the FTO.

During the field training period, each rookie must demonstrate that they know the streets in their patrol areas. They must know local and state laws and ordinances. They must know the working of the court system and how to effectively interact with local prosecutors. And, well, below is a list of topics that rookies must know better than the backs of their hands before their FTO officially signs the paperwork releasing them from the training.

  • Department Policies, Procedures, and Operations (General Law Enforcement)
  • Local Government Structure and Local Ordinances
  • Court Systems, Personnel, Functions and Locations
  • Resources and Referrals
  • Records and Documentation
  • Administrative Handling of Mental Cases
  • Local Juvenile Procedures
  • Detention Facilities and Booking Procedures
  • Facilities and Territory Familiarization
  • Miscellaneous

Academy instructors aren’t simply any Joe or Sally off the street who may know a little something about police work because they’ve every episode of COPS, twice. Instead, academy instructors in Virginia are well-trained and must meet a minimum standard set by the state/DOJ.

Yes, academy instructors are required to attend specialized certification classes for the specific subjects they teach. And, instructors who train/teach and certify other instructors must become certified to teach those high level classes. They are then certified instructor-trainers.

I was a certified instructor-trainer for Defensive Tactics and CPR, and I was a certified instructor for Firearms, Officer Survival, CPR, and Basic and Advanced Life Support.

Advanced Classes for Officers, and Writers

Officer training never ends. Laws change and tactics and techniques evolve. Academies and agencies across the U.S. offer numerous specialized training opportunities. A great example of such educational opportunities are the courses offered at Sirchie, the location of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy’s special event, MurderCon.

Each year, on a continuing basis, Sirchie offers advanced classes for law enforcement officers. If some of these sound familiar to you, well, they should, because they were made available to attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy. It was an extremely rare opportunity for writers to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and train at such a prestigious facility and to learn from some of the top instructors in the world.

Classes presented at Sirchie, for law enforcement officers, are as follows:

  • Clandestine Grave Search & Recovery

    SIRCHIE is offering a 4 day “hands-on” training class on searching for and properly investigating and recovering remains from a clandestine grave site. The legal term corpus delicti me…
  • Phase 1 – Footwear Impression – Detection, Recovery, Identification Training

    Footwear impression evidence is the most overlooked evidence at crime scenes. Criminals will often wear gloves or wipe down objects that they touch at crime scenes but rarely do they remove their s…
  • Bloodstain Pattern Documentation Class

    Throughout the United States and certainly in smaller departments, the crime scene technician faces the complexities of homicide scenes without the proper support or training. Like all forensi…
  • Mastering the IAI Latent Print Exam Class

    Minimum requirements for the class: Each student must have at least 1 year of Latent print experience to be accepted in the class.  Background: Examiners who are preparing to take the L…
  • Digital Device Forensics

    With over 9 Billion wireless subscriptions worldwide as of 2016, every criminal investigation involves information that can be captured from a digital device, including phones and tablets. Understa…
  • Latent Palm Print Comparison Class

    Minimum Requirements for the class: Each student must have attended and completed a Basic Latent Fingerprint Comparison Course to be accepted in the Advanced Latent Palm Print Comparison Cou…
  • Evidence Collection and Processing Training

    Our Evidence Collection and Processing Training Program provides law enforcement professionals and crime scene investigators with hands on training using forensic tools that will help to execute th…
  • Drone Forensics

    This 5 day course is designed to take the investigator deep into the world of Drone Forensics. The use of Drones is growing rapidly and expanding to criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations…
  • Comprehensive Advanced Latent Print Comparison Course

    How proficient are your individual comparison skills as pertaining to latent print casework? Are erroneous exclusions a problem in your skill set? If you are a manager are erroneous exclusions a problem in your latent print work unit? This class was developed to help improve latent comparison competency and knowledge whether you are already a Certified Latent Print Examiner or if you are preparing to take the exam in the near future. A broad and exhaustive level of complex latent print exercises were carefully compiled to improve the level of expertise for examiners. You will not find another class like this one anywhere.

So Much Training and So Many Required Certifications, but …

Law enforcement officers in Virginia (I’m not certain about other states) shall satisfactorily complete the Compulsory Minimum Training Standards and Requirements within 12 months of the date of hire or appointment as a law-enforcement officer.

Take a moment to re-read the line above and then let it sink in that officers may work for up to one full year before they attend a basic police academy. That’s potentially 12 months of driving a patrol car and making arrests without a single second of formal training.

Sure, most departments would never dream of allowing an untrained officer work the streets without close and direct supervision. However, I’ve seen it done and I have personal knowledge of deputy sheriffs who patrolled an entire county, alone, for nearly 365 days prior to attending any formal police training. I know this to be so because I was one of those deputy sheriffs.

Believe me, it’s an odd feeling to carry a loaded gun while driving like a bat out of hell with lights and siren squalling at full yelp during the pursuit of a heavily armed suspect, all while not having clue what you should and shouldn’t do when or if you catch the guy.

When I think about it today I realize how foolish it was for my boss to allow us to work under those conditions.

Author Melinda Lee – WPA firearms training

Thanks to the Writers’ Police Academy, many writers have received far more training than I had during my first year on the job. Actually, many writers who’ve attended the WPA have received more advanced training than many of today’s law enforcement officers.





Here’s a recap of past Writers’ Police Academy events condensed in an ad for the 2018 WPA.



It’s been well over two decades since I and my narcotics K-9 partner attended our first day of school. We’d spend the next sixteen weeks together learning how to locate hidden drugs. However, my new partner was no stranger to the job since he’d already served as a narcotics dog with the U.S. Border Patrol. I’d served as a narcotics officer for quite a while, both undercover and as a detective. But this, having a four-legged partner, was a first for me.

We left home early that day, both freshly bathed with bellies full and hearts thumping with excitement.

I drove, of course, while the dog rode in a large crate secured in the rear compartment. I sensed his excitement during the ride by the way his thick tail steadily beat against the sides of the container.

When I turned off the main road, Midlothian Turnpike, just outside of Richmond Va., it was déjà vu all over again. Because directly in front of me was the training academy of the Virginia State Police. It is there where Va. State Police recruits attend 30 weeks of academic, physical, and practical training. After graduation from the academy, the new troopers report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia where each of them are required to spend an additional six weeks with a field training officer while learning their new patrol area.

The day my drooling pooch and I arrived the basic academy was in full swing, with recruits going about the daily grind associated with their training. I believe there were approximately 70 -80 recruits attending the academy at the time and they must have been nearing the end because a few dozen brand new, shiny blue and gray Va. State Police patrol cars were lined up in rows at the rear of the property.

I recalled the butterflies-in-the-stomachs experienced by recruits when they, as did I, saw waiting patrol cars, knowing they’d soon be assigned one, a car that would soon become their mobile office and sanctuary from evil. Seeing them parked there was also a sign that they’d made it. They’d endured 30 weeks of running, exercising, shooting, classroom and driver training, and running, running, running. Many were in the best physical shape they’d been in their entire lives. Their brains were overflowing with new knowledge and their nerve-endings pulsed with the electricity that fuels all rookie cops.

But, instead of heading to the main training academy buildings, I turned to the left and aimed my car to the area designated for K-9 training. This portion of the academy featured two sets of kennels capable of housing many dogs. One set was designated for patrol dogs, the mean and nasty biters. The other was a long, double row of covered kennels where the narcotics and explosive dogs would sleep and eat for the next 16 weeks.

I checked in with the lieutenants in charge and was assigned a kennel for my dog along with a stainless steel food dish and a rubber water bucket. A trooper showed me where the dog food was stored and told me that I was responsible for daily cleaning and hosing and scrubbing my dog’s quarters. We each rotated weekend duties, the feeding, watering, and cleaning of all kennels.

I would spend my nights in the barracks where my wakeup call was at 5 a.m.—lights on and a loud buzzer followed by the door being flung open by a sergeant who quite enjoyed shouting. This joyful eye-opener was immediately followed by barracks inspection, a quick shower, shave, and breakfast with the other K-9 handlers-in-training, as well as the academy recruits.

Our first morning was by far the easiest day of training. We spent it outdoors listening to our trainer, a lieutenant who provided a tour of the K-9 training grounds—obstacle courses, large and smaller fenced fields, classrooms, and even a building equipped as a letter and package processing facility, complete with long conveyor belts. This building was where we’d train our dogs to search packages as they breezed by on the conveyors and when stacked in tall, long rows. Yes, the dogs actually walked and ran on the conveyors while packages zipped by their keen noses.

K-9 Handlers Are On The “Dumb End” of the Leashes

The lieutenant then explained what we could expect during the next three months. He made sure we were aware that drug dogs are typically hyper and that they have four legs and prefer to use the full capability of those limbs. And that it was up to us to keep up with the animals, in spite of our handicap of having only two legs.

We were in no way to slow down the forward progress of our dogs. In other words, we were expected to run every day all day, without exception, for the duration of our training. If our dogs ran, we ran. And only when the dogs took a break were allowed to do the same.  Training for the dogs was fun. It’s a game to them and their end goal is to be rewarded for playing. Their treat … more playtime, and we were their sources of entertainment. Tug-of-war with a rolled up towel was their favorite activity, one that was enjoyed whenever they found hidden drugs. Therefore, they searched frantically knowing that if they succeeded they’d enjoy a session of towel-fun-time.

The lieutenant made certain that we knew to trust the noses and intelligence of our dogs, and that we were on the dumb end of the leash. Never try to force a dog to alert on something when you suspect it to contain narcotics. Always allow the dog do the work. They know what they’re doing. “Handlers are ALWAYS on the dumb end of the leash!” I heard that sentence at least a thousand times during the academy training

Run here, there, and everywhere!

I wondered why in the world, as a police detective who had his own air-conditioned office, a comfortable chair and substantial desk, clothing allowance, and who rarely had to run anywhere (that’s what rookies were for) … why did I ever request to attend this sort of punishment training. But no … I had to have my very own narcotics K-9. A dog who ran like The Roadrunner and was as hyper as Speedy Gonzales, the cartoon mouse.

We trained at the Richmond, Va. airport, searching for drugs in all passenger jets and luggage. We traveled to secret and quite secure government three letter agency facilities where we searched and cleared areas. Our transportation for those trips was a marked state police van pulling a long double-decker trailer containing forty individual compartments for our dogs—four rows of ten compartments, ten on top of ten on each side.

We ran everywhere we went and the dogs loved it. By the final week of training I’d lost 25 pounds.

The K-9 handler’s training academy was far tougher, physically, than regular basic police training. Not even close, actually. But I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. And, as a bonus, I had one of the best partners in the world.

And then, a couple of years later, I did it again. I had to have a patrol dog, a dog who tracked and was extremely skilled at suspect apprehension. So back to the state police academy I went, for another 16 weeks. This time, though, the training involved fast dogs with large, sharp teeth.

Running came easier this time around because the motivation to do so was greater. Instead of having our dogs on leashes out in front, we were given a head start before a handler sent a barking and snarling K-9 to bring us to the ground, by force. We also had to run for miles to hide somewhere so the dogs could find us. Tracking us across those distances was a fun game for them. For me, not so much.

By the way, bite suits are extremely hot and heavy, and some of the larger dogs had teeth that were able to penetrate them. I still have a few leftover scars to prove it.

Again, though, I’d gained another great friend.

Both dogs lived at our home.

The drug dog, a black lab, was funny and playful. The patrol dog was a very large Rottweiler who feared nothing. Well, he was a bit intimidated by our toy poodle, but tolerated her.

The dogs were a joy have in our household, all three of them. When I left police work the two police dogs retired along with me.

Now, sadly, all three are gone.

The 25 pounds is back, though, and then some.


Have you hear the rumor? You know the one, that some people are simply not wired to be cops.Shocking, isn’t it?

There, I’ve said it. And and I’m not spreading gossip because, sadly, it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge, and to live and work in a manner that coincides with their sworn oath.

Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who, for numerous reasons, shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, let alone advance to actually working the streets. This pint-sized, woefully inadequate cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

Before I delve into the tale of the cop who had to sit on a pillow to see above the steering wheel in their patrol car, we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name to protect the identity of the thumbnail version of a real police officer. By doing so, it’ll allow you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. The name I choose is Pat (could go either way with this one – remember Pat on SNL?).

The story goes something like this…

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4’10” tall, with shoes on. Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in toddler sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from a company located in a remote corner of None Such County.

Even then, with None Such’s finest clothing maker assigned to the task, a good bit of onsite tailoring was required, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. To provide a better picture of the size of this person, had someone bronzed Pat’s Bates work footwear they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate.

The hat was the thing that sent the rest the class over the edge. The minuscule officer looked like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing.

Not the actual Pat.

We each took a turn in the intersection, stopping traffic  to permit left turns, right turns, and allowing cars to travel forward. We repeated the process until our instructor felt comfortable with our ability to control traffic flow.

Then it was Pat’s turn. So the recruit in the intersection, a full-sized officer, successfully stopped traffic in all four directions to allow Pat to assume the position in the middle of the street.

Then, with arms outstretched and a short blast from a whistle, Pat then sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. And, for a brief moment, all was going well until Pat gave the whistle another tweet to stop the oncoming traffic and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s cantaloupe-size head turned left, rotating inside the big-man-size cap. But, instead of moving in sync with the turning head, the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted in laughter, as did many of the drivers who were absolutely confused about what they should do next.

Our instructor rushed out into the ensuing traffic jam to straighten out the mess and calm the drivers who used their car horns to blast their displeasure. Pat, in a moment of self-induced blindness because the hat had slipped even further down the face, totally blocking any hope of seeing, well, anything. Unfortunately, during the melee Pat dropped the whistle onto the pavement and when attempting to retrieve it, lost the hat. Of course the swift evening wind gusts sent it rolling into the lines of moving cars and trucks.

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the little kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who then pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on.

According to bystanders, who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance, said the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat closely resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers had responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and that several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle of answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

When officers responding to the brawl saw the massive crowd they immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was a tough battle and officers and bad guys were basically going at it, toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered 4-to-1, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. And then, out of the darkness appeared Pat’s patrol car, bearing down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

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Pat didn’t bother stopping at the curb. Instead, the teeny-tiny officer who, if you recall, had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel (no, I’m not kidding), pulled the car directly into the parking lot beside the action, flung open the car door, and stepped out. Well, sort of.

Pat’s pistol somehow had become entangled in the seat belt, which sort of reeled Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement, coming apart and spilling batteries in all sorts of directions. The pillow fell out of the car and slid beneath the vehicle. And the hat … Pat had donned the cop/bus driver hat, which, of course remained motionless while Pat’s head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped, with everyone turning to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness before them—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. But, at least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol that’s a bit smaller than standard cop issue. However, Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. So he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger when firing the sidearm. Didn’t matter, because Pat failed to shoot a satisfactory score during the first annual weapons qualification.

So, I guess the true test of becoming a police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, you must be “this tall” to drive a police car.