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Have you ever wondered what real-life investigators think about your detective characters? Well…

1. On their days off, fictional detectives enjoy … wait, those guys never have any down time. None. I remember working a murder case where I left home one morning at the normal time and didn’t return until 36 hours later. When the trail is hot you have to follow it.

In the real world, the one on the outside of your book covers, all cops have regularly scheduled days off. Sure, they’re sometimes forced to work during their weekends, especially when emergency situations arise, but not for 300 straight pages days.

2. Make-believe investigators are suspended from duty at least once per story, yet they continue to work their cases. Is there a writer anywhere in this world who truly understands the definition of suspension? I’m kidding, of course. However, just in case … Suspension: to force someone to leave their job temporarily as a form of punishment. A police officer may not carry out/perform the duties of a police officer while on suspension.

The punishment (suspension) is typically ordered because the detective did something severely wrong, which, by the way, is a rare occurrence. Therefore, continuing to work a case while suspended certainly will not win him/her any favors with the higher-ups. In fact, to do so is the equivalent of disobeying a direct order, a cause for termination.

3. Imaginary detectives and pretend bad guys have the remarkable ability to render someone unconscious by striking them on the back of the head with any handy object, such as books, candlesticks, sticks, rocks, heel of the hand, fists, pillows, marshmallows, feathers, and/or guns of any type.

Writers, writers, writers (I’m slowly shaking my head from side to side), it’s time to come up with a new tactic, because this one is old, stale, and dusty. Besides, a “hit to the back of the head” rarely works in real life. I’ve seen people, me included, struck with baseball bats and they never lost consciousness. And, to add insult to injury (pun intended), the blow often does no more than to make those folks as mad as wet hens (whatever that means). If the whack is hard enough to get the job done the injury it caused would truly be a serious one. Therefore your hero won’t be popping back up right away to handcuff anyone. Instead, a visit to the hospital would be in order.

4. Marriage is practically taboo in crime fiction. Rarely do fictional law enforcement officers enjoy the company of spouses or serious relationships. Yes, some are haunted by the tormented spirits of dead husbands or wives, but not living, breathing people. I suppose it’s easier to write a tale about a person who’s single, but cops in the real world do indeed marry, and some do so four or five times since the job truly can wreak havoc on married life. For the most part, though, family life is important.

5. Pretend cops are the straightest shootin’ folks on the planet. They’re so good, in fact, that they’re able to use their sidearms to part the hair on a gnat’s far left hind leg from a distance of a hundred yards, or more.

The embarrassing reality, however, is that many cops barely shoot well enough to earn a qualifying score on the range. And the business of shooting a gun or knife from the hands of bad guys? Forget it. Doesn’t happen. Not today and not tomorrow. Even if the officer could hit such a small target, especially while it’s moving, it’s not what they’re trained to do, which is to shoot center mass.

6. A popular theme in Fictionland is to have a detective going off on his own to do something that’s totally against the orders of the chief or sheriff. In reality? Nope. To do disobey the orders of a chief or sheriff (especially a sheriff), well, the detective would quickly find himself filling out job applications for a new line of work. Simply put, cops follow the orders of their superiors. If not, they’re destined to soon become carpenters, cab drivers, appliance or auto salespeople, etc.

7. After a quick look at the body of a murder victim the pretend gumshoe is often able to determine the caliber of bullet that ended the poor guy’s life. No. It is not possible to know the bullet size based on a glance at a wound. Many factors could affect the wound size and shape—angle of impact, velocity, etc. Even when spent casings are found nearby it’s still not safe to assume those were the rounds that killed the victim. A really good guess, yes. Without a doubt, no.

8. Fictional detective I. M. Thebest decides to change jobs and he sees a job opening listed in the local paper. So he makes an appointment to have drinks with the chief of police in a city 300 miles away, where the action is greater and the liquor is cheaper, to discuss the opportunity. The two agree on the move and Det. Thebest is immediately scheduled to start work as top detective in the new city. Two weeks later he begins his new career and fits in perfectly. Magically, he knows the area and all the usual suspects and their hangouts, and the detectives who’ve worked in the department for 20 years all welcome him with open arms.

Stop. This is just too silly. No, this sort of thing does not happen in the real world. As a rule, detectives do not transfer as detectives to another department, especially as the head investigator in charge. Instead, if, for some reason they elect to switch departments they’d typically need to start over again as patrol officers. And, in most places they’d need to attend at least some training, including a brief field training program, before hitting the streets. To vary from this would be unfair to the officers who’ve paid their dues and have been waiting for the promotion or move to the detective division.


There you go, eight pet peeves of many cops who read used to read your books. Remember, though, you’re writing fiction and that means you can make up all kinds of cool stuff. However, when deviating from the reality of police work and the real world, it’s a must that you give the reader a proper reason to suspend what they know is the truth. This is especially so if you want cops to enjoy your work along with your other fans.

So, if you want your make-believe specially-skilled detective to transfer from one department to another as their chief of detectives, then a quick meeting of city council to approve the move would be all that’s needed to make it so. See how easy it is? Still, the other officers and detectives wouldn’t approve. Not at all.

Oh yeah … NO cordite, unless you’re writing historical fiction.


 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

The transition from working the streets as a patrol officer to the coat and tie sleuthing of a police detective can be somewhat of an eye-opener. While definitely closely related, the two jobs differ.

Patrol officers are typically responsible for responding to crimes that have either recently occurred or are in progress. Detectives are usually called upon to investigate crimes and crime scenes, those encountered by patrol officers, and sometimes medical examiners or coroners. Of course, it’s not at all unusual for cases to arise from reports by citizens, or as the result of information gained while investigating an altogether different crime.

For example, while collecting evidence at the murder scene of a low level drug dealer, detectives discover a large stash of stolen guns, and cash stained with the red dye used by banks to help track bank robbers. Fingerprints on many of the guns belong to four known criminals, two of which have served time for bank robberies. As a result, detectives are able to solve a couple of major cases in addition to the homicide, the original case.

As a patrol officer, much of the initial work is conducted in a rush due to the immediate need to focus on and react to action-based events as they unfold—the then and now. Detectives, on the other hand, examine a much broader perspective once the “heat of the moment” has cooled to a slower pace. Ordinarily, investigators have the time to map out a solid plan of action and to organize that process.

This, the sudden shift from patrol to investigations, can sometimes be a bit difficult. It’s tough to slow your pace when all you’ve known is to work at a rapid, adrenaline-fueled clip day-in and day-out. It’s lights and sirens and speed and struggling with combative suspects, car chases, and shootouts, to an immediate slowdown. It’s a shock to the mind and body.

No more rushing to he-said she-said calls. No more traffic summons to write. No more barking dogs or loud music complaints. And No More Graveyard Shifts!

Even the paperwork involved in the two duties differs. Patrol officers complete many simple “fill in the blanks” forms—speeding tickets, breath tests, incident reports, etc.—and perhaps anywhere from a brief paragraph to a page or two of narrative explaining the details of the calls to which they’ve responded during their shifts. And, of course, the notes they’ll use for court testimony and to brief detectives who’ll further investigate major crimes.

In contrast, the amount of paperwork required of detectives can sometimes involve case notes chronicling criminal activity and evidence for periods of a year or more. Detectives are also responsible for composing affidavits and search warrants.

A savvy detective examines ALL pertinent evidence. They’ll brainstorm with other detectives. They’ll question everyone who may be able to shed even a sliver of light on the case. And they document EVERYTHING, and then check and double-check to be sure that no stone is left unturned.

Little by little detectives chisel and whittle away at a case until all the unnecessary and irrelevant bits are out of the way. Then, all that remains is the name of the perpetrator. It’s sort of like pouring all evidence into a large funnel where it swirls and twirls around until it reaches the bottom where out pops your suspect, ready for handcuffing. Obviously crime-solving is not that simple, but the analogy sort of fits.

 

 

My publisher once posted an excerpt from my book about police procedure. The segment is about my thoughts on becoming an investigator, the intro to the chapter devoted to detectives.

I thought it might be fun to share it with those of you who haven’t read the book. Those of you who have read the book, well, we can chat about something else while the others are reading.

From Chapter Four:

Detectives usually begin their careers as uniformed police officers who work their way up the chain of command, striving to obtain either the position of a uniformed supervisor or move into what some officers think of as the ultimate police job – a detective.

How an officer becomes a detective varies with each individual department. Some departments offer the position as a promotion. These departments post the vacant position and officers apply and test for the job, and the most qualified person receives the advancement. Promotions, or assignments to a detective division, aren’t normally awarded to officers until they’ve completed at least five years of service. Other departments take the rivalry between uniformed officers and the plainclothes detectives into account and simply assign officers to a detective’s position on a rotating basis, which allows every officer a turn as an investigator.

A detective is responsible for the investigation of both misdemeanor and felony crimes. How each department carries out these investigations depends upon the size of the department. Some departments are large enough to have detectives who specialize in certain areas such as credit card fraud, homicide, juvenile crime, arson, narcotics, rape, vice, etc. (We’ll look at some of these areas in greater detail later in the chapter.) Detectives sometimes work in several specialized areas before finding one they like. Once they do, they usually make that area their permanent assignment.

Other departments have only a couple of detectives for the entire agency – if any. In some rural departments where manpower is limited, patrol officers serve as first responders, evidence technicians, and investigators. There are advantages to each situation. The specialized detective becomes very skilled at his particular craft, whereas a detective or patrol officer in a smaller department has the opportunity, out of necessity, to work all kinds of cases.

No matter what the assignment, the duties are the same. Detectives are investigators who gather facts and collect evidence in criminal cases. They conduct interviews and interrogations, examine records and documents, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in and conduct raids or arrests. A detective is usually charged with applying for and obtaining search warrants. To accomplish these tasks effectively, detectives are trained with a more diverse approach than patrol officers.

Both detectives and patrol officers are required to attend, at minimum, semiannual in-service training to stay abreast of new laws and procedures. In addition to the in-service training, a detective’s education must be endlessly updated, and his base of knowledge must be constantly expanded. Criminals are continually developing new ideas and methods to get around the law, and the detective has to make every effort to stay one step ahead of them.

Modern criminals are more highly educated than offenders of the past, and today’s crooks rehearse and practice every aspect of their craft, like actors studying for a Broadway production. The thugs even hone their shooting skills. I was once searching the trunk of a drug dealer’s vehicle and found an automatic weapon, several rounds of ammunition, and a police silhouette target. The center of the target was filled with bullet holes, and Lee Lofland was written above the head. That was an eye-opener.

There are many new ways to fight crime in today’s computer and technology age, but nothing can compare to the old-fashioned method of the detective getting out and beating the streets for information and clues.

The image of the detective has changed as well. It has evolved from the trench-coat-wearing sleuth to a more stylishly dressed investigator. That image possibly reflects a larger clothing allowance than was once provided by departments. I think, years ago, I wore the long coat not because I was cold, but to cover my outdated cheap suits. All my sport coats had torn linings from years of friction caused by my gun’s hammer constantly rubbing against the fabric. When I began my career, the pay was around 8,400 dollars annually, with no clothing allowance. Also in those days, we had to buy our own guns, handcuffs, flashlights, raincoats, ticket books, and shoes. Oh yeah, and bullets. If we thought we might need them, we purchased a handful of those as well.

Today, all expenses are paid by the officer’s department, including clothing allowances for undercover officers who sometimes must wear really unusual clothing in order to blend in with their working environment.

A case begins with the commission of a crime. Uniformed patrol officers are often the first officers on the scene, and they gather the pertinent information-the who, what, where, why, when, and how, if available. It’s the duty of the uniformed patrol officer to secure the scene until a detective or the officer in charge relieves him. The officer who gathers the information later passes it on to the detective assigned to the case. Cases are usually assigned on a rotating basis, or a detective can be assigned to a particular case based on her particular knowledge and skills that relate to the offense. Once assigned to a case, a detective will follow it through until the case has been solved and the suspect is tried and convicted. The detective may use other officers to assist in the investigation, but the case will remain in her charge.

Fact gathering is a must in police work. Detectives can only relate specific details in a court of law and may not offer opinion, as a rule, for testimony. However, during the investigation, gut feelings and instinct play a large role in the detective’s search for information. Years of experience can be, and often are, the most formidable tool in the detective’s arsenal.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY: ON BECOMING A DETECTIVE

Note: These In The Line Of Duty headings appear a few times throughout the book. They’re my real-life reflections of something that actually happened to me while I was on the job.

When I raised my right hand to take the oath to serve my state and my country, I felt a lump rise in my throat. It was such an honor and a thrill to finally be sworn in as a police officer. The feeling of putting on a uniform and pinning a shiny, silver badge to my chest was one of the greatest moments of my life. When the day finally arrived, though, to transition from a uniformed officer to a plainclothes detective, I couldn’t wait to trade the uniform for a new suit and to hook a new, gold badge on my belt. After all, my childhood dream was to become an investigator, and I could finally wear cotton again instead of double-knit polyester shirts with fake buttons that zipped up the front and pants that retained enough heat to bake bread. (Of course, that cool stripe down the leg offset all negatives!)

I turned in my marked patrol vehicle and received my first department-issued, unmarked car. It was an old, beat-up Chevrolet Caprice, a car I write about fondly in my books and stories. The car was midnight blue, several years old, and would reach its top speed of eighty-five miles per hour only after going downhill for about three miles. I didn’t care. It was mine. I washed it, cleaned the tires and wheels, and put my things-a fishing-tackle box filled with fingerprint equipment, a shotgun with an eighteen-inch barrel, extra ammo, hand cleaner, paper towels, and a roll of crime scene tape-into the trunk. I’d get more tools later as I figured out what I needed. For now, I was ready for my first case.

In my early days as a patrol officer, I looked on with envy as the detectives came in and took over my cases after I’d done the dirty work. They were the guys getting their pictures in the newspapers and getting all the glory for doing nothing … or so I thought. It took just a few months of being a detective to dream of an eight-hour shift, like the old days, instead of a twenty-hour day, and of not being called out in the middle of the night, every night! The thought had never occurred to me that it would be irritating to have newspaper reporters snapping photos of me while I struggled to hold in my lunch at a gruesome homicide scene, or that reporters would write things in the paper I didn’t say or leave out the important things I did say.

Nobody teaches you how alienated you become from your old co-workers, the boys in blue, once you become a detective. Uniformed officers sometimes feel a bit of jealousy toward detectives, and detectives sometimes experience a bit of an unjustified superiority complex toward uniformed officers. It’s a rivalry that’s always been in place and probably always will be.

Nobody explains the many hours you’ll spend sitting in the woods, or in the bushes, with hungry mosquitoes and spiders and snakes, or in the rain or snow, watching suspects in your attempts to build cases. Nobody tells you how it feels to work undercover and to walk into the middle of a drug deal, unarmed and without a radio. Nobody describes how it feels to be shot at, spit on, beat up, kicked, scratched, stabbed, cut, knocked down, punched, and pepper sprayed (with your own pepper
spray), all the while wearing a suit.

Yes, I was finally a detective and it was absolutely … glorious!

Nearly all crime novels feature a muscle-bound, sharpshooting, fast-driving, marathon-running, cool-as-the-center-seed of-a-cucumber detective? What is it about the suit-wearing investigators that attracts a writer’s attention? After all, detectives are often the last officers to see any real action.

Police investigators are rarely in shootouts. They hardly ever chase fleeing suspects. In fact, their job is pretty mundane—see a body, collect some evidence, send evidence to a lab, talk to a few people, evidence results return from the lab in the morning mail, get a warrant, arrest the suspect (or have a uniform pick him up), testify in court, and then start all over again. Oh, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Lots of mind-numbing paperwork.

Many detectives have been on the job for years and years, doing not much more than the above, and it’s this lack of activity that sometimes takes its toll in the form of flabby muscles, poor shooting skills, slow reaction times, couldn’t run if they wanted to (and they don’t), and yes, as more time passes by, even hot flashes, crappy eyesight and hearing, and bad backs, knees, and hips.

Writers are actually going about this thing all wrong. Bass-ackward, as some of the old-timers on my old beat used to say.

Patrol officers are the men and women who see all the excitement—going toe-to-toe with 350 lb. musclebound crooks who refuse to be handcuffed, shooting it out with armed robbers, 110 mph vehicle pursuits, chasing armed robbers through dark alleys, being bitten by dogs, removing unwanted 20-foot-long pythons from beneath mobile homes, rescuing people from burning cars and buildings, performing CPR on unconscious and unresponsive drug addicts, climbing in windows after burglary suspects, capturing prison escapees, wading into a street filled with drug dealers, gang members, and prostitutes, and rescuing tiny puppies and kittens from storm drains and frozen ponds. Now there’s the complete package—excitement and action along with a tender side. And who doesn’t love puppies and kittens, right?

So let’s explore this concept a bit further. Lots of people are attracted to fit men and women in uniform, right?

But how many people could possibly be attracted to detectives who wear rumpled, out-of-style suits and scruffy facial hair? For example …

Ridiculous to even consider, right?

Patrol officers hit the gym regularly so they can match muscle-for-muscle with the thugs they arrest on a daily basis. Detectives, well, they sometimes drive by a gym or two while on the way to their colorectal pre-surgery appointments.

Patrol officers hone their skills every single day. They’re out there in the trenches, staying sharp, looking sharp, and acting sharp.

such_fat_cops_640_07

Investigators start their day in their offices, drinking a cup of coffee while solving the daily crossword puzzle, using a pencil crudely sharpened with the pocketknives they carry for peeling apples and cutting loose threads from their suit jackets.

Uniformed officers are the front line officers, the “faces of the department.” Therefore, their hair is neatly trimmed, clothing neatly pressed, and shoes shined to glossy perfection.

Detectives are often seen wearing t-shirts, old jeans, and sneakers. And the last time they saw a set of hair clippers was the day they spent an entire morning grooming the family Lhasa Apso.

Patrol officers stare into the face of danger. Detectives work “undercover.”

Patrol officers fight crime. Detectives wait until the danger is over before “going in.”

Patrol officers rush into active crime scenes to save the victims. Detectives serve search warrants in the middle of the night, hoping to catch the bad guys while they’re sleeping.

So give this a little thought when you sit down to dream up a character for your next thriller. Do you go with bass-ackward tradition, or will your tale face a new direction?

Besides, who do you want saving your puppies, a super-fit, handsome patrol officer …

such_fat_cops_640_10

Or an out-of-shape, poorly-dressed detective who adores puppies, rainbows, and long walks on the beach at sunset?

*No puppies were harmed during the research portion of this article. I cannot say the same for donuts and chocolate cake.


*** A fantastic and unique opportunity! ***

On January 23, 2021, Writers’ Police Academy Online will once again offer an exciting and unique daylong live and interactive seminar. This course, “Criminal Investigations: Writing Believable Make-Believe,” features three of the country’s top investigators and forensics experts who will present detailed sessions on cybercrimes and security, 3D crime-scene mapping using drones and lasers, and an in-depth, behind the scenes chronicling of what happens when a victim of sexual assault seeks care in a hospital setting.

As a bonus, USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author Lisa Regan details how to use the elements of fiction to craft a gripping crime novel.

Sign up today to reserve your seat!

“Criminal Investigations: Writing Believable Make-Believe”

Schedule and Class order:
(All times are EST)

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

11:00 – 12:20
Digital Breadcrumbs: Tracking People in Cyberspace ~ Instructor, Josh Moulin

Nearly every investigation involves some aspect of technology, whether it is used to commit the actual crime or contains evidence of criminal activity. In this information-packed session, you will learn how cybercrime investigators trace activity on the Internet, how mobile devices are tracked, how digital forensics is used to uncover evidence, and how law enforcement obtains information. Additionally, this course will cover techniques that suspects may use to try and hide their activity from law enforcement such as the darknet, anonymizing services, and anti-forensic tools.

12:20 – 12:50
Break

12:50 – 2:10

Sexual Assault: When a Victim Seeks Care in a Hospital Setting ~ Karmen Harris, RN, SANE-A

Based on a scenario, the class will explore what happens when a victim of sexual assault seeks care in a hospital setting. In this class, we will walk through the process of the medical-forensic exam and further explore how trauma is identified, the elements of documentation and forensic photography, evidence collection, and other aspects of the fascinating intersection of forensic science and nursing.

2:20 – 3:40

Using 3D Laser Scanners and Drones to Document Crime Scenes ~ Instructor, RJ Beam

3D scanners used by engineering firms have slowly been gaining traction in police work. Take a walk into a real homicide scene to see how the 3D reconstruction helped secure a conviction. Learn about how 3D scanners work and how drones can augment the creation of a 3D recreation.

3:50 – 5:10

Creating Dynamic Crime Fiction: How to use the elements of fiction to craft a gripping crime novel ~ Instructor, Lisa Regan

In this class you will learn how to combine several elements of fiction to create a crime novel that is authentic and riveting. You’ll learn tips and tricks for plotting effectively to keep readers turning pages. You’ll learn how to develop characters who are relatable and intriguing. We’ll discuss how to write believable dialogue that moves your story forward. You’ll also receive tips for incorporating information from law enforcement and other experts into you work. Finally, we will discuss advice on self-editing.

5:10

Final words

So you want to be a detective?

Many people secretly long to clip a badge to their belts and then set out on the never-ending quest to save, well, everyone. But, there are a few things you should think about before you give up your day job to begin the hunt for your first serial killer. I’m betting you just might change your mind once you know that …

Don’t Shake Their Hands!

1. Bad guys and gals are rarely as attractive and well-groomed as those you see on TV. Instead, they often have poor hygiene and smell like really old gym socks.

Some love to flirt with detectives, batting their long eyelashes (male and female) and blowing kisses through breath laced with last night’s vodka and onion dip. Many do really disgusting things when you’re not looking. Like the guy who, when left alone in the interview room, stuck his hands down the front of his pants, rummaging around down there for a few seconds. Then, when the detective came back inside to continue the questioning, the little darling wanted to shake hands and be all “touchy-feely.” Thank goodness for video cameras. And you were wondering why cops don’t shake hands with suspects? Well, now you know.

Roaches and Mice

2. Detectives spend a great deal of their time inside the homes of witnesses and those of criminals and victims of various crimes. Many of those residences should have been condemned by the health department years ago. It’s not unusual, while questioning someone, to see roaches suddenly and almost magically appear on your clothing. You then look around to see if you can locate the source of the unexpected attack of creepy-crawlers, and to your horror the walls, ceilings, countertops, and furniture seem to be undulating with a huge sea of brown, antenna-twitching roaches.

Mice, not wanting to be excluded from the party, peek out from behind a stove topped with a mound of dirty pots and pans. And, lucky you, the mother of the little darling you think just killed someone, has offered you a nice, cold glass of iced tea, straight from the refrigerator that’s speckled with tons of roach crap. The bad part of the tea offering is that, for a moment, you actually considered accepting it because the house has no air-conditioning and it is nearly 100 degrees inside that sweet little abode. But the heat doesn’t stop eight bony, underfed cats from running, playing, puking, spraying, and defecating on the furniture and well-worn linoleum floors.

Stray Body Parts

3. Investigators are the lucky folks who have the pleasure of enjoying a nice dinner at home with the spouse and kids, and minutes later find themselves standing in a room where some poor soul’s brains drip from his bedroom ceiling. All because the victim didn’t have the decency to sleep with a man’s wife somewhere other than the married couple’s bed. And the wife, well, she’s blubbering “I’m sorrys” all over the place while her husband is escorted, in handcuffs, to a waiting patrol car.

Meanwhile, detectives have the pleasure of bagging and tagging evidence in the bloody bedroom, taking care not to step on bits of the victim’s skull, teeth, and a left ear. After all, even for you, an experienced homicide detective, it’s still a bit disgusting to get home at 4 a.m. and find a murder victim’s blood on your shirt sleeve, or a piece of the guy’s head stuck to your shoe. Better yet, your spouse makes the gruesome discovery the next day while tidying up.

Puke

4. One of the perks of becoming a detective is that you no longer have to deal with drunks, the little darlings who can be a real pain in the keister, right?

Unfortunately, a large number of criminals are intoxicated on cheap wine or beer, or both, or high on something that promotes the undeniable urge to eat a human face, when they commit their little illegal faux pas. Unfortunately, they’re often in the same condition when detectives pick them up for questioning. So, combine a lot of drinking and drug use with fear and nervousness and what do you get? Yep, last night’s chili dogs, fries, pickled pigs feet, and chocolate ice cream all over your brand new suit. Not to mention the overflow that spatters your desktop and case files.

Fighting in a Suit

5. Ever try fighting while wearing a suit and shiny shoes? How about wrestling with a 300 lb. angry woman while attempting to get a pair of handcuffs on her, all while rolling around in a muddy driveway? Then, as always, junior and three sisters jump on the pile, trying to stop you from taking dear old mom into custody. After all, all she did was kill dear old dad with a meat cleaver.

I’ll be the first to say this … never underestimate the strength of women. They will slap you three ways into Sunday, if you’re not careful.

My jaw still aches today from the times when …

Cars Without Guts

6. Detectives drive really cool cars, like my old dark blue Chevrolet Caprice, the one that would only reach 80 mph when I held the accelerator to the floor on a three-mile downhill grade. It’s not cool to be in pursuit of a wanted suspect, a guy running from you, and have every patrol car in the area pass you as if you were sitting still.

Investigators often get hand-me-down cars, like old patrol cars minus the markings—the cars that are no longer good enough for the streets. Knobs, buttons, and dials are often missing. Radios don’t work. The carpets and seats are stained with urine and puke, so much so that the cloth now feels like dirty canvas. Glamorous, wouldn’t you say?

So, there’s six reasons why it’s really cool to be a detective. And you thought all they did was sit around all day shining those pretty gold badges. Sure, they wipe them down, regularly, but not for the reasons you thought. Nope, they’re actually cleaning off vomit, roach dung, and blood.

Nice day at the office, huh?


*** A fantastic and unique opportunity! ***

On January 23, 2021, Writers’ Police Academy Online will once again offer an exciting and unique daylong live and interactive seminar. This course, “Criminal Investigations: Writing Believable Make-Believe,” features three of the country’s top investigators and forensics experts who will present detailed sessions on cybercrimes and security, 3D crime-scene mapping using drones and lasers, and an in-depth, behind the scenes chronicling of what happens when a victim of sexual assault seeks care in a hospital setting.

As a bonus, USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author Lisa Regan details how to use the elements of fiction to craft a gripping crime novel.

Sign up today to reserve your seat!

In large cities law enforcement officers typically become highly specialized in their areas of expertise. Patrol officers there are often assigned to specific sections of the city—precincts—and they know their assigned areas like the backs of their hands. They’re on a first name basis with every drug dealer, hooker, petty thief, and peeping Tom.

Detectives in large departments are normally assigned to a particular duty, such as homicide investigations, narcotics investigations, or cyber crimes. Their training and experience is quite specific. There are full-time units in place to handle CSI, cold cases, SWAT, canines, bicycle patrol, and community policing, to name just a few.

However, in smaller jurisdictions—mid-size to small—where manpower and funding are precious commodities, officers sometimes have to serve double or even triple duty. They wear many hats.

Patrol officers everywhere are the front line defense against crime. They’re the men and women who answer the never-ending stream of calls that range from brutal homicides to people who think they’ve seem aliens landing in their back yards.

But in small agencies a patrol officer may also be a member of the SWAT team. This officer would probably keep his/her SWAT gear in the trunk of their patrol car, ready to suit up on a moment’s notice. They may also serve as a member of the high-risk entry team, or as a bike patrol officer who swaps their cruiser for a bicycle during a portion of their shift.

Some detectives also serve as members of scuba dive teams. Many do their own evidence collection and crime scene photography. There are no CSI units in many, many departments across the country. In fact, many departments don’t have detectives. Patrol officers in those departments investigate criminal cases from beginning to end. Needless to say, this stretches manpower to the breaking point.

In even smaller police departments, where there are three or four officers (maybe the chief is the only officer) duties may branch out further still. For example, a small town of a few hundred citizens may expect their officers to read the town water meters as part of their regular patrol (yes, I do know of a town where this system is still in place).

Another town police chief has an office inside a country store. The “office” is a simple metal desk in the corner near the lottery ticket machine. The town’s highest ranking law enforcement officer only has access to his desk during the store’s normal business hours. He is also required to handle the town’s animal control duties.

So if you’re ever worried that your story seems a little off where police procedures are concerned, never fear. The truth about law enforcement is much more farfetched. In fact, the only thing consistent about police work is its inconsistencies.

What does MOM have to do with catching bad guys? We all know our moms have super powers. They can see through walls, hear a whisper at 100 paces, and they have the unique ability to silence us with a mere glance. But could those unique qualities help nab a serial killer?

In the world of cops and robbers, to learn who committed a crime and why, investigators must first find MOM – the acronym for Motive, Opportunity, and Means. Normally, the suspect who possesses all three is indeed the true bad guy.

The Investigation

I’ve always felt it best to approach a crime scene in a systematic method, in four very basic steps: the initial evaluation, develop and expand the case, narrow the leads (witnesses and evidence), and present the case to the prosecutor and court.

The first two steps in the investigation—initial evaluation and developing the case—are where MOM first begins to appear. In a detective’s initial approach, they should look at the scene as a whole, taking in everything they see, not just a dead body, or an open safe.

Many clues are quite obvious but are often missed because the inexperienced investigator immediately begins collecting the trace, hoping forensics will solve the case for them. Trace and other forensic evidence is actually icing on the cake. Most crimes are still solved the old fashioned way, by knocking on doors, talking to people, and listening. In fact, the best investigators are really good listeners.

When investigating a murder I first looked to see who had:

Motive – The person who would benefit the most from the crime (life insurance beneficiary, jealous spouse, etc.)

Opportunity – The person who had no alibi for every single moment during the commission of the crime and its subsequent acts, including the planning stages of the crime. This stage of the investigation takes an enormous amount of time, lots of leg work, tons of phone calls, door-knocking, and many cups of coffee and hours of thinking. Again, be a good listener is key.

Means – The suspect must have had access to the murder weapon (includes a killer for hire) and all evidence in the crime.

Remember, complex criminal cases are most often solved by eliminating the people who could not have committed the crime, which eventually leads to the last man standing – the perpetrator.


The compound

This blog is coming to you today from our secure compound where we’ve been hunkered down now for eight weeks. All groceries and other supplies are delivered and sanitized and then stored in the garage for a period of time prior to bringing them inside. Then they’re washed with soap and water. We don’t touch mail with our bare hands. This is a process that’s necessary due to my suppressed immune system and the fact that Denene (my wife) is a microbiologist who’s very protective of me and takes no chances with my health.

Speaking of sanitizing items and the reasons for doing so, per request, we’ve added a new session to the 2020 MurderCon lineup. It’s called “A Microbiologist’s Perspective of Covid 19 and the Spread of Disease.” Denene will present this Thursday evening session. The presentation serves two purposes. One, to address covid-19 from its beginning through vaccine. Two, attendees will learn details necessary when writing about bioterrorism and the spread of diseases.You will not want to miss this incredibly important session.

Denene Lofland, PhD, FACSc, is an expert on bioterrorism and microbiology. She’s managed hospital laboratories and for many years worked as a senior director at biotech companies specializing in new drug discovery. She and her team members, for example, produced successful results that included drugs prescribed to treat cystic fibrosis and bacterial pneumonia. Denene, along with other top company officials, traveled to the FDA to present those findings. As a result, those drugs were approved by the FDA and 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 there was for the U.S. military.

She’s written numerous peer reviewed articles, contributed to and edited chapters in Bailey and Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology, a textbook used by universities and medical schools, and she taught microbiology to medical students at a medical school. She’s currently the director of the medical diagnostics program at a major university, where she was recently interviewed for a video about covid-19.

Denene is a regular featured speaker at the annual Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference, and she’s part of the faulty for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.


MurderCon is moving forward as planned. We have carefully detailed plans in place for proper social distancing and we’re furnishing masks and hand sanitizer will be readily available. Sirchie, our host, is in the loop with state and local health officials since they’re in the business of making PPE equipment, including hand sanitizer and masks, for 1st responders. Between Sirchie officials and our in-house microbiologist, Denene, we’re closely monitoring the situation and making preparations. Your safety, as always, is our priority.

Sign up today to reserve your spot!

MurderCon 2020

Police officers are trained to protect lives and property. They’re skilled drivers, shooters, and fighters. They know how to arrest, how to testify in court, and how to collect evidence. They’re calm and cool when facing danger, and they’re protective of other officers.

But how about after transitioning from wearing a uniform to plainclothes? How do detectives, both real and fictional, prepare for and react to danger? After all, they don’t have the luxury of wearing all that fancy, shiny gear that’s worn by patrol officers.

In the fictional world, investigators have the luxury of their creators handing them whatever they need to survive. Real life detectives don’t have that advantage, therefore, they should follow a few simple unwritten guidelines. If you, as a writer, would like to add a bit of extra realism to your tall tales, then you should have your characters follow in the footsteps of living, breathing detectives. And, speaking of shoes …

1. Footwear

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight,” right? Well, the same is true for shoes. Detectives should never, ever wear fancy, expensive shoes to that same battle. Why not? Because shoes such as the $1,665 leather-soled, perforated Amedeo Testoni Derby shoes pictured below offer practically zero traction during a fight.

The same when running after a criminal suspect whose feet are clad in a pair of Solid Gold OVO x Air Jordans, which, by the way, are the world’s most expensive sneaker with a price tag of $2,000,000.

Remember, sometimes it’s necessary to retreat in a hurry, and you certainly want the hero of your story to make it to page 325, so practical footwear is a must. Detectives should always wear lace-up shoes, not loafers that could easily slip off the feet just when you need them the most. No leather soles, if possible. And female detectives should never, ever wear heels.

2. Handcuffs

TV investigators are often seen with handcuffs looping over their waistbands, with one cuff inside the rear of the pants and the other flopping around the outside. This is not an acceptable method for carrying handcuffs. They should always be secured in a holster of some type, such as the one pictured above. Carrying them improperly is an invitation for a bad guy to grab them and use the cuffs as a weapon against the officer.

The ratchet end of the cuff (above) makes for an excellent weapon. Imagine an offender swinging the cuff, catching an officers cheek and ripping the flesh away. It’s happened.

3. Pistols

Carrying a loaded firearm tucked into the rear waistband without a holster is a definite no. For starters, the weapon is not secure and could easily slip down inside the pants, which could be difficult to retrieve during an emergency. Imagine being on the receiving end of gunfire while pawing around inside your pants, desperately trying untangle your pistol from your Wednesday pair of tighty-whiteys. It’s not a pretty picture.

Besides, an unsecured weapon is easily taken by an offender during a scuffle. But even worse, it would be downright embarrassing to have to fish your gun out of your pants while standing in line at the bank. So wear a holster. There are several designs specifically for plainclothes and undercover officers. For example, Galls’ BLACKHAWK! Leather Inside Pants Holster.

4. Vests

I know this like beating a dead horse, but ALL officers, including detectives, should wear their ballistic vests. Wearing a suit and tie does not prevent an investigator from encountering dangerous people with guns. Suit jackets and shirts can be cut to allow a vest underneath (male and female). I know, they’re hot and uncomfortable, and I’m the perfect example of someone who’s been involved in a shootout and was not wearing a vest. I’m lucky the bad guy was a poor shot and I wasn’t. However, all it takes is one round to start the sound of Bob Dylan’s voice inside your head, singing …

“Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Oh, and do tuck the tail of the vest inside the pants, like a shirt tail. It’s there for a reason! Never roll it up under the vest. Doing so allows the vest to ride up, exposing vital organs.

5. Badges

It’s a good tactic for Plainclothes officers to use their non-gun hand to hold and display their badges near the shooting hand while their weapons are drawn. You want it visible because people have a tendency to focus on a gun instead of the ID that’s attached to a belt. If an officer’s badge is not clearly visible the suspect may not realize the man/woman who’s aiming a pistol at them is indeed a cop no matter how many times or how loud you shout, “POLEEECE!. This includes other officers who may think the good guy is one of the bad guys and then shoots one of their own before realizing their little boo boo. #displaythebadge

Takin' Bacon

This “tale” returns per a request I received from a writer. She said a friend had once heard me tell the story during a presentation at the New England Crime Bake several years ago and she wanted to hear it from me. Well, since it’s rare that I present workshops at conferences these days I told her I’d tell the about the adventure here today. I know many of you have already heard it so please bear with me as I share it with those who haven’t. I call this one Takin’ Bacon, and it’s a true story. Really, it is.

Takin’ Bacon

Crime-solving is not always as easy as television would have us believe. Sometimes police officers really have to work hard to get to the bottom of a particularly complex case.

Cops use a variety of means to crack each of their cases, and one really unusual series of events comes to mind when I think about out-of-the-box methods I’d used during my career.

As most of you know, I was a police detective for many years, and part of my job was to solve major crimes, such as murder, rape, and robbery. Sure, I paid my dues early in my career by writing tickets and directing traffic, but my real passion was the puzzle-solving that’s associated with tracking down murderers.

In the Beginning

Before most detectives are allowed to investigate the more serious crimes, though, they’re normally assigned to easier-to-solve, less intricate cases, such as bad checks and stolen tricycles.

One of my introductory cases was unusual to say the least. My boss, a gruff and tough-as-rusty-nails sheriff, dispatched me to get to the bottom of a rash of stolen hogs. No, not the cool and expensive motorcycles—real pigs, as in walking, oinking pork chops.

Someone was stealing live four- or five-hundred pound porkers directly from a farmer’s hog farm, and they were taking at least one or two each weekend. The pigs (hundreds upon hundred of them) were kept in many buildings on the large farm, so my partner and I thought the best way to nab these guys was to wait inside one of the elaborate hog parlors until the criminals arrived to do their dirty deed. Our plan was simple; when the crooks entered the building we would jump up, turn on the lights, and nab the ham-rustlers in the act of felony pig-napping.

“The” Weekend

Friday finally arrived and just before dark we entered one of the hog shelters and sat down on a pair of overturned 5-gallon buckets—one apiece—where we waited for the crooks to show up. I quickly discovered that the combined stench of pig feces and urine and other foul goodies were absolutely overwhelming. I also learned that pigs are sneaky and extremely curious, and that they have very cold and very wet and gross noses. Not to mention the fact that the odor clings to your clothing and shoes and refuses to go away.

We’d been hanging out in the dark, surrounded by fat sows, for nearly two hours when we finally heard the creaky sound of rusty springs stretching as someone open a plywood door near the center of the building.

A bit of moonlight spilled inside and then disappeared as the door closed behind who or whomever had entered the pig parlor. My partner and I both drew our weapons and waited, allowing the thieves enough time to begin the act of stealing. We wanted to catch them with ham hocks in hand.

There was a period of time where we heard two voices, but they were muffled by the sound of low-pitched pig grunts and oinks. The men used a small flashlight to help find their way to the center of the area, a place that was packed with so many hogs that it sort of resembled a concert arena on a night when Taylor Swift or Beyonce’ or Elton John performs. It was Pig-a-Palooza and Pigstock rolled into one.

We figured the bandits were being selective, choosing just the right pigs—this little pig or that little pig—that would fetch top dollar at the market.

Then and unexpectedly, a bright light flashed. Then another flash followed by another and another. I realized, detective material that I was, that the bad guys were taking pictures.

Confused by their actions, but anxious to catch the guys, we couldn’t stand it any longer. So we hopped up, aimed our Beretta 9mms in the general direction of the thugs, and switched on the lights.

I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that one of the young men was standing directly behind a female pig—a sow, as they’re properly addressed—with his pants down around his ankles and resting atop the goop on the slatted floor (the space between the slats is where pig most waste falls into a deep and smelly pit).

I was even more startled when I realized the man was actually having sex with a big, fat and dirty female pig, and his buddy was taking pictures of him while he did it.

They both stopped what they were doing, in mid-action, and looked toward us. Each man had the same deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression.

(Not the actual suspect)

(Not the actual victim)

We immediately placed the two crooks under arrest and took them to the sheriff’s office for processing (that’s “booking” to laypeople.) During my questioning of the guy who’d been caught with his pants down, the embarrassed animal lover confessed to stealing over one-hundred pigs from several different farms over the past few weeks, and that they’d taken their “booty” to hog markets and sold them for a nice profit.

At the end of his confession, the pig-stealer shook his head and asked how we found out they were going to be there that night. He added that they’d been extremely careful not to leave behind an evidence trail of any kind.

I smiled because the perfect answer crept forward from that goofy spot in my head. I looked at the guy and said, “How did we know you were coming?  It’s simple, the pig squealed on you.”

He just shook his head slowly from side-to-side. After all, what could he have said to justify his little affair with Petunia?

I really should mention that the thief was married, and he wasn’t practicing safe sex with his porcine partners, if you know what I mean. So, if you’re ever having a bad day, just be really thankful that you’re not married to this guy. Unless you don’t mind that his idea of bringing home the bacon is just a bit “different” than that of normal folks.

By the way, I learned that the purpose of the pig pornography (each man photographed the other having sex with a pig) was insurance so that neither of the two men would tell on the other. If one were to snitch he’d face having the photograph sent to family members.  What I didn’t understand was why they felt the need to have a barnyard affair each time they stole a pig. Wouldn’t one photo be enough?

And I truly hope, this being a holiday weekend and all, that you’ll think of this curly little “tale” as you’re tossing the pork chops on the grill…

 

Many people have asked me what it was like working as a police detective. Well, in retrospect, my emotions are mixed. Of course, there are far too many good memories to count, but many events took place I’d consider as some of the lowest points of my life, like the day I was involved in a shootout with a bank robber, or when I witnessed the state execution of a serial killer. The electric chair is not exactly a humane means of execution. Those years were a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

Anyway, my publisher, Writer’s Digest Books, once posted on their website an excerpt from my book about police procedure. The segment is about my thoughts on becoming an investigator, the intro to the chapter devoted to detectives.

I thought it might be fun to share it with those of you who haven’t read the book. Those of you who have read the book, well, we can chat about something else while the others are reading.

To order your copy, click here.

From Chapter Four:

Detectives usually begin their careers as uniformed police officers who work their way up the chain of command, striving to obtain either the position of a uniformed supervisor or move into what some officers think of as the ultimate police job – a detective.

How an officer becomes a detective varies with each individual department. Some departments offer the position as a promotion. These departments post the vacant position and officers apply and test for the job, and the most qualified person receives the advancement. Promotions, or assignments to a detective division, aren’t normally awarded to officers until they’ve completed at least five years of service. Other departments take the rivalry between uniformed officers and the plainclothes detectives into account and simply assign officers to a detective’s position on a rotating basis, which allows every officer a turn as an investigator.

A detective is responsible for the investigation of both misdemeanor and felony crimes. How each department carries out these investigations depends upon the size of the department. Some departments are large enough to have detectives who specialize in certain areas such as credit card fraud, homicide, juvenile crime, arson, narcotics, rape, vice, etc. (We’ll look at some of these areas in greater detail later in the chapter.) Detectives sometimes work in several specialized areas before finding one they like. Once they do, they usually make that area their permanent assignment.

Other departments have only a couple of detectives for the entire agency – if any. In some rural departments where manpower is limited, patrol officers serve as first responders, evidence technicians, and investigators. There are advantages to each situation. The specialized detective becomes very skilled at his particular craft, whereas a detective or patrol officer in a smaller department has the opportunity, out of necessity, to work all kinds of cases.

No matter what the assignment, the duties are the same. Detectives are investigators who gather facts and collect evidence in criminal cases. They conduct interviews and interrogations, examine records and documents, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in and conduct raids or arrests. A detective is usually charged with applying for and obtaining search warrants. To accomplish these tasks effectively, detectives are trained with a more diverse approach than patrol officers.

Both detectives and patrol officers are required to attend, at minimum, semiannual in-service training to stay abreast of new laws and procedures. In addition to the in-service training, a detective’s education must be endlessly updated, and his base of knowledge must be constantly expanded. Criminals are continually developing new ideas and methods to get around the law, and the detective has to make every effort to stay one step ahead of them.

Modern criminals are more highly educated than offenders of the past, and today’s crooks rehearse and practice every aspect of their craft, like actors studying for a Broadway production. The thugs even hone their shooting skills. I was once searching the trunk of a drug dealer’s vehicle and found an automatic weapon, several rounds of ammunition, and a police silhouette target. The center of the target was filled with bullet holes, and Lee Lofland was written above the head. That was an eye-opener.

There are many new ways to fight crime in today’s computer and technology age, but nothing can compare to the old-fashioned method of the detective getting out and beating the streets for information and clues.

The image of the detective has changed as well. It has evolved from the trench-coat-wearing sleuth to a more stylishly dressed investigator. That image possibly reflects a larger clothing allowance than was once provided by departments. I think, years ago, I wore the long coat not because I was cold, but to cover my outdated cheap suits. All my sport coats had torn linings from years of friction caused by my gun’s hammer constantly rubbing against the fabric. When I began my career, the pay was around 8,400 dollars annually, with no clothing allowance. Also in those days, we had to buy our own guns, handcuffs, flashlights, raincoats, ticket books, and shoes. Oh yeah, and bullets. If we thought we might need them, we purchased a handful of those as well.

Today, all expenses are paid by the officer’s department, including clothing allowances for undercover officers who sometimes must wear really unusual clothing in order to blend in with their working environment.

A case begins with the commission of a crime. Uniformed patrol officers are often the first officers on the scene, and they gather the pertinent information-the who, what, where, why, when, and how, if available. It’s the duty of the uniformed patrol officer to secure the scene until a detective or the officer in charge relieves him. The officer who gathers the information later passes it on to the detective assigned to the case. Cases are usually assigned on a rotating basis, or a detective can be assigned to a particular case based on her particular knowledge and skills that relate to the offense. Once assigned to a case, a detective will follow it through until the case has been solved and the suspect is tried and convicted. The detective may use other officers to assist in the investigation, but the case will remain in her charge.

Fact gathering is a must in police work. Detectives can only relate specific details in a court of law and may not offer opinion, as a rule, for testimony. However, during the investigation, gut feelings and instinct play a large role in the detective’s search for information. Years of experience can be, and often are, the most formidable tool in the detective’s arsenal.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY: ON BECOMING A DETECTIVE

Note: These In The Line Of Duty headings appear a few times throughout the book. They’re my real-life reflections of something that actually happened to me while I was on the job.

When I raised my right hand to take the oath to serve my state and my country, I felt a lump rise in my throat. It was such an honor and a thrill to finally be sworn in as a police officer. The feeling of putting on a uniform and pinning a shiny, silver badge to my chest was one of the greatest moments of my life. When the day finally arrived, though, to transition from a uniformed officer to a plainclothes detective, I couldn’t wait to trade the uniform for a new suit and to hook a new, gold badge on my belt. After all, my childhood dream was to become an investigator, and I could finally wear cotton again instead of double-knit polyester shirts with fake buttons that zipped up the front and pants that retained enough heat to bake bread. (Of course, that cool stripe down the leg offset all negatives!)

I turned in my marked patrol vehicle and received my first department-issued, unmarked car. It was an old, beat-up Chevrolet Caprice, a car I write about fondly in my books and stories. The car was midnight blue, several years old, and would reach its top speed of eighty-five miles per hour only after going downhill for about three miles. I didn’t care. It was mine. I washed it, cleaned the tires and wheels, and put my things-a fishing-tackle box filled with fingerprint equipment, a shotgun with an eighteen-inch barrel, extra ammo, hand cleaner, paper towels, and a roll of crime scene tape-into the trunk. I’d get more tools later as I figured out what I needed. For now, I was ready for my first case.

In my early days as a patrol officer, I looked on with envy as the detectives came in and took over my cases after I’d done the dirty work. They were the guys getting their pictures in the newspapers and getting all the glory for doing nothing … or so I thought. It took just a few months of being a detective to dream of an eight-hour shift, like the old days, instead of a twenty-hour day, and of not being called out in the middle of the night, every night! The thought had never occurred to me that it would be irritating to have newspaper reporters snapping photos of me while I struggled to hold in my lunch at a gruesome homicide scene, or that reporters would write things in the paper I didn’t say or leave out the important things I did say.

Nobody teaches you how alienated you become from your old co-workers, the boys in blue, once you become a detective. Uniformed officers sometimes feel a bit of jealousy toward detectives, and detectives sometimes experience a bit of an unjustified superiority complex toward uniformed officers. It’s a rivalry that’s always been in place and probably always will be.

Nobody explains the many hours you’ll spend sitting in the woods, or in the bushes, with hungry mosquitoes and spiders and snakes, or in the rain or snow, watching suspects in your attempts to build cases. Nobody tells you how it feels to work undercover and to walk into the middle of a drug deal, unarmed and without a radio. Nobody describes how it feels to be shot at, spit on, beat up, kicked, scratched, stabbed, cut, knocked down, punched, and pepper sprayed (with your own pepper
spray), all the while wearing a suit.

Yes, I was finally a detective and it was absolutely … glorious!


BIG Writers’ Police Academy NEWS!!

By now, you may have heard that the Writers’ Police Academy is teaming up with Sirchie in 2019 to present an absolutely fantastic one-of-a-kind special event featuring Sirchie’s top team of expert instructors, among others, who’ll present exciting hands-on workshops and lectures relating solely to homicide investigations. Of course, as always, there’ll be surprises.

The Sirchie team, WPA staff, and our wonderful website designer, are all hard at work ironing out details, including an all new website and special logo just for the 2019 event, all of which we hope to announce in early January in advance of the opening of registration in mid February.

Since this is such a unique event, one that’s never been made available to non-law enforcement folks, well, you’ll definitely not want to miss out on this rare opportunity to train and learn at the source of “how it’s done,” the very private and elite Sirchie compound just outside of Raleigh, N.C.

*Sirchie, the Global Leader in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions; provides Products, Vehicles, and Training to the global law enforcement and forensic science communities.

Please keep in mind that space at Sirchie is extremely limited; therefore, we’re offering spots on a first-come, first-served basis.

So, mark your calendars for August 1, 2019. Hotel and other details coming very soon.

With that said, I hope to see each of at …

 

 

 

 

 


*The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to present Heather Graham as our 2019 Guest of Honor.

Police officers in large cities become highly specialized in their areas of expertise. Patrol officers there are often assigned to section of the city, a precinct, and they know that area like the back of their hand.  They’re on a first name basis with every drug dealer, hooker, and numbers runner. Detectives in those areas are normally assigned to a particular duty, such as homicide investigations, narcotics cases, and cyber crimes. There are full-time units in place to handle CSI, cold cases, SWAT, canines, bicycle patrol, and community policing, to name just a few.

However, in less-populated jurisdictions—mid-size to small—where manpower and funding are precious commodities, officers sometimes have to serve double, or even triple duty. They wear many hats.

Patrol officers everywhere are the front line defense against crime. They’re the men and women who answer the never-ending stream of calls, ranging from homicides to people who think aliens have just landed in their back yard.

In small agencies, though, a patrol officer may also be a member of the SWAT team. That officer would probably keep his/her SWAT gear in the trunk of their patrol car, ready to suit-up in a flash. They may also serve as a member of the high-risk entry team, or as a bike patrol officer, swapping a cruiser for a bicycle to finish out the remainder of their shift.

Some detectives also serve as members of scuba dive teams. Many do their own evidence collection and crime scene photography. There are no CSI units in many, many departments across the country. In fact, many departments don’t have detectives. Patrol officers in those departments investigate criminal cases from beginning to end. Needless to say, this stretches manpower to the breaking point.

In even smaller police departments, where there are three or four officers (maybe the chief is the only officer) duties may branch out further still. For example, a tiny town of a few hundred citizens may expect their officer(s) to read the town water meters as part of their regular patrol. Yes, I do know of a town where this system was and may still be in place.

Another town police chief has an office inside a country store. His “office” is actually nothing more than a metal desk positioned in the corner near the lottery ticket machine, and the town’s highest ranking law enforcement officer only has access to his work space during the store’s normal business hours. He is also required to handle the town’s animal control duties. Once each week, this town’s top and only cop swaps his patrol car for a pickup truck and utility trailer so that he can collect the garbage set out on the curbs by the town’s residents.

So if you’re ever worried that your story seems a little off where police procedures are concerned, well, fear not because the truth about law enforcement is much more farfetched. In fact, the only thing consistent about police work is its inconsistencies.

To Preserve and Collect

To Protect and Collect