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barney-fife-itis

What is Barney-Fife-itis, you ask? Well, lots of writers suffer from it, and it’s a horrible disease. Nasty, in fact.

The best way to describe it is to take you to a small town somewhere deep inside your imaginations, where this stuff lives and breeds like the black mold that hides beneath an HGTV fixer-upper bathroom vanity.

So lets go there, to that spot in your mind where …

Yes, it’s a small red-brick building nestled between Betty Lou’s Cut ‘n Curl and Smilin’ Bob’s Hardware and Pawn Shop. The lone parking space in front is reserved. A sign reads “Chief’s Parking Only.”

Inside, the hallway to the right takes you to the water department and the office of the building inspector. There, you can also purchase dog tags and yard sale permits.

A left turn leads to the town’s police department, a force comprised of five dedicated, hardworking police officers—one chief, one sergeant, two full-time officers, and one part-time guy who’s also the mayor of the next town over.

Complaints can be filed with the dispatcher at the window, or by dialing the local number. Calling 911 in Small Town works the same as calling 911 in New York City. Hmm … there is a tiny difference, though. When you call 911 in Small Town somebody always shows up to see what’s wrong. Not always so in Big City.

Small Town dispatchers also work the computer terminals, and they handle calls for animal control, fire and rescue, sometimes reports of needed street repair, stoplights that are out, and even severe weather reports . They know CPR and they know everyone in town and the quickest routes to their houses.

Officers in Small Town attend the police academy and they receive the same training and certifications as the officers over in Big City. No, Small Town PD doesn’t have all the latest fancy equipment with the shiny, spinning dials and winking, blinking lights. They don’t have special detectives who only work homicides or white collar crime. And they don’t have divisions dedicated for traffic, vice, narcotics, and internal affairs. Budgets simply don’t allow it.

Officers in Small Town are cross-trained. They each know how to run radar, direct traffic, dust for fingerprints, interview suspects and witnesses, and they know how to investigate a murder.

Small Town officers investigate burglaries and assaults. They also arrest drunk drivers, drug dealers, people who abuse their spouses, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. They break up fights, help kids cross the street safely, and they locate lost pets. And, if one of their officers steps out of line they’ll straighten them out, too.

Of course, Small Town is totally fictional, but there are many actual small towns with small police departments, and those small departments work the same kinds of cases as the departments in larger cities. No, not all departments are large enough to have officers who serve as detectives. But they all employ police officers who are fully capable of investigating any type of crime, and they do, from traffic offenses to murder. Sure, they perform the same work as a detective, but they do it while wearing a uniform instead of some fancy-smancy suit.

Yep, most small departments operate the same way as the large ones, just on a smaller scale.

For example:

The Yellow Springs, Ohio Police Department serves a village of slightly less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, the department is small. However, there’s a college in town and the village is located near Dayton and Springfield, which translates into the potential for a higher crime rate than would normally be found in a town that size. And, the potential for more crime means more proactive police work for the small number of officers.

Several years ago, back during the time I was conducting research for my book o police procedure, the YSPD didn’t have plainclothes detectives to investigate major crimes. Instead, as is the case with many small departments, uniformed officers investigated all crimes. Therefore, when an officer received a call from the dispatcher they’d see it all the way through, from the 911 call through court, including evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, etc.

If the officers needed additional help, or resources, they called on the county sheriff’s office.

Remember, not all departments operate in the same manner. Some smaller departments DO have detectives, and those investigators may or may not wear a uniform. They could dress in a coat and tie, and they could have the title of detective, or investigator. If they’re a detective who wears a uniform their rank would normally remain the same. There is no standard rule. It’s entirely up to the individual department.


Remember—a police department and a sheriff’s office are not the same. Deputy sheriffs work for sheriffs, not police chiefs. But that’s a topic for another day.


Since the topic today is “small town departments” and the officers who work there … well, hold on to your hats because I’m about to make an earth shattering announcement! Ready?

Here goes.

Sure you’re ready? Are you sitting down? Have your nervous medicine in hand? Your doctor on speed dial?

Yes to all of the above? Okay, then. Here it is, and I’m holding nothing back. Not this time.

(One second. I’m taking a deep breath)

Okay, here’s the news …

Small town cops are the same as cops in big cities!

Yes, they are. I’ve said it and the secret is OUT!

They receive the same training. They do the same jobs. They go through similar hiring procedures. They enforce the same or similar laws. They use the same or similar equipment. And, well, to write them all as inferior, stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. is not only absolutely and unequivocally wrong, it’s extremely offensive.

I’ve often wondered why some people assume that people who have little are to be considered inferior, or less intelligent when compared to those who have a lot. This is also true when considering law enforcement agencies. Those with the shiniest and best equipment are often seen as employing officers who are smarter than their peers who work for small town departments with meager budgets. Of course, this unfair stereotyping occurs throughout most walks of life.

Try breaking it down in this way:

  • Small Town, a town of 4,000 residents, employs five police officers. Those five officers provide police protection and coverage for those 4,000 citizens.
  • Big City, a city of 100,000 employs 125 officers.
  • Break down the number from Big City into three shifts (day, night, and rotating for the off hours of the other shifts) and you wind up with just over 40 officers per shift.
  • Now, since Big City covers a much larger land area than Small Town, officials divided Big City into 8 precincts.
  • Each of the eight precincts covers a land area the size of Small Town.
  • Each precinct employs … wait for it … FIVE officers. Just like Small Town!
  • Some of those precincts have 4,000 residents, or more, including the extremely high-crime areas. Therefore, these precincts of 4,000 residents are covered by five police officers, which is the same scenario that plays out in every small town and city across the country.
  • Many small town police officers attend the same police academies as their peers in larger cities. In fact, they’re often classmates in the same academy. And, their instructors are the same, their desks are the same, and the equipment used is identical.

Anyway, budget, land area, and location are the major differences. Not intelligence or training.

*The above scenario is fictional. I merely used it to illustrate the point. It is, however, a loosely accurate portrayal.

Let’s continue to explore our small town department.

YSPD dispatcher.

NCIC and other equipment.

Above – Felony traffic stop in a small town. The procedure is the same in both large and small departments.

Issuing a traffic summons in a small town is no different, other than surroundings, than the same situation in a larger jurisdiction.

An arrest is the same no matter where it takes place. Tactics and techniques are identical. So is training and equipment. Even the handcuffs used are the same in both Big City and Small Town. Imagine that!

Small departments may not have the latest, modern equipment, such as LiveScan fingerprint terminals. Instead, they still use the old ink and ten-print cards. Both produce the same results—fingerprints.

Ten-print fingerprinting station.

Small departments collect and preserve evidence using the same methods and materials as do larger departments.

Evidence storage is the same, but is on a smaller scale in smaller departments.

YSPD evidence room office/processing area.

Evidence safe in a small department (for narcotics, etc.).

YSPD officer’s workstation/office.

Small departments follow the same procedures as any other department. The job is identical to that of a big city officer, just in a different location.

Interior of a YSPD patrol car. Some cars feature mobile data terminals (computers), and some don’t.

Check with Experts, Not Guess-Perts

As always, please check with experts in the area where your story takes place. Those are the people who can best help with your research. Not someone who once read a book about how cops work in small towns. Obviously, to read incorrect information and then pass it along is, well, it’s wrong.

To do so would be no different than me reading a book on brain surgery and then telling you about so you can then operate on your readers and fans. Reading a book or asking your Uncle Percy who sister-in-law was once married to a guy whose cousin know a guy in elementary school who later married a woman whose father was a cop, well, that certainly does not make Uncle Percy a crackerjack law enforcement expert. It’s actual experience and training produces experts.

Otherwise, we still see “Guess-perts” (the folks with no real experience or training) telling authors to write small town cops as “Barney Fifes,” when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know, there are “Barneys” in many departments (other professions as well), but they’re not exclusive to small towns. It’s just that they’re far more obvious when they’re one of only five officers citizens see every single day.

So, if you’re going for accuracy, the best advice for you, my writer friends, is to …

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Writers’ Police Academy

The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) offers actual hands-on police training. It is the ultimate research tool for writers.

The next event is scheduled to take place June 2-5, 2022, at NWTC’s renowned public safety academy in Green Bay, Wi. The 2022 event is so massive that it’s stretched between two cities—Green Bay and Appleton!

Details TBA.

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Officer Idu Thebestican feels as if he faces a no-win situation each day he puts on his uniform, and he stopped by today to tell why he feels that way. Here’s what the officer had to say …

Today I found a lost grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a wooded area near a rocky and steep ravine. I sat with her and held her hand until her family arrived to take her home. You didn’t see that.

I got pretty banged up while breaking up a nasty fight between two large men. They were angry over a ref’s call at a kid’s soccer game. You didn’t see that.

A convenience store was robbed by two masked men carrying handguns. I caught one of the robbers after a five-block foot pursuit. He fired a shot at me but missed. Luckily I was able to wrestle the gun from his hand. You didn’t see that.

You didn’t see that!

Two cars crashed head-on, killing everyone inside. I helped remove the bodies, including one of a tiny baby. You didn’t see that.

A bloody face and a broken arm on an eight-year-old girl. Her intoxicated father did that to her and I was there in time to stop him from killing his daughter. I took the punches that were intended for her. You didn’t see that.

I was stabbed and cut in the side by a woman trying to stop me from arresting the husband who’d just beaten her until she was black and blue. It took 30 stitches to close the wound. You didn’t see that.

A drunk man was trapped inside a burning house. I ran in and pulled him out. Burned my hands and face a bit, but the man survived. You didn’t see that.

I changed a flat tire for two elderly woman who were on their way to Florida. It was nearly midnight and they were stranded and alone on the side of a highway. You didn’t see that.

I worked three straight shifts without sleep or meals while trying to catch a guy who’d raped and murdered a teenager. You didn’t see that.

I bought a meal for a homeless man, and then joined him for lunch. He’d served in the military and suffers from severe PTSD. You didn’t see that.

I stopped to throw a few footballs with some young boys. You didn’t see that.

I adopted a needy family at Christmas time and bought them gifts. My wife and I delivered a holiday meal to them. You didn’t see that.

But you chose to see me when I responded to 911 call in your neighborhood, with all of your friends standing around, and you closed in on my personal space with your face just inches from mine to shout, “Murderer!” even though I’ve never killed anyone.

You threw rocks at me while I patrolled your street, trying to keep you safe from robbers, burglars, and killers.

You spit on me while I was arresting a guy in your neighborhood. It didn’t matter to you that he’d just committed an armed robbery of an old lady and that he’d roughed her up and fondled her “private areas.” To you, though, I was the bad guy. “F*** You! All cops are murderers!” you screamed at me while impressionable little children looked on. Those kids had no way of knowing that I’d never pulled my gun from its holster other than to clean it or qualify at the range.

A police officer a thousand miles away did something to dishonor HIS badge, yet you blame me. Why? I didn’t come to arrest you when I caught your friend climbing in that lady’s bedroom window. I don’t run out to punch a random doctor in the face simply because a physician somewhere in Maine botches a surgery on a cop I don’t know personally. It’s not supposed to work that way in a civilized society. Besides you’ll never catch me defending a cop who knowingly breaks the law.

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Here’s what it’s like from my point of view.

When I’m off duty and our kids are on the field playing sports, or we’re both sitting side-by-side at a community picnic and it’s as if we’re best buddies. But the moment I put on the uniform I’m suddenly the enemy. Your enemy. And it’s for no reason—your transformation—other than my clothing and something I didn’t do, that your hatred for me begins to fester and boil over.

Believe me, I don’t change. But you do.

And I see it.

 

Cop, crook

The world of cops and robbers is an entity all its own. It’s a culture that lives and breathes in every neighborhood of every city. And, within each individual subgroup comes a separate set of traditions, rules, regulations, and even their own language(s).

To survive in these various social orders, members and visitors must walk the walk and talk the talk that’s associated with each group. For example, to you the word cop might conjure up images of a burly police officer. However, to many criminals cop means to take plea agreement offered by the DA. “I’m not going to take a chance with a jury trial. I’m going to cop a plea.”

Let’s take a peek at a few more of the slang terms used by cops and robbers.

1. Sagging/Jailing (jailin”) – Wearing pants with the waistband so low that the underwear/boxer shorts are exposed. This style actually began in prisons and jails because inmates are often issued ill-fitting clothing. Their jail-issued pants are sometimes much too big which causes them to ride low on the hips.

Some say inmates who wear their pants “low” (saggers) are advertising that they’re available for sex.

2. Chicken head – Someone who gives oral sex in exchange for drugs.

3. Shorty – a nickname for girls/women. “Shorty sure looked fine last night.”

4. Bullet – A one year prison sentence.

5. Ink – Tattoo

6. Pruno – Alcohol made in jail or prison by inmates. Also known as hooch.

7. Five-O – The police. AKA: Po-Po, Barney, Bacon, Bear, Laws, Pig.

8. Lot Lizard – Prostitute who works the parking lots at truck stops.

9.. Catch a ride – Share someone’s drugs. “Hey, Dude. Can I catch a ride?”

10. Lampin’ – Hanging out under a street light. Those who do consider that spot as their turf.

Now, what are some of your favorite slang terms?


WELCOME TO MURDERCON

It’s a killer event that features renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.


2021 MurderCon Video Teaser

Police officers face many difficult challenges during the course of their careers, challenges most people would avoid at all costs. For example, exchanging a few rounds of live ammunition with a doped-up bad guy. Or how about working really long, odd hours, or the fear of losing everything you own, including your freedom, family, and possibly your life, should you make a bad decision in that fraction of a split second you have to make it.

And there’s this—the joy of being slapped, hit, punched, scratched, spit on, stabbed, cut, cursed at, having urine or feces thrown on you, puked on, bled on, wearing goofy clothing and heavy gear, and seeing people hurt, sick, and even die right front of you knowing there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

The danger level of the job is extremely high and getting worse every day. All it takes is a couple visits to this blog on any given Friday to know how dangerous the job really is.

And then there’s the ever popular low pay, little time off, missing holiday time with your family (if you still have one), high suicide rate, alcoholism, drug abuse, fear of serious injury or death, and divorce.

Still, through all the pain and agony and odd baggage that’s attached to every police officer, there’s always someone out there who’ll agree to enter into relationships with the poor saps. And that’s a good thing, right? Well, not always, and there’s a secret I’d like to share with you, the writer. First we must address the fact that you guys don’t always get cop romances right.

Here’s why.

The Three “Romance” Categories of Fictional Cops

  1. The ones in relationships, the Hallmark movie/Nicholas Sparks-happy-ending kind of cop. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware and  Robin Castagna come to mind, even though the partners sometimes experience and on-again-off-again sort of relationship. And there’s Faye Kellerman’s crime-solving duo Peter Decker, a lieutenant in the LAPD, and his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina Lazarus.
  2. The sad sacks who couldn’t hang on to a steady love interest if he/she were a conjoined twin. Little black dress-wearing Kinsey Millhone, bless her heart, well, the closest thing she had to a longterm relationship is with her dear landlord, 80-something Henry Pitts, a baker who spends his free time creating crossword puzzles.
  3. Then there’s the cop who’s so screwed up emotionally even mental hospitals lock their doors when they see him coming. The latter never finds true love, obviously, and remains a loner, stumbling through book after book after book. I’ll leave this one to your imaginations and personal favorites.

But there’s another kind of relationship, one that’s not really talked about in the world of fiction, and it’s definitely kept under wraps in the real world. But I’m spilling the beans, right here and right now. But you must swear to secrecy because, well … it’s a taboo topic!

We Tried to Warn Them!

Part of the exit speech we presented to new recruits leaving the police academy consisted of a few basic warnings about the potential career-ending temptations cops are sometimes faced with, like access to tons and tons of cash, drugs, alcohol, the fast life, prostitutes, abuse of power … and Badge Bunnies.

Badge bunnies? What the heck are badge bunnies? That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about them during the police academy superintendent’s “Welcome to the police officer family” speech during my last day at the police academy.

* Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not being sexist, just relaying some very real information. Of course this does work both ways. There are indeed male badge bunnies.

The term badge bunny is often defined as (from Urban Dictionary):

Badge Bunny: A female that goes out with only cops and firemen.

Badge Bunny: A female who enjoys “boinking” and actively pursuing sexual relationships with cops.

Badge Bunny: A female, usually of barely legal age, who spends her time chasing police officers, offering her “services” in hopes of gaining status among her badge bunny friends. (Yes, there are many cop groupies out there).

Badge Bunny Synonyms – holster sniffers, holster honeys, seat warmers, fender lizards, pig pals, beat babes. Cop wives refer to them by other names, such as whores, sluts, cause for divorce, and alimony bait.

New cops, the ones fresh out of the academy, are the officers who are most vulnerable to an attack from the vicious badge bunnies. They can’t help it, though. Recruits are young, good looking, and freshly toned from weeks and weeks of exercise and other training. They have shiny new equipment, sharply creased uniforms, tight haircuts, but more importantly, they have guns and badges! And they’re extremely naive.

Graduation day at the academy is like sending a pack of Roadrunners out into a world of Wile E. Coyotes. Badge Bunnies know the rookie’s weaknesses because they’ve studied the uniformed species for a very long time and they know how to cull the weak from the herd.

How does a badge bunny attack? They’re successful in various ways. For the sake of time and space I’ll list a few their deadly methods of operation.

  • The fake car breakdown, needing an officer’s assistance.
  • The fake prowler call, answering the door in a sexy outfit, or nothing at all.
  • The grocery store maneuver. You couldn’t reach the Special K even though you’re a good foot taller and eighty pounds heavier than the cop. Yeah, right.
  • Tapping the brake pedal repeatedly when they pass a target police car. The rookie officer sees the flashing brake lights each time the car passes his patrol car. Hmm, she must be signaling him. Is she in trouble? Or is she trouble …
  • Speeding, knowing she has all the ammo she needs to get out of the ticket.
  • Hanging out in cop bars, and gyms where cops are known to workout.
  • Hanging out in restaurants, coffee shops, etc., frequented by graveyard shift cops.
  • Hanging out at sporting events, especially softball games played by cop teams.
  • Wearing tee shirts with logos that read, I Love Cops.
  • Establishing friendships with police dispatchers for the purpose of meeting their gun-toting coworkers.

Relationships with badge bunnies rarely last. In fact most of them rarely make it into the light of day. These are secret relationships—brief meetings, encounters, and … well, I’ll leave it at that. I know, your next question is, “Since part of the attraction is the uniform and the cool cop equipment, where do they meet for the clandestine ‘encounters?'” How about  …

  • patrol cars – inside and out (lots of things to hold onto – light bars, spotlights, handcuffs…)
  • surveillance vans
  • police station warehouses and property rooms
  • department offices
  • hotels
  • small airport runways (for the deputies working the rural areas)
  • wooded areas
  • industrial parks
  • SWAT vehicles

Well, you get the idea.

Some badge bunnies keep a scorecard and move on quickly to the next guy with a gun. Sometimes, but not often, the encounters turn into lasting relationships, with kids, nice homes, cute puppies, picket fences, and everything else that comes with a solid marriage.

I offered a brief statement to the recruits I trained when I was a field training officer. It went something like this, “Keep your gun in your holster and you won’t have to worry about shooting the wrong person.” Now, there were two messages there, right? However, rookies rarely listened to the hidden meaning.

I could practically read their thoughts the second I said those words, and I knew they wanted to say to me, “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”

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Okay, so you’re a bit concerned that you may be experiencing a bit of badge-bunnyitis? Well, if you have any two of these symptoms, you should  steer clear of all police stations until the feelings pass.

  1. Like moths to a flame, you are attracted to bright and shiny things, especially badges and guns.
  2. You prefer handcuffs and leg irons over diamond bracelets and anklets.
  3. You often speed past police cars, pull over, and “assume the position” before the officer catches up to you … even if it’s the day of your wedding … to someone else.

 

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4.  In anticipation of a pat-down, you attach your apartment key to a weapon you’ve hidden beneath your clothing.

5.   911 to you is free access to phone sex.

6.  You often initiate high speed pursuits. However, it is you who’s doing the chasing.

7  The scent of gun oil is your preferred aphrodisiac.

8.  The sounds of leather creaking and keys jingling sends your heart into pitter-patter overdrive.

9.  Blue lights and sirens = foreplay.

10.  The phrase that makes your knees turn to jelly is,“Turn around and place your hands behind your back.”

* Obviously, this piece is intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at a situation that’s very real. In this article, though, I’m only referring to the bad bunnies—the scorekeepers. However, please know there are plenty of folks who are simply attracted to a certain kind of person, especially the men and women whose career choice includes wearing a uniform as part of their means to earn a living, and they are wonderful people who have wonderful, loving, meaningful and lasting relationships. The others, well …


For over a dozen years, the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) has delivered scores of outstanding workshops, classes, presentations, live demonstrations, and actual hands-on training, all taught by some of the county’s top experts. We’ve also offered MurderCon, a special event, both as an in-person event and virtually. In addition, in 2020 we launched Writers’ Police Academy Online, a series of live, interactive daylong seminars featuring acclaimed experts and well-known bestselling authors.

Our advertising campaign typically consists of word of mouth, an annual (inexpensive) ad on the site “ShawGuides,” and through the use of Facebook promotion—a simple $100 ad prior to the opening of each registration. Since so many writers have a presence on social media advertising on Facebook was an obvious choice to reach our target audience and we’ve done so for years, including advertising the January 2021 seminar. That, and we do all that we can to keep expenses to a bare minimum in order to offer low registration fees.

As many of you know, the WPA exists solely to help writers and, in doing so we’ve always maintained a neutral environment about politics, race, religion, gender, sexual preferences, etc.

Needless to say, I was shocked when Facebook rejected the ad I submitted yesterday for the upcoming February 27 seminar “Search Dogs, Search Warrants, a Search for Words, and Lies.” I immediately appealed but the ad was again instantly rejected. I even re-designed the ad, but no luck. Another rejection. Their final message to me was that the ad was rejected because it includes “Social Issues, Elections or Politics.” Now that was puzzling. I’d already had to stop using our logo, the “gun/pencil” because it was deemed as offensive to some and portrayed violence.

The situation is extremely frustrating for a couple of reasons—we can’t advertise the event in time for the February 27 seminar, and there’s no means to speak with anyone at Facebook who could explain what it is that’s offensive about the ad pictured below.

So I need your help, please, to spread the word about this fabulous, unique event. The lineup of classes and instructors is superb. If you will, share it on social media, tell your friends, announce it at your writer groups, etc. It’s okay to post and share. I’m just not permitted to purchase an ad for the event.

Here are the full details, and I thank you in advance for your support!

“Search Dogs, Search Warrants, a Search for Words, and Lies”

 

When: February 27, 2021

 

This daylong live and interactive seminar features three renowned professionals who will share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of day international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Instructors include Carrie Stuart Parks, Sheri Lewis Wohl, Wisconsin Judge Kevin Rathburn, and the fabulous Heather Graham Pozzessere!

Registration is officially open. Reserve your seat today!

https://writerspoliceacademy.online

February 27, 2021 – $99

Three renowned professionals share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of this daylong, live and interactive seminar, international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Schedule (Times are EST)

10:30 – Login and Test
10:45 – Welcome

11:00 – 12:20

Search Warrants, Pursuits, and Police Use of Force

This course will describe the general legal standards for the use of force by police such as warrants, including anticipatory, knock, and No Knock, warrants and pursuits. Instructor, Kevin Rathburn

12:20 – 12:50

Break

12:50 – 2:10

More than the Nose: K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century

K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century is a journey into the world of canine search teams. What does it take to be field ready? What makes a good search dog? Learn the difference between what it looks like on TV and what it’s really like out in the field. Learn how and why it’s changing from search and rescue volunteers to unpaid professionals. Instructor Sheri Wohl

2:20 – 3:40

Don’t LIE to Me!

Law enforcement uses numerous tools to identify deception in witnesses and suspects, depending on their background and training. Learn one of the more unique skill sets in recognizing deception through language–by reviewing the written statements. Understand how the very nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words, and other clues alert detectives to deception or hidden information. Add richness and depth to your writing by utilizing and weaving content statement analysis into your manuscripts. Instructor, Carrie Stuart Parks

3:50 – 5:10

“It’s all in the Words”

A dynamic workshop on the craft of writing taught by one of the all-time great authors of suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare. Instructor, Heather Graham

5:10

Final words


Instructor Bios:

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols, Inspys, the Christy, Golden Scroll, Maxwell, and Wright. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.

 


Sheri Lewis Wohl is a 30-year veteran of the federal judiciary, a search and rescue K9 handler, and the author of more than fifteen novels, several of which feature search dogs. She is a field ready member of search and rescue in Eastern Washington and for the last nine years, has been a human remains detection K9 handler deployed on missions throughout Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Sheri has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s degree in Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

 

 

 


 

Kevin Rathburn became a full-time faculty member at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2000 after serving as an adjunct instructor for nine years. Prior to that, Mr. Rathburn served for ten years as an Assistant District Attorney for Brown County in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 2004, Mr. Rathburn became Municipal Judge for the Village of Suamico. Mr. Rathburn holds BAs in political science and economics from St. Norbert College (1987) and a JD from Marquette University Law School (1990).

While in Law school, Mr. Rathburn served as a law clerk to several Milwaukee Circuit Court Judges handling civil and criminal matters and the appeal of cases from local boards and municipal court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also completed an internship in public sector labor law with the law firm of Mulcahy and Wherry and an internship with Blue Cross & Blue Shield Insurance Company.

Mr. Rathburn is a State Certified Instructor for the Wisconsin Technical College System. He is also certified by the Department of Justice, Training and Standards Board in the areas of Child Maltreatment, Constitutional Law, Corrections Law, Courts and Jurisdiction, Criminal Law, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology, Domestic Violence, Ethics in Criminal Justice, Interviews and Interrogation, Juvenile Law, Report Writing, Sexual Assault and Sensitive Crimes. Mr. Rathburn recently helped create Constitutional Law and Juvenile Law Manuals and update the Criminal Law Manual for the WI. Dept. of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau.

Mr. Rathburn has been a member of the Department of Justice Legal Context Advisory Committee since 2005. He has also served as a Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on School Violence and the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission. He is a past member of the Brown County Youth Aids Committee, Brown County Council on Child Sexual Abuse, Brown County Subcommittee on Underage Drinking, Brown County Consortium on Dysfunctional Families and St. Vincent Hospital’s Child Health Team.

Since 1991 Mr. Rathburn has made presentations on a wide variety of legal topics at numerous conferences including the Wisconsin Jail Association, Wisconsin Juvenile Officers and Juvenile Intake Workers, the State of Wisconsin DARE Officers Association, the Wisconsin LETAO, the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Instructors, the Wisconsin Arson Investigators and the Wisconsin Criminal Investigator’s Association. Mr. Rathburn frequently provides legal updates for law enforcement and correction agencies. He has also provided in-service training for Unified Tactical instructors, administrators, corrections officers, dispatchers and casino security staff.

Since 2007, Mr. Rathburn has been a frequent speaker for the State Supreme Court in its training of Municipal Judges and Court Clerks. Since 2012 Mr. Rathburn has provided Basic Intake Training for Juvenile Intake Workers throughout Wisconsin. He is a trainer for the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development system. Since 2016 Mr. Rathburn has been a featured presenter at the annual Writer’s Police Academy. He recently completed work with James Patterson and Maxine Paetro on a crime novel (The 17th Suspect). He has also presented to officers from England and the Caribbean Islands on multiple occasions in recent years.

In 1994, Mr. Rathburn received the Optimist Law Award for his contribution to the legal field. He also received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004, 2005, & 2006 from Who’s Who Among Teachers in American Universities & Colleges and from Who’s Who in Collegiate Faculty in 2007 and 2008. In 2017-18 he was included in Who’s Who in Technical College Faculty. In 2019, Mr. Rathburn received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Mr. Rathburn says his family is the most important part of his life. He spends as much time as possible with his wife, Beth, and their three sons, Sam, Jack, and Ben. He enjoys landscaping, gardening and walks with Beth and their dog Sophie. He spends many of his late evening hours reading and writing on legal topics. He also likes reading espionage or mystery novels and watching movies; especially westerns. He is an avid Packers fan and enjoys following the Badgers, Brewers, and Bucks


 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile

Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.


 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

 

Morning parade.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Marching bands.

Turkey.

Pumpkin pie.

Eggnog.

Football.

Pistol. Badge. Vest.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Family.

Traveling.

Traffic.

Bumper-to-bumper.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Grandma’s cooking.

Turkey.

Yams.

Pumpkin pie.

Crackling fire.

Football.

Kevlar. Radios. Sirens.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Drunk drivers.

Speeding drivers.

Texting drivers.

Careless drivers.

Aggressive drivers.

Sleepy drivers.

Depressed drivers.

Distracted drivers.

Reckless drivers.

Road rage.

Horrible crash.

An entire family,

Gone.

 

Tangled metal.

Little ones.

Mother and father.

Teddy bear.

A doll.

A plastic truck, too.

Those poor children.

They’ll never go home again.

Yes, save a drumstick.

Hug our kids.

Tell them I love them.

I’ll be home,

Later.

 

10-4.

Send the coroner.

Five victims.

No rush.

I’ll stand by.

Nothing I can do.

Those poor children.

No turkey.

No pumpkin pie.

No football.

Never again.

They were almost home.

Almost home …

 

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

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

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

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

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

miranda law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sometimes decide to fight wearing nothing but …

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

You have the right to remain silent. Use it!

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

“Help, po-leeeece!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But life goes on …

#welcometowalmart

#guardingthemall

#whatdoIdonow

#nomorepeoplespittinginmyface

#Ishouldwriteabook

#Imissmycar

#mayItakeyourorder

#itslonelyouthere

#walmartbluelightsarenotthesame

#crossingguardsrock

#birdwatching

#getoffmygrass

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

What is it that sets writers of crime fiction apart from, well, everyone else in the entire world? Well …

1. The worst murder scene in the world pales in comparison with the thoughts roaming through your mind at any given moment of the day.

2. You actually do wonder what human blood smells like.

3. Somewhere in your house is a book containing photos of crime scenes and/or dead bodies.

51uTGkVA7kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

4. You want to ride in the back seat of a police car.

5. Your internet search history has a file all its own at the Department of Homeland Security.

6. At least once in your life you’ve asked your significant other to pose in a certain way so you can see if it’s possible/believable to stab, cut, shoot, hack, or strangle them from a variety of angles.

New-Picture-14

7. You own a pair of handcuffs, and they’re strictly for research purposes.

8. The cop who lives in your neighborhood hides when he/she sees you coming with pen and paper in hand.

9. You attend more police training workshops than what’s required of the police officers in your town.

10. While other people fall asleep listening to soft music or gentle ocean waves, your sleep machine plays the sounds of police sirens and semi-automatic gunfire.

11. Your favorite bookmark is an actual toe tag from the morgue.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 1.24.36 PM

12. Writers in other genres listen to classical music while working. You, however, have a police scanner chattering in the background.

13. When using a large kitchen knife to chop vegetables, your thoughts drift to how a killer would use the blade to dismember a body.

14. You see a cop and instantly know the caliber and manufacturer of the pistol on his side.

15. You’ve searched high and low for a perfume or cologne that smells like gunpowder.

16. You own a police flashlight.

17. Your screensaver is a photo of a police K-9.

18. Your cellphone ringtone is the theme song for the TV show COPS.

19. You think you know more about crime-scene investigations than most of the cops in your city, and you probably do.

20. You’ve registered for the 2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon because it is without a doubt the most thrilling experience for writers that’s available anywhere on the planet. And yes, were pleased to announce that a few new spots are now available!

2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon

 

Writers, you conduct an incredible amount of research about cops, forensics, and more, and your readers deeply appreciate your efforts. Therefore, to assist with your hard work, here are six tidbits to add to your gatherings of vital information.

1. There’s been a ton of media coverage devoted to anti-police protestors and activists, and in those vivid live reports we sometimes see people expressing their anger by assaulting innocent inanimate objects, such as garbage cans, dumpsters, streetlight poles, and even police vehicles.

This type of behavior is not new. Not at all. Modern day cop-car-turner-overers are not at all a new species. For example, way back in 1899, the Akron, Ohio police department introduced their first police car, an electric buggy equipped with lights, a stretcher, and a gong used as a warning device (sirens eventually and wisely replaced the gong-banging).

Well, soon after the fancy police car was put into use, a group of angry citizens who were demanding justice for the assault of a six-year-old girl by a man named Louis Peck. Police had arrested Peck the previous day but the mob wasn’t satisfied with just an arrest. They wanted to lynch him right then and there, without a trial (he confessed to the police). So the mob attacked the police department/city building with bricks and dynamite, and they set fire to the Akron fire station and burned it to the ground. They also attacked the firefighters and prevented them from putting out the fires. The group finally tossed the city’s only police car into a canal, which was no small feat considering the car weighed 2.5 tons.

2. Today, police officers and sheriff’s deputies typically drive department cars such as the Dodge Durango Pursuit or the powerful Dodge Charger with the 5.7L HEMI® V8 Engine, and even Ford’s Defender Police Interceptor Utility. Back in the 1930’s, however, it was the Deuce Coupe that reigned supreme with police agencies. Of course, the car was so popular and powerful that the bad guys drove them as well.

Speaking of the Deuce Coupe, let’s take moment to brighten what is a cloudy and cool day here in Delaware.

3. In the days before GPS and 911 calling, police officers and dispatchers relied on a caller’s directions to their locations. It was not pretty. For example:

Dispatcher – “Police department.”

Caller – “My daddy’s stuck in a tree ’cause our bull chased him up there.” Please hurry!”

Dispatcher – “What’s your address?”

Caller – “Don’t got one. We get our mail at Billy Buck’s General Store.”

Dispatcher. “What is the location of your house?”

Caller – “Well, you go down Corn Meal Road till you pass the spot where the old mill burnt down, and then you turn to your right at the oak tree that was split clean open by lightnin’ back in ’53—“

The sound of the caller spitting—probably tobacco “juice”—is heard at the other end of the line.

Caller continues. “You remember that gulley-washer of a storm, don’cha’? It was a doozy, weren’t it. Anyways, you go on till you pass eight telephone poles—count ’em good ’cause nine is too many—and turn into the first dirt path to your right. You can’t miss it. Cross the creek—it ain’t deep—and you’ll soon see daddy up in the tree. He’ll be easy to spot ’cause it’s the only tree with a bull standing under it. Hurry, ’cause I don’t know how much longer daddy can hang on. He turned 94 his last birthday and he says startin’ to lose the strength in his arms. Arthritis done ’bout got him”

4. People offer all sorts of wild excuses for doing the things they did. A few of my favorites are …

  • – It’s not my fault. I was drunk.
  • – I lost control of the car when I dropped a lit joint in my lap.
  • I didn’t mean to kill her. She stepped in front of my gun when I shot at her lover. I was trying to kill him.
  • I have no idea how that bag of drugs got into my underwear.
  • If you find my DNA inside that woman it’s because somebody planted it there. I’m not well-liked, you know.
  • You mean this isn’t my house? My mistake. I’ll be going now. Can I have my tools back?

5. You know about Miranda (you have the right to remain silent, etc.), right? Well, the same strategy can work to an investigator’s advantage. Like the suspected killer sitting across the desk from a detective who chose the “silent approach” to interrogation.

Detective – “You know why you’re here, right?”

Suspect – “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

Detective – I sat there staring at the guy, saying nothing for a full minute, then …

Suspect – “Well, maybe I was there when she fell and hit her head on that hammer. But I didn’t hit her.” 

A pause …

“You might find my fingerprints on the hammer because I borrowed it last weekend to fix my kitchen door.”

Another pause …

“Okay, she might’ve run into the hammer when I was swinging it to drive a nail.”

 A long pause, then …

” Dammit, yes. Yes, I killed the nagging b***h.”

6. Searching people for weapons and other items is not high on a cop’s list of things they enjoy, and suspects definitely do not make the task any easier. Sometimes it becomes downright embarrassing, such as time I arrested a guy on a warrant for assault. I’d chased him on foot for a block or so before catching and handcuffing him. Of course, by that time a crowd had gathered and were taunting me.

I was in the midst of a quick pat down, checking for weapons when, while running my hands up one of his legs, my hands made contact with … well, you know. I glanced up and saw him smiling a cheesy ear-to-ear grin. Then he said. “You go any higher or faster and I’m going to need a cigarette when you’re done.”

The crowd around us burst in laughter, and so did I. His comment definitely lightened the mood of the angry crowd, and I credit it for unintentionally preventing a difficult time getting him back to my car without trouble from the mob.

Still … yuck.


ATTENTION!! ATTENTION!! ATTENTION!!

This year at MurderCon, Dr. Denene Lofland, will present a new and extremely detailed and eye-opening session about Covid-19 and the spread of disease. *Session title and description coming soon.

Those of you who’ve attended Dr. Lofland’s classes on bioterrorism at Writers’ Police Academy events will remember her detailed sessions regarding the spread of diseases. In fact, her class just last year, ironically, was called “Biological and Chemical Weapons: Is the End of Humankind Near?”

Denene, an expert on bioterrorism and microbiology, has managed hospital laboratories, and for many years worked as a senior director at biotech companies specializing in new drug discovery, such as medications prescribed to treat cystic fibrosis and bacterial pneumonia. She and her team members produced successful results and Denene, along with other top company officials, traveled to the FDA to present those findings. As a result, those drugs are now on the market.

Calling on her vast expertise in microbiology, Denene then focused on bioterrorism. With a secret security clearance, she managed a team of scientists who worked in an undisclosed location, in a plain red-brick building that contained several laboratories. Hidden in plain sight, her work was for the U.S. military.

Sign up today to reserve your spot at MurderCon 2020! It’s a one of a kind experience!

2020 Guest of Honor – David Baldacci

https://writerspoliceacademy.com

If your goal is realistic police procedure inserted between scenes of suspended disbelief, well, there are a few things you should avoid, much like you’d steer clear of walking through gang turf while wearing a neon green “Gang-Bangers’ Mamas Have Dumbass Kids” t-shirt. By the way, should you decide to take that walk and are subsequently evading the inevitable incoming gunfire, you could use that time to rethink the use of run-on sentences, the Oxford comma … and cordite (say NO to cordite!).

1. Guns, guns, and more guns. Since bad guys are inclined to use weapons when committing their crimes of choice, firearms and ammunition are, out of necessity, a big part of a police officer’s world. As writers it’s up to you to learn the basics about the firearm carried by your protagonist, and the one in the bad guy’s pocket. Four things you should avoid when writing about firearms and use of deadly force are:

a) police officers do not shoot to kill.

b) police officers are not trained to shoot arms, legs, hands, feet, etc.

c) handguns are not accurate at great distances, so please don’t have your hero cop pick off a bad guy who’s merely a dot on the horizon.

d) street criminals often carry cheap, pawnshop-type handguns, or stolen firearms.

2. Donut-eating, beer belly clown. Like dinosaurs, those guys are practically extinct. Present day officers are normally pretty health conscious. They belong to gyms and they exercise regularly (many departments and academies have their own workout rooms/gyms). They eat wisely, and they definitely shy away from what used to be a standard part of the diet … donuts. Weight training is also a regular part of many officers’ daily exercise routine. Criminals of today are often lean and mean, so officers feel that it’s important to be able to handle themselves when the bandits decide to attack or resist arrest.

So please do avoid the “fat officer” cliché. Those of you who’ve attended the Writers’ Police Academy, think back to the uniformed officers you saw there. Did you see any that were overweight? No, you didn’t. Not one. When there were donuts around, did you see any officers lined up to snag one? Nope. In fact, the requests we generally heard from them were for bottled water, salads for lunch, and a healthy choice for dinner, including skipping dessert.

3. Knock, knock. The business of cops and robbers is not a 9-5 job. Unfortunately, murderers don’t choose their time to kill based on what’s convenient for the rest of the world. This means that cops, in the early stages of an investigation, often show up at someone’s front door in the wee hours of the morning. When they do knock at 3 a.m. and Johnny Killer’s mom answers, it’s important that officers develop a rapport with her.

It’s also important that cops are quick on their feet, noticing little things around the house—photos, trophies, etc.—that could help to begin a conversation and to put people at ease by talking about something they know and cherish. It places the officer and the killer’s family members on a bit of common ground. So please do avoid having the detective push his way into a house and start shouting, “Where’s Little Pauly? I know he whacked Tony Earwax!”

That sort of tactic rarely ever works. However, there’s a time and place for everything. Just be sure the time in your story matches that of the scenario.

4. Talk, talk, and more talk. Cops, especially detectives, must be the best used car salesman, ditch digger, auto mechanic, florist, circus dung shoveler, and warehouse box stacker in the world. What I mean by that is that investigators absolutely must be able to fit in by walking the walk and talking the talk no matter where they are and to whom they’re speaking. Dialogue is a huge key to solving crimes. Cops have to be able to “BS the BS’ers. So having the ability to carry on a meaningful conversation with anyone and everyone is an extremely important part of the job.

Where writers often fail is by having their fictional investigators use the same manner of speech throughout the book, no matter the setting. Attitudes and personalities among criminals change, even within the same neighborhoods. Culture plays a huge part in demeanor and personality. When those factors change, so should the manner in which the detective carries herself, and how she speaks (or not) to the various people in the story. In other words, when your hero finds herself at a marina she best be talking about the joy of fishing, not that the level of mercury in seafood is slowly killing everyone on the planet.

So, avoid the detective character who’s not a chameleon. They must have the ability to change when change is needed. Remember, they should have the ability to BS the BSer’s. You do know what I mean by BS, right? If not, take time out of your schedule today and have a nice barefoot walk in a pasture occupied by a couple of bulls. You’ll catch on really fast.

5. The “so-called” expert syndrome. Please use caution when seeking an expert to help with the cop facts in your story. If you want readers to open your book and “see” officers and investigators going about their daily activities, then it is an absolute necessity to have someone who’s lived the life answer your questions. Better still, sit back and let them talk. Listen to the little things they have to say—the ripping sound of Velcro when they remove their Kevlar vests, or the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke along with the surge of adrenaline felt when wading into a crowded bar to arrest a drug-fueled, angry biker. The feel of your heart slamming against the backside of your breastbone as you search a dark, abandoned warehouse for an armed killer.

These things can only be described by someone who’s actually experienced them. Not someone who’s merely read about it. And especially not when the information is relayed through the family and friend network—“My uncle knows everything about cops because he used to deliver propane to a guy who lived next door to a woman who divorced a man who once played softball on Sunday afternoons with a man who used to live near a police station. Believe me, the stories my uncle can tell. Know what I’m sayin’?”

If you want realism when realism is needed, avoid the “so-called expert syndrome.” Talk to real cops, forensics experts in the field, etc. And for goodness sake, attend the Writers’ Police Academy. It is THE gold standard of hands-on training for writers.

Remember, though, as important as it is to be absolutely realistic when writing certain scenarios, as long as you can effectively show why and how reality has been suspended, then most readers will forgive and understand why your character did what she did. “It” doesn’t have to be true, the reader just has to believe it is, or that it could be true in the hero’s world. In other words, write believable make believe.