When Jack Reacher stepped into our living room several days ago I knew I wanted needed to bring REACHER to this blog, and to you. There are many intricate details in the show that mirror real police officers and how they carry themselves. I’ll highlight those characteristics. I’ll also point out the things that aren’t quite realistic to help you, the writer, avoid making similar errors in your books.

Before I begin with the the second part of the review of episode one, Welcome to Margrave, I’d like to once again mention that I discussed this endeavor with Lee Child, Reacher’s creator, to make certain I had his blessing to review the show. He gave his approval without hesitation.

So, without further ado and with a hearty thanks to Lee Child, off we go. But first a disclaimer – HERE’S YOUR SPOILER ALERT!

NOTE – Part One of Welcome to Margrave was an introduction of the main characters in season one and how well the actors played the part of law enforcement officers. Part Two is an examination of the law enforcement procedure and forensics used in the episode. In addition, I’ve included a few details of interest. Welcome to Margrave is the only two-part review. After Part Two (today) I’ll post an episode review on Friday of each week.

Please keep in mind that REACHER is a television show that has less than one hour to tell a complete story and deliver nail-biting action and a bit of romance, introduce characters and setting, stimulate the emotions of viewers and, well, you get the idea. Obviously, in order to achieve the goal of having viewers want to want the show certain liberties with facts must be taken to hold our interest.

Reacher and Blind Blake

This review can’t begin without mentioning the purpose of Reacher’s visit to Margrave, his love of music,  especially the blues. During his initial interview with Detective Finlay, Reacher said he caught a bus in Tampa the previous night, traveled over 500 miles, and when the bus reached the road to Margrave he asked the driver for the favor of making an unscheduled stop to let him off.

Finlay asked why the choice to exit the bus on the main road to then walk 14 miles to Margrave.

Reacher responded, “On account of Blind Blake.”

Reacher’s answer clearly irritated Finlay. “Okay, who’s that?” he said, adding a bit of dramatic tough-guy rasp to his typically smooth but authoritative voice. For emphasis he combined the gruff tone with a slightly priggish side-to-side “oh-no-you-didn’t-go-there” head shake. Typical cop behavior.

“Blues singer,” Reacher said. “Legend has it he died in Margrave a long time ago. I figured I’d learn a bit about him.” A beat passed, then he nodded his head a couple of times and added, “I like music.”

Arthur “Blind” Blake was indeed a real person who is often referred to as ‘King of the Ragtime Guitar.’ His idiosyncratic playing style was quite complex and unique. For many years it was believed that Blake was born in Florida. However, in 2011 discovered documents proved he was born in 1896, in Newport News, Va.

Blake’s talent took him on the road playing music in southern states, including on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. But he eventually migrated to Ohio and then Chicago where, in 1926, he landed a recording deal with Paramount Records. Paramount eventually moved their studios to Milwaukee, Wi. where Blake recorded with them until 1932. Blind Blake died in Milwaukee on Dec. 1, 1934.

A bit of fun trivia – Lee Child is blues fan. So much so that he collaborated with performing songwriter team Jen and Scott Smith, and their band Naked Blue, on the Jack Reacher inspired album “Just The Clothes On My Back.” Click here to listen to their song “Killing Floor.” As you know, “Killing Floor” is the book the first season of the REACHER television series is based upon.

Child’s music interests vary and includes country music. A few years back, while at the Writers’ Police Academy, Lee bid an extremely generous amount of money to win, at auction, a guitar signed by country stars Lady Antebellum (now Lady A), Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, and The Oak Ridge Boys.

Now, for the police procedure and forensics in Welcome to Margrave


The Diner – Reacher is seated in a corner booth, about to enjoy a forkful of what is, according to the server, “the best peach pie you ‘gone find in Georgia.” Two officers drive up to the diner with red and blue lights winking and blinking and flashing, and sirens blaring. One parks near the front the door, gets out and racks a shell into the chamber of a shotgun, all while staring at Reacher through the front plate glass window of the restaurant. The second officer fishtails his patrol car into the gravel lot like a Nascar driver after “trading paint” at the Daytona 500. Needless to say, the officers came in hot, which is not a great tactical move if you want to sneak up on a dangerous criminal, or to avoid a potential hostage situation.

The phrase ‘trading paint’ is a colloquialism for the event when 2 racing automobiles bump against one another often causing the paint from each vehicle to be transposed onto the other. – Wikipedia

Reacher sensed the highly-strung and intense officers were coming for him. His acute and highly-developed situational awareness went to work telling him to immediately scan the diner—a happy couple seated in a booth at the front window directly in front of him, their server, two playful young boys at the counter, the cook, and the woman who’d brought Reacher the slice of peach pie and coffee. Had he been the desperate murderer the cops anticipated, he’d had his pick of hostages.

It was obvious, though, that Reacher, not a killer, was concerned for the safety of the employees and diners, and that any sudden moves by him could result in innocent people being harmed. So Reacher calmly placed his hands, palms down on the table, and waited for the nerves-on-edge-officers to do exactly as he expected, rush inside with emotions high and loaded guns drawn and pointed at him. Both had a clear case of adrenaline-induced tunnel vision and were focused solely on Reacher, a very large and muscular man who they believed had brutally murdered a man just a few hours ago. The officers were so clearly fixated on Reacher that the safety of the others did not enter their minds. Not good police procedure, but this is important for writers to know because tunnel vision is a very real problem for officers who’re involved in high-stress, possible life-threatening situations. The scene was great, and provided tons of details about the two officers that would play out later in the series.

  • Both officers held their index fingers outside the trigger guards. This is proper procedure to avoid accidental discharges.
  • Not evacuating the diners and staff before having Reacher exit the booth and stand was not tactically sound. If Reacher had been an armed bad guy intent on shooting it out with police chances were great that innocent people could have been wounded or killed. Again, this was a great inside look at the mindset of the two officers, and their backstory (little experience and lack of ongoing training, which could be an issue in the real world).

This scene alone added several important and vivid layers to the setting and characters. This was the moment that showed us what to expect in the town of Margrave. It was as eye-opening as the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the movie switched from black and white to color. It also spoke quite loudly about Reacher—stoic, serene, cool under pressure, and naturally intimidating.

The Police Station – The plaques, awards, and certificates hanging on the lobby wall, along with official department photos of the five Margrave PD employees—chief, three officers, and detective—was nice attention to detail. It’s quite possible you’d see this sort of thing in small town departments. Another popular wallhanging seen in police agencies is a framed collection of patches collected from departments from around the world.






During Finlay’s interview with Reacher he said, “I was informed you were read your rights, so you know you don’t have to answer.” Wisely, Reacher maintained silence.

In the real world where actors aren’t limited to brief scenes to conduct police business, Finlay would’ve again  informed Reacher of his rights according to Miranda and had him acknowledge that he understood those rights. This is something that should be done any time there’s a break between significant periods of questioning and/or when a different officer begins a new interview session.

Again, Finlay is an actor who had mere seconds to get through the scene. The show is not an instructional guide for police officers, but this is something crime writers should know.


  • Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.
  • If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.
  • If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.
  • If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.
  • Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawal symptoms should not be questioned.
  • Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.
  • People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.
  • Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Subsonic Bullets – A sticking point for avid shooters, I’m sure, was when  Reacher told Finlay the shooter was someone who knows firearms well, and that the bullets were small caliber, 9mm 95 grain. “That’s subsonic,” Reacher said. “A silencer was used. He also knew enough to pick up his brass.”

The difference between subsonic and supersonic rounds is that subsonic ammunition travels slower than the speed of sound (1,100fps); therefore, it won’t break the sound barrier which produces the sonic crack most people associate with traditional supersonic gunfire. Supersonic bullets travel faster than the speed of sound.

Loading a 9mm round as subsonic with a lighter 95 gr. bullet could cause the firearm’s action/slide to not cycle, essentially allowing the pistol to fire only once without manually cycling another round into the chamber. Even 115 gr. rounds have been known to cause cycling problems.

FYI – Back in the day, I loaded my SIG Sauer (duty weapon) with subsonic 9mm 147gr. Hydra Shot Plus P  ammo.

Perp – Reacher, to Finlay, after Reacher was released from the holding cell. “Outside. Uncuffed. Treating me like a person instead of a perp?”

Not many police officers use the shortened form of the word perpetrator. Instead, they use the more common terms, suspect, actor, or ***hole. Listen to police scanners and you’ll rarely, if ever, hear an officer say, “We apprehended the perp at 0100 hours.” Typically, it’s, “We apprehended the suspect/subject at 0100 hours.”

Perp is generally a specific, regional term. I’ve heard it used more in the New York and Boston areas more than any other location, especially the south. Still, it’s not used by all officers. TV and film writers use it without shame.

FYI – the term perpetrator is NOT to be confused with the closely-sounding “percolator.” Confusing the two could prove to be quite embarrassing.

Yes, I once saw the perpetrator/percolator faux pas in a manuscript. Imagine reading a book written by your favorite author and you see this on page 47 – “10-4, Captain, the percolator who robbed the hot dog stand was bald, short, and stocky.

By the way, you’ll probably not hear the other, more colorful term “a**hole” used on the police radio. It and other profanity are not supposed to be spoken on the air, but when the adrenaline is high and the bullets are flying, well, you just might hear anything.

“The a**hole just fired two rounds at me! Send &*%@ing backup. NOW!!”

Reacher in prison – The local PD doesn’t have an onsite holding cell designed for housing prisoners overnight, so the decision was made to ship Reacher and Paul Hubble, a person who falsely confessed to killing the same person police accused Reacher of slaying, are hauled, by bus, to the local prison to spend the weekend. The villain’s plan (yes, this story has a villain) was to have a group of prisoner “take care” of Reacher and Hubble. Hubble, by the way, was forced to help the villain and his ring of bad guy henchmen with their financial scheme. The bad guys promised to torture and kill Hubble and his family if he didn’t do as they demanded. The plan to “take care” of tReacher and Hubble, thanks to Reacher, didn’t go as planned, though. More on this in a moment.

Back to the bus ride to prison – The complete occupancy of the bus included Reacher, Hubble, and the bus driver. Reacher and Hubble were cuffed to a chain attached to the seat-back in front of them. An actual transport to prison, though, involves a bit more security than a lone bus driver with prisoners accused of murder seated behind them. Often, there’s an armed officer stationed in a secure cage at the rear of the bus, and an unarmed officer, or two, in the front. However it’s done, it’s never just a bus driver and prisoners. But this is a TV show and extras cost dollars.

When the bus arrived at the prison, the driver drove it into the sally port. He stopped the bus, opened the door, and Reacher stepped outside followed by Hubble. Officer Spivey, a scrawny corrections officer, met the two prisoners as they exited the bus. It was he who booked the two men and assigned them their prison clothing, and it was he who ordered the men to strip to allow him to search for contraband.

Reacher refused the strip search, saying blanket searches are unconstitutional. However, since Reacher and Hubble were both arrested for murder, a violent crime, they, in the real world, would be required too submit to a strip search. Safety and security is a priority.

Sourse – Georgia Sheriff’s Association











Prison fights – Yes, inmates do indeed size up the newcomers, and those who are a bit timid and of slight stature often don’t fare very well unless, of course, they can prove themselves valuable in some way other than serving physical wants and needs. Or, unless they have a Hulk-like friend who’s capable of bashing the faces of the top dog, the shot caller, and his entourage. Reacher, Hubble’s Hulk-like cellie aptly handles the first inmate who came calling for Hubble. Good fight scene. Brief, but good.

Next, the shower/restroom fight scene where Reacher finds himself surrounded by five burly inmates who are there to, as they’d say in the south, “stomp a mud hole in his a**.” One of the five is armed with a shank.

Reacher, calm and cool as always, said, “If you boys knew what’s about to happen to you, you’d leave now. So I’ll give you to the count of three. One—”

Using the tactical advantage of skipping the anticipated numbers two and three, Reacher took out four of the hitmen and then used his thumb to gouge an eye of the fifth, the guy with the shank. This is a fight scene that would do any crime fiction novel proud. Despite the fights being choreographed, the tactics used were sound.

The Eye Gouge

The rest of the show

  • When Reacher and Hubble are released from prison after the failed attempt to kill them, Roscoe is waiting outside to offer Reacher a ride. She takes him from the prison to a thrift store to purchase “new” clothes. She again asks why he decided to visit Margrave.

“‘Im here because of Blind Blake, but actually it’s on account of Chauncey.”

“Who’s Chauncey?”

“A couple days ago,” Reacher said, “I go to Chauncey’s Bar & Grill in Tampa. Guy there was playing “Police Dog Blues” by Blind Blake. I remembered a conversation I had with my brother Joe a while back. Read some article about Blake, said he played his last show in Margrave, and that’s where he died. So I got on a bus.”


  • Reacher’s pension is wired to him each month via Western Union.
  • Reacher heard the sound of Mississippi Fred McDowell ‘s blues music coming from inside Mr. Mosley’s barber shop, so he went inside for a shave. The two men chat about the legend of Blind Blake and then the conversation shifts to the Kilner family, the people villains who control the town.
  • Reacher walks to the police station where he learns a second body has been found, forty yards from the first. The victim was shot in the back of the head.
  • Reacher travels to the morgue with Finlay and Roscoe where he learns the victim is his brother, Joe.

A few minutes later, Reacher and Finlay exchange a few heated words. Roscoe intervenes before things get out of hand. Reacher, though, seems determined to punch Finlay into next week. And, despite the tremendous size difference and that one of Reacher’s upper arms is the size of Finlay’s waist, Finlay doesn’t back down. This is a characteristic seen in most real life cops. They don’t shy away from anyone when it comes to taking a suspect to jail. It’s part of the job and they’ll worry about the bruises another time.

Finlay is the real deal.

Roscoe pointed to Finlay’s unmarked police car and said, “Okay, this isn’t gonna happen. Reacher, sit in the back. Hey. I know you’re not the kind of guy to beat up on somebody half your size without good reason.”

He’s giving me a reason,” said Reacher.

“Yeah? Well, I know people.,” said Roscoe. “And you’ve got kind eyes. Do what I say, Reacher. Please.”

The trio are next seen traveling through the countryside. They’re quiet and Reacher is staring out the window.

Roscoe said, “You okay, Reacher?”

Reacher replied, “Just thinking maybe my brother told me about Blind Blake for a reason. Thinking about him lying in that morgue. Thinking I’m supposed to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said Finlay.

“I guess I’ll find everybody responsible. And kill every last one of them.”

The scene switched to …

… and then faded away to the music of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”

NOTE – This review and the others that follow in the coming weeks are solely for the purpose of pointing out proper police procedure and forensics, and the inaccuracies, if any of either. Again, this is to help writers learn what real and what’s not. Yes, I know it’s a TV show and not a documentary or police training film.

As always, keep in mind that TV is visual and certain liberties must be taken to capture and hold the attention of viewers within the brief timespan of a single episode. Authors, on the other hand, must activate a readers senses and take their fans on a journey using nothing more than written words. TV audiences tend to be more forgiving when characters perform actions that aren’t quite believable than are readers of books.

Since readers move through a story at a much slower pace than viewers of TV and film,  they have far more time to detect and analyze things that aren’t quite accurate. Therefore, the need for an explanation, even one that’s totally fabricated in the author’s mind, about why the neighbor’s recliner has the ability to travel through time is more important than merely seeing it happen on TV. We’re used to seeing wacky, nonsensical stuff on television, but not in books without reading an explanation as to why something happened (My neighbor invented a way to have fruit trees grow upside side so people can pick apples, peaches, and cherries without having to use a ladder. The only drawback is that over ripe fruit now falls up, instead of down. As a result, gravity is a bit wonky, but Newton says we’ll adapt).

That’s all it takes to convince your readers, a reason to believe.

Not since CASTLE and SOUTHLAND have I found a cop-type television series that stirred in me the desire to once again examine the police procedures and forensics used by TV officers … until now. Well, there was BOSCH, which is a wonderful series, but it came along when time was not on my side.

But Jack Reacher stepped into our living room several days ago and it was after watching for only a couple of minutes that I knew I wanted needed to bring REACHER to this blog, and to you. There are many intricate details in the show that mirror real police officers and how they carry themselves, and like the reviews of CASTLE and SOUTHLAND, I’ll pick apart those characteristics. I’ll also point out the things that aren’t quite realistic to help you, the writer, avoid making similar errors in your books.

Before I begin with the review of episode one, Welcome to Margrave, I’d like to mention that I discussed this endeavor with Lee Child, Reacher’s creator, to make certain I had his blessing to review the show. He gave his approval without hesitation.

So, without further ado and with a hearty thanks to Lee Child, off we go. But first a disclaimer – HERE’S YOUR SPOILER ALERT!

NOTE – This first installment of REACHER Reviews, Part One of Welcome to Margrave, is an introduction of the main characters in season one and how well the actors played the part of law enforcement officers. In Part Two of the review I’ll delve into the police procedure and forensics used in the episode. Welcome to Margrave is the only two-part review. After Part Two I’ll post an episode review each week.

REACHER: Welcome to Margrave – A Review of Police Procedure and Forensics, Part One

The series opened on a dark night with fittingly ominous music setting the mood. An assassin, using a pistol and silencer, shot Jack Reacher’s brother from behind as he ran through tall weeds. Once the prey was down the killer repeatedly kicked and stomped the victim, an obvious act of rage, and then covered the body with a sheet of cardboard.

The scene then faded to black as the menacing music grew louder, heading toward a nail-biting crescendo. At its peak, the driving beat suddenly switched to the sound of pouring rain and thunder, and then the screen filled with …

The much-anticipated show began and we were about to see Child’s character and stories come to life.

Fans of Lee Child’s novels know the protagonist, Jack Reacher, is big, strong, not much of a talker, and whose main mode of transportation is walking, and that’s how Reacher entered his Amazon Original debut.

Reacher, more than adequately played by Alan Ritchson (Titans, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Smallville as Aquaman, 90210, CSI: Miami) stepped off a bus in the middle of nowhere, in the pouring rain, and set out on foot (cue the blues music) with his boots clomping a steady cadence toward the southern town of Margrave, Georgia.

Then, as he approached the entrance to the Margrave Diner, he encountered a bully in the act of vocally abusing his girlfriend about the tip she left inside for their server. The abuse, in fact, teetered on the edge of becoming physical. Reacher, in true Reacher style, intervened and resolved the conflict using nothing more than his stature, a hard look, and without saying a single word. The bully, clearly intimidated by Reacher’s behavior, even apologized for his conduct, promising it wouldn’t happen again.

Reacher’s demeanor was a classic example of Command Presence, an important part of police work.

Tips for developing a better command presence

  • Be professional, and this includes updated training when available. A cop who knows his job inside-out projects more confidence. The same is true with physical training. Stay in shape and know, trust, and practice defensive tactics.
  • Good posture is important. The officer who stands straight and tall has an advantage over the officer who slouches. Poor posture often shows as weakness, especially when confronting an aggressive suspect.
  • Always make and maintain eye contact when speaking to someone.
  • Honesty and consistency are important traits. Bad guys will quickly learn that what you say is what you mean, every time.
  • Always treat everyone fairly and with dignity.
  • First impressions only come around once, so make it your best effort. If a suspect’s first impression of you is that you’re meek and weak, well, you can expect to have a rough day.
  • Size up everyone before interacting. Always be aware of who and what you’re dealing with and stay one step ahead of the person in front of you. Remember, the person standing before you may want to kill you, so be prepared to do what it takes to survive. Do this each time you encounter someone. No exceptions! You never know which person is the one who plans to do you harm.

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Have confidence in what you do and who you are. All the training and firepower in the world will not help you if you’re playing make believe. Bad guys will see through that in a heartbeat.

An officer who looks sharp, acts sharp, and is sharp helps an officer appear and feel confident.

Crooks size up officers and, like animals culling the herd, look for the weakest, and those are the officers who’ll most likely be dealing with escape attempts, lies, assaults, and other criminal tricks.

The above material could’ve easily been used as part of Reacher’s character development because Reacher’s entire being centers around Command Presence.

Ironically, I once wrote an article about police and the importance of command presence. In the article I also mentioned, “Civilians in authoritative positions should also exhibit a command presence, and many do so instinctively. Command presence also applies to public speakers, including writers when appearing at conferences and book signings and readings. One of the best in the business at the command presence game is author Lee Child. The moment Child enters a room you know he’s confident, poised, and in full control of each word spoken. He looks sharp, acts sharp, and, well, he is sharp. And it shows.”

So it’s perfectly understandable that Reacher shares mannerisms with his creator.

Back to the Margrave Diner

Inside, Reacher settles into a booth to enjoy a cup of black coffee (a staple of Lee Child’s diet) and a slice of “Georgia’s best” peach pie. But, before the first bite two Margrave officers enter the diner, one pointing a shotgun at Reacher and the other doing the same with a pistol. It’s important to note that both officers held their index fingers outside the trigger guards. This is proper procedure to avoid accidental discharges.

Reacher was then arrested for murder, restrained, and taken to the local police department for processing by Officer Roscoe Conklin.

Actor Willa Fitzgerald (Wall Street, Gotham, Scream, the TV series, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, The Fall of the House of Usher), does an exceptional job of accurately portraying a police officer, from the habit of resting her hands on her duty belt to absolutely oozing command presence.

Resting hands on the duty belt serves two purposes. One, it gives the officer something to do with their hands other than leaving them hanging and flopping in the breeze. Besides, all the do-dads on the belt cause the wearer to hold their arms up and out to avoid rubbing at the flesh on the insides of their forearms. It’s simply more comfortable to rest the hands and arms on the belt. Two, resting their hands near the tools they need to perform their duties has a logical and tactical purpose—having the hands near a firearm is especially important in case the unexpected happens.

Reacher’s arresting officers force him through the front doors of the department, still at gunpoint, where Conklin stands behind a lobby counter which also serves as a booking station.

“Sir, if you step over here, I can process you,” she said to Reacher, whose wrists are bound with a single zip tie because, according to one of the officers, “Cuffs didn’t fit ’em.”

Reacher didn’t immediately respond so Conklin continued. “I’m not asking, sir, I’m telling. But don’t worry, I won’t kick your ass unless you make me.” Her comment was directed to Jack Reacher, a hulk with biceps and triceps that look like two sledge hammers welded together. So yeah, Conklin, who stands at barely a whisper over five-feet-tall, wrote a whupass check to Reacher that she was prepared to at least attempt to cash. That’s command presence.

Conklin uses what appears to be an older Crossmatch fingerprinting terminal, or one similar, to record and enter Reacher’s prints into the system. Chief Edward Morrison, played by Peter Skagen (Lonesome Dove, Wynonna Earp, Heartland, Tin Star) jumps into the scene spouting off a series of rapid-fire who, what, and why questions about Reacher’s reasons for showing up in Margrave. Without missing a beat he threatened to stuff Reacher into a holding cell until he was ready to talk, and talking is something Reacher had yet to do, for well over six minutes into the show. Not a word. That span of six minutes let viewers know who Reacher was and what he was about—a man of few words and no nonsense. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant writing and acting.

Detective Oskar Finlay is the next of the main characters to enter the scene. Finlay, a former Bostonian, came to Margrave to leave behind a painful memory. When Reacher strolled into town, though, Finlay quickly realized he’d stepped into a chaotic, violent world where Reacher, not the local police, guides the narrative and attracts enough trouble to make Finlay utter a few curse words, something he never did.

It was actor Malcolm Goodwin, (The Fugitive, iZombie, True Blood, House of Cards, Elementary, CSI, Law and Order: Criminal Intent), who brought us Oskar Finlay’s quirky personality, mannerisms, and style of investigating. He’s sharp, intuitive, thoughtful, methodical, and a by-the-book cop. Well, that’s the way he preferred to work. However, Finlay quickly learned to adapt to Reacher’s “bulldozer in a china shop” approach to resolving issues.

As a real life detective, I’d have been extremely pleased to have either Finlay or Conklin as a partner, as backup, or by my side during a door-kicking explosive entry into a building occupied by armed bad guys.

Producer/writer Nick Santora and Lee Child certainly delivered a television series that is certain to become one of the all-time top crime dramas, and it has it all—gun battles, muscles, romance, investigations, bad guys, bad cops, explosions, fight scenes, action, great characters, great story, great writing, humor, and more muscles and romance.

In a matter of minutes, Lee Child’s book, The Killing Floor exploded to life and never slowed down until Jack Reacher killed all the bad guys, and maybe a few extras in case, well, in case they needed killing. By the way, the “they needed killing” line was spoken by Jacker Reacher during his murder trial, a trial resulting from the time when I personally arrested Reacher and later testified in his trial. More on this in a later review.

NOTE – This review and the others that follow in the coming weeks are solely for the purpose of pointing out proper police procedure and forensics, and the inaccuracies, if any of either. Again, this is to help writers learn what real and what’s not. Yes, I know it’s a TV show and not a documentary or police training film.

As always, keep in mind that TV is visual and certain liberties must be taken to capture and hold the attention of viewers within the brief timespan of a single episode. Authors, on the other hand, must activate a readers senses and take their fans on a journey using nothing more than written words. TV audiences tend to be more forgiving when characters perform actions that aren’t quite believable than are readers of books.

Since readers move through a story at a much slower pace than viewers of TV and film,  they have far more time to detect and analyze things that aren’t quite accurate. Therefore, the need for an explanation, even one that’s totally fabricated in the author’s mind, about why the neighbor’s recliner has the ability to travel through time is more important than merely seeing it happen on TV. We’re used to seeing wacky, nonsensical stuff on television, but not in books without reading an explanation as to why something happened (My neighbor spent three years converting his ratty old recliner into a time machine, using things he retrieved while dumpster diving. And it works! Just last week I tagged along on a trip to Woodstock. We arrived minutes ahead of Jimi’s performance, just as he was testing his Vox Wah pedal). 

That’s all it takes to convince your readers, a reason to believe.




Writers’ Police Academy
June 2-5, 2022
Green Bay, WI



Would you like to receive a $50 bonus from Writers’ Police Academy, AND free registration to a special WPA Online seminar?
The seminar, taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, is “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes,” and covers staging, profiling, character development, and more!
Details about this incredible opportunity to be announced very soon.

On February 23, 2022, Officer Alex Wanish of the Green Bay, WI police department, responded to a rather grisly call after a woman called to report the discovery of her son’s severed head in a plastic bucket.

During their investigation, law enforcement officials learned that Taylor D. Schabusiness, 24, was likely the last person seen with the 25-year-old victim. Police found found Schabusiness at a home in another part of the city. She had dried blood on her clothing and, inside her vehicle, on the rear passenger seat, they saw a crock pot box containing human legs and other body parts.

After obtaining a search warrant for the victim’s home police discovered additional body parts, including a torso inside a storage tote, and various knives. Further examination of the bucket, which was found in the basement of the home, revealed a male organ, body fluid, and a two knives.

Schabusiness told police that she and the victim had smoked meth the night of the killing, and they’d engaged in strangulation as part of mutual sexual activity.

In addition to first-degree intentional homicide, Schabusiness is charged with mutilating a corpse, and third-degree sexual assault. The sexual assault charge stemmed from acts she committed after the victim died.

Taylor Schabusiness looking out from inside a Brown County cell.


Victim’s home – The Crime Scene




Below is a copy of the criminal complaint filed by STATE OF WISCONSIN Plaintiff, vs.TAYLOR DENISE SCHABUSINESS – Assigned ADA: Caleb J Saunders, Complainant

*Click the arrows at the lower left of the document to advance to the next page, or to go to previous pages.



For comparison, below is a copy off the criminal complaint from the Jeffrey Dahmer case. Again, DETAILS ARE GRAPHIC.


Yes, this brutal crime occurred in the home city of the Writers’ Police Academy. Yes, Taylor Schabusiness is currently held at a jail where some Writers’ Police Academy instructors are employed. Yes, one of the lead investigators in the Jeffrey Dahmer case, Steven Spingola, is a special guest presenter at the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

And yes, you should sign up today to attend the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

By the way, I have some super BIG WPA news to announce very soon!

*Thanks to Bob Mueller for the idea for today’s article. The case is gruesome, yes, but some of the details and procedures could greatly assist with a crime writer’s journey to reaching the twisted ending of their next book.

“Hey, Sarge,” said Officer Trevor “Curly” Barnes. “Would you do me a favor and see if you can get a clear set of prints from this guy? I’ve tried three times and all I get are smudges. I must be out of practice, or something.”

“You rookies are all alike,” said Sergeant Imin Charge. “Always wantin’ somebody to do the dirty work for you.”


Sgt. Charge dropped his fat, leaky ballpoint pen on a mound of open file folders. “But nothing,” he said. “All you “boots” want to do is bust up fights and harass the whores.”

The portly “three-striper” pushed his lopsided rolling chair away from his desk and placed a bear-paw-size hand on each knee. Then with a push and a grunt, he stood. The sounds of bone-on-bone poppings and cracklings coming from his arthritic knees were louder than the Buck Owens song—I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail-–that spewed from the portable radio on his desk.

“Well,” said the sergeant. “Paperwork and processing evidence, including fingerprinting people, comes with the job too. You might as well get it in your head right now that police work is not all about flashy blue lights, driving fast cars, and chasing after badge bunnies.

“I’m serious, Sarge. I can’t get a good print. I think the guy’s messing with me, or something.”

Charge sighed and rolled his deep-set piggy eyes. Everyone in he department knew the eye roll as Charge’s trademark “I don’t want to, but will” expression.

“All right,” said Charge. “Go finish up the paperwork and I’ll take care of the prints and mugshot. But hurry up and get your ass back down to booking. I get off in thirty minutes and I’ve got plans. There’s a documentary on tonight about how they made the Smoky and the Bandit movies, and I don’t aim to miss it.”

“That’s right, it’s Thursday night, huh?” said Officer Barnes. “What was it last week, The Best of Swamp People?”

“Real funny, you are. No, it was the last part of that series about those beavers that suddenly showed up over in England after being extinct for over 400 years. It was real interesting, it was. Me and Betty Lou never miss those specials. You should check it out. Never hurts to learn something new. Yep, every Thursday nights at 8:00, a pan of peanut butter fudge, and our behinds planted on the sofa. You can set your watch by it. Now, get to working on those reports if you ever want to see day shift again, and you’d better be back here in fifteen minutes to take this slimeball off my hands.”

The sergeant reached over and grabbed the suspect’s right hand, pulling it toward the ten-print card. “Relax, fella’, and let me do the work,” he said while pressing the pad of the man’s index finger onto the ink pad and then rolling it from left to right in the appropriate box on the card.

Twenty minutes later, Sergeant Charge was on the phone with Captain Gruffntuff, the shift commander. “That’s right, Captain. The guy doesn’t have any prints. Not a single ridge or whorl. Nothing.”

A pause while Charge listened. Officer Barnes, back from completing the incident report, leaned toward his boss, trying to hear the other side of the conversation. The sergeant waved him away as if swatting away an annoying fly or mosquito. “No, sir. Not even as much as a pimple.”

Another pause.

“Nope, not on either finger.” Charge leaned back in his chair. “All as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Beats everything I’ve ever seen.”

“Yes, sir. I checked his toes, too. Nothing there either. Slick as a freshly buffed hospital floor.”

Sergeant Charge opened a pouch of Redman and dug out a golfball-size hunk of shredded black tobacco leaves.

“Nope. He’s not from around here. Says he’s from Sweden. Says his whole family’s like that. Not a one of them has any prints. Says it’s a condition called adermatoglyphia. I had him spell it for me.”

Charge shoved the “chew” inside of his mouth, maneuvering it with his tongue until it came to rest between his teeth and cheek.

“Looks like a hamster with a mouth full of sunflower seeds,” Barnes mumbled to himself.

“Yes, sir. Beats everything I’ve ever seen,” Sergeant Charge said into the phone’s mouthpiece. “Will do, sir.

A beat passed, then he said, “Yes, sir. I’ll stay to see it through.”

Another beat.

“Right, sir.”

Sergeant Charge placed the phone receiver back in its cradle without saying goodbye. His typical pinkish cheeks were the color of a shiny new fire truck. He sat silent for a second, thinking.

“Won’t be watching the television tonight, I guess,” he said.

The man from Switzerland, the prisoner, sighed, knowing it was going to be a long night. He’d been through this many times.

“Better call the little woman,” said Sergeant Imin Charge as he reached for the phone to give her the bad news. “And she ain’t going to be happy. No, sir. I’d bet a dollar to a doughnut that she’s already made a dozen or so of those little meatball sandwiches that I like so much. Probably has an ice cold can of Blue Ribbon waiting for me too. And the fudge, well, it’ll have to wait.”

After a few “Sorry, dears,” Charge returned the receiver back to its resting spot and then turned to the prisoner who sat handcuffed to a wooden bench with the back of his head against the mint green wall. Another grease stain added to the collection, thought Charge.

“Okay,” he said to the man who’d been arrested for breaking into home of an Hazel Lucas, an elderly woman who’d whacked the intruder with a rolling pin as he climbed through a kitchen window. “Lemme see those fingers, again.”

The burglar held up his hands and said to the sergeant, “Good luck.”

Photo Credit: Nousbeck et al., The American Journal of Human Genetics (2011)

Adermatoglyphia, or “immigration delay disease” as it’s also known, is an extremely rare and unique condition found in members of only four Swiss families. What’s so unique about the condition? For starters, people with adermatoglyphia produce far less hand sweat than the average person. But, perhaps the most startling characteristic is that people with adermatoglyphia do not have fingerprints.

In one instance, a female member of one of the affected families traveled to the U.S. but was delayed by border agents because they couldn’t confirm her identity. Why? No prints to compare.

The cause of adermatoglyphia has, until recently, been a mystery. Now, however, scientists have learned that the affected members of the Swiss families all had a mutation in the gene called Smarcad1. And this mutation is in a version of the gene that is only expressed in skin.

So yes, for that added twist to your tales, there are people who do not have fingerprints.

By the way, no one knows how or why that family of beavers mysteriously showed up in the the Otter River in Devon, southwest England. They’re doing well, though, and they are the only beavers in England after being hunted to extinction 400 years ago.

The name of the river where they live is a bit ironic since no otters live there.

See, like Sergeant Charge and his wife Betty Lou, some of you learned something new.


There’s still time to sign up!


In the film Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood’s character Inspector Harry Callahan engaged in a shootout with armed bank robbers. When the shooting stopped, and there was lots of it, Harry approached a wounded robber who locked eyes with Harry while slowly reaching for a shotgun.

Harry aimed his sidearm at the crook and said one of the most famous movie lines of all time, “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

What’s Luck Got to do With It?

Aside from Clint Eastwood’s fictional world of cops and robbers, in the real world of street violence, most victims of non fatal shootings are likely fortunate beneficiaries of lucky mistakes—a little to the left, or to the right, or a bit higher or lower, and it’s showtime for the grim reaper. Shooters in those instances are cold-blooded attempted murderers who merely failed to achieve their goals of becoming actual killers.

When shots are fired between gun-toting criminals there’s a narrow line between who lives and who dies. However, if bad shooters, the killer wannabes who couldn’t hit the broad side of a liquor store if they tried, fire enough rounds at their targets, it’s probable they will eventually get the job done and send someone to an early grave.

Attempted murders are failed homicides.

Chicago – At the end of 2021, the city totaled 3561 shootings, 300 more than were recorded in 2020, and 1,415 more than in 2019. The rising number of shootings in this city is staggering.

Focusing on Chicago’s 2021 stats, of the 3,561 people shot, 797 died. The remaining 2,764 were fortunate beneficiaries of lucky mistakes—at least 2,764 (+/-) shooters missed their marks. Many more, I’m certain, failed to to strike their intended targets at all, sending wild, errant rounds zinging and bouncing off walls, street lamps, storefronts, or grandma’s porch swing before coming to a stop who knows where.

In the same year, in Philadelphia,  2332 people were shot. 486 people died, while 1846 survived the poor shooting abilities of people who likely tried to kill each of the 1846 survivors.

This alarming story of violence in our country’s largest cities repeats from coast to coast and from top to bottom.

A Vicious Circle

The lucky break for many who survive a blast from a firearm often results in an unlucky occurrence for the shooters of poor aim fame. This is so because victims of the aim-challenged and/or their friends frequently retaliate by shooting the shooters. And those who miss the first time are apt to try and try again until they successfully “pop a cap” into the body of their nemesis. After all, street shootings are like potato chips to the hardcore offenders—one person shot is never enough. There must be more.

The Solution

Devoting more time to catching the poor shooters, the failed murderers, would no doubt result in less homicides, because removing poor-aimers and their guns from the streets would decrease the overall number of shots-fired. Less shots fired would obviously decrease the overall number of people killed by gunfire.

Fewer shots fired = fewer people wounded or killed = safer communities = more time for officers to devote to other matters, including proactive policing as opposed to reactionary policing = even safer communities = less illegal guns in the hands of potential shooters.

Catching the people who attempt to kill but fail is a tactic that attacks the source of the overall problem. It’s a plan that would/could prevent more deaths, instead of reactively wading through a pile of bodies at the morgue (after the fact), hoping to find clues that lead back to a murderer.

The ideal situation would be to have two teams of skilled investigators working simultaneously, one tracking down and arresting the failed shooters, and the other solving homicides. Eventually, the two would meet in the middle at a point where both stats—failed and successful murders—are greatly decreased.


Unfortunately, most departments struggle to fund the number of officers and equipment they currently have in place. Defunding the police has, of course, exacerbated the problem. It takes people-power to make an out-of-control situation, more manageable, such as the aforementioned shootings. When control is finally achieved, it must be maintained by proactively sending officers out into the streets to interact with citizens on a personal basis.

Without the proper number of available officers and investigators, though, the path to reducing homicides and attempted murders is a long and rocky road.


Last week I wrote about twenty-two-year-old Justine Johnson of Iosco County, Michigan, who told police investigators the fictional cartoon character SpongeBob ordered her to kill her daughter Sutton Mosser. Police did indeed find the remains of almost-two-year-old Sutton.

This week, on February 15, 2022, it was Satan himself—the grand adversary of man, the prince of darkness, the head of the fallen angels—who Tasha L. Haefs, according to a Kansas City police dispatcher, claimed was trying to attack her.

As they approached the front of Haefs’ home, responding officers heard a woman’s voice coming from inside. She was singing. They also witnessed a blood trail leading from the sidewalk to the front door. When they knocked the singing grew louder.

One officer managed to get a peek inside the home and what he observed was nothing short of scene in a horror film—a child’s severed head near the threshold. Fearing that other children may be in imminent danger, officers forced their way inside, where they found Tasha Haefs in the kitchen, with what appeared to be blood on her hands and feet. They also saw, in plain view, two knives, also with apparent blood on them. The woman, who had cuts and scratches on her hands and a puncture wound to her right thigh, was immediately taken into custody.

As is standard practice, officers conducted a sweep of the home, looking for other victims and/or potential suspects. During the sweep they witnessed the knives, a bloody screwdriver, and the body and severed head of Haefs’ six-year-old son. A decapitated dog was found in the basement, as was a knife covered with possible blood and tissue.

When they were certain the house was clear, officers backed out and secured the home while investigators completed the process of obtaining a search warrant.

Haefs admitted to police that she’d killed and decapitated her son in the bathtub.

I wish I could say with confidence that this will be the last unthinkable and horrendous crime committed by a parent against a child; however and unfortunately, we all know better. Sigh …

Click to read more about familicide and attempted familicide

I’ve included a copy of the completed Complaint Warrant Requested form pertaining to this case. Within the document you’ll read the officer’s actual description of details that support the probable cause needed to obtain warrants. I think you may find this information helpful at some point during your future writing. I’ve hidden or deleted contact information and a few other details.



Count I. Murder 1st Degree (565.020-001Y20200902.0)

The Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, upon information and belief, charges that the defendant, in violation of Section 565.020, RSMo, committed the class A felony of murder in the first degree punishable upon conviction under Section 565.020, RSMo, in that on or about February 15, 2022, in the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, the defendant after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of  ******* by unknown means, and that the defendant was eighteen years of age or older at the time of the offense.

Count II. Armed Criminal Action (571.015-001Y20205299.)

The Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, upon information and belief, charges that the defendant, in violation of Section 571.015, RSMo, committed the felony of armed criminal action, punishable upon conviction under Section 571.015.1, RSMo, in that on or about February 15, 2022, in the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, the defendant committed the felony of murder in the first degree charged in Count I, all allegations of which are incorporated herein by reference, and the defendant committed the foregoing felony of murder in the first degree by, with and through, the knowing use, assistance and aid of a dangerous instrument.page1image1228588384 page1image1228588672

State vs. Tasha Haefs

The facts that form the basis for this information and belief are contained in the statement(s) of facts filed contemporaneously herewith, made a part hereof, and submitted as a basis upon which this court may find the existence of probable cause.

Wherefore, the Prosecuting Attorney prays that an arrest warrant be issued as provided by law.


Prosecuting Attorney Jackson County, Missouri by,

/s/ John G. Gromowsky

John G. Gromowsky (#50700) Assistant Prosecuting Attorney 415 East 12th Street
Floor 7M

Kansas City, MO 64106



  1. DET Bonita Y. Cannon, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  2. DET Zakary K. Glidewell, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  3. DET Sean P. Martin, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  4. DET James H. Price, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  5. DET Ilinca E. Rusnac, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106


7. *XXXX Derek M. Sanders, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106

8. DET Nathan S. VanVickle, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106


Date: 02/16/2022



page3image1231501280 page3image1231501568

I, Detective Zakary Glidewell, #5549, Kansas City Missouri Police Department (Name and identify law enforcement officer, or person having information as probable cause.)

knowing that false statements on this form are punishable by law, state that the facts contained herein are true.page3image1231533936

I have probable cause to believe that on 02/15/2022 at 7312 Indiana Avenue in Kansas City, (Jackson County) Missouri Haefs, Tasha L. (W/F XXXXXX) committed one or more criminal offense(s).

The facts supporting this belief are as follows:

On 02-15-2022 at 2345 hours, uniformed officers of the Kansas City Missouri Police department were dispatched to 7312 Indiana Ave, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri on a reported disturbance.

Upon arrival officers observed apparent blood on the front steps of the residence as well as apparent blood and hair on the front door of the aforementioned residence. Officers were able to determine the residence was occupied by a female however, she refused to answer the door. During the course of the contact officers learned that multiple children were known to reside in the residence and had not been seen for a few days. Officers while attempting to make contact with the female occupant observed what appeared to be the severed head of a deceased person near the threshold of the residence.

Officers fearing for the safety of any children remaining inside the residence forced entry under exigent circumstances and took the female occupant (Suspect) into custody without incident. A protective sweep of the residence was conducted. During the course of the protective sweep officers located the decapitated body of a young child near the front door of the residence. The female suspect had apparent blood on her person and two knives with apparent blood on them were observed in plain view throughout the residence. No other children were located in the residence. Officers then exited and secured the residence. Detectives from the Kansas City Homicide Unit were notified from the scene.

Detectives applied for and obtained a search warrant for 7312 Indiana Ave Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri 64132 in regard. During the execution of the search warrant detectives located the decapitated body of a young child near the interior threshold of the residence. A knife, knife handle, and a screwdriver with apparent blood and tissue were located on the dining room table. An additional knife with apparent blood and tissue was located in the basement of the residence. The Kansas City Missouri Crime Scene Unit was notified and responded to the scene.

Form 50 P.D. (Rev. 9-2008)

Page 1 of 2


The female suspect who was ultimately identified as Tasha Haefs (W/F XXXXXXX) was transported to police headquarters. Haefs was contacted by detectives on the 7th floor of police headquarters. Haefs was offered food and water and allowed access to restroom facilities. Haefs was advised of her Miranda Rights which she waived and agreed to speak with detectives about the incident.

Haefs provided a detailed formal statement to detectives. Haefs identified the victim as B/M XXXXX her biological child. During the course of the interview Haefs admitted to killing the victim in the bathtub and decapitating the victim.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner has ruled the “Manner of Death” to be Homicide. Haefs was placed on a 24 hour investigative hold and transported to a KCPD Detention facility.

Printed Name Detective Zakary Glidewell #5549 Signature /s/Detective Zakary Glidewell #5549


Writers understand that active voice is when the subject of a sentence performs the action represented by the verb.

The bank robber counted the loot.

In the sentence above, the robber is the subject who performed the action (counted).

Passive voice, on the other hand, is when the subject receives or is affected by the action. They are not the “doer” of the action. Instead, they’re the recipient of the action.

In passive sentences, the object of the verb, the subject, is usually followed by the verb, which is typically a form of “to be,” a past participle, and the word “by.” Passive voice can confuse readers.

The loot was counted by the bank robber.

Passive voice shoves the subject (the bank robber) to the back of the action, instead of at front and center. And this, the shifting of action in a sentence, is why police officers should avoid the use of passive voice when writing reports and other official documents, and when providing official testimony. Passive voice, unfortunately, is often a part of “cop speak” that causes much unnecessary grief for officers and prosecutors, but is goldmine for defense attorneys.

For example, fictional Officer I.Iz Baddrighter typed this sentence in the narrative section of an incident report:

A wad of cash, two gold necklaces, and a gun was found under the living room couch.

If this occurred in real life, when prosecutors received the case, since the report was written in passive voice, they’d have no clear idea who found the items, who conducted the search, etc.

A better report, written in active voice, clearly indicates who performed the action.

I, Officer I. Iz Badrighter and Officer Dewey Good, served a search warrant at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, where Officer Good found cash, two gold necklaces, and a gun under the living room couch.

Written in active voice, the report detailing the same event, tells who was there, why they were there, and who found the items.

Use of Passive Voice in Law Enforcement is a Bad Idea

An officer’s use of passive voice can result in all sorts of troubles, including a stumbling courtroom testimony where the officer is vigorously cross-examined over “who did what and where,” and even the dismissals of cases.. All due to innocent but ambiguous wording.

Imagine a super-savvy defense attorney seizing upon the statement, “Due to our prior knowledge of Ricky Robber being a carjacker and knowing he always carries a couple of pistols, a high-risk traffic stop was conducted by us.”

The officer is in the hot seat in this situation, because he has to explain who or whom he’s speaking of when he wrote “our” and “us.” How “they” knew Ricky Robber is a carjacker? Did the officer arrest Robber for the same crime in past? Did the officer run a criminal history and carjacking was a crime Robber served time for committing?  The mention that he always has a pistol or pistols in his possession. Is he never without a sidearm? Are officers watching Robber every minute of the day, even as he sleeps? These are all points a defense attorney could hammer and hammer until the officer eventually becomes confused by their own words.

The officer in this case could’ve saved himself a ton of grief by simply writing:

“At 2200 hours, I, Officer I. Iz Badrighter and Officer Dewey Good witnessed Ricky Robber driving west near 24 Elm Street in Mayberry. Earlier in the shift we received a “Be On The Lookout” (BOLO) radio message stating Robber committed a carjacking on Main Street at 1935 hours. A check of Robber’s criminal history indicated sixty-three past carjacking arrests. In each of those cases, arresting officers reported Robber drawing a pistol from his waistband and pointing it at them. Knowing these facts and for our safety, Officer Dewey Good and I conducted a high-risk traffic stop. Robber was subsequently placed under arrest for the outstanding carjacking warrant.”

With this report in hand, prosectors know exactly what happened, who did what, when they did it, and why. A copy of the report during courtroom testimony is also extremely helpful to the arresting officer.

Using Passive Voice

So yes, active voice is typically the best route. However, sometimes, to avoid embarrassment, passive voice is the better use of words, like the time …

It was back during my time as a patrol officer working the graveyard shift when we received a fight call involving multiple suspects armed with various weapons. Three of us responded, stopped our cars, and hopped out to break up the melee. When all was under control we headed back to our cars. But, instead of three cars only two remained in the spots where we’d left them—my car and a car belonging to the other officer. The missing car was that of the sergeant who’d also answered the call. He’d committed a serious faux pas, leaving the doors unlocked, the engine running, and the keys in the ignition. So we and several other units spent the next hour searching for the stolen patrol vehicle. Then, when it was spotted, we spent the next hour chasing the car at high speeds, with the car thief listening to our radio traffic.

Anyway, it was far less of a blow to the sergeant’s ego for us to write the report in passive voice.

“Sergeant I. Goofup’s patrol vehicle was missing for three hours. It was later found in the possession of Ima Crook.”

Written in active voice, well, the report wouldn’t have sounded quite as kind.

Sergeant I. Goofup, while leaving his vehicle to respond on foot to a fight-in-progress, left the engine of his patrol car running with the keys in the ignition. All doors were unlocked. Ima Crook, a 27-year-old male, stole Sergeant Goofup’s car, an action resulting in a high-speed chase. Crook was arrested for the larceny of the department vehicle, reckless driving, eluding police, and disregarding signal by law-enforcement officer to stop.


Today, I’m featuring three podcasts that will take you behind the scenes of real-world law enforcement. Each session is a goldmine of information for crime fiction writers—dialog, slang, emotions, first-hand accountings of life or death situations, actual radio transmissions during “shots-fired” incidents, and much, much more. This post, “Firefights and a Massacre: Real-World Horror,” is the real deal told by the professionals who were there, in the field, during some of the most intense situations imaginable.

I’ve posted these podcasts so that you may use these real-life encounters to help elevate the realism in your stories.

I must warn you, though, that some of the language used may be offensive to some people. Some of the content may not be considered politically correct, some comments a bit inapprropriate, and some dialog may simply rub you the wrong way. But it is what it is—real. So please, if you’re willing and able to set aside those things for a short while, this is a fantastic learning opportunity. If not, this may not be the blog post for you; therefore, now would be a good time to click over to a different article.

And yes, people were killed during these incidents, both officers and offenders.

If you’re still with me, please listen carefully to the audio, not only to the big picture but to the small tidbits of information that could help you build the layers of your fictional characters (speech, tone, excitement levels, anxiety). Believe me, these podcasts are filled with tons of detail—not gore, but incredible elements of procedure, personality, intense emotions, fact, intuition, police training and special gear, insight, and more.

Remember, I’m just a messenger whose doing my best to help writers achieve their goals of writing excellent books. This is not me talking.

The Protectors Podcast™ is hosted by Dr. Jason Piccolo, a 21-year federal agent, and military veteran.

Miami Shootout, with Ed Mireles Jr., FBI Agent (ret)

Ed Mireles Jr., retired FBI, joined The Protectors Podcast ™ to talk about his career, including his recovery from being seriously wounded in one of the most famous shootouts in U.S. history.

Listen here.

You can read about Agent Mireles in his book FBI Miami Firefight: Five Minutes that Changed the Bureau, by Edmundo and Elizabeth Mireles.

“One hundred and fifty shots fired. In five minutes two bank robbers and two FBI agents were dead, Five other agents were wounded, three critically. This incident would change FBI and law enforcement training, tactics and weaponry forever.” ~ book excerpt, edmireles.com

STOP THE KILLING is an in-depth look into the case files of former head of the FBI’s Active Shooter program Katherine Schweit. katherineschweit.com


A crime that shocked the world and was the catalyst for the FBI’s active shooter program.

Listen here.

To learn more, read Katherine Schweit’s book, Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis.

Police K9 Radio is hosted by Gregg Tawney and Rich Hartman, veteran K-9 handlers and trainers.

Ryan Frank – Critical Incident

Ryan Frank details an on-duty shooting in which he and his wife were shot. Ryan talks about his training and mindset that helped keep him and his wife alive.

Books by former special agent Dr. Jason Piccolo, host of The Protectors Podcast™

click here

The challenges of policing in the rain are many and before I introduce you to them, there’s this …

Rain and Mud




Delightful, they are not.


When it’s you, who

Must roll and fight

In slop and goo

To cuff a wily crook.





On your nose and your shoes.


On your clothes



And your gleaming silver badge.





Oozing, cold, and slippery.





But a task that is a must.





And haul off to concrete jail.




Phone call

Cell door slamming tightly shut.





Two bestselling mystery books.

Policing in the Rain

Yes, the “poem” above was absolutely cheesy and repugnantly horrible, but its purpose was to begin the discussion about cops and rain. After all, it’s not always sunny and dry between book covers, right? Well, that and I couldn’t think of a decent segue into the topic.

Hey, I’ll bet that chances are pretty good that you’ve not given much thought to what it’s like to work in the rain as a police officer. Well, doing so presents its own unique challenges, such as:

  • Keeping your weapon and ammunition dry.
  • Preventing water from finding its way into your portable radio.
  • Struggling to apply handcuffs to the wet and slimy wrists of a soaking wet and muddy suspect.
  • Having to thoroughly clean drying mud from the locking mechanism of your handcuffs
  • Pursuits on wet roadways where hydroplaning makes the act akin to driving at high speeds without a steering wheel or brakes.
  • The dreaded blue light glare reflecting from raindrops, windshields, storefront windows, and other wet things (pavement, buildings, etc.). So not only do you not have brakes or steering capabilities, you’re now driving blind, as well.
  • Flashing lights, windshield wipers, blowing debris, radio chatter, suspect in back yelling, screaming, kicking, and spitting—all major distractions while driving in wet conditions.
  • Struggling with a suspect while wearing a long, bright yellow raincoat-–nearly impossible.
  • Locating the rain cover for your hat. It’s not never in the spot where you normally keep it. And a cold, wet, dripping hat is most unpleasant to wear.
  • Trying to run after a suspect through wet grass, puddles, mud, while wearing a police uniform and slick-bottom shoes—nearly impossible.
  • Hard rain makes it difficult to see … anything. Such as the guy with the gun who ran into the cemetery … at night.
  • Never fails. During each and every rain storm there will be a car crash and/or a power outage that switches off every stoplight on your beat. Directing traffic in the pouring rain is a cold, miserable experience.
  • Protecting crime scene evidence from the elements without compromising it, contaminating it, or watching it wash away.
  • When the shooting starts, having to instantly locate the pass-through pocket/gun slit in the raincoat or winter jacket. Not the best time to figure out how this clumsy maneuver is done.
  • Catching an outdoor call the first few minutes of the shift and then wearing wet, cold clothing for the next ten hours. Believe me, the feel of icy-cool Kevlar and wet polyester against your body is no picnic.
  • K-9 officers have a set of their very own challenges—muddy paws and wet fur, for example. The stinky odor alone is enough to send our senses into rehab, and that’s just the handlers. Wet dogs inside police cars smell bad. Really bad. Especially when combined with the odors left behind by the puking, sweating, peeing drunk who occupied your passenger set earlier in the shift.

Policing in the rain is definitely for the dogs!



Over forty years ago I’d made the entry in my notebook. I found my handwriting to be a bit difficult to read on some of the yellowing pages—the result of quickly-written memos then, and failing eyesight today. But I was able to make out the basics, and there was enough there to take me back to the time when I wore the brown over khaki uniform of a deputy sheriff.

Flipping through the pages of my log, one particular entry caught my eye. It was a Friday night during an unusually cool  for October. According to my notes, the skies were clear and brightly lit by a near full moon. The gas tank in my take-home car was full (as always, I’d filled it at the end of my shift the preceding morning) and the speedometer had just tripped 80,000 miles. The lights and siren were both in working order.

I’d signed on at 2342 hours that night, and in my mind I can still hear the dispatcher’s voice as she acknowledged my radio message. She spoke in a drawl that prompted a craving for mint juleps and an urge to plant a magnolia tree in my front yard.

It’s no secret that I was not born a southerner. In fact, before “the conversion,” I was such a Yankee that one of my relatives owned a house that was once used by Harriett Tubman as a stop on her vast Underground Railroad network. We lived nearby, where people didn’t say things like,  “Y’all” or “finer’n frog hair, or “fixin’ to” (going to).

“I’m fixin’ to head over to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up some chittlins’ for Sunday lunch. Y’all want anything?”

As a child born north of “the line”, the switch to the South was a major change. Everything was different, including schools and how they conducted business. Classes in our new southern location began each day with a child reading from the Bible, followed by a man’s deep but southern-twangy voice spewing from the wall-mounted speaker as he led us in prayer. We didn’t do that in my former northern school.

The thing about the South that stuck with me the most, though, was to see peanuts, tobacco, and cotton in their natural habitats—not nuts in jars or bags, tobacco rolled into cigarettes, or “cotton” as a word printed on the labels of my school clothes.

Okay, back to my notes. It hadn’t rained in nearly three weeks and the local farmers and their field hands had been hard at work for several days, picking cotton. They’d loaded large farm trailers to the point of overflowing, like giant pillows on wheels. But no matter how hard they tried, there was simply no way possible to gather every single piece of cotton, leaving lots of it scattered about in the fields. And, of course, it didn’t take long at all for the wind to blow the scraps of freshly picked raw cotton everywhere, sending it into trees, ditches, bushes, and roadways. The landscape looked as if it had been dusted by a light snowfall. You couldn’t spit in any direction without hitting a wad of the future shirts, pants, sheets, and stuffing for aspirin bottles.

Virginia cotton

At night, while on patrol, we often used our spotlights to scan fields and paths looking for illegal night hunters, or stolen cars and farm equipment that were sometimes abandoned in out of the way locations. Another target for our spotlights in those days were farmer’s fertilizer storage tanks that contained anhydrous ammonia. Farmers used the fertilizer to spray crops. Makers of methamphetamine stole it from farmers and farm supply companies to produce meth.

Meth makers siphoned the deadly liquid gas from the tanks and later used it and other hazardous ingredients, such as paint thinner, engine starter fluid, the innards of certain types of batteries, and ephedrine separated from its binding agent found in over-the-counter cold medicine, to manufacture the dangerous and illegal drug. This process required no heat since the chemical reaction was so volatile, and it is the reason clandestine meth labs notoriously and suddenly explode.

The method of making meth using anhydrous ammonia is sometimes called the “Nazi cook,” named after the meth distributed to German soldiers by Nazi leaders during World War II. For more, click here.

So yeah, that was a thing back then and it was a big reason we kept on eye on farms. And, of course, there were the people who stole livestock, such as pigs. Ah, the glamorous life of a deputy sheriff in the rural South.

In addition to highlighting stolen cars and fertilizer tanks, and the occasional “parking” teenage couples or pair of adulterers, the shining of a bright spotlight across the fields at night, the car-mounted devices also illuminated scores of wildlife—deer, foxes, raccoons, ‘possums, coyotes, and even an occasional black bear. And, on the night referenced in my spiral notebook, the light also showcased a woman’s body lying between two unpicked rows of cotton.

She was young, mid to late 30’s. Fully clothed with the exception of her bare feet. There were no shoes at the scene. Approximately 5’ 5″ tall. 150 lbs – 160 lbs, or so. Round face. Skin the color of Vermont maple syrup. Her eyes were open and without focus, and aimed toward the sky into infinity. Pupils fixed, and dilated. A bullet wound to her forehead, just above her left eye, and another near her right eyebrow, told me to save my CPR skills for another day.

Small clumps of loose cotton dotted the area around the body. Some were the brilliant white of summertime clouds. Others, the ones that clung to her wounds, were rusty red and mostly saturated with the victim’s drying blood.

Three sets of footprints entered the field—large boots, small tennis shoes, and a set ending with bare toes. Only two sets headed out. The toes remained.

The victim had two small children at home. A neighbor was called to sit with them while their father went out searching for his wife who’d called earlier to say the church meeting was running a bit longer than she’d expected. No, no need to pick her up. Wanda was at the meeting and would bring her home.

Twenty minutes later, after the husband left his children in the care of the sitter, Wanda called and asked the neighbor if she could please speak to the man’s wife. No, there was no church meeting that night.

The man knew, deep in his heart, that there was no meeting at the church and he where exactly where to look for his cheating wife.

The victim’s lover, a cotton farmer, escaped the gunfire.

There was no DNA. No fingerprints. No cell phone calls to trace, and no bullet casings.

Just a pair of womens shoes found five hours later, in the farmer’s truck. And a revolver containing four bullets in his jealous wife’s car.

If I’d kept a tally over the years I could’ve added another hash mark to the “life taken” column, and five to the “lives ruined” section.

My last notations on the page that night were four short lines that read …

“Murder warrant issued”

“17 gallons of gas, no oil”

“10-42 (off duty) – 0815”

“Sunny and warmer – a good day to pick cotton”