Here are answers to a few of the most often asked questions about police work.

  • How do I become an FBI homicide investigator so I can help solve the murder cases my town? Easy answer. You can’t. The FBI doesn’t work local homicide cases, therefore, the agency does not employ “homicide” investigators. That’s the job of city, county, and state police.

  • How long does it take to become a detective? There is no set timeline/standard, so the answer is … as long as it takes. It’s all about who’s the best person for the job. One person may be ready with as little as two years experience, while another may not be ready for a plainclothes assignment, well, they may never be ready. The job of detective isn’t for everyone, by the way. Some officers prefer to work in patrol, or traffic, in the schools, or in the division that inspects taxi cabs and buses to be sure they’re in compliance with local law and standards.

  • Why didn’t you read that guy his rights before you handcuffed him? Aren’t you required to do so by law? Don’t you have to let him go now that someone knows you broke the law by not reading him his rights?

Miranda, first of all, is only required when (a) someone is in custody, and (b) prior to questioning. Therefore, if I, as a police officer, don’t plan to ask any questions, and that’s often the case, I don’t have to spout off the “You have the right to remain silent” speech. So no, not advising someone of Miranda is not a get out of jail free card.

miranda law

  • Why do cops wear sunglasses? Umm … because they’re constantly exposed to bright sunshine and the glasses help reduce glare and eyestrain.

  • I got a ticket for not wearing my seat belt, yet the USPS letter carrier in my neighborhood doesn’t wear his. How do they get away with breaking the law? Most areas have laws that specifically address delivery drivers and similar professions—letter carriers, delivery services, police officers, firefighters, etc., whose jobs require them to be in and out of their vehicles throughout the business day. And, those laws typically excuse the driver(s) from mandatory seat belt laws while performing their jobs. However, many of these businesses and agencies require their drivers to wear safety belts when operating a vehicle.

  • Why are there so many sheriffs in my county? There is only one sheriff per county or city (yes, some cities have a sheriff’s office in addition to a county sheriff’s office). The rest of the folks you see wearing the uniform and star are deputies. A sheriff, the boss of the entire department, is elected by the people. He/she then appoints deputies to assist with the duties of the office—running the jail, courtroom security, serving papers, patrol and criminal investigations, etc.

  •  No, it’s not racial profiling to stop a shifty-eyed white subject with a black nose who’s wearing a red collar with a gold medallion in a location near a bank that was just robbed by a a white subject with a black nose who’s wearing a red collar with a gold medallion.

“Be on the lookout for a shifty-eyed white subject with a black nose. He’s wearing a red collar with gold medallion.”

  • No, you do not have the right to see the radar unit, my gun, or what I’m writing in my notebook.

  • No, turning on your hazard lights does not give you the right to park in the fire lane in front of the grocery store.

  • Yes, I am concerned about your ability to fight well. Please understand, though, that this is what I do for a living and they didn’t teach me to lose. Besides, I have a lot of loyal coworkers who’re on the way here, right now, to see to it that the good guy (me) wins.

They sometimes decide to fight wearing nothing but …

  • You keep saying you know your rights … but you really don’t. Can you hear the nonsense you’re telling me?

You have the right to remain silent. Use it!

  • Yes, no matter how much you hate me, my badge, and my uniform, I’ll still come running when/if you call.

“Help, po-leeeece!”

Good action scenes—car chases, gunfights, and exploding cars and buildings—are great at keeping readers busy turning pages. But, how does your hero survive the barrage of bullets, flames, and KABOOMS? Are you giving the star of your book a realistic way out of all the tough jams you’ve tossed their way? Is what you’ve written a true tactical maneuver, or, did you write your hero into a tired old cliche’ corner? You know what I mean—the karate chop to the wrist which forces the bad guy to drop his weapon. How about this doozy … shooting the gun out of the villain’s hand. I know, it’s goofy and unrealistic. So yeah, those things, the things that are not only far-fetched, they’re downright silly.

As writers of fiction it is your job and sworn duty to deliver believable make-believe, and having your character(s) shoot the gun out of someone’s hand is far from achieving that goal.

So, you ask, how do real-life heroes avoid meeting untimely ends when confronted with deadly situations?

Well, for starters, they should …

When confronting a suspect who’s armed with a long-gun (shotguns and rifles are long guns) it’s best to have the hero approach from the side.

By doing so, your protagonist forces the crook to turn his entire body toward the approaching hero in order to continue the threat/potential shootout.

Otherwise, the thug has no option other than to flee or surrender. The tactic provides the hero with enough time to properly react to the threat.

 

 

  • If possible, place your hero in a good light. By that, I mean to make use of bright lights, such as a setting sun or bright early morning sunlight. The bright light should be at the hero’s back, but with the hero concealed/using cover. The use of this tactic makes it extremely difficult for the bad guy to see. Yet, the hero will be able to clearly see the bad guy and his movements.
  • It’s okay to have your hero experience a bit of fear because fear heightens our sense of awareness, which in turn increases the likelihood that we’ll do whatever is necessary to survive. However, fear can have a negative effect if allowed to overtake the situation. In short, a little fear is good, but too much fear combined with gunfire is the recipe for a badge-wearing babbling idiot.
  • If possible, have your protagonist take a moment to focus on breathing. Yes, breathing properly during a tense situation can help bring things into perspective. It can also help lower the heart rate, and it can prevent fear from morphing into blind rage (sudden bursts of anger could turn into a deadly mistake. Not thinking clearly could result into  foolishly rushing into a no-win situation.

Taking a moment to focus on “combat breathing.” Breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for another count of four, and then exhale to a third four-count. Count to four and then start all over again. The heart rate should be noticeably lower after a few repetitions. Of course, I don’t recommend taking the time to perform these deep-breathing exercises during a gunfight with bullets zinging by your ears. It’s been my personal experience that “timeouts” are not allowed during gun battles.

Okay, there you have it. No more silly karate-chop scenes or shooting guns from bad guy’s hands, right? Good. Then you’re all set.

But, you know, I can’t recall ever seeing an extremely scared, deep-breathing Jack Reacher standing with bright sunlight to his back while walking sideways like crab toward a guy holding an AK-47.

I suppose an occasional fist to the throat, or a boot to the head is permissible, but only if you’re the hero in a Lee Child book. The trouble is … there’s only one Jack Reacher, and there’s definitely only one Lee Child.

Lee Child – Writers’ Police Academy

 

 

A cop’s gun. His/her sidearm. An extension of their dominate arm. It’s always there for them when or if they need it, without fail.

A pistol is an extremely low-maintenance friend, never asking for much in return for its dedication—a modest diet of fresh bullets along with a little Hoppes gun oil to wash them down, a bath every Saturday night, and not allowing them to play in the rain and the mud.

Never drop a firearm and always remember they don’t like being left alone with small children. That’s about it. Treat them well and with respect and a cop’s gun will forever remain at their side.

If used and treated properly, guns can saved lives. I can say this with authority because that’s exactly what mine did—save lives. However, guns are easily influenced, tending to mimic the habits and traits of the people they’re around—guns with good people do good things, while guns in the hands of bad people … well, you know.

Actually, I liked the feeling of a pistol on my side. Its weight was sort of comforting even though the constant gravity-induced downward-tugging at my belt was a bit annoying at times. And there’s that thing about the hammer insisting that it tear a hole in the lining of every jacket I owned. It was pretty darn aggravating but you get used to it. After all, a little patch, a needle and thread, and you’re back in business.

One of my jackets with patch over hole caused by constant contact with a pistol hammer

Another member of a detective’s close and limited circle of workplace BFFs is his take-home car. They drive them for such long periods of time that the foam seat cushions conform nicely to the shape of their aging and constantly morphing rear-ends.

Unlike the silent relationship with guns, detectives, who most often work alone, have been known to talk to their cars, using them as sounding boards for working out case details or ideas. For example, at 3 a.m., after working a case for 36 nonstop hours with very few clues and/or evidence to ponder, a detective takes a seat inside his unmarked car to rest while gathering his thoughts. In a matter of minutes he’s thinking out loud, talking to his vehicle. “That bit of spatter on the ceiling makes no sense, does it? How did it …”

And we mustn’t overlook the graveyard shift sing-a-longs with whatever’s playing on the radio, music that helps keep officers awake once the magic time-to-fall-asleep-’cause-it’s-four-o’clock hour rolls around. Now, all of this solo singing and chattering to one’s self is not an indication that anyone has stepped over into cop la-la-land. Instead, these actions each serve a legitimate purpose.

A detective’s car is fearless, and the bullet hole in the front fender is a constant reminder that the car “took” the one that was meant for the officer. Each ding, scratch, and dent has a backstory. There’s history forever etched into a detective’s car. Some good and some not so good.

Yes, the three—the brains (the detective), the brawn (the gun), and the … well, there’s no “B” for the car, but it’s definitely an integral part of the trio that makes for a great team.

They go everywhere together. They’re inseparable. Day-in and day-out. They’re together through the tough times and when the times are good. They stand toe-to-tire in fights, saving lives, weddings and divorces, and gun battles and when people throw rocks, bricks, and bottles at them.

The three were side-by-side when the detective held the kid whose mother had just died in a car crash. And when he comforted the parents whose son took the overdose. When he sat behind the wheel and wept because he couldn’t reach far enough inside the burning car to pull the crying infant from the flames.

For twenty-five years the three sacrificed everything to work in the rain, snow and unbearable heat. They put in grueling, long hours. They’ve worked with injured body parts and during times when the investigator’s family members were sick and dying. And even when the very citizens he spent the past quarter century protecting began spitting on him, calling him names, endangering his family, and trying to burn him alive while some of his coworkers are shot and badly wounded or killed. But they return to work each and every day, hoping the next would be a bit better

Eventually, though, the day finally arrives … the day when the three are no more.

It’s the day when the detective drives to work and parks his  battered friend, not in their familiar reserved space, the one where they’d parked for years, but alongside a row of fleet cars … strangers.

On this day, his last as a detective and law enforcement officer, he walks inside for the final time and hands over the keys to his old friend. Then it’s time to slip off the holster and gun and the instant weight loss feels horrible. Sliding the badge across the desk is worse. But the three BFFs have too many miles behind them to keep going. It’s time for them to say goodbye. They were a great team, but as they say, all good things must end.

Now … well, there’s always a fish to catch, flowers to plant, and birdhouses to build. Books to read and books to write. Yes, that’s it. Write a book! It’s certainly much safer to write about car chases and shootouts than to live those moments. I know, it’s not the same. Never will be.

But life goes on …

#welcometowalmart

#guardingthemall

#whatdoIdonow

#nomorepeoplespittinginmyface

#Ishouldwriteabook

#Imissmycar

#mayItakeyourorder

#itslonelyouthere

#walmartbluelightsarenotthesame

#crossingguardsrock

#birdwatching

#getoffmygrass

*For the law enforcement officer who’s scheduled to retire this week after decades of service.

Officer Willie Findem was hot on the trail of two armed robbers, running s fast as his flat feet could carry him, when he heard a woman screaming for help as he raced past a row of shotgun houses in a section of town the locals call Murder Alley.

Despite the fact that his heart thumped against the inside of his chest (felt like his sternum was on the receiving end of a fast flurry of jabs and right hooks delivered by top heavyweight boxer), and that his lungs sucked at the atmosphere like a kid going after the last drop at the bottom of a fast-food milkshake cup, he turned and ran up the wooden steps, taking them two at a time, responding to “who knows what’s behind the front door of house number 1313,” the source of the yelping and squalling and screeching.

A quick twist of a slightly-dented steel doorknob, worn slick after many years and many turns by greasy, dirty hands, revealed a visibly shaken Ms. Patty Cakes, a petite blonde wearing a black bathrobe and a fresh coat of gleaming fire-engine-red polish on the nails of each of her ten stubby toes.

“Hurry, over here!” she said, pointing to an open doorway with one hand, clutching the robe tightly to her chest with the other. “It’s in the basement.”

Well, the officer’s mama didn’t raise no fool. “Ma’am, what’s in the basement?” he asked before taking a single step toward the entrance to the bowels of the home.

“The body! The dead body! That’s what’s in the basement! I heard a loud crash, and … I don’t know …  looked … and … he’s dead. And there’s blood, and a knife … and please, hurry! Come on, I’ll show you, but you’ll need a flashlight. The batteries mine are as dead as he is.”

Officer Findem clicked on his light, placed a hand on the butt of his gun, stepped in front of the nervous woman who detected a pleasant hint of Old Spice as he passed, and headed down the creaky, wood plank steps.

“See, it’s there. Right there … by the furnace.  told you, it’s a dead body!”

An hour later, Evelyn E. Dense (“Ev” for short), and her crackerjack team of crime scene  techs were hard at work collecting and packaging blood samples, the murder weapon, and hairs and fibers. “Ev” E. Dense is good at what she does. The best in the business, actually.

Findem was confident that he’d soon have his man, or woman.

Finding clues (evidence) is important, sure, but the manner in which those items are packaged can sometimes make, or break, a case. Common sense tells us to not pour the contents of a half-full wine glass into a cardboard box, right? So what are the proper containers for the many kinds of evidence encountered by crime scene techs and detectives?

Well, for starters, here’s “Ev” E. Dense’s handy guide to collecting and packaging items found at crime scenes.

Powders – clear plastic bags, paper (druggist folds), envelopes. Always separate by suspect, meaning don’t lump all things found at a scene in one package (powder found in Suspect A’s bedroom is packaged separately from the powder found in Suspect B’s bedroom).

Pills and tablets – clear plastic bags

Vegetation (weeds and other plant material retrieved from outdoor crime scene) – air dry and seal in paper container.

Plants – seal in paper container (bags, etc.) Never use plastic.

Needles and other sharps – always seal inside safety tubes with appropriate bio-hazard warning labels attached.

Urine – clean, leak-proof containers. Urine should be refrigerated, and may also be frozen.

Blood (liquid form)- vials containing appropriate anticoagulant. Refrigerate.

Blood-stains (dry) – collect sample using sterile swabs moistened with distilled water. Air dry and package (paper).

Blood-stained clothing – air-dry entire article, package in paper.

Wet evidence drying lockers

Blood-stained objects (guns, carpet, knives, furniture, etc) – deliver the entire object to the lab, if possible. For carpeting, isolate and remove stained area for transport and testing.

Seminal (semen) stains (dry) – collect sample using sterile swabs moistened with distilled water. Air dry and package (paper). For wet stains, collect using sterile swab and then air dry and package (paper). If needed, use alternate light source to detect seminal stains. For large items (mattresses, etc.), collect the entire piece and deliver to lab for testing.

Condoms – collect liquid using cotton swabs. Air dry both the swabs and entire condom. Package in paper.

Saliva – (dry) – collect sample using sterile swabs moistened with distilled water. Air dry and package (paper). For wet stains, collect using sterile swab and then air dry and package (paper). If needed, use alternate light source to detect seminal stains. For large items (mattresses, etc.), collect the entire piece and deliver to lab for testing. Cigarette butts, masks, chewing gum, etc., air dry and package in paper.

Fingernail area – swab between the nail and fingertip using sterile swab moistened with distilled water. Use separate swab for each hand. Package in paper and label appropriately (right hand and left).

Hairs and fibers – small boxes or paper (druggist fold). Do not bend hair. Do not mix samples.

Rope – preserve and protect cut ends for possible sharps identification. Plastic or paper container.

Ammunition (discharged) – package each piece separately (paper, such as envelopes, etc.).

Weapons – make each weapon safe, if possible (no ammunition, magazine removed, etc.). Package in cardboard box appropriately labeled “FIREARM,” etc.

*Plastic containers, such as Ziploc bags, can act as a mini-incubator, encouraging bacteria growth. Bacteria can decompose and/or destroy DNA.

*Policy and procedure may vary depending upon the individual department and/or lab.

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.

Clues

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.

COVID

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.

Time

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.).

 

Before I begin, please know that this post is not an op-ed article. I’m merely presenting facts surrounding suicide investigations involving the book “Final Exit.”

Those of you who attended homicide Detective Jeff Locklear’s presentations last week at Virtual MurderCon heard him speak about sometimes finding copies this book at suicide scenes.

Final Exit, the book

In the early 1990s, Derek Humphry published Final Exit. The book is a “how-to” guide for people seeking to commit a successful suicide.

In the book, Humphries highlighted four types of suicide—passive euthanasia, self-deliverance, assisted suicide, and active euthanasia.

  • Passive euthanasia – the disconnection of life support systems and/or equipment.
  • Self-deliverance – the taking of ones own life.
  • Assisted suicide – a person ingests a deadly dose of medication supplied by a physician.
  • Active euthanasia – death brought about by a physician who personally injects a lethal drug into a person’s bloodstream.

The author encourages people to doctor-shop until they find one who shares the view that suicide could be the proper course of action. He suggests that people considering assisted suicide conduct a bit of surveillance by examining a doctor’s waiting room to see if “magazines are current and that the staff is friendly and helpful,” signs that the doctor could be sympathetic and compassionate, and not simply “running a business.”

Readers of “Final Exit” learn that it’s a good idea to underline or highlight passages in the book, and even to sign their names inside. Then they’re instructed to place the book nearby when they commit the act. This is to show police that the suicide was an act of euthanasia and not a homicide. However, those who do assist may still be held criminally responsible if they supplied the drug, the plastic bag that covered the head of the victim, or the firearm that killed. By the way, Humphry mentions the use of the plastic bag combined with medication as a highly favored means of suicide.

Humphry instructs those who assist to not touch the dying person. However, if they do he says to lie about it if questioned by authorities, and that you gave absolutely no encouragement. He also went on the say that the person who’s present at the time of the suicide should NOT call 911. The latter instruction is to prevent EMS from initiating lifesaving procedures.

The Police Investigation

The presence of “Final Exit” at the scene should be properly documented by noting its position in the home, by photograph and/or video, as well as in the detective’s written notes.

Homicide Detective Jeff Locklear

As discussed by Detective Locklear during his MurderCon presentations, the mere presence of the book could be an important factor and should be treated as evidence. The book could contain the fingerprints and/or DNA of someone other than the victim, such as a person who assisted in the death.

As previously mentioned, there may be notations or underlined passages within the book. Therefore, officers should thoroughly examine it page by page for comparison to the manner of death and to the instructions found highlighted.

The book recommends that the suicidal person leave a signed note. Officers should search, as always, for written messages that may provide answers about the death.

Notes should always be examined for finger and palm prints and for handwriting comparison(s).

For comparison, fingerprints and palm prints should also be collected from friends and family members who’re close to the victim. Plastic bags and prescription bottles and medications should be collected. Fingerprint examinations should be conducted on the bags and bottles. Lifted prints are compared to those of the victim and to the prints of potential suspects. Remember, it is equally as important that police rule out potential suspects as it is for them to include someone as a possible perpetrator of a crime.

In all cases where copies of “Final Exit” are found, well, there’s the possibility that someone assisted in the death. And, that assistance could be illegal.


*If you or anyone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

 

It was a Saturday morning, a day when the temperature had already reached the mid 90s and the southern air with was tightly packed with enough humidity to make it appear as if a quick rain shower had passed through. The air was so thick, in fact, that rednecks switched their pickups and jeeps over to four-wheel-drive to help plow their way to the liquor stores where they purchased ice cold PBR beer, fifths of Jack, and fistfuls of lottery tickets.

Condensation on the windows of the county jail, the red brick building that also housed our offices, was dense enough to obscure the view outside. The only means of seeing any sign of life on the outside was when a drop of water wriggled its way down the glass, leaving a temporary translucent trail in its wake. The situation frustrated the inmates who, as always, hoped to catch glimpses of female passersby so they send out obnoxious catcalls, whistles, and inappropriate comments about their desires for a quick hands-on anatomy lesson.

The trash talk didn’t faze these women, though, because they were a handful of professional teasers who enjoyed sending the incarcerated men into what my grandmother would’ve called a “tizzy.” Those women drove the prisoners into such a state that had the floors not been made of steel reinforced concrete they’d have rutted holes in them much like wild hogs plow through collard and turnip patches.

The painted ladies wearing short skirts and micro shorts and platform shoes and spiked heels with hairdos that were tall and big and caked with enough hairspray to hold in place a bumper on a ’49 “Shoebox Ford,” well, they simply drove the men KRAZY! Crazy with a “K,”by the way, is crazier than the “C” kind of nutty.

Even our brown patrol cars perspired. Moisture dripped from the leaves of the tall oaks that had lived on the courthouse lawn since the days of the Civil War. In fact, one of those trees served as the “hanging tree” back in the day. Jail inmates sat in their cells wearing nothing but sweat-soaked boxer shorts and white socks. The day was indeed on track to be a real scorcher.

I know, never start a story with the weather, but this is real life, not fiction. I’m not writing that first line, the hook, to grab your attention.  I mentioned the heat and humidity because, as is with most instances involving police, it’s important that you know that temperatures and weather conditions often play a huge role in their profession.

It’s also important that each and every word in your tales has meaning and that each one has a purpose. For me, based on personal experience, weather can be “a character” in a story and it’s sometimes as important as the hero, the villain, or the victim. I say this because …

Words Melt Everyone

“Man it’s a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun
Well I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone
But you stay so cool” ~ “Smooth” by Santana, featuring Rob Thomas

Weather conditions are part of the equation, just as are criminals, courts, judges, and guns, including being a part of the smallest of details of a murder scene. Winter, spring, summer, fall, snow, sun, rain, and wind all play a role in the real world of cops and robbers. It has purpose and it has meaning.

Such as the mid August day in Savannah, Ga. when heat and humidity make you practically gasp for every breath like it could be your last, and when bending over to have a look at a victim’s body at the precise moment when that lone drop of sweat reaches the tip of your nose and you absolutely must prevent its fall to stop your DNA from commingling with that of the killer.

Or when preparing to enter an abandoned warehouse to search for the armed robber who was last seen going inside. It’s 10 degrees outside and the grip of your gun is ice-cold to the touch. Your hands are nearly numb and you can’t feel your toes because you’re standing in three feet of freshly-fallen Boston snow (Snow is Boston is colder than snow in other places we’ve lived. That’s a fact. I’m sure it’s written in a book somewhere.).

The combination of fear, frigid temperatures, and freezing digits cause your hands to tremble ever so slightly. Will you be able to shoot straight and accurately if the time comes and if your very life depends upon that first shot? Will the shaking and shivering if your body and clattering of your chattering teeth give away your position?

The wind howls outside, concealing the sounds of a bad guy’s movements. Is he in front of you to the side or to the rear? You don’t know because the only thing you hear is the sound of your own heart thumping wildly against the inside of your chest wall. That and the limbs of the old hackberry tree scratching and scraping across the weathered clapboard siding with each gust of swirling air.

So yes, weather is an important aspect of police work.

Saturdays are for Fishing, Not Killing

There were only two of us assigned to patrol the county that hot day, which was not a big deal because Saturdays were typically slow. Weekend nights were the times when the action jumped off. I suppose that most trouble-makers’ daytimes were reserved for rest, fishing, lawn mowing, recuperating from hangovers, and driving out to the back forty to plink a few rounds at tin cans and discarded refrigerators and rusty clothes washers. Fun times.

Some folks visited community swimming pools and a few teens would head out to the old gravel pit to swill cheap beer and to smoke weed and for a dip in the cool water. It’a place where at least one kid drowned each summer and usually within the next day or two we’d find the bloated body tangled in the branches of fallen trees, if a state police diver wasn’t able to immediately locate the victim in the incredibly deep water.

Sometimes we’d interview a sobbing 15- or 16-year-old girl who reeked of stale beer and pot smoke, a doe-eyed kid who’d stand on the ledge and weep and point to where she last saw him, right after she’d begged him to not leap of into the water from the rocky cliff. He’s a good swimmer, she’d say, but we’d been drinking and his buddies dared him to do it. So he did. Of course, she wouldn’t notice that her top was on backward or that her shorts were on inside out.

The 911 Call

My fellow deputy and I began our shift at 0800 that Saturday and we’d decided to catch up on a bit of paperwork at the office before going our separate ways, making ourselves seen throughout the county. Nothing much happened before noon on Saturdays anyway.

It was 9:30 when a man called the dispatcher to say he’d just killed his sister-in-law and that the “911 lady” should send “the Po-leece” right away. Then he hung up.

So we each sprinted to our patrol cars and left the front of the jail with red and blue lights winking, spinning, and blinking. Throughout the city streets we blasted our sirens at intersections and when we drove up behind the Saturday morning Q-tips who were in town to do their weekly shopping—the older ladies of a certain age to get their hair styled and molded into those blueish helmet shapes, and the men who stopped in the barbershops for a snip here and there and to have the barber apply enough tonic to keep the combover in place while they visited the feed store to browse through the rows of shiny red or green mowers and tractors. Then, when enough time passed the tractor-lookers would toss their canes into the backseats of their Ramblers or Buicks and head back over to Betty’s Cut and Curl to pick up the wife so together they could do their grocery shopping and perhaps have a bite to eat at the diner (two for one on Senior Saturday) before traveling at a snail’s pace back to the farm.

They were slow drivers who never, not ever, looked into their rearview mirrors. So we’d follow behind with full lights and sirens until we caught a break in traffic so we could pass.

This day, though, we pushed the limit, zipping through town until we reached the main county road that led us in the direction of the alleged murder. The location was 30-40 minutes away when driving the speed limit. We reached scene in less than 20. As the truckers’ used to say, it was pedal to the metal all the way. We straightened curves by taking advantage of “the racing line” of the roadway.

For those of you who don’t know, a driver who follows a racing line greatly reduces the angle of a curve by entering it at a the far outside edge of the roadway and then crosses over to the inside edge, the apex. The apex is the point at which you are closest to the inside of the corner. The technique is completed by moving back to the far outside edge of the roadway. This maneuver is sometimes called “hitting the apexes.” It reduces braking and “straightens the curve” which allows the officer to drive safely through curves at a much faster speed. However, it is a must to constantly remain alert for oncoming traffic since some of the officers’ curve-straightening involves driving on the opposite side of the road.

Standing beside a mailbox at the end of a long dirt drive was a man dressed in a red and white striped shirt, white pants, and brown work boots. As we turned into the driveway I noticed what appeared to be a significant amount of blood spatter on his clothing and shoes, so I stopped. He was obviously agitated, excited, and he rambled on incessantly about that fact that he’d just arrived to earth from Mars. I handcuffed him, placed him in the seat beside me (we didn’t have rear cages), and hurried to the house.

My coworker and I raced to the door and went inside, yelling “Sheriff’s Department!”

What we found in the home, in the master bedroom, was nothing short of the stuff horror movies are made of.

Blood oozed down the painted drywall in narrow but rapidly drying convoluted trails. Dots and globs of patter of various sizes and shapes were everywhere—ceiling, walls, the floor.

A severed human hand lay next to one wall. I’d later count 13 chop marks in the hardwood next to it. Pools of rusty-red blood separated by drag marks of the same color and substance led to the body of a dead woman, a female who died a brutal death caused by the repeated blows of an ax.

The woman’s forearms were badly cut, signs that she’d attempted to stop dozens of strikes of the ax. A large gash to the right side of her head revealed the white of her skull, bone that had been hacked and chipped away, exposing brain matter. Some of which was found stuck to the ceiling and walls and scattered along the hardwood floor along with mall bits of splintered bone were scattered across the floor.

Looking back at scenes such as this one I often wonder about the former function of those bits of brain found adhered to various surfaces. Were there someone’s memories clinging to lampshades? Reasoning abilities plastered on the screen if the family television? A grandmother’s recipe hanging from a picture frame?

At the scene I mentioned above, blood spatter was also on the furniture, including a king-size bed. It’s dull brownish-red hue was in sharp contrast to the crisp white sheets. More spatter was on the faces, hands,  legs, feet, and kids’ pajamas worn by the woman’s four small children who sat huddled together on the center of the mattress. They’d witnessed the entire act, a murder that occurred for the simple reason that the killer had asked his sister-in-law for enough money to purchase a pack of cigarettes. She didn’t have it so the man walked outside to the woodpile where he picked up the ax and went back inside to kill her.

The first blow was from behind, to the head. We pieced together that at that point the woman went down but turned and held up her arms and hands to fend off the onslaught that followed.

When I questioned the killer, he claimed to have come to earth from Mars and that voices from a tower told him to kill the woman. He also said he’d cut off her hand because it kept pointing at him.

He’d been tucked away in a psychiatric care hospital until two weeks prior to the murder. His release came when a sympathetic judge found him competent to return to life outside, placing him in the care of his brother. Fourteen days later the brother’s wife was dead and his four kids were scarred for life.

The killer was found to be not competent to stand trial for the murder and has remained in an air-conditioned psychiatric facility since.


TOMORROW is the LAST DAY to sign up for a “Seat” at Virtual MurderCon’s interactive event, and only a few “seats” are available!

I urge you to sign up asap to reserve your spot at this unique opportunity, one that may never again be available. This is a live event, presented in realtime. Q&A is available at the end of each presentation. In addition, the final session is live panel and Q&A discussion with each of the experts. So have your questions ready, because this is the time to gather the extraordinary details that will make your book zing with realism.

Registration to the Writers’ Police Academy special event, Virtual MurderCon, is scheduled to end at midnight, July, 31, 2020. However, registration will close when all spots are filled, and it certainly looks like the event will indeed sell out any day now.

Again, this is a rare opportunity for writers to participate in virtual, live and interactive, “for law enforcement eyes only” training.

This incredibly detailed, cutting-edge instruction has never before been available to writers, anywhere. Until now.

Virtual MurderCon Classes and Special Presentation

This fabulous, one-of-a-kind event opens with “How to Catch a Serial Killer,” a special presentation by Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice and serves as the assistant provost. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 66 books.

Dr. Ramsland’s background in forensics positioned her to assist former FBI profiler John Douglas on his book, The Cases that Haunt Us, to co-write a book with former FBI profiler, Gregg McCrary, The Unknown Darkness, to collaborate on A Voice for the Dead with attorney James E. Starrs on his exhumation projects, and to co-write a forensic textbook with renowned criminalist Henry C. Lee, The Real World of a Forensic Scientist.

For seven years, she contributed regularly to Court TV’s Crime Library, and now writes a column on investigative forensics for The Forensic Examiner and a column on character psychology for Sisters in Crime; offers trainings for law enforcement and attorneys; and speaks internationally about forensic psychology, forensic science, and serial murder.


Art of Blood – Violent crimes and accidents frequently involve the interpretation of blood evidence. This class includes presumptive testing techniques of stains thought to be blood, as well as searching crime scenes for latent blood with luminol when circumstances dictate that the area was cleaned by the perpetrator.

DNA evidence collection is also a part of this detailed session taught one of the top experts in the field.

Child Abduction/Murder – Taught by the investigator who solved the high-profile case that drew national attention, this presentation follows the evidence to tell the story and will graphically show the connections which solved the crime.This child abduction/murder case involves a 12 year old girl who was kidnapped at knife point from her bedroom while enjoying a sleepover with two of her friends.

Instructor David Alford is a retired FBI Special Agent with 21 years of experience investigating violent crimes, terrorism and other cases. He was one of the founding members of the FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) and conducted crimes scene searches on domestic and international violent crimes and bombings, including the Polly Klaas kidnaping and murder, the Unabomber’s cabin and the 9/11 Pentagon scene. He worked in the Denver and San Francisco field offices and completed his career at Quantico in the FBI Lab ERT Unit. During the 6 years in the FBI Lab, he was primarily responsible for overseeing and teaching basic and advanced crime scene courses throughout the US and many other countries.

In the 6 years before the FBI, David was a Forensic Serologist, Hair and Fibers Examiner and Bloodstain Pattern Analyst for the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab. After retirement, David taught crime scene courses around the world on behalf of the FBI and US State Department. David has been with Sirchie as an instructor and sales representative for Sirchie’s RUVIS and ALS products for the last 10 years. David loves teaching and allowing students to learn through hands-on training.


Drugs/Toxicology NARCAN By Noon – This session will explore drug trends and mortality of drug users, and how can they determine overdose versus foul play.

Instructor Sgt. James Yowell, a counter drug investigator who, as an undercover officer investigated international drug trafficking cases targeting Mexican organized crime.


Entomology: From The Inside Out– Bug and scavenger activity can tell a lot about a corpse. Using entomology and environmental information, a skilled investigator can determine relative time of death, if a corpse has been relocated, and many other key facts. Learn how nature works from the inside out.

Instructor Dr. Bryan Brendley’s specific areas of focus are cell biology, botany, and forensic anthropology. He has conducted years of research on the impact of insects on decomposing bodies with his students. He teaches a comprehensive forensic science program.

 

 

 


Fingerprinting: Who’s MARK – Attendees will receive instruction on developing impression evidence from dust utilizing a electrostatic dust print lifter, and on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard utilizing chemical processes. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) techniques for non-porous surfaces will be addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Jim Gocke is a graduate of West Virginia University and West Virginia College of Law. In addition, he completed a Fellowship in Forensic Medicine at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and earned a Master of Science in Forensic Sciences from The George Washington University. He was employed by Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories, Inc as Vice President/General Counsel and Director of Education and Training from January 1979 until March 2008. He was employed by Sirchie Acquisition Company, LLC as Director of Education and Training from March 2008 until his retirement in July 2015. Currently, Jim serves as an Independent Contractor to Sirchie, providing expertise in Education and Training, product development and evaluation and technical assistance.


Footwear Evidence: A Step In The Wrong Direction – Similar to fingerprints, footwear has unique and probative characteristics that are often used to track down criminals. Learn the tactics, techniques, and the one-off physiognomies that help lead investigators to the source of a crime du jour.

Shoes, Glorious Shoes: Lifting Footwear Impressions – This fascinating session provides details of the various techniques utilized to process areas conducive to footwear evidence. Instructor Andy Parker demonstrates the electromagnetic dustprint lifter, gelatin lifters, and other CSI techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Andy Parker has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology / Criminal Justice from Florida State University. He began his career in law enforcement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. After seven years with FDLE, he worked crime scenes, analyzed latent prints and footwear evidence for the Tallahassee Police Department. In 2002 he began work with the City-County Bureau of Identification in Raleigh NC. At CCBI, he has held the position of Latent Print Examiner, Latent Print Section Supervisor, Deputy Director in charge of the Identification Division, Deputy Director in charge of the Laboratory and currently is responsible for the Investigations Division.  He is a certified Latent Print Examiner with the IAI. Andy is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.


Forensic Geology: “Sedimental” Journey– Think rocks and soil are boring? Not when presented by one of the few forensic geologists in the country who has testified in murder trials about her examination of soil collected as evidence from murder scenes that linked killers to known locations. Certain to be one of the most unique and intriguing sessions at MurderCon 2020, this session conducted by Heather Hanna will intrigue and inform attendees about the role of a geologist in mapping different soils throughout the United States—and a global level—and how forensic geology can prove useful as a foundation for comparison soil evidence in criminal investigations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Heather Hanna is a forensic geologist specializing in the analysis of rock fragments and mineral grains in soils as trace evidence. Since 2009, she has been involved in multiple forensic investigations and has testified as an expert witness in four first degree murder trials, the first of which set a legal precedent in Wake County for using geochemical analysis of mineral grains in court. As a result of her forensic work, she has been an invited speaker at many law enforcement conferences and continuing education programs including the Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Criminal Information Exchange Network, the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Association, and the North Carolina International Association for Identification. She has also presented her forensic work at national and sectional Geological Society of America meetings and as an invited speaker for the Soils Science Society of North Carolina.


Gazing Into The Cloud – No one is anonymous. Your digital footprint is wide spread and mostly out of your control. The Cloud is an ominous vapor of data that can haunt the most cautious criminal or victimize most innocent of people. What can be found in the cloud? Learn how easy it is to mine the cloud and use this data for good as well as nefarious activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Stephen Pearson combines more than 29 years of law-enforcement experience with in-depth expertise in today’s most pervasive Internet, computer, and digital device technologies. Stephen developed computer forensic tools and coursework for the US Army Military Police School, as well as served as a computer investigator with Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office (FL). As a founder of High Tech Crime Institute, he has developed and conducted courses for NATO, the Federal Government, and various law enforcement agencies. Stephen holds a B.S. in Computer Information Science as well as an MBA. He is also a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, an US Army Master Instructor, and a certified Cellebrite Trainer, in addition to holding various other certifications for digital investigation.


Homocide Or Homicide: You Decide – Have you ever wanted to spend time picking the brain of an experienced homicide detective? Well, here’s your chance. Having investigated a wide variety of murders, attendees will find this session fascinating in content due to the breadth and depth of homicides that will be discussed. Included in the “new” topic will be the discussion of why the United States suffers from over 200,000 unsolved murders. These “cold case” murders rarely get examined or investigated once they are “put to bed” due to a wide variety of causes and reasons. Learn from one of the best detectives around who has investigated several hundred murders!

Murder Case Studies – In this intriguing and highly-detailed workshop, Detective Jeff Locklear takes attendees on a behind the scenes journey into actual murder scenes. Learn the investigatory tools and tricks of the trade used by a top homicide detective as he sought and captured brutal killers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Detective Sergeant Jeff Locklear, a 21-year veteran law enforcement officer, currently works with the Fayetteville North Carolina Police Department as a homicide police specialist and training officer.

As a homicide detective he’s been involved with over 350 homicide investigations. He’s also investigated hundreds of violent felonies including rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, and missing persons.

During his career he has responded to hundreds to death scenes such as suicides, homicides, accidental deaths, and natural and unexplained deaths.

Detective Locklear has conducted thousands of interviews of violent offenders, including cases featured on 48 hrs (The Kelli Bourdeaux murder), Swamp Murders, NCIS – The Cases They Can’t Forget: The Holley Wimunc Murder, Scorned Love Kills 2014, The Today Show, and numerous other news and media outlets, such as People Magazine and Time Magazine.

He’s a founding member of both the 2008 Fayetteville Police Homicide Squad and the 2016 Fayetteville Police Violent Criminal Apprehension Team (VCAT). In addition, he’s served as sheriff’s deputy , Forensic Technician, Patrol officer , Crimes against persons detective, homicide detective, gun and gang task force detective, and as a Violent Criminal Apprehension Team Detective.

Detective Locklear has presented cases workshops at a number of conferences and events, including the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Conference, North & South Carolina Arson Investigators Conference , Fayetteville State University (Criminal Justice), Fayetteville Technical Community College (Registered Nursing students), Methodist University, and more.

Having spent the majority of his career investigating violent crimes, Detective Locklear has a unique and vast perspective of being the first officer on scene, the Forensic technician processing the scene, the detective investigating the crime, and the detective whose task it is to track down and capture the suspects who committed the crimes. He’s a dynamic speaker who can “escort you” to a crime scene, “walk you” through what happened, “show you” who did it, and then “lead you” to where the suspect fled after committing the offense.


Murder-Mayhem -Session covers Cause, Manner, and Mechanisms of death, Coroner vs. Medical Examiner systems, differences in legal terminology for murder, homicide, and manslaughter, as well as, the realities in death investigations that are equivocal in nature. Physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence as introduced into the courtroom will be applied to death investigations. A case study of a very unique and rarely scene murder by hanging, and the forensic evidence obtained from the physical autopsy will be presented. This presentation includes a discussion of psychological autopsies and when they are utilized in criminal investigations.

Instructor David Pauly retired from The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as a Special Agent-in-Charge/Commander and Forensic Science Officer. He performed duties in over a dozen states, and frequently worked with local, state, and federal agencies. He also performed duties in Panama, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Sinai, Egypt, Canada, Guam, and Nigeria. He holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University and is currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.

David graduated the FBI National Academy (Session 195), Canadian Police College – Major Crimes Course, Miami-Dade Police Department – Bloodstain Interpretation Course, and National Fire Academy – Arson Investigation Course. He is a Fellow of The American Academy of Forensic Science, and is a current, or past member of the International Association of Identification, North Carolina Chapters of the IAI and FBINAA, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association, The Vidocq Society, American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), and various other professional law enforcement and/or forensic science associations.


The event concludes with a live, interactive Q&A panel discussion with each of the instructors. So have your questions ready!
Sign up today while there’s still time, at www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Sure, duty calls, but so does nature. And sometimes nature calls quite loudly.

In those times of great despair, it is imperative that an officer find the proper location to meet the need, especially in these dangerous times where ambushes are, sadly, a very real possibility.

So how do cops handle those “immediate needs?”

Well, deputy sheriffs are most often found patrolling rural areas; therefore …

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night …

… to “water the cacti alongside Route 66” is more often the norm than not.

Of course, if the deputy, especially a female deputy, is able to hold on until they reach the lobby of the Hotel California, well, I hear the restrooms there are nice, and they have real towels available instead of those hot blowy things mounted to the wall.

Sometimes, when stopping at hotels for “the break” hotel staff will offer a free cup of coffee and maybe a freshly-baked (microwave) cookie, if you’re lucky. But yes, roadside watering is a regular thing for those who wear the star. It’s as much a part of the job as arresting drunks and … hmm … those who urinate in public. Well, that’s awkward.

  • Go home! Yes, deputy sheriffs are fortunate because they often have the option of using the restroom in the comfort of their own homes, or the homes of family and friends.

Officers working in urban areas have to be a bit more creative. Sure, there’s always the backside of a dumpster that needs checking, or …

  • the firehouse
  • the police department
  • all-night diners
  • truck stops
  • construction site porta-johns (while your partner stands guard at the door, of course)

Keep in mind, though, that bathroom concerns are:

  1. Ambush while your gun and other tools are not at your side (you have to remove the gear from around your waist—all of it).
  2. While standing in a stall, you are typically facing away from the door.
  3. While sitting in a stall you must do something with your gun belt. Hanging it on the wall or door hook makes it practically impossible to access your gun. However, it would be easy for someone to reach over the wall/door to steal the entire belt leaving you with your pants down around your ankles. And there would be nothing worse for the ego than having to chase after guy who’s stolen your gun belt, especially while your pants are dragging the ground and your bare hind parts are jiggling and wiggling around for all the world to see. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight. And you’d never live down the exposure of your strategically placed butterfly, Disney Princess, and I “Heart” Mom tattoos.

And, then there are the female officers and their bathroom needs.

Watering the desert cacti is typically not an option for female officers, with the exceptions of extreme and dire emergencies. Neither are peeing in alleys and behind dumpsters.

Gun belt placement while tending to personal needs is always a concern for female officers, and truck stops and other places of similar … well, let’s just say they’re often less than “female-friendly.” Not to mention the grunge factor.

So what are the options for female officers?

  • police department restrooms
  • home
  • businesses (while your partner stands guard at the door, of course)
  • fire stations
  • construction site porta-johns (while your partner stands guard at the door, of course)

And … Go Pants.


Only THREE short days remain to sign up for a “Seat” at Virtual MurderCon’s interactive event, and spots are filling quickly!

I urge you to sign up asap to reserve your spot at this unique opportunity, one that may never again be available. This is a live event, presented in realtime. Q&A is available at the end of each presentation. In addition, the final session is live panel and Q&A discussion with each of the experts. So have your questions ready, because this is the time to gather the extraordinary details that will make your book zing with realism.

Registration to the Writers’ Police Academy special event, Virtual MurderCon, is scheduled to end at midnight, July, 31, 2020. However, registration will close when all spots are filled, and it certainly looks like the event will indeed sell out any day now.

Again, this is a rare opportunity for writers to participate in virtual, live and interactive, “for law enforcement eyes only” training.

This incredibly detailed, cutting-edge instruction has never before been available to writers, anywhere. Until now.

 

0200 hrs.

Wispy fog.

Whirling, swirling.

Streetlight.

A lone bat,

Looping, swooping.

Night sounds.

Frogs, crickets,

Train whistle, far away.

Radio crackles,

Against still, night air.

Prowler,

Outside window.

“I’ll take it.”

“10-4.”

“Backup?”

“Negative.”

Front porch.

Yellow light.

Shadows.

Moth,

Flittering, fluttering

Yard.

Weeds,

Dried, crispy.

Breeze.

Gentle

Cool,

Leaves,

ticking and clicking

across worn porch floor.

Wooden swing.

Rusted chain,

Crooked.

Siding.

Paint,

Faded, peeling.

Door,

Loose knob.

A knock.

It opens,

Slowly.

Just a crack,

And a creak.

Tiny face,

Crinkled, by

Days long since passed.

“I heard them again, Officer.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Damp, anxious eyes.

Faded gray with time.

“They were at the window, like before.”

“I’ll check around back.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I wish my Bill was still here.”

“I know.”

“He’s been gone ten years this week.”

“A good man.”

“Thank you.”

“Coffee? It’s fresh.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Two sugars and a little cream, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Be right back.”

Outside.

Flashlight.

Waiting.

Neighbor’s house, dark.

Furnace, humming.

Rattles, then stops.

Quiet.

Two minutes pass.

Kitchen window,.

Brightly lit.

Darting here and there.

Full coffee pot.

Silver tray.

Cookies.

Cups.

Saucers.

Spoons.

For two.

Screen door.

Spring, squeaking.

Thump.

“Everything’s okay.”

“Yes, I do feel better now.”

“Thank you.”

Warm smells.

Vanilla.

Fresh bread.

Pumpkin spice.

“It’s just that, well, with Bill gone …”

“I know.”

A downward glance.

Wall clock

Tick-tocking.

A sigh.

A tear.

Silence.

Tick, tick, tick.

“Would you mind if I sat for a minute?”

A sniffle.

“I’m tired, and really shouldn’t drive.”

“After all, how would that look?”

“A cop asleep at the wheel.”

A smile.

Relief.

Just like last night.

And the night before.

And the night before.

At 0200,

Ten years after her Bill passed away.


Only SIX days remain to sign up for a “Seat” at Virtual MurderCon’s interactive event, and spots are filling quickly!

I urge you to sign up asap to reserve your spot at this unique opportunity, one that may never again be available. This is a live event, presented in realtime. Q&A is available at the end of each presentation. In addition, the final session is live panel and Q&A discussion with each of the experts. So have your questions ready, because this is the time to gather the extraordinary details that will make your book zing with realism.

Registration to the Writers’ Police Academy special event, Virtual MurderCon, is scheduled to end at midnight, July, 31, 2020. However, registration will close when all spots are filled, and it certainly looks like the event will indeed sell out any day now.

Again, this is a rare opportunity for writers to participate in virtual, live and interactive, “for law enforcement eyes only” training.

This incredibly detailed, cutting-edge instruction has never before been available to writers, anywhere. Until now.

 

Fighting Dinosaurs

Graduating from the police academy is an experience all its own. And, after many weeks of what some recruits equate to a brief period of time spent in hell on earth, receiving the paper that makes it official, that you are indeed a bona-fide law enforcement officer is nothing short of a warm and fuzzy kind of moment.

There’s a huge amount of pride attached to the actual ceremony, as well as a great sense of accomplishment. Make no mistake about it, police academy training, while fun at times, can be extremely stressful, and taxing on muscles and mind. Therefore, when you’re finally holding paper in-hand and a shiny badge tightly pinned to your shirt, all you want to do is Par-Tay! And that’s exactly what I and my fellow recruits had in mind the night of our academy graduation. Unfortunately, my celebration was to be short-lived.

My boss, a gruff, no-nonsense sheriff, attended the ceremony along with his wife, who was also a no-nonsense gruff and never-smiling person. The sheriff sat beside me during the banquet, with his charming wife to his right, and we enjoyed a very pleasant conversation between bites of some pretty tasty food. Midway through the meal, during my suave and fascinating conversation, the high-sheriff, while alternating between shoveling forkfuls of red meat meat and potatoes into the opening in his face that sat squarely between a pair of sagging jowls, turned toward me to ask, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Which department do you work for?”

After letting his surprising comments sink in for a quick moment, I realized he had no idea that I worked for him. I was one of his deputies. The latest model, actually. Freshly trained and well-exercised, and as eager to get to work as they come.

When I explained to my new boss that he was, in fact, my boss, he half-heartedly pretended that the whole thing had been a joke. Obviously, it was not. But I didn’t intend to waste the situation. Not at all.  Nope, I had his attention and I planned to make the most of it.

In fact, II took the opportunity to discuss my future—when I’d begin my field training program (upon completion of academy training officers then receive on-the-job, hands-on training while riding with a certified field training officer), how long before I’d make detective and/or possibly the second in command of the entire department, etc.

Well, he matter-of-factly brushed aside my lofty aspirations, gulped a big ole shot of straight bourbon, and calmly retrieved a folded sheet of paper from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He then handed the paper—a copy of the patrol schedule—to me while reloading his beefy jowls with heaping forkfuls of red velvet cake.

The patrol schedule was the monthly assignment for the law enforcement deputies within his department—the police officers. All other deputies worked in the jail, courts, serving civil process, etc.. Then, between a couple of lip-smacking chews and another swallow of liquor, he said, “You’re working midnights, starting tonight.” I was both shocked and elated to learn that I’d hit the streets so quickly.

Everyone knows that midnight shift is normally considered the kiss of death. However, to a brand new rookie, even a graveyard shift assignment is as welcome and almost as exciting as a weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy. After all, you’re absolutely itching to bust the largest criminal enterprise known to cops worldwide.

But reality set in as I glanced at the clock on the wall, noticing that it was already nearly 10 p.m., and I hadn’t had any sleep. Didn’t matter, though. I was excited. Then the sheriff delivered even more “good” news. I’d be working the entire county, alone. A.L.O.N.E.

“What about my field training?” I said.

“No time. I’m short-handed,” he said. “If you run into any trouble call the state police. They’ll help out. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

The sheriff then stood, shook my hand, looked toward Mrs. Sheriff and nodded at the door. In another second they were gone, leaving me standing there holding the schedule in my hand. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be celebrating with my friends, but excited about going to work. But mostly, though, I was as nervous as a June bug at a chicken convention.

Two hours later I stood before a group of midnight shift dispatchers, jailers, and office staff. In all their years working there they’d never seen a “kid” fresh out of the academy hit the streets alone his first night out. I saw the fear in their eyes. I sensed the trepidation. I was flattered, of course, thinking they were worried about me, until I realized their concern was actually for the citizens of the county. I was their only defense against the evils of the world. And, as the sheriff’s office chain of command structure went, the ranking patrol deputy was in charge of the entire shift, jail included.

So yeah, I, on the job for only a matter of minutes, was in charge.

So I bid farewell to each of them and headed out into the dark and stormy night. Actually, it was a nice and bright late summer night. To me, though, it seemed as if I were a character in a bad novel with a really bad opening hook. “The deputy pushed open the door, determined to rid his county of evil zombies, mobsters, werewolves, and serial killers. Yes, he alone would save the world from death, doom, and destruction.”

My excitement was brimming over as I cruised the lonely, dark county roads, occasionally driving through well-lit parking lots, waving to night-shift clerks. I stopped in a few places to chat with employees and customers, but mostly my goal was to allow people to see me in my brand new uniform while driving my brand new patrol car with a brand new badge and name tag pinned to my chest. It was fun. I even played with the lights and siren a few times when I was on long, deserted stretches of roadway where I was sure no one was around to see or hear.

Then it happened. Two hours into my first shift, just when I felt as if I was riding on a cloud, I received my first call. “Fight in progress at Tommy Terrible’s Truck Stop. Weapons involved.” The fun melted from my face as quickly as a Kardashian can post an image to Instagram. It was lights and siren time for real.

So, as they say, I activated my emergency equipment (lights and siren) for real and soon turned into the truck stop parking lot where I saw what appeared (to me) to be two rather large dinosaurs going at it—fists swinging from every angle possible, and connecting with what appeared to be the force of the pile drivers used to construct bridges.

I sat there for a second with the engine idling, re-living the past several weeks of training. Hostage situation…check. Robberies…check. Kidnapping…check. Pursuit driving…check. Shooting range…check. Stepping between two monsters who’re engaged in the worst fight I’ve ever seen. Hmm … no class for that one.

I decided to drive my car as close to the pair as I could get, after calling the state police for assistance. (The closest trooper was twenty minutes away). Then I let off a nice blast from my siren. It worked. They stopped fighting and looked my way, so I stepped out of my car on legs that were quivering like a heaping mound of Jello during a California earthquake.

I attempted to talk to the two gentlemen since, at this point in my hours-long career, I had no clue if I should, or even could arrest either of them. So, and to protect my body from receiving a large number of painful injuries, I did the next best thing. I let one go inside the truck stop to have a cup of coffee, and I drove the other guy home.

On the way, I learned that it was his birthday and that he’d had a little too much to drink (duh). Being the quick thinker that I am, I jumped on the opportunity and told him that I’d let him off this time only because it was his birthday. However, the next time, well, I’d have to take him to jail. Sounded good to me, right? He didn’t need to know I was winging my way through this thing.

When I pulled up in front of the man’s modest trailer home, he shook my hand (his right hand, the equivalent of a giant oven mitt made of steel, gristle, and rhino hide, easily wrapped around mine) and thanked me for the ride and for not making him spend his birthday night in jail.

I waited as he worked his way around a variety of obstacles—rusted bicycles, an engine from a car that was nowhere to seen, home made plywood yard ornaments—a chubby woman bending over in the garden, a duck in a pole whose wings spun wildly in the wind, a life-size silhouette of a cowboy smoking a pipe—, an engine from a car that was nowhere to be seen, and a three-legged mixed breed dog attached to the mobile home by a logging chain.

He, the man, not the dog, used the back of a meaty fist to pound on the aluminum front door until the porch light, a yellow anti-bug lamp, switched on. A woman wearing a three-sizes-too-big NASCAR RULES t-shirt pushed open the door and immediately began to curse, between, of course, puffs on the unfiltered cigarette that dangled from her lips. I was amazed at how the cigarette clung to her lower lip even as she opened her mouth to yell. Finally, he gave her a slight shove and they both disappeared inside the metal box they called home. I exhaled, and then spent the next few hours patrolling the county while thinking of various defensive tactics techniques and drawing the mace container from my gun belt.

Probably not the prettiest conclusion to my first call, but it was a solution that actually paid off for me many times in the years to follow. You see, the guy I took home (I didn’t know it at the time) was an exceptionally good street fighter, a sort of legend in that area among the local police because it normally took four or five officers to handcuff and arrest him. At the time, I did not know how lucky I’d been.

Since that night, I’d been called to numerous fight scenes where this fellow had pummeled his opponents, smashing their bloody faces into barroom floors, walls, and tables all across the county and city. He’d sent a few police officers to the emergency room for various cuts, bruises, and broken body parts. He’d even tossed one rather large bouncer through a glass door. But, whenever I showed up he simply stopped fighting and walked to my car where he’d have a seat, ready for the drive to the county jail.

I guess the big man felt as if he owed me for not arresting him on his birthday. However, those easy-going feelings later changed, and that night, when he decided quite forcefully to not allow me to arrest him, was the night I introduced his forehead to my metal flashlight.

So that was my first night on the job. How was yours?