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1. Never underestimate suspects. The little ones are just as capable of inflicting enormous amounts of pain as their larger peers. In fact, the hardest I’ve ever been hit with a bare hand was by a woman who didn’t take too kindly to me arresting her extremely combative adult son. The young man, by the way, had just committed an armed robbery and I’d chased him on foot for several blocks. The chase ended inside dear old, sweet little (225 lb.) Mama’s house, a woman with a fist like steel and a punch like a jack hammer.

2. Crooks sometimes make really stupid comments So keep your ears open. Listen to your suspects and witnesses. After all, you just may hear a few comments like I did back in the day. Such as …

“Come on, man. I spent my last twenty bucks on that rock. At least let me smoke it before you take me to jail.”

“I didn’t rob that guy. The one I robbed had blonde hair.”

“He was already dead when I shot him. I think he had a heart attack or something when he saw my gun.”

“I was not driving that get-a-way car. The one I was driving when we robbed that store was a Mustang.”

“He couldn’t have recognized me. I was wearing a mask.”

3. Never engage in a foot pursuit when you have a perfectly healthy rookie riding shotgun.

Delivering the “Hot Sauce.”

4. When you and your partner are in the process of arresting a combative slimeball-scumbag, always know who’s spraying the “hot sauce.” It’s a real pain in the rear when the buttwipe ducks at the precise moment both of you squeeze the button. Ever try arresting a guy when neither you nor your partner can see anything? It’s not pretty. There’s nothing like watching two crying cops wrestle an innocent waitress in the middle of bar fight while the bad guy calmly walks away.

5. If you have to return gunfire more than 6 times, the bad guy can still see you. Move to better cover.

6. The raincoat in your trunk is meant for the rookie riding in your passenger seat. No need for both of you to stand in the downpour. Besides, someone has to man the radio and finish the coffee. Waste not, want not.

7. Flashlights are dual-purpose tools. The handle is great for ending confrontations. When the delivery is just right, at the precise moment the battery-filled tube connects with a forehead, it sounds kind of like an aluminum baseball bat hitting a softball. The other end is perfect for helping you see (in the dark) the crook’s eyes spinning like windmills after the little “love tap.”

8. Never rush into a fight-in-progress. Instead, wait a few seconds. Let the two goons wear themselves out. Then, like a lion after its prey, you can grab the one who’s the most tired and perhaps a bit wounded, while the rookie gets the still-fighting and extremely angry and massively-strong gorilla.

9. Never leave your patrol car, even for a second, with the keys in it. There’s nothing worse than chasing a bad guy on foot, wrestling with him for ten minutes, then marching the handcuffed thug back to the empty spot where you just know you left your car. I promise you’ll hear howls of laughter from the bad guy, who, by the way, will remind you of “the day you lost your police car” for the rest of your career. He’ll shout it from the curbside, the jail cell, from his prison window, and from his mother’s front porch.

10. Be sure you never, ever write a check with your mouth that your rear end can’t cash. Nothing worse than talking a big game only to find yourself sitting on the pavement looking up at a laughing bad guy who’s now holding your only pair of handcuffs.

A bruised ego hurts far more than a black eye.

A.

AAFS – American Academy of Forensic Science

Abandonment:  Knowingly giving up one’s right to property without further intending to reclaim or gain possession. Abandoned property can be searched by police officers without a search warrant. Most states deem it illegal to abandon motor vehicles, and the owner may be summoned to civil court to answer charges, pay fines, or to receive notice of vehicle impoundment and disposal.

Abduction:  The criminal act of taking someone away by force, depriving that person of liberty or freedom. A person who has been kidnapped against their will has been abducted. This definition does not apply to a law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties.

*FYI writers – Local police agencies can and do investigate kidnapping/abduction cases. I’ve worked and solved several. The FBI does NOT have to be called for abduction cases.

Abscond:  To covertly leave the jurisdiction of the court or hide to avoid prosecution or arrest. A suspect who “jumps bail” or hides from police, while knowing a warrant has been issued for her arrest, has absconded from justice. Film director/producer Roman Polanski absconded to France before he could be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a minor.

Adipocere – Waxy substance found on decomposing bodies (consisting of fatty tissue). Also known as grave wax.

Affidavit – Written statement of facts given under oath.

ALS (Alternate Light Source): Lighting equipment used to enhance/visualize potential evidence.

APIS – Automated Palmprint Identification System.

Armed Robbery:  Robbery is the act of taking, or seizing, someone’s property by using force, fear, or intimidation. Using a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, to carry out the same robbery constitutes an armed robbery. You have NOT been robbed when someone breaks into your home while you’re away and steals your TV.

 

B.

Badge Bunny:  Nickname given by police officers to females who prefer to date only police officers and firemen. Many of these badge bunnies actively pursue recent police academy graduates to the point of actually stalking the officers. Some have even committed minor offenses and made false police complaints to be near the officers they desire. Many police academies mention badge bunnies near the end of the officer’s academy training to prepare them for the possible situation.

BDU – Battle dress uniform (often worn by crime scene investigators, SWAT, canine officers, and entry teams).

BioFoam – A substance used to make impressions.

Bond – Money or other security posted with the court to guarantee an appearance.

 

C.

Case File: Collection of documents pertaining to a specific investigation. The case file specific to a particular homicide investigation is sometimes called the “murder book.”

Case Identifiers: Specific numbers or alphabetic characters assigned to a specific case for the purpose of identification. For example – Case #ABC-123 or #987ZYX

Chalk Outline – This is a myth. Police DO NOT outline the bodies of murder victims. Why not? Because doing so would contaminate the scene. Tracing around the body could also move vital evidence. Crime scenes are photographed, not color-in with fingerprints or pastels.

Chase: Empty space inside a wall, floor, or ceiling that’s used for plumbing, electrical, and/or HVAC ductwork. A chase is a common hiding spot for illegal contraband and/or evidence (murder weapons, narcotics, stolen items, etc.).

CI – Confidential informant.

CSM – Crime scene management.

Complaint – Statement given under oath where someone accuses another person of a crime. Officers may also refer to a call as a complaint. “Man, I caught two loud music complaints in one hour last night.”

Complainant – Person who accuses another. Or, someone who called the police. “Go to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. The complainant’s name is Herman Munster.”

Cook – Make crack cocaine or methamphetamine.

 

D.

Dying Declaration: Statement about a crime made by a person who is about to die.

 

E.

EDTA – Anticoagulating agent (tubes containing EDTA have purple tops).

Electrostatic Dust Lifter: Device that electrically charges a piece of plastic film that’s placed over a print made in dust (a shoe or palm print, for example), which in turn causes the dust to adhere to the film. The result is a perfectly captured print that’s ready for photographing.

Fire triangle – Three must-haves for a fire to burn—heat, fuel, and oxygen.

 

F.

Floater – Body found in water.

 

H.

Hit – Outstanding warrant, or stolen. “We got a hit on that car.”

Hook ’em Up – To handcuff a prrisoner.

Hot – Stolen.

 

I.

IABPA – International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis.

Information – Paperwork (document) filed by a prosecutor that accuses someone of a crime.

 

K.

Knock and announce – Requirement that officers knock on the door and announce their presence when serving a search warrant. “Police. Search warrant!”

 

L.

Latent Print: Print that’s not readily visible to the human eye.

 

O.

OIC – Officer in charge.

 

P.

PC – Probable cause. “Do you have enough PC to get a warrant?”

Patent Print: A fingerprint that’s easily seen/visible with the naked eye, without the use of powders and/or chemical or other enhancements.

Plastic – Credit card.

Priors – Previous arrests.

PPE – Personal protective equipment.

Projectile Trajectory Analysis: The process used to determine the path traveled by a high-speed object (bullets, arrows, etc.).

 

R.

Ride the chair – Die by electrocution.

Ride the needle – Die by lethal injection.

Roll up – Arrest someone.

 

S.

Stripes – A sergeant’s patch or insignia.

 

T.

Tache noire – Drying of the eye that results in a black line across the cornea.

T-Bone – Broadsided in an crash.

Trace Evidence: Small bits of evidence, such as fibers, hairs, glass fragments, gunshot residue, etc.

 

U.

UC – Undercover officer.

 

V.

V Pattern – Pattern formed by fire burning on or against a wall. Usually the fire’s point of origin is at the peak of the V.

Verbal – A warning. “I gave him a verbal, but next time his butt’s going to jail.”

VIN – Vehicle Identification number. (“Run the VIN on that car to see if you get a hit.”)

Visual – Able to see something or someone. “Have you got a visual?”

 

W.

Walk – To get off a charge. Released without a record.

Write – Issue a summons.

“Did you write him?”

“Yep. 87 in a 55.”

When it comes to the convoluted business of writing, a few things immediately come to mind. Such as …

  1. Being a writer is like being a politician. You get to make up @#$! and your fans love it.
  2. Being a writer is like being a plumber. Somewhere around the middle of the job you find yourself elbow deep in @#$!
  3. Writers are like prostitutes. They do it for money but the income arrives in small amounts at random times.
  4. Agents are like pimps without the purple suede leisure suits and feathers in their hats. Oh, wait …
  5. A good book is like a large pot of coffee. It keeps you awake all night.
  6. Sitting at a keyboard while clacking away at random characters is something an illiterate chimp can do. Much of today’s media is proof that chimps are better at it.
  7. Autocolonoscopy  Autocorrect is great, except when it isn’t.
  8. A great book is a like a fine statue. Their creators started with an idea and then carved away everything that didn’t help tell the story.
  9. Writers are like cops. They like coffee and whiskey and telling tall tales … and whiskey. I know, this one was an eye-roller …

10. A bad story is like a snow skier. They’re both start at out on a slow upward climb toward the summit. Then it’s all downhill from there until they reach the end, which is often totally uneventful.Unless it’s not. But you’ll never know what it’s like until you start the climb.

11. The words of a good book remain forever. The words of a politician remain only until the next big donation comes along.

12. Real-life bad guys, to save themselves a lot of grief, should take the time to read a mystery book. By doing so they’d know the good guys always win in the end.

13. Good books are like the bed in a by-the-hour motel. Lots of action between the covers.

14. Great ideas make great books, except when they don’t.

15. Social media can be like a cancer. No punch line. It truly can be like a cancer.

16. The bravest men and women in the world today are currently sitting at home, ranting and raving away on Facebook, telling people just how brave they are. Then they play video games like the popular Conquer the World Using Really Big Fake Guns and Lots of Noise and with People Who Live and Die a Bunch Each time the Game is Played. So march on, brave basement warriors. March on. Oh, the next time you go upstairs … get a job! There’s always greeting customers at Weirdomart, or selling fries at Booger Joe’s Burger Joint. They’re both hiring.

17. Lone literary agents at writers conferences are like the innocent fawns that tiptoe through the forest—they both know an attack could come at any moment. This is why experienced agents travel in packs. A herd of snarky, seasoned literary agents typically fares well. It’s the newbie who chats with anyone at any time who falls prey to the predatory writer(s). This is the agent we’ll not see again until they receive intensive retraining. He or she will need to hone the skills of avoiding writers at all cost. They must polish the combined technique of how to say, “Send me twenty pages of this delightful manuscript,” while simultaneously devising a clever means of destroying the pages before he/she heads back to their hotel room. Then comes the most difficult lesson of all—how to never, not ever, answer an email or phone call from writers. This one is tough, at first, because the natural instinct is to pick up when our phones jingle, and to open emails as they arrive in our inboxes. However, agents have managed to acquire the ability to ignore writers without a speck of remorse for their rudeness. Amazing ability. simply amazing.

18. A firefighter and a police officer enter a bar at a mystery writers conference. They’ll know better next time.

Finally …

19. Two drunks and a writer enter a bar during a writers conference. Three drunks come out.

20. Twenty separate news articles about the same topic are written by twenty different “reporters” at twenty different media agencies. Each of the twenty stories are dramatically different. Neither relay sthe same “facts.” Some offer praise. Some are dark and dreary. Others are light and happy. Some are filled with opinion (hatred or love). None, however, are accurate. The story is all over the place. Unfortunately, this is today’s reporter. Bull … loney.

And I know exactly what he speaks of, and it’s not something you’d want to step in …

A guide to cop talk

Cops hear all sorts of wacky comments during the course of their careers, and they’d love to return a few snarky comments of their own. However, they hold their tongues (in most instances). But wouldn’t you love to hear what’s going through their minds when someone says …

1. It’s always nice to hear updates about friends and family members who are or were police officers, but to name-drop during a traffic stop is not all that impressive. Unless, of course, the name you’re dropping is your own and that you’re the mother or spouse of the officer who pulled you over. That’s the only time you might see a favorable response, though. Therefore, Cousin Bertha, your signature goes right there.

2. Cops truly appreciate the fact that you pay taxes and that a miniscule amount of your hard-earned dollars go toward their salaries. However, they, too, pay taxes, which, by the way, pays for the roads you travel, the schools attended by your kids, along with a miniscule portion of their own salaries (does that mean cops are actually self-employed?). So thank you very much.

3. Thank you for screaming into my face that your uncle’s sister’s cousin on her daddy’s side of the family used to be the sheriff over in Doodlebop County. I wonder if he’d be impressed to learn that you’ve just beaten your wife and kids?

4. I know … you only had two beers. I also know those two beers were probably the chaser you consumed after gulping down an entire fifth of Jack Daniels. And don’t think I can’t see that bag of weed sticking out of your pants pocket, you dumbass.

5. You only stopped me because I’m white, green, black, blue, brown, or purple. That’s right, Sparky. The fact that you were driving 180 mph in a school zone had nothing to do with it. And, of course, my powerful x-ray vision allowed me to see through your nearly black (tinted) windows so I could zero in on your skin color. Sign here, please.

6. You’re gonna have my badge? Okay, here. Take it. Because I’m tired of dealing with assholes like you every day of my life.

7. You’ll see me someday when I’m not wearing my uniform … What does that mean? You want to fight me when I’m off duty? But I just saw you in the grocery store yesterday. Remember? You smiled and called me “sir” when you introduced me to the wife and kids. I did happen to notice your cart was pretty heavy, though, with all that beer. Perhaps you’ve been possessed and it’s King Budweiser who’s speaking through your lips right now.

8. But everyone else was speeding faster than you, you say? I know, but I’m like a lion. I pick the slowest and weakest in the herd. They’re much easier to catch.

9. Stop disrespecting you? Gee, you’re absolutely right. I should take you more seriously as you stand there drunk as a skunk with a big wet urine spot in the crotch of your pants while you so kindly spit in my face. The puke on the front of your shirt and your piece of crap car sitting in the middle of that nice lady’s living room definitely commands tons of respect. Now let’s go … “Sir.”

10. I’m sure you do know your rights, ma’am, but peeing in the back seat of my patrol car is not one of them.

Mindless Super Hero

Today, when your keystrokes guide your protagonists through the perils that go hand-in-hand with saving the day, pause for just a moment and consider the lives of real-life officers. Do your characters measure up to a human officer’s abilities? Have you over-written the character? Are they mindless superheroes like the one in the photo above? Have you given them human emotions? Is the danger level realistic? Are they believable?

Think about what you’ve seen on this site for the past few years—cordite, uniforms, handcuffs, Miranda, Glocks, SIG Sauers, edged weapons, defensive tactics, etc. Where do I get my ideas? Well … mostly from the mistakes I see in those books I read (smelling cordite, thumbing off safeties when there aren’t any, etc.).

I read a lot. A whole lot. Book after book after book, including tons of books written by readers of this blog. Just this past weekend I was pouring over the pages of a wonderfully written book when suddenly a paragraph stopped me dead in my tracks. So I backed up to re-read the last few lines to make certain that what I’d read was actually on the page and not my mind playing tricks on my tired eyes.

Nope, there it was as plain as day. One of the most impossible, unbelievable ways to kill ever written (I won’t go into detail because the book is very new). Then, to make matters even worse, the scene was followed by a few more paragraphs containing incorrect information about the weapons and materials involved in the goofy slaying. Not even close to realism.

Now I have a problem. I really liked this author’s voice. It was fresh, new, and exciting. However, I doubt that I’ll have the courage to pick up another book written by this particular author. Why? Because he/she didn’t bother to check facts. The author didn’t even make an effort to use common sense. I wondered if they’d ever seen a real-life cop.

Mindless Superhero

One of the best thriller writers of our time, Lee Child, writes some pretty over the top action, but he does so in a way that makes us believe every word, even though some of it probably couldn’t happen in real life.

I once asked Lee how much research he conducts before writing his books. His answer … “Better to ask if I do any research before I write the last word! I don’t do any general research. I depend on things I have already read or seen or internalized, maybe years before. I ask people about specific details … like I asked you what a rural police chief might have in his trunk.  But in terms of large themes I think it’s difficult to research too close to the time of writing … research is like an iceberg – 90% of it needs to be discarded, and it’s hard to do that without perspective.”

So how does Lee make all that wacky action work? He uses common sense. Well, that and more talent in his little finger than I have in my dreams.

So yeah … common sense.

Please don’t write mindless supercops.

Old Cop

Over the hill, they said. The nerve of those youngsters, with their shiny round faces and buzz-cut hairdos. Why, it was just ten or fifteen years ago when I could deftly place sixty rounds dead-center of the target, leaving nothing but an irregularly-shaped and tattered fist-size hole.

I could read a rear license place from a distance of twenty car lengths or more. And I could chase a punk for miles and then bring him down and handcuff him, like a rancher ropes a steer.  Toe-to-toe and fist-to-fist, I could hold my own against any combative man, or woman.

Push-ups … could do them all night long.

Pursuit driving … piece of cake.

Now, mere days after receiving my thirty-year service pin, well …

Each time I lift my left foot to put on a sock, there’s a strange and quite sharp pain that shoots through the hip on the same side. So I’ve resorted to slipping the sock over my foot while it’s flat on the floor. This works okay, but leaning over far enough to reach my toes tends to cause a painful twinge in my lower back.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to re-qualify at the range. I hope I score the required 70%. Otherwise, you get a second try at it before the department sends you packing. Can’t shoot, can’t be a cop. Simple as that. The last time I was there I sort of pointed my gun at where I thought the middle of the target should be and then hoped for the best. I scored 72%. I was just happy I passed and was able to keep my job.

tired eyesEither bad guys are getting faster these days, or my old legs have decided they no longer care if we catch them or not. And my breathing … wow, when did all that wheezing start? I used to be able to run ten miles without feeling as if my inside were about to explode into tiny bits of fire.

Speaking of getting faster. Today’s crooks must be driving super-fast, souped-up cars because I can’t seem to keep up during pursuits. They dodge and weave and glide through traffic like an olympic figure skater slips and slides across an ice rink. Me, my movements are herky-jerky, at best. I think the patrol cars they give us these days are designed to resist quick steering and acceleration. And they definitely prefer to move along at slower speeds than the cars we used to drive twenty years ago. Man, those cars could cut through traffic like a freshly-honed paring knife slices through butter.

Police supply companies have lost all my respect. Believe it or not, they’re cutting corners like all other businesses. The shoes they sell us are horrible. I say this with authority. Yes, I know what I’m talking bout. These two feet of mine are screaming at the end of the day. I know, without a doubt, it’s the shoes. My feet are not to blame. Sure, there’s a little arthritis in the toes. Still … It’s the shoes.

It seems like just yesterday when I put my hands on someone to cuff them and they did not could not pull free. Today, these youngster must spend every waking moment in a gym because they, every one of them, are as strong as a team of plow horses.  It’s tough to get restraints around the wrists of these super-strong people. Women are equally as strong. It has to be them, because I’m just as strong as I ever was. Really, I am.

I’ve still not quite mastered the computer thing. I’d still rather hand-write reports. Or, the old Royal in the corner is still just as fast and good as ever. Ribbon’s almost new, too.

68 percentThe boss tells me there’s an opening in the evidence room. The job consists of taking stuff officers bring in, assign it a number, and then stick it on a shelf until someone comes by to pick it up. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s the job. Day after day after day. She wants me to take it. I don’t want to. Can’t really make out all the fine print on those evidence labels. I guess my eyes are just tired after all those years of reading and writing detailed reports.

Maybe, though, I should take the sergeant’s advice. After all, she says, next time I go to the range I may shoot a 68.

And, well, a 68 just isn’t good enough …

… and I love my job.

Really, I do.