Tag Archive for: K-9’s

Author Elaine Munsch joins us today to share her experiences at the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

Welcome to The Graveyard Shift, Elaine. It’s always a pleasure to have a guest on the site.

I’ll now quickly exit and the floor is yours.

Author Elaine Munsch

Elaine Munsch

For years my friend Rick McMahan, now a retired ATF agent, has been encouraging me to attend the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), a conference conceived by Lee Lofland to help writers get the details correct. This year the stars aligned themselves and my daughter and I journeyed to Wisconsin to attend this year’s get-together.

The first event was a firsthand exploration of various vehicles used in police/rescue work.

Anne E. Schwartz - "MONSTER, The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders".

Anne E. Schwartz – author of “MONSTER, The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders.”

That  evening we listened to Anne E. Schwartz, author of MONSTER, The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders. Schwartz was the first reporter, really just a cub, at the home of Jeffrey Dahmer when the story began to break. She followed the story as the horrific details of what the police found in Dahmer’s apartment became public. Through the years she interviewed Dahmer, finally putting all she learned in a book.

The attendees stayed in Appleton and bussed to Green Bay. The first morning, very early, we arrived at NWTC (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College) for a simulation of an auto collision. We watched as the police arrived and arrested the drunk driver. EMS arrived to tend to the injured driver in the other car. The Fire Department had to extract the other passenger (a dummy), so the firemen cut off the car door. Finally, a helicopter circled the parking lot and landed so the severely injured passenger (dummy) could be taken to a nearby hospital.

All the participants stayed around to answer questions.

We then walked to our classrooms, part of the Public Safety Training Center. In registration we selected various classes of interest: Court Process, Arrest and Booking Process, Armed in America, Firearms, Use of Force Virtual Reality Simulator, Vehicle Extrication, and Tactical Operations – Forced Entry/Room Clearing.

My first class was Court Process where Judge Kevin Rathburn moved us through the A-Z’s of presenting courtroom testimony. I felt like I was back in college, furiously taking notes. At the end of the class, the Judge said he would send via email all the notes we would need.

Then onto Arrest and Booking Process, where the jailer provided a step-by-step guide from the intake at the Sally Port* until the suspect was either turned over for prosecution or released on bond. The minutia of each step examined and explained. The safety of the police, the suspect and the jailers is paramount.

*Per Wikipedia: A sally port is a secure, controlled entry way to an enclosure, e.g., a fortification or prison. The entrance is usually protected by some means, such as a fixed wall on the outside, parallel to the door, which must be circumvented to enter and prevents direct enemy fire from a distance. It may include two sets of doors that can be barred independently to further delay enemy penetration.

Rick McMahan, retired ATF special agent, now a detective with the Kentucky Attorney General's Office

Rick McMahan, retired ATF special agent, now a detective with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. Longtime WPA instructor.

My final ‘class’ of the day was Armed in America with Rick McMahan. With over four hundred million weapons in the hands of the American population, and the on-going conversation around gun violence, Rick walked us through the history of firearm legislation, as well as educating us on the different types of weapons out there.

My daughter chose more inter-active classes: Firearms and Forced Entry/Room Clearing. She learned the proper way to hold/fire a weapon and realized that holding a gun with arms extended gets harder the longer you have to maintain that position. Now that she knew how to hold a gun, she and another attendee got to experience how to ‘clear a building.’ Wearing protective gear, they peered around corners looking for the ‘bad guys.’ We’ve all watched this on any number of television shows but to do it yourself is another ballgame. “Look in the corners”.

It was an exhausting day for this old bookseller.

Saturday was another early day. I signed up for Body Cameras, K-9 Operations and finally, Defensive and Arrest Tactics.

The class on body cameras was enlightening and fascinating. The instructor explained what the camera can see and what the police officer sees. With adrenaline pumping, the officer will have tunnel vision rather than the wide-angle of the camera. He showed us various clips of events and then we were able to view what other cameras caught, discussing each video.

Everyone’s favorite class was the K-9 unit. After a classroom session discussing breed choices, training and uses for the canines, we went outside to meet the dogs. Turbo is a German Shepherd and Raven is a Belgium Malinois; those two breeds are the most popular because of their prey drive and their defense drive. The dogs showed their seek-and-find talents. Turbo got the final show: how he would control/contain the ‘bad guy.’

In my final class, the instructors demonstrated how an officer approaches a suspect, beginning with a non-aggressive encounter and working up to the very uncooperative person who ends up on the ground and in cuffs.

Again, my daughter chose the more interactive class: Emergency Vehicle Operations, in other words, she got to drive a police car in pursuit of a getaway car.

All of the instructors were police officers, now instructors at the college but still on the force.

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

The day ended with a presentation by Dr. Katherine Ramsland. Her expertise lies in the process of interviewing serial killers. She walked us through her relationship with the B.T.K. (Bind, Torture, Kill) killer.

Robert Dugoni, 2022 Guest of Honor

Robert Dugoni, 2022 Guest of Honor

The conference ended with a dinner and a wonderful speech by Robert Dugoni, best-selling author. He discussed trying to find the secret to writing. He started with Stephen King’s ‘telepathy,’ added that Diane Gabaldon’s telling of the ‘magic’ that helps her, and finally Charles Dickins, a.k.a. the man who created Christmas, talking about how he struggled for inspiration and then one night in walked Ebenezer Scrooge.

This was one of the best conferences I ever attended and I would highly recommend it to all writers whether they have police officers in their stories or not. Not only will you be able to correctly portray your LEO characters, but you will also come away with a better appreciation of the difficulties faced by our LEO’s every day on the streets.

Elaine Munsch, who writes under E.M. Munsch, is the author of the Dash Hammond series: THE PRICE OF BEING NEIGHBORLY, THE COST OF KINDNESS, THE EXPENSE OF FAMILY, A WEALTH OF WOMEN and A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF TROUBLE, with more on the way.
She has been a bookseller since 1972, both in Cleveland and Louisville. Elaine moved to Kentucky to open the first Barnes & Noble here. Besides being a member of Sisters in Crime, she also ‘taught’ the mystery genre for the Veritas Society in Louisville, and she facilitates the Mystery Reading Group at the B&N where she’ still working part-time, having retired several times only to come back.
Elaine first published this recap of her Writers’ Police Academy experience in “Derby Rotten Scoundrels,” the blog site of SinC’s Louisville, Kentucky chapter. Both Elaine and her daughter attended the June WPA.
*Derby Rotten Scoundrels – Promote the advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers in the Ohio River Valley region.

A well-written book engages a reader’s emotions, as well as each of their five senses—touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. To do so, writers must call upon their own experiences to breathe life into their characters, setting, and actions.

Crime writers, the folks who take their fans into shootouts, car crashes, explosions, police pursuits, fights, courtroom trials, homicide investigations and crime scenes, and other situations that are highly atypical for the average person, face the reality of not having the background and know-how to draw upon as a resource.

Therefore, because they have no personal experience, writers of crime fiction have only a small handful of “so-so” available options to help with crafting those scenes. And, typically, their research tools are limited to relying on the word of another, read about it, or watch a video.

The results of this type of research often comes across on the page as being “flat,” as if something important is missing. For example, characters lack the knowledge of living cops and robbers, making them not quite up to par with their multi-layered real-life counterparts. Scenes are unbelievable and lack the depth that comes with having “been there, done that.” Dialog suffers because the author doesn’t quite understand the lingo and how and when to use it, other than hearing a television character speak.

The list of potential pitfalls is far too long for the writers who’ve never been involved in a shootout with an armed robber, or investigated a string of murders committed by a serial killer, applied handcuffs to the wrists of a criminal suspect, booked a subject into jail, driven a patrol car on an emergency vehicle training course, been in a deadly force situation where they had to decide whether to shoot someone, or not, fired a gun, tossed a flash-bang into an armed suspect’s home before “going in,” or ripped apart a vehicle using special power equipment.

Each of the above actions invoke the senses of anyone who’s present when they occur. If you’re not a law enforcement officer or other first responder whose job regularly requires involvement in those activities, it’s simply not possible to properly and accurately write those types of scenes in a manner that activates each of the senses.

How could a writer possibly describe the scent of gunpowder if they’ve not smelled it in person. Sure, they could read about it and then use someone else’s words in their work. But if that person’s description was inaccurate, then the story of the writer who used the secondhand information will also suffer the wrath of readers who know better.

A great example is the writer who describes detecting the scent of gunpowder in this way. “The detective knew the murder occurred recently because the odor of cordite lingered in the air.” 

We’ve all read this description time and time again, right? The author who writes this, I’m sad to say, doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about because cordite hasn’t been used in ammunition since its production ceased in England at the end of World War II, nearly 80-years ago.

No one will smell cordite at a crime scene or anywhere else unless, of course, the 100-year-old shooter used ammo he had leftover from his service during the Battle of Nuremberg in February of 1945.

So what’s a writers to do to solve this dilemma, you ask? Easy, no-brainer answer—attend the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

Attending the hands-on sessions at the Writers’ Police Academy is the best and ONLY means you have to experience those things in real-life, in real time, short of signing up to work as a law enforcement officer. There is no substitute for this one of a kind event, anywhere on our planet.

Here’s a preview of some of the 2022 exciting hands-on training sessions and classes taught by top experts.

Arrest and Booking – This session is the real deal. Once you arrive at the jail with a criminal suspect, you’ll take the subject out of the squad car, through the booking process, and finally to a cell, an unforgettable moment that’s punctuated by the sound of a steel door clanging shut behind them. This session includes use of the academy onsite booking area and actual holding cells.

Court Process – Taught by a sitting Wisconsin judge, this course covers the legal implications of bad decisions, from an initial appearance to motions hearings and ultimately a trial. Experience what it’s like to testify in court, recalling incidents, responding to legal questions, and more. Learn how your testimony affects and influences a jury.

Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC) – Hop in one of our patrol cars and buckle up, because during this exciting session you’ll maneuver the police vehicle through our Emergency Vehicle Operator Course on 26 acres of a closed training facility.

Firearms – Attendees delve into the types of weapons that officers use in their everyday duties. Learn the fundamentals of a Glock pistol and AR15 rifle. Become familiar with sight picture, sight alignment, stance, grip, and trigger control. Fire force on force ammunition on the indoor pistol range.

Tribal Policing – The United States has 574 federally recognized tribes in 35 states. The course guides attendees through the unique aspects of policing on tribal land. Some of the WPA’s academy facilities are situated on Oneida tribal land.

Use of Force Virtual Reality simulator – A heart-pounding, eye-opening, and extremely realistic session where you must decide, within a fraction of a second, whether to use deadly force. Experience how quickly situations unfold for officers. Once the headset is on, you’re there, in the thick of the action and it’s up to you to make the split second decisions.

Vehicle Extraction – Attendees use the Jaws of Life and see how these unique tools can lift vehicles and cut through virtually anything.

Vehicle Contacts – Law enforcement officers stop more than 32 million people per year. Traffic stops involve lots of moving parts, thoughts, tactics, and crimes. They can be, and often are, one of the most dangerous aspects of police work. This session will take you beyond the basics. Be prepared for … well, anything!

Forced Entry/Room Clearing – You and your team are dispatched to a location (our full-scale forced entry structure) where potentially armed and dangerous suspects are hiding. Upon arrival, you and your partners must enter to clear the building.

Participants experience first-hand the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of “what if.” What if someone is truly in the building? What if they don’t belong there, and what if they have a weapon? What if they’re a wanted person who’s threatened to kill all police officers who try to capture them? Where are they hiding?

*Explosive devices will be used during this session; therefore, participants will be required to wear protective gear during this thrilling hands-on exercise.

Body Cameras – We’ve all seen police seen body camera footage—some good and some not so good.  These cameras have become a game changer for law enforcement and, in addition to merely recording in real time, have capabilities that are nothing short of amazing.

Defense and Arrest Tactics – Participants learn and perform techniques officers use to control behavior of cooperative and uncooperative suspects.

K-9 Operations – Everyone loves dogs, well, everyone except criminals! Spend some time with a K-9 officer and their K-9. Learn the ins and outs, from drug searches to tracking suspects. Bring your questions and cameras (please, no videos allowed) because these four-legged cops are anxious to show off, just for you! This session shows police dogs doing what they do best. Session may be outdoors, weather permitting.

Cops Doing Counterterrorism: Life In the Joint Terrorism Task Force – In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, state and local government officials around the country were faced with a sobering reality: the job of preventing and responding to terrorism was not solely the responsibility of the federal government.  Moreover, the work of the 9/11 Commission revealed the problems of depending on select agencies with classified investigations: sharing the previously un-shareable with local partners was a necessary part of the solution. But should John McClaine be entrusted with exceptionally sensitive national security information?  Which Jack has the need and the right to know?  Bauer? Ryan? Reacher? Black? Sparrow? Retired Acting Assistant Chief Alan Hardwick discusses his experience transitioning from parking tickets and domestic disturbances to briefing the nation’s leaders on secret operations, along with the impact on local investigators who never dreamed they’d be in the middle of a secret war not only for their country, but for their own lives.

Armed in America – Retired ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan discusses the legal commerce and the misuse of firearms. The presentation touches upon the historical events that have been impetus to the nation’s guns laws. We will dispel some of the errors and myths about firearm laws, including why the most repeated line on TV crime shows and in books is completely wrong— “The gun was registered to the suspect.” The presentation examines legal definitions of various types of firearms, criminal schemes, and motives (i.e. firearms trafficking and theft), criminal manufacture and distribution of firearms (such as “ghost guns”), as well as restricted types of weapons. In addition, the class will explore firearms evidence forensically and how firearms are investigative tools for law enforcement.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent – Has your main character been dropped into the middle of an old investigation and quickly discovers much is wrong? Has a crime been solved, the accused are convicted and the real bad guys walk free among us, with society none the wiser? Join former NYPD Detective Marco Conelli as he takes you through the course of a real investigation that instantly carved its place in the New York news as well as the law journals of America.

The Spingola Files: An Evening With Steven Spingola – A captivating session presented by author Steven Spingola, a nationally renowned death investigator who was heavily involved in the high-profile case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Known to his colleagues as “the sleuth with the proof,” Spingola is an investigator and on-air personality for Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program.

Conversations With The B.T.K. Killer, Dennis Rader – This class, taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, focuses on the immersive process of interviewing a serial killer, the challenges of the prison system for such work, and the experience of co-producing the documentary. After hundreds of hours spent inside the mind of this serial killer, in the context of many other killers Dr. Ramsland studied, she offers multiple insights for crime and mystery writing.

Touch a Truck – A variety of public safety vehicles and equipment for attendees to view and explore. Officers and firefighters will be on hand to explain the functions of vehicles and tools used by first-responders. Q&A and demo. Indoor event.

Live, Action-Packed Scenario – this adrenaline-pumping, dramatic, and riveting event unfolds in realtime!

Writers’ Police Academy Registration Opens Tuesday,

February 1st at Noon EST 

Guest of Honor – International Bestselling Author Robert Dugoni


The action is real. The instructors are real. The knowledge gained is phenomenal. 

The Writers’ Police Academy experience is invaluable. 

*Images above are from past Writers’ Police Academy events. Raise your hand if you see someone you know. I see Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and …




It’s been well over two decades since I and my narcotics K-9 partner attended our first day of school. We’d spend the next sixteen weeks together learning how to locate hidden drugs. However, my new partner was no stranger to the job since he’d already served as a narcotics dog with the U.S. Border Patrol. I’d served as a narcotics officer for quite a while, both undercover and as a detective. But this, having a four-legged partner, was a first for me.

We left home early that day, both freshly bathed with bellies full and hearts thumping with excitement.

I drove, of course, while the dog rode in a large crate secured in the rear compartment. I sensed his excitement during the ride by the way his thick tail steadily beat against the sides of the container.

When I turned off the main road, Midlothian Turnpike, just outside of Richmond Va., it was déjà vu all over again. Because directly in front of me was the training academy of the Virginia State Police. It is there where Va. State Police recruits attend 30 weeks of academic, physical, and practical training. After graduation from the academy, the new troopers report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia where each of them are required to spend an additional six weeks with a field training officer while learning their new patrol area.

The day my drooling pooch and I arrived the basic academy was in full swing, with recruits going about the daily grind associated with their training. I believe there were approximately 70 -80 recruits attending the academy at the time and they must have been nearing the end because a few dozen brand new, shiny blue and gray Va. State Police patrol cars were lined up in rows at the rear of the property.

I recalled the butterflies-in-the-stomachs experienced by recruits when they, as did I, saw waiting patrol cars, knowing they’d soon be assigned one, a car that would soon become their mobile office and sanctuary from evil. Seeing them parked there was also a sign that they’d made it. They’d endured 30 weeks of running, exercising, shooting, classroom and driver training, and running, running, running. Many were in the best physical shape they’d been in their entire lives. Their brains were overflowing with new knowledge and their nerve-endings pulsed with the electricity that fuels all rookie cops.

But, instead of heading to the main training academy buildings, I turned to the left and aimed my car to the area designated for K-9 training. This portion of the academy featured two sets of kennels capable of housing many dogs. One set was designated for patrol dogs, the mean and nasty biters. The other was a long, double row of covered kennels where the narcotics and explosive dogs would sleep and eat for the next 16 weeks.

I checked in with the lieutenants in charge and was assigned a kennel for my dog along with a stainless steel food dish and a rubber water bucket. A trooper showed me where the dog food was stored and told me that I was responsible for daily cleaning and hosing and scrubbing my dog’s quarters. We each rotated weekend duties, the feeding, watering, and cleaning of all kennels.

I would spend my nights in the barracks where my wakeup call was at 5 a.m.—lights on and a loud buzzer followed by the door being flung open by a sergeant who quite enjoyed shouting. This joyful eye-opener was immediately followed by barracks inspection, a quick shower, shave, and breakfast with the other K-9 handlers-in-training, as well as the academy recruits.

Our first morning was by far the easiest day of training. We spent it outdoors listening to our trainer, a lieutenant who provided a tour of the K-9 training grounds—obstacle courses, large and smaller fenced fields, classrooms, and even a building equipped as a letter and package processing facility, complete with long conveyor belts. This building was where we’d train our dogs to search packages as they breezed by on the conveyors and when stacked in tall, long rows. Yes, the dogs actually walked and ran on the conveyors while packages zipped by their keen noses.

K-9 Handlers Are On The “Dumb End” of the Leashes

The lieutenant then explained what we could expect during the next three months. He made sure we were aware that drug dogs are typically hyper and that they have four legs and prefer to use the full capability of those limbs. And that it was up to us to keep up with the animals, in spite of our handicap of having only two legs.

We were in no way to slow down the forward progress of our dogs. In other words, we were expected to run every day all day, without exception, for the duration of our training. If our dogs ran, we ran. And only when the dogs took a break were allowed to do the same.  Training for the dogs was fun. It’s a game to them and their end goal is to be rewarded for playing. Their treat … more playtime, and we were their sources of entertainment. Tug-of-war with a rolled up towel was their favorite activity, one that was enjoyed whenever they found hidden drugs. Therefore, they searched frantically knowing that if they succeeded they’d enjoy a session of towel-fun-time.

The lieutenant made certain that we knew to trust the noses and intelligence of our dogs, and that we were on the dumb end of the leash. Never try to force a dog to alert on something when you suspect it to contain narcotics. Always allow the dog do the work. They know what they’re doing. “Handlers are ALWAYS on the dumb end of the leash!” I heard that sentence at least a thousand times during the academy training

Run here, there, and everywhere!

I wondered why in the world, as a police detective who had his own air-conditioned office, a comfortable chair and substantial desk, clothing allowance, and who rarely had to run anywhere (that’s what rookies were for) … why did I ever request to attend this sort of punishment training. But no … I had to have my very own narcotics K-9. A dog who ran like The Roadrunner and was as hyper as Speedy Gonzales, the cartoon mouse.

We trained at the Richmond, Va. airport, searching for drugs in all passenger jets and luggage. We traveled to secret and quite secure government three letter agency facilities where we searched and cleared areas. Our transportation for those trips was a marked state police van pulling a long double-decker trailer containing forty individual compartments for our dogs—four rows of ten compartments, ten on top of ten on each side.

We ran everywhere we went and the dogs loved it. By the final week of training I’d lost 25 pounds.

The K-9 handler’s training academy was far tougher, physically, than regular basic police training. Not even close, actually. But I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. And, as a bonus, I had one of the best partners in the world.

And then, a couple of years later, I did it again. I had to have a patrol dog, a dog who tracked and was extremely skilled at suspect apprehension. So back to the state police academy I went, for another 16 weeks. This time, though, the training involved fast dogs with large, sharp teeth.

Running came easier this time around because the motivation to do so was greater. Instead of having our dogs on leashes out in front, we were given a head start before a handler sent a barking and snarling K-9 to bring us to the ground, by force. We also had to run for miles to hide somewhere so the dogs could find us. Tracking us across those distances was a fun game for them. For me, not so much.

By the way, bite suits are extremely hot and heavy, and some of the larger dogs had teeth that were able to penetrate them. I still have a few leftover scars to prove it.

Again, though, I’d gained another great friend.

Both dogs lived at our home.

The drug dog, a black lab, was funny and playful. The patrol dog was a very large Rottweiler who feared nothing. Well, he was a bit intimidated by our toy poodle, but tolerated her.

The dogs were a joy have in our household, all three of them. When I left police work the two police dogs retired along with me.

Now, sadly, all three are gone.

The 25 pounds is back, though, and then some.