The rules were simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title, and the image must be the main subject of the story.

Shortly after the contest was announced stories then began arriving from all around the globe. Then, when the contest closed and the dust finally began to settle, we were left with a mound of twisted tales written by many talented writers.

We congratulate everyone who submitted stories, with a special congratulations to the winner and the others who placed in the top ten.

I understanding that judging was a tough assignment, as always, due to the large number of wonderfully-told tales. We also thank each of you for your support. The contest proceeds help the WPA continue to deliver top programs year after year.

The contest winner will receive the coveted Golden Donut Award, a handsome trophy, as well as free registration to a 2021 WPA event, either an in-person event or virtual (COVID restrictions may dictate which).

So, without further ado, the 2020 winning story, followed by the rest of the top ten, is – drum roll, please ………………………..

And I Must Play

by Nicolas Morales

 

This … is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the greatest place on Earth. From the tasty food to the super fun rides and games, it has everything a boy like me could dream of. I like coming here so much, it feels like I live here. Whenever I go to one of the restaurants called the Surf City Grill, I eat like a king. But I think I order too much food sometimes because people like to stare at me when I eat. After that, I usually go play some laser tag, and I must be really good at it because nobody can hit me. I also like to go to the Cannonball Arcade, where my favorite games are Pac-Man and The Real Ghostbusters. The only weird part is that there is a big picture of me hanging on the wall outside. And every once in a while, a lady brings some flowers and lights a candle in front of it. Then she starts crying for a few minutes before she leaves. She looks familiar but thinking about it too hard makes the hole in my head hurt. Whoever she is, I hope she feels better.


Pinball Wizards

Ry Brooks

 

As break-ins go, the Boardwalk Arcade yielded slim pickings, but Nate and Joel needed cash, and quarters were better than nothing. The desperados plundered the coins from almost all the games before Joel noticed a strange looking pinball machine placarded “CAUTION – DO NOT PLAY!”

“Hurry,” Nate scolded. “We got no time to lallygag.”

“Hold on.” Joel dropped a coin into the slot and heard the unmistakable clatter of a full coin box.

The machine began to light up and made grinding sounds.

“Leave dat thing alone! Wanna get us caught?”

“Come ‘ere, help me get dis open. Dere must be a fortune in it.”

The pair worked on the box with pry bars, but it was unyielding. Suddenly, a hinged section of floor where they stood dropped away, and the two burglars disappeared before it snapped shut again.

It was the smell that eventually led to their discovery, but by then of course it was too late. Their desiccated remains each clutched a sack of quarters, and to this very day, in the depth of night when all is quiet, you just might hear the faint sounds of them scratching at the trap door to get out.


Game Over

by Lori Martin

 

Melanie tapped out another text.

You still coming, Theo? I’m outside Arcade Entrance C

Be there soon!

OK but hurry. You already missed the sunrise.

Thirty minutes later, she texted again. WHERE ARE YOU? R U MESSIN WITH ME?

I’m here.

C’mon! Are you going to meet me or not?

I am right here, Beautiful.

She smiled. Where? There’s no one here but some third shift arcade workers waiting for rides home.

MAYBE THEY AREN’T WAITING FOR RIDES

A shiver wormed its way down Melanie’s spine. Why was the sweet guy she’d been chatting with online for a year being so weird? What r u talking about?

You know how your husband died in that car crash last month?

Of course. I miss Danny like crazy.

Yeah. Well, I have another surprise.

Melanie started texting “Another?” but dropped the phone as an armed woman emerged from between some of the pillars that guarded the arcade’s entrance. Melanie’s eyes widened as memories from over twenty years ago triggered recognition.

“Surprise, Homewrecker! Theo is ME.” A chuckle rumbled from the woman’s smirking lips as she raised the gun. “Say ‘hello’ to Danny for me!”


4th Place

Defiance

by

Pamela Raymond

 

Under the brilliance of the midday sun, Mr. Brooks hobbled down the concrete promenade on his quest for a vacant bench and a cool breeze. Joints flexing cruelly, he quietly settled into a seat nestled between a row of plum painted pillars.

Mr. Brooks rubbed the silver tuft on his head. Perspiration glazed his weathered, dark skin as his once spirited eyes scanned the storefronts with puzzled curiosity. Not at all how I remembered it, he thought.

Four decades and a handful of years earlier, before gentrification took root, it was a modest Greyhound bus terminal. Back when the fight for dignity collided with the back of a billy club. When the law of the land whittled a man’s worth down to the circumstances of his birth.

That summer the buses rolled in beckoning a young Mr. Brooks to join the fed up and the cast down. He did.

Mr. Brooks eyed the plaque that posthumously sanitized his sacrifice. He shifted on the bench, a wince curling his bottom lip. He remembered the stiff baton his hip, and his dignity, once endured and wondered would the defiance ignited that summer ever shine brighter than the lights on the boardwalk.


5th Place

Amusement Park Legacy

by
Laurie Newberry

Looking over what I have created, I stare down mostly empty isles. In just a few minutes my dreams will be realized. My amusement park is done, full of lights, music and delightful family fun.

I cannot begin to express all the excitement I feel. Themed shops are about to open, thrilling rides are ready for boarding. I can smell corn dogs and cotton candy.
This is my legacy.

I stride through the gateway to fun.

In front of Cannonball Arcade, I hear a muffled pop, clutch at a pain in my chest, and stumble against the door frame. No one turns my way. My hand comes away bloody.
Shot?

This cannot be happening. NOT now!

The door opens, and I am dragged inside. Past the flashing lights to a storage room. Fresh cement nearly fills a pit.

“Thank you for the park. It is going to make me very rich” Unemotional words stab deep.
I struggle to stand.

“Why?” I gasp.

“Because, I want it all.”

The gun appears.

The silenced muzzle flashes and another bullet tears into my chest.

I fall backwards into the cold concrete quicksand.

Sinking slowly, I hear her voice.

“Goodbye…, Dad.”


6th Place

The Dauphin

by
John St. Clair

Fragrances of tepid ocean air, kettle corn, and cotton candy should have worked their magic inside my nostrils as I followed the boy under a lengthy covered breezeway. But I smelled nothing.

Nestled between an old style nickelodeon and a two star buffet named for the God of the Sea, his destination that day promised a surfeit of fun and games.

I watched as he surveyed the colorful notice affixed to the door, oblivious to my presence.
Annual Cannonball Arcade ‘Melee Sur La Promenade’ Video Game Tournament, Today!

Upon this hallowed ground, thirty years ago, I recalled hulking black cabinets with luminous marquees, standing shoulder to shoulder like silent sentries. Inside this darkened pleasure palace, upon a virtual field, furious pitched battles would crown a champion for the hit arcade title Melee Maniacs 2. My competitors were a much older motley crew. Some of them even attended high school! Endless practice, skill and fortitude, married with destiny had premeditated my victory, and my coronation became the stuff of local legend.

“I wish you could see me now, Dad.” The boy sighed.

“Son, I will be with you in spirit.” I smiled.

He opened the door and went inside.


7th Place

Beware the Calliope Monster

by
Tammie Fickas

“Beware the calliope monster,” the leaves whispered as they skittered around Adam’s boots. He stomped his feet to crush their murmurings. His gaze roamed the arcade, the tall columns now bright purple, not like the old days, but the carousel still spun out its tinny music.

Her Love’s Baby Soft perfume stung his nostrils as she appeared before him, purplish marks marred her beautiful neck.

“Hey, you. It’s been so long.” Adam reached to touch her arm, but she backed away “Let’s ride the carousel horses, you loved doing that.

Her words mingled with calliope music as a contorted grimace replaced her smile. “I hated the carousel. That was your thing.”

Tears seeped from the corners of Adam’s eyes. “No, you were my thing. My everything.”
“Adam, you strangled me.”

“I loved you.” His whisper scratched the cold air and with nothing to hold it up, plummeted to the stairs he stood on.

“You wanted to control me and now you do. Are you happy, Adam?” Sepia tinted air swept in, erasing her like he did that night on the carousel.

In death, he had her all to himself. Beware the calliope monster, indeed.


8th Place

At the Amusement Park

by
Janice Utz

Exuberant squeals. Infectious laughter, and sweet, childish giggles. The clanging of bells. The cheerful tune of a calliope. Raucous applause. Corn popping. The welcoming call of a barker. The snap of a banner in the breeze. The click, click, click, click of a rollercoaster rising, followed by the whoosh of its descent.

Bang! Bang! Bang! A moment of stunned silence. Screams of terror. Bang! Bang! Bang! The pounding of a human stampede.

Sirens blaring. The thunder of heavy vehicles. Bang! Bang! Bang! Radios squawking. Orders snapped. The coordinated march of men on the move. Bang! Bang! Bang! The staccato response. Bang! Bang! Bang! Breaths held. Silent stalking. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Squeaking gurneys. The now fading wails of ambulances full of critical cargo.

The scratch of a match. The crackle of a candle flame. Murmured prayers. Quiet weeping. A sorrowful song rising to the heavens.

The rumble of a garbage bin being pushed over the pavement. The chuff of a broom. A spray of water. The squeak of a gate, the snick of a padlock, and the metallic clink of a chain against the iron fence.

The mournful cry of a pigeon. Dead silence.


9th Place

Enough

by
Deborah Maxey

Scraggly head down, the tattered hem of his disheveled kakis dragging the concrete, Ivar hobbled to the arcade doors unlocking them and flipping a switch causing the dark room to come alive with colorful dancing lights.

Jax and friends, leaving their perch on the picnic table outside, pushed past the elderly man.

“Move, Sling Blade.” Jax barked.

“He stinks,” Randy said.

“Disgusting,” Leo added.

But their daily vitriol was greatly diminished without Hunter, their leader.

“Over here first, Sling Blade,” Jax yelled.

Ivar hobbled to the pinball machine where his three tormentors waited, his key starting the loud music, dings, bells, and clacks.

“Where is Hunter?” Randy whined.

Leo shrugged. “Beats me.”

Ivar limped through the building unlocking foosball, air hockey, and video games. Returning to the boys he placed a Claw Game token on top of the pinball machine, mumbling, “Somebody dropped this,” then turned and shuffled back through the arcade and exited the building.

Leo grabbed the token, “Dibs,” and hurried to the tall glass box crammed with multicolored stuffed animals. Seconds later his blood curdling screams summoned Randy and Jax. The three stood, transfixed in horror. The Claw’s shiny hooks were positioned over Hunter’s severed head.


10th Place

No Hoax

by
Lex Tinsley

Sam led Fred to an arcade machine, a glassed-in box with the half torso of a full sized Indian in a turban sitting there.

“You place your hands on these two pads, and he reads your palm. “

Sam placed his palms on the pads.

The Indian raised his head, blinked, moved his right hand across the cards before him. Then in a quiet voice, said, “You will soon come into money. Guess the correct number between one and ten, you will get a card for a free sex lesson.”

“Seven”

The Indian frowned. “The number is Three.”

Fred smiled, “Wow. Give me a token.”

He inserted the token and placed his hands on the pads. The Indian went through the motions. “Tomorrow will be a very good day for you. Guess the correct number between one and ten, you will get a card for a free sex lesson.”

“Six.”

The Indian frowned. “The number is Three.”

As they walked back to the food court, scattering the pigeons, Fred shook his head, “That’s a hoax. You can’t win a free sex lesson.”

Sam shook his head, “Oh, no. My girl tried and she won twice.”


The Contest Judge

The 2020 Golden Donut Short Story Contest judge is THE ultimate virtuoso of the short story, Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.”

Assuming the mantle of editor-in-chief in 2002, Linda Landrigan has also edited the commemorative anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense (2006) and the digital anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Thirteen Tales of New American Gothic (2012), and has found time to be active on the board of the New York City Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. In 2008, Linda and her “partner in crime,” Janet Hutchings – editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine – were presented with the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic for their contributions to the mystery genre.


We will soon contact each the top ten authors. Please watch for an email message from [email protected]. The subject line will read “Golden Donut Contest.” Again, congratulations to all!


*The photograph used as the basis for the 2020 stories is of the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Ca. Denene (my wife) took the shot on Christmas Day several years ago.

It is our annual tradition to visit a beach each Christmas Day, where we walk on the sand and listen the calming ocean sounds.

The process has begun. A new website is under construction. Courses and classes are in the design stages. The first group of instructors are scheduled and, by the way, the lineup for the first daylong live and interactive seminar is absolutely incredible. You’re going to lose yours minds!!

Full details soon to be announced. This is exciting!

*The online WPA is not a substitute for the in-person hands-on event!! Instead, these courses are designed to compliment the annual event, and to further assist the writing community.

Over the years, many have requested that we host a virtual event. Well, those requests are now a reality!

In just a few short weeks a group of MurderCon’s top law enforcement and forensics experts will arrive in homes around the world (virtually) to teach LIVE online classes, such as Fingerprints, Chemical Processing of Prints, Presumptive Blood/DNA, Blood Spatter, Footwear Evidence, Lifting Footwear, Homicide Investigations, Murder Case Studies, Toxicology, Forensic Geology, and Entomology to name a few. Each session features Q&A time with the instructors. There are also a couple of surprises in store for attendees..

This is an extremely rare opportunity, and presenting this material in such intricate detail is not something that’s previously been available outside the walls of police and forensics training academies and facilities. Once again, we’re making it possible for you to attend sessions that are typically for law enforcement eyes only. This is the same material that’s taught to top investigators.

As you know, sadly, we were forced to cancel the in-person MurderCon due to COVID restrictions in North Carolina.

We made the difficult decision to cancel late Wednesday evening after receiving notice N.C. would not be moving to Phase 3 on June 26 as planned. So we shifted into high gear and Thursday morning we held the first meeting about developing a virtual event. We’ve since developed classes, format, retained instructors, platform, schedule, and more. The entire MurderCon website  and registration system will need to be retooled from the ground up.

Then comes a brief period of advertising leading up to the opening of registration for this very special virtual event, hopefully on July 6, 2020. We’re optimistic.

But, to make this work we need your help. You are our best means of advertisement. So please, please please, share this exciting news with your friends, family, on social media, your websites, to your writers groups, agents, publishers, and more. Shout it from the rooftops! I. Need. Your. Help!

As always, thanks so much for your continued support.

Lee Lofland

*Due to format and programming restrictions, space is limited. First-come, first-served.

It’s is with great pleasure that I announce that the Writers’ Police Academy will soon begin work on a new anthology. This new collection of mysterious stories (details below) comes on the heels of the successful publication of the 2019 book, After Midnight: Tales From The Graveyard Shift (published by Level Best Books), edited by Phoef Sutton with a foreword by Lee Child.

Description of AFTER MIDNIGHT

The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.

Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy include bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.

Contributing Authors

Heather Graham
Phoef Sutton
Robin Burcell
Allison Brennan

Ry Brooks
Carrie Stuart Parks
Lisa Klink
RJ Beam

Joe Bonsall
Katherine Ramsland
Denene Lofland
Michael A. Black

Emilya Naymark
Mike Roche
Les Edgerton
Shawn Reilly Simmons

Rick McMahan
Marco Conelli
Cheryl Yeko
Howard Lewis
Linda Lovely
Lee Lofland

Also published by Level Best Books, the 2020 WPA anthology is titled People Are Strange: Tales From The Graveyard Shift. Phoef Sutton returns in 2020 as editor. And, like this year, we’re offering a chance for YOU to have YOUR story in this amazing collection of tales.

I know, you’re anxiously awaiting the name of the superstar, mega-famous author who’s writing the foreword. So, without further ado …

Yes, your story could appear in a book with a foreword written by …

*

*

*

*

*

*

Lisa Gardner!

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries. She’s also had four books become TV movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and has made personal appearances on TruTV and CNN.

Lisa’s books have received awards from across the globe. Her novel, The Neighbor, won Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers, while also receiving the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle in France. She was also recognized with the Daphne du Maurier Award in 2000 for The Other Daughter. Finally, Lisa received the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers in 2017 for her work on behalf of at-risk children and the Humane Society.

For a bit of fun, Lisa invites her readers to enter the annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” Sweepstakes at LisaGardner.com. Every year, one Lucky Stiff is selected to meet a grand end in Lisa’s latest novel. Past winners have nominated spouses, best friends and even themselves.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire where she spends her time with an assortment of canine companions. When not writing, she loves to hike, garden, snowshoe and play cribbage.


Full “People Are Strange” contest details coming soon!

ATTENTION EVERYONE!!

Please watch this short video to learn the name of the Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon’s 2020 Guest of Honor!

After clicking the play button, please also click the arrow at the top left to view in full screen since I have no clue how to resize the video. Thanks.

This is exciting news!!

Mother would call it a ministry

Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. They’re in a class all to themselves, and it’s a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in often don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is an operation that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Of course, compounding the trouble is the necessary secrecy involving some aspects of law enforcement, acts that can drive even larger wedges between the general population and the police. Therefore, over time, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them, for whatever reason(s). And, unfortunately, the circling of those wagons transformed the an already large wedge into a nearly impenetrable wall between citizens and the officers who’ve taken an oath to protect and serve them.

The wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even fear death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. Are those feelings justified? Sadly, in some cases, the answer is yes. But in most instances the answer is a definite and resounding NO. But, those bad apples in the barrel ruin things for everyone on both sides of the badge.

As a detective in charge of certain operations, I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, and that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writing. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy five years ago.

I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below, I also knew the event had achieved far more than helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life. It’s almost overwhelming to think that the WPA actually impacted someone this way means a lot to me.

So here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity, and, please, if you think you recognize the author of the letter, keep the name to yourself). The incidents mentioned in the letter occurred in New York City, but this could be said about any location in the country. And, by the way, I deeply appreciate the courage it took for this person, the author of the message, to attend the WPA and then to follow up with such a raw and emotional letter.

The Letter

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September of 201* and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld

 

Last week my wife Denene and I traveled to North Carolina to be with her mother during yet another surgery (you may recall that she and our daughter were each diagnosed, just weeks apart, with serious cancer). Her surgery went well and she’s now back at home.

On our way back to our own home we took a detour to visit with my brother and his wife for a few minutes. The side trip to their house took us deep in the countryside where it’s not unusual to see a black bear crossing the road, or a dozen or so deer grazing on my brother’s property.

To return to a major highway after leaving my brother’s place, we first had to trek along several narrow treelined backroads, where thick leafy canopies overhang, allowing only bits of sunlight to leak through between branches, speckling the asphalt with splashes and dots of yellow.  It was like I image it would be to travel through the twisting and turning lens of an old kaleidoscope.

Denene and I chatted along the drive with our conversation turning toward the possibility of hosting a 2020 Writers’ Police Academy. We brainstormed ideas as to how, if we decide to host a 12th event, to top earlier years and which new classes and topics we could offer.

We discussed past events and favorite sessions and activities. We also discussed that 2020 would be a year without Linda Lovely and Howard Lewis, our two key volunteers who’ve decided to move on after many years of hard work and loyal service to the WPA. Of course Denene and I are grateful to all they’ve done for us and the event over the past several years. The four of us have been together during fun times and extremely difficult hardships.

But, as it’s been said, “The show must go on.” For now, though, the head-scratcher of the day is whether or not to return to Sirchie, NWTC’s Public Safety Academy in Green Bay, or to simply call it quits after 11 wonderfully successful years. I’d love to see your preferences in the comments below.

Okay, back to the rest of the trip back home from N.C.

We twisted and wound throughout the network country roads, passing a couple of boarded-up country stores, the kind that once sold hunks of hoop cheese and slices of bologna from long tubes, hand-dipped ice cream cones, pickled eggs and pigs feet from large glass jars, live minnows and crickets, and blocks and bags of ice.

Cotton field in Virginia

Small clapboard-sided churches and fields of soybean and cotton and corn were part of the landscape, as were modest homes and barns and tin-roofed sheds cobbled together from plywood and 2x4s.

Then, we passed a house that stirred a long forgotten memory. It was a brick rancher with a gravel driveway. The entrance to the drive was flanked by two large wooden wagon wheels, one on either side. A vivid picture crossed my mind—a Virginia State Police car parked in that very driveway. Wow, how could I have forgotten about this trooper, a man who played a part in shaping me as a police officer.

Let’s Back up a Bit

I’ve worked undercover assignments in my day, most of which involved narcotics operations. My very first one took place, and it pains me to say just how long ago it was, back in the 70s. I know, I’m one of the “old guys.”

By the way, writers, that’s a term sometimes used by younger cops when referring to active-duty officers who tend to show a bit of gray hair and “donut induced belly droop” at the waistline. Old Guy is a moniker that also refers to retired cops.

I was reminded of my “old guy” status during a past WPA when I overheard instructor Rick McMahan using me as an example to emphasis a point during one of his presentations. He said something similar to, “Lee Lofland could probably tell you about how it went back then. He’s one of the old guys.”

When Denene and I passed that brick house I mentioned above, I immediately recalled sitting in a beat-up old car while two troopers placed “bugs” in the passenger side door panel and beneath the dashboard. I didn’t wear a wire in case the dealer opted to check for one, and he did. My handler, the trooper who lived in the brick house, was briefing me about my “target,” a major drug supplier who sold only large quantities of marijuana (“pot,” back in the day). Nothing smaller than five pounds, actually.

It was my job to gain the man’s confidence and work my way into his trusted circle. The goal was to become one of his dealers. I was brought in from another area to prevent the possibly of recognition. It was a tough assignment for a couple of reasons. One – No one had been able to gain the man’s trust. Two – He was a black man who generally didn’t associate with white people, and I’m obviously white. And he didn’t, as a rule, sell to white people. Didn’t trust them. Not at all. So my assignment was an uphill climb from day one.

But, at the time was hair was quite long and my daily attire was often grungy jeans, t-shirts, and Converse tennis shoes. I definitely looked the part and I walked the walk and talked the talk.

Me completing paperwork at the time of this operation.

Long story short, I did indeed manage to work my way inside the “team” and was soon given five pound packages of “pot” to sell. I was easily successful at unloading the drug because I simply turned it over to my handler, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, through the Va. State Police, kindly forked over the cash/buy money.

To my supplier, I was a fantastic “employee.” He assumed I was selling to white folks from Richmond to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, to Raleigh and everywhere in between. He even accompanied me on a couple of sales to undercover Va. State Police troopers. We arranged these sales to prove that I was not an undercover agent.

So, the day came to make the arrest. Since I was then working other assignments I was not part of the raid team. In fact, I didn’t see the man again until we came face to face in court during his trial, and if looks could kill I’d have been butchered, burned, and fed to wild hogs and hungry lions.

When I took the stand to testify about, in great detail, the operation that brought us to the point of the arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings, his high-priced, fancy-dressed defense attorney tried his best to discredit me. But, it didn’t work. Not even close. To pat myself on the back a bit, I remained calm, cool, and sharp.

Entrapment?

The attorney tried every trick in the book, including the old standby of entrapment. But this one failed miserably. You’ve probably heard someone somewhere say that undercover (UC) police officers absolutely must identify themselves as officers at some point during the operation, otherwise the, as the myth goes, the suspect’s constitutional rights are violated. It is incorrectly believed that if a UC does not identify themselves then they have entrapped the person who committed the crime in question.

Well, hogwash. This is without any doubt whatsoever, a myth of epic proportion. It’s fake news spewed by people who do not know the law.

Yet, this highly-educated and quite successful attorney, well, he sort of went there, asking me this question during his cross examination. “Did you tell my client what you were going to do with the marijuana he gave you? 

I sat in silence for a moment to allow the prosecutor to butt in, object, or whatever,  but he elected to not do or say anything.

Therefore, my response to this dumb question was the first thing that popped into my somewhat warped mind. “No I did not. And I didn’t because I don’t believe he’d have given me large quantities of marijuana to sell if he knew I was handing it over to Va. State Police Troopers for the purpose of building a solid case against him.”

Laughter then roared from the courtroom, and even the judge chuckled before asking the defense attorney if he had any further questions for me. He replied, “No, sir. I don’t believe so.” Then he turned and took a seat.

The drug dealer was found guilty and was handed a lengthy prison sentence.


Entrapment

“Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” ~ Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540(1992).

 


Again, I’d truly like to hear you thoughts regarding a potential 2020 Writers’ Police Academy—return to Sirchie, NWTC’s Public Safety Academy in Green Bay, or to simply call it quits.

So please do post your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, if we are to continue hosting this wonderful event we may need volunteers to help out, especially people with experience in planning large events with lots of moving parts. We also may need a few people to fill smaller roles during the event—help with raffle, check-in, reception, banquet, etc.

Working as a WPA volunteer involves lots of hard work and no pay (sounds tempting, I know). However, the experience is extremely rewarding in many ways. If you should consider becoming a WPA volunteer, please keep in mind that the Writers’ Police Academy is not a typical writers conference. There are no craft sessions, agent and/or editor panels, nor are there pitch sessions with agents and/or editors.

The WPA is a hands-on learning event whose focus is solely on teaching writers about law enforcement, forensics, and crime-solving. It’s an event that welcomes everyone, and it’s a place that’s free of politics. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And it truly is a Disneyland for writers of all genres, from beginning writers to top bestselling authors. Fans and readers, journalists, librarians, booksellers, etc. are also welcome to attend.

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

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

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

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

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

The Basic Speed Measurement Operator Training requirements include the following:

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

Virginia State Police Basic Training

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

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

A troopers basic training is completed in four phases.

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

What Happens After Local Officers Graduate From the Academy?

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

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

a. Field training program and the field training officer.

b. Field training program delivery and evaluation.

c. Training liability.

d. Characteristics of the adult learner.

e. Methods of instruction.

f. Fundamentals of communication.

g. Written test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advanced Classes for Officers, and Writers

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

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

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

  • Clandestine Grave Search & Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Much Training and So Many Required Certifications, but …

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

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

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

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

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

Author Melinda Lee – WPA firearms training

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

 

 

 

 


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

 

 

I’d like to take a moment of your time today, please, to address the recent concern expressed regarding the spelling of the word “Donut” in the title of the Writers’ Police Academy’s short story contest.

Also brought into question is the manner in which the Golden Donut writing contest is judged. Let’s first begin with the word “donut” and why this particular assemblage of letters was selected.

Donut v. Doughnut

While the spelling “Doughnut” is the more widely used spelling of the circular, hole-in-the-middle tasty treats often enjoyed by both police officers and writers, “Donut” is also considered as an acceptable spelling.

The latter spelling of the word is often used when referring to the maneuver performed by drivers who spin their cars in tight circles, going round and round in a plume of smoke created by the melting and burning of rubber tires as they rub against asphalt or concrete surfaces. This is a trick known as “Doing Donuts.” Or, of course, “Doing Doughnuts” is perfectly acceptable.

Since the WPA’s 200-word contest is offered by a police-themed event, featuring stories that are so brief that they must be written tightly and precisely, much like the well-formed tight circles resulting from “doing donuts,” we chose the tongue-in-cheek option of Golden “Donut” as the title of the popular contest.

From Merriam-Webster:

“In most dictionaries donut is an accepted spelling variant of doughnut. The spelling of donut without the “-ough” has appeared in enough textual references, and been made popular by brand such as Dunkin Donuts, to the point where it has widely become an accepted version of the glazed treat.”

“We’re not the only ones; it looks like any dictionary worth its salt includes it. Here’s why donut is included in our dictionaries.”

Usage of Donut

“We’ve been encountering the variant donut in published, edited text since the mid-20th century. It was certainly helped along by famous doughnut purveyors – both Dunkin’ and Mister – but in truth they and all who’ve accepted the variant were following in a tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform also embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster.”

Also, from the Salvation Army website:

“The Salvation Army established the first National Donut Day in 1938 in Chicago.”

“Donuts and “doing good” have always gone hand in hand. During World War I, Salvation Army “Donut Lassies” served donuts to soldiers. Today, we continue to celebrate their work by delivering the sweet treat to those in need – and to donut lovers across the country.”

Finally, we selected the name and its spelling mainly because we liked it, much like people all over the world choose names for their children. Such as the celebrities who named their offsprings…

Birdie (Busy Philipps and Marc Silverstein)

Blue Ivy (Beyonce and Jay-Z)

North (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West)

Story (Jenna Elfman)

Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone)

Who knows, someone may someday decide to name their kid Donut simply because the name strikes their fancy.

“Here comes good ole Donut Duncan. He’s got six toes on his left foot and seven on his right. I hear tell his uncle Darby’s got ten toes on each foot and can swim like a duck.”

Or…

“Look out, there’s Donut Dahmer. He’s Jeffrey’s first cousin, you know. And they say “IT” runs in the family!”

 

Judging the Golden Donut Contest – The Process

Before addressing the recent complaint, I first would like to point out that we receive tons of entries each year. And, while each are wonderful stories, only one can be the winner. In fact, so many of these stories are so fantastic we are currently trying to work out the details to publish many of the past contest entries in a Golden Donut anthology.

But back to the complaint.

I’ve served as a judge for major writing awards, and it’s no picnic when it comes down to selecting a winner. So I feel the pain that our judges experience each year. Fortunately, the stories our judges read are not connected in any way to a person. Instead, the short tales speak for themselves. They’re nothing more than words on a page. Letters arranged in such an order that tell a story about an image we provide as the basis for each tale. The authors’ names are not attached to any of the stories sent to judges.

Yes, the Golden Donut contest is judged blindly, with absolutely no means whatsoever of bias or cherry-picking of stories. Each story received arrives through the WPA website where our software randomly generates a number that is assigned to each entry. The assigning of numbers to the stories is computer generated and no one, not a single person/human who’s associated with the contest or event is involved in this process. An independent entity—the software program installed for the purpose of randomly assigning of numbers—handles this stage of the contest .

Once the contest deadline is reached, the individually numbered stories, minus the authors’ names and contact information, are then sent by the independent body to a panel of pre-judges who screen the stories for word count and quality of the stories. Then they select their top 12 favorites. This year, however, there were a couple of ties based on judges scores. This resulted in a top fourteen entries instead of the standard dozen.

Those top fourteen anonymous tales were again checked for word count and were then sent to the final judge, bestselling author Heather Graham, a judge who also did not know the names of the story authors. Heather Graham read all fourteen tales and from them selected her top three favorites – 1st, 2nd, and 3rdplace. She sent the top three back to us, still by number and title only.

Again, the author names were withheld throughout the entire process. Even I didn’t know who’d won until the very end when it was necessary for me to know so that I could order the trophy.

So there’s that. Now this…

AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT … the contest

Additionally, it was brought to my attention that someone believed the judging for the AFTER MIDNIGHT short story contest was in some way biased, rigged, or that we’d cheated in favor of certain authors. They even went as far as to claim the entire contest was a scam.

The judging process for AFTER MIDNIGHT was nearly identical to the Golden Donut contest. Each story was assigned a number and those nameless stories were sent to a panel of readers, a group composed of both authors and non-writer fans who enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense, etc. This group of readers scored each entry on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest score.

When all stories had been read the scores were tallied and the top tales were then sent, again, minus the author names, to the publisher, Level Best Books. And it was the publisher who determined the top two stories from the batch with the highest scores. The Writers’ Police Academy staff and judges/readers played no part in the final selections.

The two winning stories were published in the exciting new book AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, which, by the way, was advertised last weekend as one of Amazon Prime’s selected Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books.

Others on the same Amazon Prime list included BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty, Louise Penny’s A BETTER MAN, Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS, THE NEW GIRL by Daniel Silva, SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham, Stephen King’s DOCTOR SLEEP, and other top bestsellers. I’d definitely say AFTER MIDNIGHT is among excellent company!

I’d also like to say that the Writers’ Police Academy’s contest judging is at the highest standard possible. Using the software available to us leaves not a single shred of an opportunity to commit a misdeed. Besides, even if we could, we wouldn’t. Our goal is simple—to produce a quality event designed to help writers achieve their goals and dreams. And that’s what we’ll continue to do until the time comes to turn off the lights and shut lock the doors behind us for the final time.


By the way …

  • Amazin Glazin Donuts (2006) – Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Baker’s Dozen Donuts (1978) – Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • Belair Donuts (2013) – Augusta, Georgia
  • Bess Eaton Donuts (1953/2011) – Westerly, Rhode Island
  • Blue Star Donuts (2009) – Portland, Oregon
  • Boston Donuts – Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Casper’s Donuts – Pueblo, Colorado
  • Country Donuts (1976) – Elgin, Illinois
  • Cravin Donuts (1983) – Tempe, Arizona
  • Crispy Donuts – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Curry’s Donuts (1971) – Wilkes-Barre (Kingston), Pennsylvania
  • Daylight Donuts (1954) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Dipping Donuts (ca. 2000)- Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Dixie Cream Donuts (2008) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Donut Bank (1967) – Evansville, Indiana
  • Donut Bistro – Reno, Nevada
  • Donut Cafe – Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Donut Connection (1995) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Donut Country (1986) – Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Donut Crazy – New Haven, Connecticut
  • Donut Delight (1991) – Stamford, Connecticut
  • Donut Dip (1957) – West Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Do-rite Donuts – Chicago, Illinois
  • Donut King (2007) – Minneola, Florida
  • Donut King – Massachusetts
  • Donut Mania – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Donut Palace (1978) – Van, Texas
  • Donut Professor (ca 2009) – Omaha, Nebraska
  • Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • Donut World (2010) – Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Duck Donuts (2007) – Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (1950) – Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Federal Donuts (2011) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fractured Prune Donuts (1976) – Ocean City, Maryland
  • G & S Donuts – Montgomery, Alabama
  • Glaze Donuts (2014) – New Milford, New Jersey
  • Glazed & Infused Donuts (2012) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Granny’s Donuts – High Point, North Carolina
  • Happy Donuts & Bakery – Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Haskell’s Donuts (1983) – Ruston, Louisiana
  • Heav’nly Donuts (1975) – Methuen, Massachusetts
  • Holtman’s Donuts (1960) – Loveland, Ohio
  • Home Cut Donuts (1966) – Joliet, Illinois
  • Honey Dew Donuts (1973) – Mansfield, Massachusetts
  • Honey Dip Donuts – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Howard’s Donuts (1970s) – West Memphis, Arkansas
  • Hurts Donuts (2013) – Springfield, Missouri
  • Hypnotic Donuts (2010) – Dallas, Texas
  • Irish Maid Donuts (1960) – Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Jack’s Donuts (1961) – New Castle, Indiana
  • Jack N Jill Donut Shops (2001) – Abilene, Texas
  • Jolly Pirate Donuts (1962) – Columbus, Ohio
  • Jubilee Donuts (1947) – Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
  • Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts (1955) – Saugus, Massachusetts
  • King Donut – Connecticut
  • K-May Donuts – Athens, Alabama
  • Knapp’s Donut Shop (pre-1996) – Rochester, Michigan
  • LaMar’s Donuts (1960) – Kansas City, Missouri
  • Licking Good Donuts (ca 1986) – Mobile, Alabama
  • Loyless Donuts – Dothan, Alabama
  • Maple Donuts (1946) – York, Pennsylvania
  • Mary Ann Donuts (1947) – Canton, Ohio
  • Mary Lee Donuts (1969) – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Mello Creme Donuts – Lima, Ohio
  • Mel-O-Cream Donuts (1932) – Springfield, Illinois
  • Mighty-O Donuts (2000) – Seattle, Washington
  • Mike’s Donuts (1969) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mister Donut (1955) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Hot Donuts (1994) – Houma, Louisiana
  • Naughty Girls Donut Shop (2014) – Front Royal, Virginia
  • Not Just Donuts – Slidell, Louisiana
  • Paradise Donuts (1967) – Neosho, Missouri
  • Peace, Love & Little Donuts (2009) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Pink Box Donuts (2012)- Henderson, Nevada
  • Poppy’s Xtreme Donuts – Marion, Indiana
  • Ray’s Donuts – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Ray’s Donuts – St. Louis, Missouri
  • Rebel Donuts – Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Rise N Shine Donuts – Lubbock, Texas
  • Robin’s Donuts (1975) – St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
  • Sara Donuts – Suwanee, Georgia
  • Shipley Do-Nuts (1936) – Houston, Texas
  • Shore Good Donuts (2011) – Long Beach Island, New Jersey
  • Sip’N Dip Donuts (1985) – Warren, Rhode Island
  • Southern Maid Donuts (1937) – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Sprinkles Donut Shop (2015) – Hudsonville, Michigan
  • Square Donuts (1967) – Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Stan’s Donuts (1963) – Los Angeles, California
  • Sublime Donuts (2008) – Atlanta, Georgia – ain’t it the truth
  • Sugar Rush Donuts (2011) – Bayou La Batre, Alabama
  • Sugar Shack Donuts (2013) – Richmond, Virginia
  • Super Donuts – West Monroe, Louisiama
  • Suzy-Jo Donuts (1955) – Bridgeport, Pennsylvania
  • Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (1983) – Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tastee Donuts – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tasty Donuts (2011) – Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • The Donut House – Denver, Colorado
  • The Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • The Holy Donut (2012) – Portland, Maine
  • The Whole Donut (1955) – Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tim Horton’s (1964) – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Tom’s Donuts (1970) – Lake James, Indiana
  • Top Donut – Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Top Donuts – Killeen, Texas
  • Top Pot Donuts (2002) – Seattle, Washington
  • Whole Donut – Connecticut
  • Winchell’s Donuts (1948) – Temple City, California
  • Yum Yum Donuts (1971) – Los Angeles, California

 

 

WPA melts the wall between cops

Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. They’re in a class all to themselves, and it’s a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in simply don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is an operation that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Over time, and as a result of hatred and violence directed toward cops, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them. Actually, hate would be a more appropriate term in many cases. Unfortunately, the escalating hatred of police combined with the circling of those wagons transformed what was once a wedge of apprehension between citizens and the officers into a nearly impenetrable wall.

Yes, the wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even fear death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. And likewise, the police, too, fear injury and death.

As a detective in charge of certain operations I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writings. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy several years ago.

I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below, I also knew the event had achieved far more than helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life.

Here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity and, please, if you think you recognize the author of the letter, keep the name to yourself).

Here goes…

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld


Details of the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy will soon be available. 2018 marks our 10th anniversary so expect the largest and most exciting event we’ve ever produced. It’s going to be BIG!

*Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor of the WPA.