Pucker Factor. Two simple words that, when spoken separately, have truly harmless meanings.
1. Pucker: a rounded shape by folding or wrinkling, such as puckering your lips.
2. Factor: an element contributing to a result.
However, when those two words are combined into a single phrase they take on a whole new meaning, a meaning that refers to the instant tightening of a particular southerly body part.
It’s odd, but when you consider the usual function of that persnickety body part, things like “early warning system,” “saving lives,” and “draw your weapon,” don’t normally come to mind. Actually, even in a puckered state one wouldn’t normally associate those things with that tiny muscle. Nope, not at all.
“Drawing” a service weapon
However, ask cops about their first reaction to the instant puckering of the factor muscle and they’ll probably mention drawing their service weapon, preparing to fight, or do whatever it took at that moment to stay alive, because danger was imminent.
Yes, the Pucker Factor is indeed a cop’s early warning system. It causes rapid heart rate, sweating and, hopefully, an immediate reflex action that causes the officer to revert to his/her training, because reasoning skills are greatly diminished during a Pucker Factor incident.
The “pucker factor” sometimes causes strange reactions.
For police officers, the Pucker Factor can be triggered by a number of events, usually all related to threats and a crisis at hand. For example, a traffic stop at night where the suspect reaches for a firearm in the glove compartment, or while searching a vacant building for a wanted person the crazed suspect pops out of a closet and charges the officer with knife in hand. Even a radio call directing an officer to the scene of a shots-fired call can bring on an onset of PF.
So what can an officer do to reduce the possibility of encountering PF-inducing situations? Here are 5 ways to decrease the dreaded PF’s.
1. Wear your seat belts, and SLOW DOWN! Losing control of a patrol car while responding to an in-progress call is one of the top causes of PF. Officers, remember the first time you “fishtailed” at 85mph? How about rounding a curve at 90 during a pursuit and meeting a car driving on the wrong side of the road?
Both 10’s on the PF 1-10 scale.
2. Never assume that people see your blue lights and heard the siren. This happens all the time—while running lights and siren to answer an emergency call, officers change lanes to pass a car and suddenly the vehicle in front drifts over into the passing lane to make a left turn. They didn’t have a clue the police car was there because the driver was (a) talking on a cell phone, (b) drunk, (c) daydreaming, (d) were playing their radio at peak volume and never looked in the rear-view mirror, etc. And, let’s not forget the person who slams on brakes when they realize a police car is behind them. PF score of 7.
3. Patience. Take the time to assess the possibilities that could occur during a traffic stop or while answering a call. Is the suspect wanted? Did you run the plates through to see if the car was stolen? Is the guy sitting on the couch agitated? On drugs? Why is he sweating profusely? Where are his hands? Run all the checks before diving into any situation!
You’re in a hurry because your shift ends in fifteen minutes, so you skip running the subject’s name through the system. Result? He’s wanted for armed robbery and decides killing you is better than going to prison. He pulls a gun from his waistband. PF score of 10.
4. Never operate on the assumption that each person encountered will do the right thing or obey your commands. Not everyone respects the badge and your authority. So keep your guard up and be prepared to use force every single time you respond to a call. That young woman in the mini-skirt, or the handsome man in the business suit? They can fight, shoot, stab, and cut as well as anyone.
The woman who catches you by surprise by pulling a gun from her purse while your firearm is still holstered … PF score 8. Stupid score = 10.
5. No ambush. No ambush. No ambush! Always plan an escape route!
You get a call at 3 am. It’s a “female needs assistance” call. She’s in an alley that has only one way in. You wave off backup and head in thinking it’s “only a girl.” Suddenly, a car pulls in behind you and shots are fired. The driver of the car that blocked you in the alley, the person who’s sending a barrage of 9mm rounds in your direction, is the young woman’s boyfriend, the cop-hater you arrested a year ago. He served nine months in the county jail and spent 8 of those months planning his revenge.
PF score 10.
Police officers are human and they, like most people, want to see the good in others. Unfortunately, that “good” is becoming more and more scarce with each passing day, while PF instances are constantly on the rise.
I guess the real trick to reducing pucker factor instances is using commonsense, not taking chances, reminding constantly aware of your surroundings, and attending regular training.
Remember officers (both real and fictional) – Always watch the hands!
Realism in fiction is important, when it’s needed and when placed in the proper context. The ability to weave fact into fiction is a must. But writers must have a firm grasp of what’s real and what’s made-up before attempting to use reality as part of fiction. Otherwise, the author is offering readers fiction as reality, and that’s a fact. Or is it fiction?
The above paragraph is as clear as mucky pond water, right? Well, that’s the sort of muddy writing readers must wade through when writers don’t conduct proper research before diving into to write their next story. For example, confusing a semi-auto pistol with a revolver, or a shotgun with a rifle. Those are the sorts of things that cause writers to lose credibility with their readers. A great example of this is in a current book I read a few weeks ago, where the main character racked a shotgun shell into the chamber of her rifle. Silly writer, shotguns shells are for shotguns, not rifles. Therefore, one does not “rack” a shell into the chamber of a rifle.
The writing in the book was absolutely wonderful … until I read that single line. At that point, as good as the book had been, as I continued to read I found myself searching each paragraph for more errors.
Have you done the unthinkable? Are there words in your latest tale that could send your book straight to someone’s “Wouldn’t Read In A Million Years” pile? How can you avoid such disaster, you ask? Fortunately, following these four simple rules could save the day.
1. Use caution when writing cop slang. What you hear on TV may not be the language used by real police officers. And, what is proper terminology and/or slang in one area may be totally unheard of in another. A great example are the slang terms Vic (Victim), Wit (Witness), and Perp (Perpetrator). These shortened words are NOT universally spoken by all cops. In fact, I think I’m fairly safe in saying the use of these is not typical across the U.S.
2. Simply because a law enforcement officer wears a shiny star-shaped badge and drives a car bearing a “Sheriff” logo does not mean they are all “sheriffs.” Please, please, please stop writing this in your stories. A sheriff is an elected official who is in charge of the department, and there’s only one per sheriff’s office. The head honcho. The Boss. All others working there are appointed by the sheriff to assist him/her with their duties. Those appointees are called DEPUTY SHERIFFS. Therefore, unless the boss himself shows up at your door to serve you with a jury summons, which is highly unlikely unless you live in a county populated by only three residents, two dogs, and a mule, the LEO’s you see driving around your county are deputies. Andy was the sheriff (the boss) and Barney was his deputy.
3. The rogue detective who’s pulled from a case yet sets out on his own to solve it anyway. I know, it sounds cool, but it’s highly unlikely that an already overworked detective would drop all other cases (and there are many) to embark on some bizarre quest to take down Mr. Freeze. Believe me, most investigators would gladly lighten their case loads by one, or more. Besides, to disobey orders from a superior officer is an excellent means of landing a fun assignment (back in uniform on the graveyard shift ) directing traffic at the intersection of Dumbass Avenue and Stupid Street.
4. Those of you who’ve written scenes where a cocky FBI agent speeds into town to tell the local chief or sheriff to step aside because she’s taking over the murder case du jour, well, grab a bottle of white-out and immediately begin lathering up that string of goofy words because it doesn’t happen. The same for those scenes where the FBI agent forces the sheriff out of his office so she can remove his name plate from the desk and replace it with one of her own along with photos of her family and her pet guinea pig. No. No. And No. The agent would quickly find herself being escorted back to her “guvment” vehicle.
The FBI does not investigate local murder cases.
I’ll say that again.
The FBI does not investigate local murder cases. And, in case you misunderstood … the FBI does not investigate local murder cases. Nor do they have the authority to order a sheriff or chief out of their offices. Yeah, right … that would happen in real life (in case you can’t see me right now, I’m rolling my eyes).
Okay, I understand you’re writing fiction, which means you get to make up stuff. And that’s cool. However, the stuff you make up must be believable. Not necessarily fact, just believable. Write it so your readers can suspend reality without stopping in their tracks to wonder if they should, even if only for a short time. If your character carries a rifle that accepts shotgun shells by “racking” them into the chamber, then you must devise a reason for that to become reality—your character is a wacky scientist who invented the new-fangled long gun, for example. Your readers must believe you and your characters.
Your fans want to trust you, and they’ll go out of their way to give you the benefit of the doubt. Really, they will. But, for goodness sake, give them something to work with, without an encyclopedic info dump. Provide readers a reason to believe/understand what they’ve just seen on your pages. A tiny morsel of believability goes a long way.
Still, if you’re going for realism then please do some real homework. I say this because you certainly do not want readers to barely make it halfway through the first chapter of your latest gem when when they suddenly toss it into my WRIAMY pile (Wouldn’t Read In A Million Years).
It’s sometimes painfully obvious when a writer’s method of research is a couple of quick visits to crappy internet sites, and a 15-minute conversation with a friend whose sister works with a man whose brother, a cab driver in Dookyboo, North Carolina, picked up a guy ten years ago at the airport, a partially deaf man with two thumbs on his right hand, who had a friend in Whirlywind, Kansas who lived next door to a retired security guard who, during a Saturday lunch rush, sat two tables over from two cops who might’ve mentioned a crime scene … maybe.
Please, if you want good, solid information, always speak with an expert who has first-hand knowledge about the subject. Not a person who, having read a book about fingerprinting or bloodstain patterns, suddenly believes they’re pro and hits the writers conference circuit teaching workshops. Sure, they may be able to relate what they’ve read on a page, however, those mere words are not the things writers need to breathe life into a story. Reading about bloodstains is not the same as standing inside a murder scene, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions felt by the person who’s there in person. The latter is the true expert who can help a writer take their work to the next level, and beyond.
So, is there a WRIAMY pile in your house? Worse … have you written something that could land one of your tales in someone’s “Wouldn’t Read In A Million Years” pile of unreadable books? If so, perhaps it’s time to change your research methods.
A great means to assist in adding realism to your work is to, of course, attend the Writers’ Police Academy! Registration for the 2022 WPA’s 14th anniversary blowout is now OPEN! You will not want to miss this thrilling experience. It is THE event of the year! Sign up today, and please bring a friend!
What is it that sets writers of crime fiction apart from, well, everyone else in the entire world? Could it be that …
1. The worst murder scene in the world pales in comparison with the thoughts roaming through your mind at any given moment of the day.
2. You actually do wonder what human blood smells like.
3. Somewhere in your house is a book containing photos of crime scenes and/or dead bodies. (Click the book!)
4. You want to ride in the back seat of a police car.
5. Your internet search history has a file all its own at the Department of Homeland Security.
6. At least once in your life you’ve asked your significant other to pose in a certain way so you can see if it’s possible/believable to stab, cut, shoot, hack, or strangle them from a variety of angles.
7. You own a pair of handcuffs, and they’re strictly for research purposes.
8. The cop who lives in your neighborhood hides when he/she sees you coming with pen and paper in hand.
9. You attend more police training workshops than what’s required of the police officers in your town.
Lecture Hall – Writers’ Police Academy
10. While other people fall asleep listening to soft music or gentle ocean waves, your sleep machine plays the sounds of police sirens and automatic gunfire.
11. Your favorite bookmark is an actual toe tag from the morgue.
12. Writers in other genres listen to classical music while working. You, however, have a police scanner chattering in the background.
13. When using a large kitchen knife to chop vegetables, your thoughts drift to using an ax to dismember a body.
14. You see a cop and instantly know the caliber and manufacturer of the pistol on his side.
15. You’ve searched high and low for a perfume or cologne that smells like gunpowder.
16. You own a police flashlight.
17. Your screensaver is a photo of a police K-9.
18. The ringtone on your phone is the theme song for the TV show COPS.
19. You think you know more about crime-scene investigations than most of the cops in your city, and you probably do.
20. You’ve registered for 2021 Virtual MurderCon, a one of a kind event that takes writers behind the scenes to learn insider information about crime-solving from top forensics and law enforcement experts. And yes, we’re pleased to announce that spots are now available! So please spread the word.
The Exclusionary Rule keeps police officers in check while conducting searches. It prevents prosecutors from presenting illegally obtained evidence.
The rule states that any evidence siezed during an improper search cannot be used, no matter how incriminating it may be (see Fruit of the Poisonous Tree below).
And, if this improper evidence the key piece to the entire case—the smoking gun—the prosecution may be forced to drop the case, sending a very guilty crook back on the street. The defendant may also have grounds for a civil suit against the officers involved, as well as the police department and the city.
The Exclusionary Rule is basically the Supreme Court keeping watch over search-warrant-serving cops.
There are exceptions to the exclusionary rule, such as:
When officers rely on a warrant that later turns out to be invalid. For example, officers search a house and find a large cache of illegal weapons along with a guy who’s in the process of grinding off serial numbers from an AK-47. Later, the court learns that the address on the warrant was incorrect because the detective accidentally typed River Avenue instead of River Road. Or, the landmarks used to identify the property to be searched were improperly, but accidentally, recorded.
“I meant the blue house on River Road, the first one on the right past the old oak tree, not the first one on the left. It was an honest mistake. Oops!”
In such cases, warrants may still be ruled valid and the seizure of evidence may still be legal. Or, the warrant may be ruled invalid but the seizure of the evidence could possibly stand. This is so because the officers were acting in good faith, believing they were on the property based on a constitutionally sound warrant (This is a weak example, but you get the idea).
However, if a police officer lies to the judge or magistrate, or if the judge or magistrate showed bias toward the officers when issuing the search warrant, the warrant is invalid and the exclusionary rule is in effect. The evidence recovered by the police may not be used. In fact, it will be tossed out of court, and possibly the officer, too.
Did you know??
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree – Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against a defendant. Evidence illegally obtained is “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.”
REGISTRATION IS OPEN!
2021 MurderCon takes writers behind the scenes, into places not typically traveled by anyone other than law enforcement and forensics experts.
I urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity. It may not pass your way again.
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Embarrassed-cop-copy-45.jpg592900Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2021-03-22 07:00:232021-03-22 17:25:58The Exclusionary Rule & Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
It’s often the tiniest of details that’ll pique a reader’s interest in your work. Those elements, by design, just might make a lasting fan out of someone who recognizes that you’ve done your homework, and that you know how to subtly weave fact into fiction.
Like a well-rehearsed performance of Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II by The Philadelphia Orchestra, where we as concert-goers don’t see all the behind the scenes practice time that goes into scores such as The Rabbit of Seville, and Rhapsody Rabbit, a seasoned cop’s daily motions come with ease, as should the scenes you create where officers make arrests and carry out other duties that come with the job.
Cops perform certain tactics and techniques on a regular basis—handcuffing, using the car radio, pat-down searches, etc. They do these things so often that they could almost perform them in their sleep.
They rehearse tactics and techniques at the academy through role-playing. They practice what they’re taught, in their minds. They run through scenarios in their thoughts. All of this to prepare them for the big show—the encounter with that person or people who violently resist arrest, or those who simply want to hurt or kill a police officer.
That sense of “comes naturally” is the feel that fictional characters should exhibit on the page.
Detail, detail, detail
Living, breathing, pulse-pounding detail hooks the reader by thumping their hearts and increasing their respirations. Details that cause them to grip the book a bit tighter when the danger level is high and then reduces the tension when it’s done. It’s a rollercoaster ride that hinges on a writer’s ability to conduct a harmonious symphony of words, from the first moment through the last.
So, just as conductor George Daugherty and The Philadelphia Orchestra leads the audience on a speculator journey with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, and the Road Runner, writers should compose their stories in a manner that leads the reader on an eye-popping emotional journey, a trip they want to take and won’t soon forget.
Readers want writers to stimulate their senses. They want and need to know your characters on a personal level. And you definitely want readers to step into and immerse themselves into your carefully crafted stories. It’s an escape from reality that must begin with a passion to tell a tale.
Ask Yourself the Important Questions
So, in order to add those tiniest of important details needed to breathe true life into your cop characters, you should ask yourself a few basic questions, such as:
How should officers position themselves when making an arrest?
Answer– Always, always, always stand with their gun sides AWAY from the suspect. This is especially important when the subject is combative/resisting.
Which areas of an arrested subject should an officer search for weapons? Is there a standard procedure?
Answer – Start with the most obvious locations first—the waistband, of course, and this is especially so when dealing with male subjects. The waistband seems to be their go-to area of choice when concealing a weapon.
Each officer should establish a routine as to how they conduct searches of a person. By doing so the chance of missing an area is greatly decreased.
For example, after searching the waist and leg areas (boot knives and holsters are good hiding spots for weapons such as small guns and edged weapons).
For example, after first handcuffing the subject and then checking those main spots—the waist and leg areas (for guns and edged weapons), I moved to the top where I began the overall secondary, intensive search, starting beneath hats and working my way down until I reached the ground, leaving no area untouched, and that includes a firm hand in the groin area. This, believe me, is not the time to be shy. I’ve found more than one handgun and or/drugs hidden inside pants and underwear.
No item should be left in pockets and no portion of the body or clothing should be left untouched, including hair, mouth, hands (have them unclench closed fists, sleeves, torso, and socks and shoes!
Another point to note is that when officers hand over a suspect to another officer, the second/receiving officer should conduct another detailed search of the suspect. I know, it seems redundant, but it’s not worth risking your life by depending upon the potential sloppy search, or no search, by another human. Anyone, even the best of the best humans could make a mistake.
What are some of the danger signs officers look for when making arrests, or when simply speaking with suspects and some witnesses?
Answer – There are many, so I’ll mention only a few of the basics, such as:
A person wearing a coat during the summertime. This could indicate the subject is armed and is using the outer garnet to conceal the weapon. The same is true when a person touches an area on their waistband or moves a hand toward the area, or that a shirttail is untucked on one side. Or even when a person’s clothing “appears” a bit heavier on one side. Sometimes, the shape of a gun’s grips/an outline is noticeable beneath the material.
Pockets that appear heavier than normal. Sagging due to a heavy object inside could indicate the presence of a weapon. Keep in mind that even heavy objects such as rocks and bottles can and are used as instruments of death. Yes, a rock can kill, and has, when used with enough force.
Many, if not most of the “killed in the line of duty” deaths occur during an officer’s initial approach to a subject. This is why it is imperative that the officer quickly, almost within the blink of an eye, size up the person and then formulate a plan. Remember, no two situations are perfectly identical nor are two people the same in every way. So quick thinking and a plan are necessary.
It’s a given that it’s rude to not look someone in the eye when speaking to them. But eyes cannot hurt us. Therefore, officers should always, always, always watch the hands of a suspect/subject. Next, watch the feet. They, too, can be used as powerful weapons.
Still, a suspect’s eye movements often telegraph their next move, such as constantly glancing toward an officer’s sidearm may indicate the person could be planning an attempt to grab the gun. Or, they could searching for an avenue of escape or that a partner is sneaking up behind the officer’s back.
The combination of potential hazards explains the need for officers to forever scan their surroundings, Ambush attacks are common, and they’re deadly.
Officers should have a backup plan in case Plan A fails. And never hesitate to retreat if a situation becomes unmanageable and/or unsafe.
When in doubt call for backup!
How important is firearm maintenance?
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – Coast Guard Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Cameron Hutchens of Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91103, deployed to Joint Task Force Guantanamo, cleans an M-9 pistol.
Answer – Officers should maintain their weapons in excellent, tip-top condition. They should make certain that all firearms are clean, oiled, and operate properly. And they should practice their shooting skills on a regular basis. Shooting practice should include scenario-based training, not simply going to the range and popping 60 holes in a stationary paper target once each year during the required annual qualifying session. After all, how many times have you heard of an officer being killed by a non-moving sheet of paper?
The same is true of vehicles and other emergency tools and equipment. Maintenance and practice, practice, practice driving skills, as well as other tactics, such as building entries, etc. PRACTICE!!
What are some things that officers overlook when making an arrest?
Answer – Officers sometime become complacent. It’s easy to do when doing the same thing day after day after day. Unfortunately, when an officer is careless and, say, skips searching the crotch area of an arrested subject because he was too embarrassed to put a hand “there,” well, it could be the last mistake he’ll ever make when the guy reaches into his pants to retrieve a hidden .380.
Working Overtime and Second and Even Third Jobs
This isn’t so much “overlooking something” as it is being careless, but many officers often tend to work while excessively sleepy and/or tired. Their pay level is sometimes not so desirable so they work a lot of voluntary overtime to help make ends meet. Some even work second or third jobs.
When I worked at a sheriff’s office I also worked extra jobs. When I signed off after working night shifts I immediately drove to a motel where I worked another shift there performing maintenance work—repairing leaky pipes, painting, drywall, electrical work, etc. I attended classes, studied hard, and took and passed the test to become a licensed electrician. I also took care of all lawn maintenance and gardening. I did the same at a local college. And, I taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced guitar courses at the college.
Sometimes, on our days off, three of us deputies took on roofing jobs. We’d remove shingles and old paper on one day and haul them to the landfill after we’d finished (sometimes it was after dark when we were done). We’d then install new paper and shingles on the second day. It was exhausting and hot work. Making it even more tiring was that many times we were scheduled to work night shift after the second day of roofing work, or the night before the job was to begin.
I maintained this schedule for a few years, all while as a single dad. Yet, I made time to attend my daughter’s school functions and sports activities. She was a star softball player who was, during her high school years, recruited by the U.S. army to play ball for them. I can’t remember ever missing a home game, even if it meant attending in uniform with my ear glued to my radio.
I did the same (attend school function and games, etc.) when I left the sheriff’s office to work for a city police department. As a police detective, I attended many games with a gun and badge strapped to my belt with my unmarked car parked near enough that I could easily sprint to it, if necessary. I’ve left more than one game with blue lights winking and blinking and flashing.
Working a job where your life could be threatened at any time requires a person to be on top of his/her game. Working long, stressful hours with little sleep is not an idea scenario, but I, like many parents, did what I had to do to make certain my daughter had a roof over her head, clothes on her back, food in her belly, and shoes on her feet. I also practiced officer safety at all times to make certain she’d have a father.
Everything, Anyone, and Anything Could be Hazardous!
Overlooking the obvious is something that happens a lot. Just as I suggest to you that writing important details are, well, important, officers must take that to another level. For them, everything and everyone should be considered a danger until it’s proven that it’s not.
Hiding behind things such drywall and plywood works as concealment, but not as true cover. Bullets slice through both items as if they weren’t there. So find the best possible cover to protect against gunfire.
I’ve seen officers run to a downed man as if the danger ceased immediately once the suspect hit the dirt. NO!
This is an extremely perilous time. Always assume the suspect is still armed and capable of shooting and killing. Approach with caution, still using cover and concealment, if possible, until you’re certain the threat has ceased to exist. Keep in mind that the downed person may still have a hidden weapon and is pretending to be incapacitated.
Officers, never let down your guard. Not ever.
Finally, here’s Bugs to wrap up the day …
Don’t forget, the fabulous Writers’ Police Academy Online seminar takes place this Saturday, December 5th, 2020. Sign up today to attend this incredible live and interactive daylong session featuring acclaimed experts in their fields.
This is a unique opportunity that may never come your way again!
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Man-in-underwear-555-copy.jpg349465Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2020-11-30 09:41:342020-11-30 17:42:05Cop Details That’ll Help Your Stories Zing with Realism: What’s in Your Underwear?
Good action scenes—car chases, gunfights, and exploding cars and buildings—are great at keeping readers busy turning pages. But, how does your hero survive the barrage of bullets, flames, and KABOOMS?
Are you giving the star of your book a realistic way out of the tough jams you’ve tossed her way? Is what you’ve written a true tactical maneuver or, did you write yourself into a tired old cliche’ corner? You know what I mean—the karate chop to the wrist that forces the bad guy to drop his weapon. How about this doozy … shooting the gun out of the villain’s hand. Yeah, those things. The things that are not only far-fetched, they’re downright silly.
As writers of fiction it is your job and sworn duty to deliver believable make-believe, and having your character(s) shoot the gun out of someone’s hand is far from achieving that goal. So, you ask, how do real-life heroes avoid meeting untimely ends when confronted with deadly situations? Well …
When confronting a long-gun-wielding suspect (shotguns and rifles are long guns) it’s best to have the hero approach from the side. Doing so forces the crook to turn his entire body toward the approaching hero in order to continue the threat/potential shootout. Otherwise, the thug has no option other than to flee or surrender. The tactic also allows time for the hero to react to the threat.
If possible, place your hero in a good light. Make use of bright lights, such as a setting sun or bright early morning sunlight. The light should be at the hero’s back, shining into the eyes of the bad guy, making it difficult for them to see clearly. The hero, though, will have no trouble seeing the crook. However, don’t allow your protagonist to stand in a position where she/he is backlit, making their silhouette a perfect target.
It’s okay to have your hero experience a bit of fear because fear heightens our sense of awareness, which in turn increases the likelihood that we’ll do whatever is necessary to survive. However, fear can have a negative effect if allowed to overtake the situation. In short, a little fear is good, but too much fear combined with gunfire is the recipe for a badge-wearing babbling idiot.
If possible, your heroes should focus on breathing during deadly encounters. Yes, breathing properly during a tense situation can help bring things into perspective. It can also help lower the heart rate, and it can prevent fear from morphing into blind rage (sudden bursts of anger could lead to avoidable disaster—not thinking clearly and perhaps rush into a no-win situation.
Taking a moment to focus on combat breathing—breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for another count of four, and then exhale to a third four-count. Count to four and then start all over again. The heart rate should be noticeably lower after a few repetitions. Of course, I don’t recommend taking the time to perform these deep-breathing exercises during a gunfight with bullets zinging by your ears. It’s been my personal experience that “timeouts” are not allowed during gun battles.
Don’t Write Your Hero Into the Dreaded Cliche’ Corner!
I can’t recall ever seeing an extremely scared, deep-breathing Jack Reacher standing with bright sunlight to his back while walking sideways like crab toward a guy holding an AK-47.
I suppose an occasional fist to the throat, or a boot to the head is permissible, but only if you’re the hero in a Lee Child book. The trouble is, there’s only one Jack Reacher, and there’s definitely only one Lee Child. Well, now there’s Andrew Child, so …
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/corner-writing.jpg343900Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2020-11-13 13:16:592020-11-13 16:41:14Don’t Fear the Reacher: Are You Writing Your Hero Into the Dreaded Cliche’ Corner?
Here are answers to a few of the most often asked questions about police work.
How do I become an FBI homicide investigator so I can help solve the murder cases my town? Easy answer. You can’t. The FBI doesn’t work local homicide cases, therefore, the agency does not employ “homicide” investigators. That’s the job of city, county, and state police.
How long does it take to become a detective? There is no set timeline/standard, so the answer is … as long as it takes. It’s all about who’s the best person for the job. One person may be ready with as little as two years experience, while another may not be ready for a plainclothes assignment, well, they may never be ready. The job of detective isn’t for everyone, by the way. Some officers prefer to work in patrol, or traffic, in the schools, or in the division that inspects taxi cabs and buses to be sure they’re in compliance with local law and standards.
Why didn’t you read that guy his rights before you handcuffed him? Aren’t you required to do so by law? Don’t you have to let him go now that someone knows you broke the law by not reading him his rights?
Miranda, first of all, is only required when (a) someone is in custody, and (b) prior to questioning. Therefore, if I, as a police officer, don’t plan to ask any questions, and that’s often the case, I don’t have to spout off the “You have the right to remain silent” speech. So no, not advising someone of Miranda is not a get out of jail free card.
Why do cops wear sunglasses? Umm … because they’re constantly exposed to bright sunshine and the glasses help reduce glare and eyestrain.
I got a ticket for not wearing my seat belt, yet the USPS letter carrier in my neighborhood doesn’t wear his. How do they get away with breaking the law? Most areas have laws that specifically address delivery drivers and similar professions—letter carriers, delivery services, police officers, firefighters, etc., whose jobs require them to be in and out of their vehicles throughout the business day. And, those laws typically excuse the driver(s) from mandatory seat belt laws while performing their jobs. However, many of these businesses and agencies require their drivers to wear safety belts when operating a vehicle.
Why are there so many sheriffs in my county? There is only one sheriff per county or city (yes, some cities have a sheriff’s office in addition to a county sheriff’s office). The rest of the folks you see wearing the uniform and star are deputies. A sheriff, the boss of the entire department, is elected by the people. He/she then appoints deputies to assist with the duties of the office—running the jail, courtroom security, serving papers, patrol and criminal investigations, etc.
No, it’s not racial profiling to stop a shifty-eyed white subject with a black nose who’s wearing a red collar with a gold medallion in a location near a bank that was just robbed by a a white subject with a black nose who’s wearing a red collar with a gold medallion.
“Be on the lookout for a shifty-eyed white subject with a black nose. He’s wearing a red collar with gold medallion.”
No, you do not have the right to see the radar unit, my gun, or what I’m writing in my notebook.
No, turning on your hazard lights does not give you the right to park in the fire lane in front of the grocery store.
Yes, I am concerned about your ability tofight well. Please understand, though, that this is what I do for a living and they didn’t teach me to lose. Besides, I have a lot of loyal coworkers who’re on the way here, right now, to see to it that the good guy (me) wins.
They sometimes decide to fight wearing nothing but …
You keep saying you know your rights … but you really don’t. Can you hear the nonsense you’re telling me?
You have the right to remain silent. Use it!
Yes, no matter how much you hate me, my badge, and my uniform, I’ll still come running when/if you call.
I don’t know when it started, but it did and it is puzzling. After all, when did, “I got out of my car” become “I exited my vehicle.” And how is it that, “Are those donuts for Ralph and me?” is sometimes spoken as, “Are those donuts for myself and Ralph?”
Cop Speak is a unique language that we’ve all heard from time to time, especially on television and film. We also hear officers speak in that unusual manner during courtroom testimony, particularly when the officer who’s doing the testifying is in the early stages of their career.
Typically, the cop-speak eventually fades as time passes and as officers mellow with age and experience. It also tends to disappear as officers move on to other duties, such as those performed by detectives, CSIs, etc. However, until cops somehow manage to bite their tongues and begin speaking in a a language understood by all, well, juries, judges, attorneys, and TV news-watchers will continue to mutter the universally-understood phrase, “WTF did he say?”
Again, I don’t have a clue how or when cops started speaking like robots from outer space, but they do, and here’s a small sample of it along with accompanying translations.
“I exited my vehicle.” Translation – I got out of my car.
“I gave chase and pursued… ” Translation – I ran after …
“Be advised.” Translation – Listen to what I have to say.
“I contacted the driver of the car.” Translation – I walked up to the car and spoke with the driver.
“I detected the odor of …” Translation – I smelled pot and/or liquor, beer, dynamite, funky feet, flatulence (feel free to insert your favorite scent) in his car.
“I surveilled said subject.” Translation – I watched that guy.
“Myself and Officer Ralph Alsotalksfunny ascertained his location.” Translation – Ralph and I found the bad guy’s hideout.
Before moving on, let’s imagine for a moment that the officer who spoke the above phrases is in court testifying before a judge and jury, where he says …
“I surveilled said subject for one hour. I observed said subject stop his vehicle beside an unknown male subject at the corner of Syringe Street and BagoDope Boulevard. Said subject exchanged what appeared to be U.S. paper currency for a clear plastic bag containing a green leafy substance, at which time I activated my emergency equipment and effected a traffic stop.
I exited my vehicle and contacted the driver, Mr. I Didntdonuffin, a white male. I immediately detected the odor of an intoxicating substance. Based on my academy training in narcotics recognition I believed the source of the odor to be marijuana.
I asked Mr. Didntdonuffin to exit his vehicle. Upon exiting his vehicle, a two-door red convertible with Florida plates, number Ida, Ida, X-ray, Paul, David, 666, he fled the scene on foot. I gave chase and pursued said subject to the parking lot of Peggy Jean’s Cut and Curl and Pig’s Feet Emporium where I caught and restrained him using pain compliance techniques and two baton strikes to said subject’s right thigh area. I immediately notified dispatch and my supervisor of the situation. My radio traffic at the time went like this – ‘Be advised that I have said subject in custody at this time. Send rescue and a shift supervisor. Myself and said subject need medical attention. Ten-four?'”
“I saw Mr. I. Didntdonuffin stop his car at the corner of Syringe Street and BagoDope Boulevard. A man walked up to his window and handed him a plastic bag containing what appeared to be marijuana. In return, Mr. Didntdonuffinthen handed the man some cash. I immediately switched on my blue lights and initiated a traffic stop.
When I walked up to Mr. Didntdonuffin’s car I smelled the odor of marijuana. I asked him to step out of the car so I could conduct an investigation. When he got out he ran away, but I was able to catch him when he tripped and fell in the parking lot of Peggy Jean’s Cut and Curl and Pig’s Feet Emporium. He began punching and kicking me so I used my baton to help gain control and then I applied handcuffs to his wrists. We’d both received a few cuts and bruises during the scuffle so I called for an ambulance crew and for my supervisor.”
Again, I don’t know how the odd cop speak started, or why, but it really should stop. Officers don’t talk like this when they’re engaged in normal conversation, so why switch to the weird stuff when in court or in front of a camera?
Anyway, here are a few additional words and phrases often used by cops.
Open Mic – Not to be confused with talent night at the local watering hole. A sometimes horrifyingly embarrassing experience that occurs when the button on an officer’s walk-talkie (“portable”) is accidentally keyed and sticks in the “talk” position, such as when the officer unsuspectingly leans against a seat belt buckle. LOTS of incriminating things are heard during these moments … “Yeah, I heard about the chief and the new dispatcher. Better than that I saw his car parked at the Sleazebucket Inn last night, and hers was parked across the street.”
Wants – Outstanding warrants. “Any wants on that guy?”
Negative – No. “Negative. The agent said my work was crap and that I should burn the manuscript, toss my computer into a fiery pit, and then drink a gallon of rat poison, should I EVER think of trying to write again.”
Crotch Rocket – Lightweight motorcycle featuring the “leaned-over/hunched-over” seating style. These are the bikes often seen on YouTube videos where their riders are performing stunts and outrunning the police at super-high speeds while dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. “You’ve got a crotch rocket heading your way. I picked him up doing 140 when he passed me.”
Slick-top – A patrol car without a light bar on top. Typically, supervisor’s car. “There’s a slick-top parked in the alley beside Billy Buck’s Barber Shop and Snack Bar. I think he’s watching to see if we’re working or goofing off.”
Light “Em Up – This phrase is used to refer solely to activating emergency lights when initiating a traffic stop. Nowadays it also applies to TASER use. Traffic stop – “Light ’em up as soon as he turns the next corner.” TASER – “Stop hitting me in the head with that sledgehammer or I’m going light you up.”
Keyholder – Someone who’s responsible for a business. “Call the keyholder and ask them to come down to switch off the alarm. They’ll also need to take a look around to see what’s missing.”
Mopes – Stupid bad guys. Worthless lowlifes. “There are a couple of mopes hanging out behind the dumpster in the alley between Zippy’s Lunch and Frankie’s Wholesale Weiner Outlet. I think they’re smoking crack while figuring out how they can buy more.”
Hinky – Something’s not quite right. “I don’t know, man. I feel really hinky about this one.”
Alley Apple – Objects used to throw at police—bricks, rocks, metal, etc. “Watch out, they’re tossing alley apples from the roof of Tom Peeper’s Binoculars, Trench Coat, and Periscope Plaza.”
Ditch Doctor – An EMT or other ambulance crew member. “Looks like those arms and that leg belong to the guy over there. The ears, well, I’m not sure. The ditch doctors’ll sort it out while we direct traffic.”
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Gave-chase-copy-1.jpg439625Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2020-01-30 12:05:032020-01-30 15:06:50And the Cop Said, “I Gave Chase and Pursued Said Subject”
I cringed when I read the opening line of the first draft of the new series. She’d named me Biff Steele, as if Rod Manly hadn’t been bad enough in the previous books. But names, however cheesy they may be, are not the worst thing that could happen to me. At least my author does her homework, unlike my best friend’s creator.
My pal, poor guy, has lived a really tough life. Not only does he have a name worse than mine—Rocky Hardplace—his psycho-behind-the-keyboard author lives her fantasies through him—killing, bombing, fighting, shooting, and sex … so much sex. Too much sex. SEX, SEX, SEX. It must be all she ever thinks of, day and night. Well, that and how to solve crimes using the dumb stuff she sees on TV shows. Doesn’t she realize that most of those characters are products of poor research and fantasy?
My writer, thank goodness, understands the huge differences between the written word and the on-screen action seen on TV and film. Live-action stuff quite often needs over the top excitement to capture and hold the attention of a viewing audience. TV watchers see events unfold in vivid color. They hear the excitement pumping throughout their living rooms via high-dollar surround sound systems.
Rocky, if he’s told his writer once he’s told her a thousand times that readers, as opposed to TV and film watchers, must have the means to extract movement and stimulation from carefully planned and plotted mental massagings of each of their senses. They do so from what’s nothing more than a writer’s carefully arranged blots of ink on a page. There are no images within a typical novel; therefore, the writer must somehow use only words made from a mere 26 letters to mold and form detailed pictures inside a reader’s mind.
A pangram is a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.
The five boxing wizards jump quickly.
We, Rocky, me, and all the other members of the Fictional Characters Guild, have all traveled throughout the convoluted paths inside the minds of readers. And we know that each person has a different perception of what they read, and that’s because they draw upon their own past experiences. This, sadly, is where Rocky Hardplace’s writer really goofs. She has no experience in the world of cops and robbers, so she, unfortunately for her readers, makes up what should be realistic information, and some of it is totally absurd.
Rocky’s writer, as do many others, often has her hero tromping about his fictional city while doing some pretty ridiculous stuff—shooting a revolver that spews spent brass, knocking out bad guys with nothing more than a tap to the back of the neck, shooting guns from the hands of serial killers, and smelling the odor of cordite at crime scenes. She even forces upon her readers her own wacky-ass notion that FBI agents ride into town on white horses to solve every murder and kidnapping case. Someone really should tell her the FBI does not work local murder cases. That’s not what they do. And don’t get me started on the smell of cordite. Yes, STOP with the cordite already! The stuff hasn’t been around since WWII.
My writer is a fictional hero’s dream author. I rarely ever do stupid stuff in my quest to save my city from crime and corruption (Have you ever noticed how much “stupid stuff” is found in books? I’m thankful that reality isn’t nearly as bad).
My author dresses me nicely. I carry the best guns money can buy. I’m an expert in the martial arts … all of them. My girlfriend is an astronaut. My work partner is smart, but remains at one level below me (my IQ is over the moon). I drive a really cool car. I live in a wonderful beach house. I have a flea-less dog as a best friend. And I have just enough flaws and quirks to keep my fans interested. Yes, my world is perfect.
If I could only convince her to change my name. Biff Steele … yuck.
Could be worse, I suppose. She could’ve written me as … Sergeant Lance Boyle.
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/20140808_111736.jpg336448Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2020-01-10 08:31:322020-01-10 14:43:32Biff Steele: Have You Created A Rocky Hardplace in your Latest Book?
Many writers have never, not once, set foot inside a police car, nor have they climbed out of bed at 11 p.m. to swap pajamas for a police uniform, Kevlar vest, gun belt, sidearm, and spit-shined shoes. And they’ve not headed out into the night to spend the next eight to twelve hours dealing with the city’s “worst of the worst,” and worse.
Most people have not left home with their family saying, “Be careful, see you when you get home,” and know they’re saying it because they worry the next time they see their loved one will be at their funeral service. “Killed in the line of duty” is what the bloggers and reporters will say.
Sure, you all know what goes on during a police officer’s shift—fights, domestic calls, shootings, stabbings, drug dealers, rapists, and killers of all shapes and sizes.
But what those of you who’ve never “been there, done that” cannot honestly and accurately detail the sounds heard when someone take a shot at you. No, not the actual gunshot. Its the other noises that help bring super-cool details to your stories.
To learn about those sounds, let’s pretend we’re the officer who’s just been the target of a bad guy’s gunfire. We’re chasing the suspect through alleys and paths that wind through dark wooded areas, all while knowing the guy has a gun and he’s definitely not afraid to use it.
Can’t see your hand in front of your face, so you stop and listen. And then it happens …
That eerie calm.
It causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand tall and straight. Goose bumps come to attention on your arms. A lone pea-sized bead of sweat worms its way down your spine, easing through the space between your pants and the bare skin of your waistline. It feels oddly cool against your fear-warmed flesh.
If this occurred in a movie there would be, of course, background music. So let’s do this right. Hit the play button, take a sip of your coffee, or tea, and then read on to learn about A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.
10-4, I’ll take this one …
The call came in as “Shots Fired. Suspect is armed with a handgun and caller advises he is still at the residence and is threatening to kill responding officers.”
I was working the county alone so I asked the dispatcher to request backup from a nearby city and from the state police. The trooper in our county was also working alone. Our roles differed, though. He was out on the interstate writing traffic tickets while I responded to the usual plethora of calls. Either way, we were alone when we approached whatever situation was before us, be it stopping a stolen car with dark tinted windows or heading toward a house where I knew a man was waiting to kill me.
The sound of a police radio is far different when it’s heard late at night as opposed to the same radio traffic during daylight hours. Its an unexplained phenomena. It could be that dark skies and night air create different acoustics. Or that working the graveyard shift forces dispatchers to work really hard to battle “the thing” that comes out at night to squeeze their emotions into submission. They typically lose the fight which results in a manner of speech that’s without feeling, inflection, and dynamics.
Nighttime radio traffic echoes and travels far. It’s weird and out of place among the stars and creamy moonlight. Dispatchers drone on like robots … “Robbery at …” “Wife says husband hit her …” “Lost child …” “Possible drug overdose at …” “Loud music at …” “Peeping Tom at …” “Customer refuses to pay at …” Shoplifter at …” “Dead body in river …” Dead body in park …” “Shots fired …” “Shots fired …” “Man stabbed at …” Shots fired …”
Back to the man who wanted to kill me
I acknowledged the call with a “10-4, I’m en-route.” Then I hooked the radio mic back into the metal “U-shaped” clip connected to the dashboard. Next I pushed one of the many red toggle switches mounted into the center console.
With the push of the button, a faint click occurred simultaneously with the eruption of pulsating blue light. I stepped on the gas and heard the engine come to life. Since I was miles out in the country there was no need for the siren. Not yet.
I pushed the pedal toward the floor until I was cruising along at 70 mph. Believe me, that was pretty fast considering the curvy, hilly road that was before me.
There are no streetlights in the country. It’s super dark. Blue light reflects from trees, shrubbery, houses, mailboxes, passing cars, and telephone poles. It also reflects from the white lines painted on the pavement.
Meanwhile, the radio traffic continues with updates for me and with traffic from city officers and the trooper out on the interstate … “Use caution. Driver of the vehicle is wanted for a homicide in …”
My car radio played in the background. Golden Earring’s bass player thumped the intro to “Radar Love” while I attempted to straighten the curves by hitting my marks—drive low in the curves, on both sides of the road. Never at the apex. Unless a car is coming in the opposite direction or you cannot see far enough ahead to safely do so. The guitar player’s eardrum piercing leads began just as I hit a rare straight stretch of the road.
Hey, here’s an idea. Why not join me for the rest of the ride. So climb in, buckle up, and hold on. And, let’s crank up the radio to start the blood flowing. It’ll help set the stage. Off we go!
The blue strobes mounted on top of the car make a clicking sound with the start of each flash. The wig-wag headlamps do the same. The roadway is very uneven with a few cracks and potholes scattered about. They cause the patrol car to dip and sway perilously in the vehicle groans and creaks with each expansion and contraction of its suspension. The extra pair of handcuffs I and many other cops keep handy by hanging them from the spotlight handle that protrudes from the post between the windshield and driver’s door, sway back and forth and bang together causing a constant click, click, click noise.
The cacophony of speed and sights and sounds—creaks, clicks, and whirling, blinking, and flashing vivid blue lights, together with the combination with the car’s groans and moans and squeaks and rattles, the dispatcher’s monotonous voice, and the frenzy of the music—are out of sync and in total discord. Adrenaline, at this stage of the game is that a feverish pitch. It’s organized turmoil.
I switched off my lights a ways before reaching the scene—didn’t want to shooter to know we were there—and stopped my car on the shoulder, a bit down the road from the driveway. I called the dispatcher on the phone to let her know I’d arrived. The use of the phone was in case the bad guy was listening to a scanner. I turned down the volume on my police radio. Way down. Remember, the sound travels far. I wished backup didn’t have to do the same (travel far).
I opened my car door slowly to avoid making any noise. The interior light was not operational—disconnected in police cars to prevent illuminating the officer and/or blinding them to goings-on outside the vehicle.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to remain here, for now,” I say to you. “it’s for your own safety. Lock the doors, and no matter what you hear or see do not get out of the car. I’ll be back soon.” I open my wallet to retrieve a spare car key. “Here, just in case.”
As I slid from the seat my leather gun belt creaked and squeaked and groaned, as leather does when rubbed against other leather or similar material. To me, the sound was as loud as fourth of July fireworks. My key ring (in my pants pocket) jingled slightly with each step. So I used a hand to hold them against my leg. The other hand was on my pistol.
I walked up to the house to peek into a window before knocking on the front door. I wanted to see if I could, well, see anything. But, as I closed in on the side of the house a large mixed breed dog stepped into view, showing its teeth and upper gums. The animal, with matted-hair and a crooked tail, growled one of those slow and easy rumbles that comes from somewhere deep inside. I held out a hand for it to sniff. It backed into the shadows.
A quick peek inside revealed a family of five. A woman with two black eyes and three crying children. Two girls, not quite teenagers, but close, probably, and a wiggling and squirming baby. A man stood near a tattered recliner and tall floor lamp. He held a pump shotgun in his right hand. At the moment, the barrel was aimed toward the floor. He yelled a few obscenities and started to pace. Then he looked straight at me, or at least it seemed like he looked at me.
My heart pounded against the inside of my chest. It bumped so hard I could hear the sound it made with each beat. It was that song’s intro all over again …
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
I’ve been driving all night My hand’s wet on the wheel There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel It’s my baby calling Says “I need you here” And it’s half past four and I’m shifting gear.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump—
Then, from somewhere deep in the shadows.
Grrrr …….. Growl …..
From inside the home.
A baby crying.
A woman pleads and sobs.
A young girl. “Please, Daddy. No more!”
Sirens wail in the distance, beyond the black tree line that connects sky with earth. Sounds travel further at night, right?
The air-conditioning unit beneath the window snaps on. Its compressor humming and fan whirring. The metal casing rattles slightly. Probably missing a screw or two.
A Cop’s Nighttime Melody Approaches the Finale
I knew what I had to do and started toward the door with my leather shoes and gun belt squeaking and keys jingling and heart thumping. As I reached for the knob I took a deep breath.
The expansion of my chest pulled at the Velcro that held my vest tightly against my torso.
Crackle. Crackle. Crackle.
Right behind me now.
Grrr …. Growl …
Thump. Thump. Thump!
Turn and push.
“Drop the gun!”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“10-4. Send the coroner.”
So, my friends, those are the sounds of working the graveyard shift … A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.
Thanks so much for joining me. I hope to see you again, soon.
https://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/night-copy-2.jpg331600Lee Loflandhttps://leelofland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/the-graveyard-shift-1.pngLee Lofland2019-10-21 06:26:022019-10-21 10:46:31A Cop’s Nighttime Melody: Sounds of the Graveyard Shift
Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers
Countdown to the WPA
Writers' Police AcademyJune 2, 2022
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Get to Know Lee Lofland
Lee Lofland is a nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation, and is a popular conference, workshop, and motivational speaker.
Lee has consulted for many bestselling authors, television and film writers, and for online magazines. Lee has appeared as an expert on national television, BBC Television, and radio shows.
Lee is the host and founder of the Writers’ Police Academy, an exciting, one-of-a-kind, hands-on event where writers, readers, and fans learn and train at an actual police academy.