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Allele – The characteristics of a single copy of a specific gene, or of a single copy of a specific place on a chromosome.

Alternate light source – Special lighting device that help investigators locate and visually enhance items of evidence—body fluids, fingerprints, fibers).

Angle of Impact – The angle at which a drop of blood strikes a surface.

Area of Convergence – The area where, when lines are drawn (or through use of string) through the long axes of blood stains, all points intersect. This point of intersection  indicates the location of the blood source.

Area of Origin – The location from which blood spatter originated.

Backspatter Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood drops that traveled in the opposite direction of the external force applied.

Ballistics – Scientific study of the motion of projectiles.

Biological evidence – Physical evidence that originated from a human, plant, or animal.

Blood Clot – A gelatinous mass formed by a combination of red blood cells, fibrinogen, platelets, and other clotting factors.

Bloodstain – An area where blood contacts a surface.

Bloodstain Pattern – A grouping of bloodstains that indicates the manner in which the pattern was distributed.

Bubble Ring – An outline within a bloodstain caused by air in the blood.

Cast-off Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood drops released from an object in motion (a bloody hammer or ax, for example).

Chain of custody – The process used to maintain and document the chronological history of the evidence. It is a written record of each person who handled a particular piece of evidence.

Cross-contamination – The unwanted transfer of material between two or more objects. For example, touching an object containing blood and then using the same hand to handle a different item. DNA, blood, etc. could transfer from the original object to the other.

Drip Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from a liquid that dripped onto a surface or into another liquid.

Drip Stain – A bloodstain resulting from a falling drop.

Drip Trail – A bloodstain pattern resulting from the movement of its source.

Edge Characteristic – The physical characteristics of the periphery of a bloodstain.

Electrostatic dust print lifter − A system that applies a high-voltage electrostatic charge on a piece of lifting film, causing dust or residue particles from a print to transfer to the underside of the lifting film. Some of you may remember seeing this in use at the Writers’ Police Academy. (Picture at right – author Donna Andrews – Writers’ Police Academy)

Expiration Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood forced by airflow out of the nose, mouth, or a wound. (Expiration – exhalation of breath).

Firing pin/striker – The component/part of a firearm that contacts the ammunition causing it to fire.

Forward Spatter Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood drops that traveled in the same direction as the the item causing the force (A baseball bat in motion).

Homogenization – process of preparing tissue for analysis by grinding tissue in amount of water (precisely measured, of course).

Impact Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from an object striking liquid blood.

Impression evidence – Materials that keep the characteristics of other objects that have been pressed against them, such as a footprint in mud.

Latent print – A print that is not visible under normal lighting.

Locard’s Exchange Principle – The theory that every person who enters or leaves an area will deposit or remove physical items from the scene.

Locus – The specific location of a gene on a chromosome; the plural form is loci.

Luminol  – A chemical that exhibits chemiluminescence, a blue glow, when mixed with an oxidizing agent. Luminol is used detect trace amounts of blood left at crime scenes as it reacts with iron found in hemoglobin. Horseradish can leave a flash positive, but its glow is not as bright as the glow produced by blood. Other items could also produce false positives, but they, too, do not glow as brightly as blood.

Magazine – A container that feeds cartridges into the chamber of a firearm.

Mist Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood reduced to a fine spray as a result of an applied force.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – DNA located in the mitochondria found in each cell of a body. Can be used to link a common female ancestor.

Nuclear DNA – DNA located in the nucleus of a cell.

Parent Stain – A bloodstain from which a satellite stain originated.

Post-mortem redistribution – Toxicological phenomenon of an increase in drug concentration after death.

Primer – The chemical composition that, when struck by a firing pin, ignites smokeless powder., NOT CORDITE!

Pistol – A handgun which uses a magazine and ejects fired cartridge cases automatically.

Plasma – The clear, yellowish fluid portion of blood.

Plastic − A type of print that is three-dimensional.

Platelet – An irregularly shaped cell-like particle in the blood that is an important part of blood clotting. Platelets are activated when an injury breaches a blood vessel to break. Platelets then change shape and begin adhering to the broken vessel wall and to each other. This is the start of the clotting process.

Pool – An accumulation of liquid blood on a surface.

Bloodstain pattern investigation workshop #2017WPA

Projected Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from liquid blood that’s leaking while under pressure, such as a spurt or spray.

Revolver – A handgun that has a rotating cylinder. Cartridge casings are not automatically ejected when fired.

Saturation Stain – A bloodstain resulting from the accumulation of liquid blood in an absorbent material, such as clothing or bedding.

Serum Stain – The stain resulting from the liquid portion of blood (serum) that separates during coagulation.

Spatter Stain – A bloodstain resulting from a blood drop dispersed through the air due to an external force (a bullet, bat, hammer, rock, etc.).

Spines – A bloodstain feature resembling rays/lines emanating out from the edge of a blood drop.

Splash Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from a volume of liquid blood that falls and or spills onto a surface.

Swipe Pattern – A bloodstain pattern resulting from the transfer of blood from a blood-stained surface onto another surface, such as the swipe/wipe of a rag or cloth through a bloody area.

Transfer Stain – A bloodstain resulting from contact between a bloodstained surface and another area/item.

Crime Scenes … Watch Your Step!

Transient evidence – Evidence that could lose its evidentiary value if not protected, such as blood, semen, fingerprints exposed to the rain.

Void – An absence of blood in an otherwise continuous bloodstain pattern.

Wipe Pattern – An altered bloodstain pattern caused when an object passes through a wet bloodstain.

Between a rock and a hard place

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 also products of poor research and fantasy?

My writer 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.

Readers, on the other hand, require a carefully planned and plotted mental massaging of each of the senses in order to bring movement and stimulation to what’s nothing more than carefully arranged blots of ink on a page. There are no images within a murder mystery; therefore, the writer must somehow form detailed pictures inside a reader’s mind.

We, as characters who’ve traveled the paths inside the minds of readers, know that each person has a different perception of what they read, and that’s because they draw upon their own past experiences. And this is where Rocky Hardplace’s writer really goofs. She has no experience in the world of cops and robbers so she makes up what should be realistic information, and some of it is totally absurd.

Unfortunately, the poor woman has Rocky 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 her wacky-ass notion that FBI agents ride into town on white horses to solve every murder and kidnapping case. And the cordite … puhleeze!

Thankfully, as I said earlier, my author does her homework. She reads books such as Police Procedure and Investigation, and she’s a regular reader of this blog. She also attends the Writers’ Police Academy.

Yes, 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 of this stuff goes on 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 ten different martial arts styles/systems. I have only super intelligent girlfriends. My work partner is smart, but remains at one level below me. 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 only I could convince her to change my name. Biff Steele … yuck.

I’m sorry, but some people are simply not designed to be cops. There, I’ve said it. And it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge. Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, and that cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

First of all, for the purpose of this blog we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name. Therefore, it’ll be up to you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. And the name I choose is Pat (could go either way with this one – remember Pat on SNL?).

The story goes something like this…

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4’10” tall, with shoes on. Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in child sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from the good folks who live inside trees and bake and sell cookies to support their lifestyle. Even then, a good bit of tailoring had to be done, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. And if someone had bronzed Pat’s work shoes they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate, looking like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing.

 

Anyway, the trainee who’d just completed his turn in the intersection stopped traffic from all four directions so Pat could assume the position in the middle of the street. With arms outstretched and a short blast from a whistle, Pat then sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. All was going well until Pat gave the whistle another tweet to stop the oncoming traffic, and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s tiny head turned left, rotating inside the cap, but the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted is laughter.

Punching Bag

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the little kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who immediately pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on.

According to bystanders, who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance, the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

Responding officers saw the large crowd and immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was a tough battle and officers and bad guys were basically going at it toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered 4-to-1, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. And then, out of the darkness appeared Pat’s patrol car, bearing down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

File:London Polizei-Einsatz.gif

Pat didn’t bother stopping at the curb. Instead, the tiny officer, who by the way, had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel (no, I’m not kidding), pulled the car directly into the parking lot beside the action, flung open the car door, and stepped out.

You Must Be “This” Tall

Well, stepped out … sort of. Pat’s pistol somehow had become entangled in the seat belt, which sort of reeled Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement, coming apart and spilling batteries in all sorts of directions. The pillow fell out of the car and slid beneath the vehicle. And the hat. Yes, the little cop wore the cop/bus driver hat, which, of course remained motionless while Pat’s softball-size head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped, with everyone turning to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness before them—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. But, at least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol that’s a bit smaller than standard cop issue, but Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. Instead, he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger to pull the trigger. Didn’t matter, because Pat failed to shoot a satisfactory score on the range during the first annual weapons qualification.

So I guess the true test of becoming a solid police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, they must be “this tall” to drive a police car.

“I’m stopping a vehicle on Highway 68 northbound, just past exit 142. Black Dodge Charger, Virginia registration T-Tango, X-X-ray, P-Paul, 444. Two occupants.”

“10-4, 2122. Do you want a 10-28, 29 on that vehicle?”

“10-4.”

“Stand-by. 0730 hours.”

Thirty-nine seconds pass.

“2122.”

“Go ahead.”

“10-99 on that vehicle. Vehicle was reported stolen in Ashland, Virginia. Driver’s wanted for an armed robbery of a convenience store in Richmond, Virginia. Suspect is armed with a dark colored, possibly black handgun. I’ve dispatched 2370 and 2447 to assist. ETA seven minutes. Zero-230 hours.”

“10-4. I’ll stay behind them until 2370 and 2447 arrive. Notify county and state. I’m getting pretty close to the line.”

“10-4. They each have someone en route.”

Two minutes pass.

“Shots fired! Shots fired! They’re running. I’m in pursuit! Northbound 68. We’re crossing the county line. Excess of 80 mph. See if someone can get ahead of me with stop strips.

We’re over 100 now and they’re all over the road. Where’s the county unit?”

“Stand by …”

Twenty seconds pass.

“2122, the county unit is headed your way southbound on 68. She’ll have stop strips in place at exit 156. 10-4?”

“10-4. I’m still a few miles away … Wait, I think they’re … Yeah … Yeah, they’re making a right … Stand by and I’ll give you a better 10-20 … Okay, we’re turning right … Oh, God! … I’m …”

Suddenly the radio goes silent.

No response from the officer.

Not good.


There are basic rules to follow when engaged in a high-speed pursuit. One of the major details officers should remember from their nighttime driver-training is to never follow the vehicle they’re pursuing too closely. And never ever fixate on the brake and taillights lights of that vehicle.

Sure, it’s easy to use those lights as a beacon; however, if the suspect isn’t familiar with the area and misses a curve or runs off an embankment, the pursuing officer is sure too follow. It happens, with devastating consequences. Therefore, officers are trained to follow at a safe distance. Remember, the bad guys could possibly outrun a police car but they can’t outrun a police radio. There are always plenty of cops available in the next county, town, and state.

But what happens if all goes well with the pursuit and the car eventually stops? The suspect ran for a reason, right? These are very dangerous traffic stops, so what steps should officers take to ensure their safety?

1 – Always, always, always call for back up. There can never be too many officers on hand. There’s safety in numbers, right?

2 – Maintain a safe distance between the patrol car and the suspect’s vehicle even when stopping. Allow enough room to maneuver, including backing up, if necessary.

3 – Angle the patrol car so that the engine block is between the officer and the suspect. Bullets normally can’t pass through the thick metal.

4 – The officer should have his/her weapon in a ready position before the patrol car comes to a stop.

5 – Use whatever cover is available. Stay safe until backup arrives, even if that means to retreat. This is not the time to be a hero!

6 – Always be strong and forceful with verbal commands. “Get out of the car, now!”

7 – Distract the occupants of the vehicle with verbal commands while a partner or backup approaches from the side, in a flanking maneuver.

8 – Use bright lighting to the officer’s advantage. Blind the suspect by shining the spotlight and takedown lights into their eyes and rear view mirrors.

9 – Use caution while clearing the car of any hidden suspects who may be hiding in the floorboard or trunk. It’s a good idea, when approaching any car, for the officer to place his/her hand on the trunk lid. If it’s open, press it closed.

Drug dealers and other criminals have been known to hide bodyguards/shooters inside the trunk. They do so for the purpose of assassinating police officers should the thugs be stopped while making a delivery, or escape.

10 – Avoid bad habits, such as not wearing seatbelts, following too closely unless preparing for a PIT maneuver, assuming nothing bad will happen, etc.


You Will Survive!

Above all, always, always, always maintain a positive attitude. You Will Survive!

So you’re well into your latest book and you have the coolest protagonist ever, an FBI agent who rides into town on a white horse to save the day by solving the latest murder. His first order of business … to take charge of, well, everything. First, he gives the local homicide detectives the boot. Next he tells the chief to stay out of his way because this is a job for the feds. Then he scouts the area for just the right person to fall in love with him before the case is solved. Now, it’s time to get down to business.

Of course, you’ve gone to great pains to get your details right by watching Matlock and Andy Griffith. You’ve tossed in a great crime scene, some fingerprinting, DNA evidence, bloodstain patterns, a car chase followed by a huge explosion, the agent saves the girl, he defies orders from his boss to wait for backup … and, here it comes, the big payoff … he shoots the gun out of one thug’s hand and karate-chops another on the back of the neck to render him unconscious, AND THEN the agent catches the best and baddest villain ever concocted by a writer.

Sound familiar?

Okay, this is the point where you should click on the video below. It is the soundtrack for the following text. So hit the play button and hang on!
 

 
Well, those super cool FBI details are all fine and Jim Dandy, with the exception of one minor detail … as a rule, FBI AGENTS DON’T WORK MURDER CASES!! And, they don’t come into town and take over any local cases. And they don’t have to be called in on kidnapping cases. The fact that they can work a case involving children doesn’t mean they work ALL of them. Each state has its own kidnapping/abduction laws. Local detectives work kidnapping cases all the time.

Besides, someone would have to call the FBI before they’d even have a clue that a child has been abducted. Every single town in the good old USA doesn’t have an FBI field office situated next to the corner Piggly Wiggly. Sometimes agents are hours away from a town. In fact, they’ve probably never set foot in many of your towns. Nope, they probably don’t know that Dinglebopadoodle, Rhode Island even exists.

FBI Agents Don’t Ride White Horses

Okay, I know this one will be difficult to grasp, but here goes … FBI agents do not have a crystal ball that sounds off every time a child is abducted or a murder is committed. I know, what a shock. So take a moment to settle down and catch your breath before reading more of this crazy new information.

What? You want to know what cases the FBI does work?

Hmm … I’m not sure if you’ll be able to handle the truth. After all, you see all of the above in so many books.

I know, it’s hard to take in all at once.

Yes, I’m sure you’re frightened, but you’ll be fine.

What’s that you say? Your literary agent said that IS what FBI agents do.

Wait a minute. Let me fini—

Wait—

Please don’t cry.

I know she told you about the white horse—

Yes, and the explosio—

Ah, so that’s where you guys are getting the cordite information ….

Well, I’m sure your literary agent and/or editor has a long history in law enforcement (big eye roll here).

Anyway, see for yourself. These are the cases the FBI works. No, I didn’t make this up. It’s straight from their website. For more details about the overall crimes be sure to click the titles of each section below.
 

Cases Worked By The FBI

 

Terrorism

Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority. The Bureau employs a variety of…

Public Corruption

Public corruption, the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority, poses a fundamental threat to our national security and…

Civil Rights

Since its earliest days, the FBI has helped protect the civil rights of the American people. A dozen…

Organized Crime

The FBI is dedicated to eliminating transnational organized crime groups that pose the greatest threat to the national…

White-Collar Crime

The FBI’s white-collar crime work integrates the analysis of intelligence with its investigations of criminal activities such…

Violent Crime

Even with its post-9/11 national security responsibilities, the FBI continues to play a key role in combating…

WMD

The FBI created the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate in 2006 to support a cohesive and coordinated approach to…

 

In the world of make believe, the place that exists in the minds of writers and readers alike, THIS is how the story begins … for the savvy writer. So go full screen, crank up the volume, and hit the play button. Oh, and please do watch to the very end (after the credits). You know how I like twists and surprises!

 

For details – Writers’ Police Academy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering the “Hot Sauce.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bruised ego hurts far more than a black eye.

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.

But, when those two words are combined into a single phrase they take on a whole new meaning, a meaning that now 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. No sir, not at all.

“Drawing” a service weapon

However, ask a cop his first reaction to the instant puckering of the factor muscle and he’ll probably tell you that he’d draw his service weapon, prepare to fight, or do whatever it took to stay alive because danger is present.

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 danger-related. 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. 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 9’s on the PF scale.

2. Never assume that people see your blue lights and heard the siren. This happens all the time … officers, while running lights and siren to answer an emergency call, pull over 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 that 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.

Vehicle suddenly pulls in front of you or slams on brakes.

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 NCIC 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 in any situation!

You’re in a hurry because your shift ends in fifteen minutes, so you skip running the guy 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 everyone 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 pretty 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.

Pretty girl who catches you by surprise by pulling a gun from her purse while yours is still holstered because she had gorgeous eyes and really long legs … 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 girl’s boyfriend is a 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, and attending regular training.

Remember officers (both real and fictional) – Always watch the hands!

Mindless Super Hero

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

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

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

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

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

Mindless Superhero

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

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

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

So yeah … common sense.

Please don’t write mindless supercops.