Lee is a great guy, don’t get me wrong. He graciously didn’t put my name and phone number on the picture of me flipping off the police on that felony traffic stop or send it to my local police department. Hey, how was I to know that the scumbag driving the SUV and his flaky girlfriend had just robbed a store. What about the gun, you say. Not mine, I swear I was just holding for a friend. I’m totally innocent.
Anyway let’s get back to Lee. He worked hard protecting citizens from the bad guys as a police detective even receiving an award of valor. He created THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD, the Writers’ Police Academy. Still, I blame him for ruining my television viewing pleasure. Let me explain.
I can’t watch Castle any more. It wasn’t Lee’s blog about all the procedural faults with the show. No, I still watched because I love Nathan Fillion. Brown Coats unite!! Er, um, moving on, it wasn’t Lee’s blog, but the Writers’ Police Academy that created the problem. Not just for Castle, but all television cop shows. See, it goes like this, I turn on the tv, the opening scene begins and I start with, “that’s not right. The police would never do that.” Ten seconds later I’m yelling, “the ME (medical examiner) can’t tell cause of death at the scene or the time of death!!” CSI is a total bust. When one of the techs walks in with a black light after spraying the scene with Luminol, I’m not just yelling, I’m screaming, “Luminol does not need blue light!! It’s about luminescence not fluorescence!!” And those high heels and low cut tops; forget it, it’s all over for me. Click, TV off, and I walk away muttering ‘that was just wrong, wrong, wrong’. Lee’s fault.
But it doesn’t end there. A house burned down in my neighborhood. I read every newspaper account. I was fascinated because the reports stated that the fire burned so hot it obliterated the area where it started. I wondered which type of accelerant was used and how much the house was insured for and whether the owner was in financial trouble or hiding criminal activity. Not really good things to wonder out loud when your neighbor’s house burns down. Okay, some of this I come by honestly, I am a crime writer, but really all those thoughts were just enhanced by, you guessed it, the Writers’ Police Academy; THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD. I blame Lee.
I watched the news about the shooting in DC this week. Many of those officers were not being paid due to the government shut down, but performing their duties protecting others was important to them. As the police officers surrounded the car with their guns drawn, I knew what they were doing and why. I understood the risks they were taking and the scenarios that they were prepared for. My perspective had changed.
The Writers’ Police Academy provided that insight. There were many live demonstrations. I got to see dogs in action working with their handlers. Climb into a command trailer. We had a bomb squad demonstration. Really cool, from the dog detecting the ‘bomb’ in the backpack, to the robot moving the ‘bomb’ away, to the officer suiting up and taking a detonation device to the ‘bomb’.
Then the ‘fire in the hole’ called out before the ‘bomb’ was exploded. We experienced it from start to finish and the ‘boom’ made us all jump even though we all knew it was coming. We then got to pepper the officers with questions as we furiously wrote down the answers.
I got to search a building with training from a SWAT officer. We were ‘issued’ fake guns and rifles and sent in to search. Then on the second time in, someone was chosen to hide. Half of us died by not finding the suspect before he or she found us. The officer taking us through the search procedures was also a sniper; a nationally recognized expert police sniper. When asked if it’s possible, like in the movies, for someone to shoot a person holding a gun to a hostage’s head without harming the victim. He responded, “I can.” I wasn’t just impressed, he’s the one I want if a gun is ever held to my head. Nationally recognized police sniper and I-got-to-train-with-him!! I’m putting that on my writer’s CV.
Then it was my turn to shoot. At the simulator. We were allowed to chose real handguns. I wanted the 9mm Rugar. Hey why not? In the simulator you experience the feel and weight of real weapons. The magazines are fitted with electronics rather than live bullets. The system records each ‘shot’ fired. Where it hits on the screen. Kill shots are identified with a red dot. My heart was pumping as I held my gun. My vision narrowed as I focused on the screen.
We went through several scenarios. Each forced you to assess the situation, each individual to determine whether a person was a potential threat and whether you needed to shoot and at whom. While not real, it’s disconcerting to be faced with a gun fired at you. I accorded myself well. I made several kill shots and all my non-lethal shots would have incapacitated the shooters. I was deemed worthy of being some one’s partner on patrol. I walked out of the room wired on adrenaline. I can’t imagine what police officers experience in real situations, I didn’t have real bullets firing back at me, but I do have an inkling and an incredible amount of respect.
I also understood the potential dangers of approaching a vehicle after a regular traffic stop, but the increased danger of a felony traffic stop. I’d learned all about it during the felony traffic stop at the Writers’ Police Academy. Yes, that traffic stop. Lee has photos. I’m never going to be able to live this down.
The scariest moment though was the jail tour. We had to make sure we had nothing on us but our ids. We couldn’t bring in pens with springs – prisoners could make zip guns if they were able to get a hold of the pens. A prisoner in a holding cell screamed at us as we walked by. We toured the command room, medical facility, the personal effects room, and then one of the floors.
You enter the floor through a series of doors each requiring either an override key or permission from the command room to get in. Each door has to close first before the next one is opened. It took a while to get our entire group through. The best behaved prisoners were located on this floor, still we were out in the central area with the prisoners around us. The floor was open in the center with cells around the outer rim. A few watching television were a couple of chairs away from our group. Others were watching us from their cells or classroom, pressed against the glass to look at us. We huddled closely to listen to the guard tell us about the area.
The prisoners looked so young to me and no different from young men I might pass in the street back home. I wondered about their choices or lack thereof that got them here. The guard reminded us that these prisoners were the ones deemed with the best chance to turn around their lives. But, there were floors that we could never see like this due to the types of criminals. I thought about the most heinous crimes possibly committed by the prisoners on those floors and was glad they were in jail and not on the street. The floor was completely closed off from the outside world. There was no natural light or air, no windows that looked out. If I had any thought towards criminal activity, that would have made me reform immediately.
The Writer’s Police Academy instructors are experts, special agents, professors, sheriff deputies, highway patrol, EMTs, SWAT officers, firefighters, and detectives – top people in their respective fields. I learned about forensic psychology, forensic DNA testing, cold case investigations, crime scene investigation, fingerprint analysis, blood analysis, crime scene evidence collection, serial killers, profiling and so-much-more. We heard from best selling authors on their writing journey and how they weave in facts, experiences and case studies into their stories. Police officers told us they love what they do; they feel the responsibility and the duty of doing a job well.
I returned home psyched and roaring to go. Now instead of a blank page when I set down to write, I see my instructors. The ones who took their own personal unpaid time to teach, instruct and tell war stories to a bunch of typewriter/computer wannabe jockeys. I asked the officers how we could best represent them in our writing. I will never forget the response, “take what we’ve given you and write it right.”
For Lee and all the officers and instructors, I vow to do my best to get it right. Still, Lee did ruin my life, I’ll never be able to watch police shows any more because now I know how it’s really done. I’ll throw crime novels with inaccurate police procedure into the fireplace. Sigh, life as I knew it will never be the same. Still I say….
To Lee for the Writers’ Police Academy; THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD.
To all the officers, lecturers and everyone who made it the BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD.
Oh, you might be wondering about that felony traffic stop. Well…they needed volunteers to portray the bad guys. Of course I jumped at the chance to act bad. Very bad. I blame it on Lee. He made me do it.
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You can read more from H. S. Stavropoulos at www.oaklandgreek.com