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The story begins with North Carolina farmer Paul A. Plow and his wife standing on the well-weathered front porch of their clapboard-sided home—the house they’ve lived in for the past forty-seven years, the dwelling that saw its last coat of whitewash just prior to the birth of Girly Jean, the oldest of four grown daughters, the one who now teaches third grade at the Boiled Beaver Elementary School.

Paul Plow and his missus stood watching a faint cloud of orange-tinted dust gently rise on the horizon past the last row of tobacco, the line of head-high plants standing precisely one mile from the edge of the side yard where green grass met hard-packed Carolina clay.

They weren’t expecting anyone, especially anyone who was so obviously in a hurry to reach their destination. To top off the mystery, the width of the dust cloud indicated the approach of more than one hard-riding someones or somethings. He’d seen a similar occurrence when the rodeo was in town and their horses busted (his word, not mine) out of their corral. He’d also seen a dust cloud like this one on one of those Nat Geo shows where a pride of lions, while hunting for dinner, chased a herd of wild animals across the plain.

Didn’t matter. The rodeo was not in town nor was he watching television. This was the real deal and it was happening right then.

Too far away to hear hoofbeats or the chatter of riders.

Growing closer and closer and larger and larger, the dust cloud grew in size and showed no signs of slowing.

This was serious. And to top it off, since childhood he’d been plagued with a serious case of Equinophobia, the fear of horses.

The situation was dour. Times ten.

The farmer went for his rifle. Told the wife to go inside.

“Grab the pistol and a few extra rounds. Just in case,” he said. Then he told her to hide in the cellar until he called for her.

It started as a light tapping but quickly grew into a thunderous roar as the dust cloud doubled then tripled in size. From inside the roiling and boiling and billowing floating pillow of airborne soil, the farmer heard snorts and the hard-breathing of hard-running large beasts.

Quarter horses, Paints, or Appaloosa, probably. Maybe some of each. Killers, rapists, and robbers rode a variety. Whatever they could steal.

One thing was certain … if they didn’t soon slow down they’d most surely run smack dab over the house. He wanted to yell or fire a warning shot. Wave. Something.

Anything to get their attention, but onward they came … and hard, hard, hard.

Hoofbeats.

Clippity-clopping at machine gun speed.

Churning.

So close now the farmer felt the dry earth trembling beneath the stone foundation that held the house high enough off the ground to allow Roofus, the family’s three-legged dog, to sleep out of the weather.

Maybe the animals were even larger than he first thought. Morgans, Percherons, Drafts. Hell, the way the earth was shaking … well, it was a crazy idea, but the picture of a large team of crazy Clydesdales came to mind.

Whatever and whomever, somebody meant business.

Time to take cover and prepare for the inevitable.

Suddenly the hoofbeats silenced and the cloud stopped. Its leftovers slowly drifted up and onto the porch. Then the dust settled and standing there before the farmer were … three muscular zebras. No riders. Just three totally and unexpectedly out of place black and white striped zebras.

Needless to say, there are no zebras in North Carolina.

Unforeseen? Yes. Unanticipated? Definitely. Not in the cards? You bet.

Like. A. Bolt. Out. Of. The Blue.

But this article is about plot tip and twisted endings, so what the heck do zebras have to do with writing? Well, I’ve traveled this far outside the box, so before we answer that question let’s first go even further “out there” and examine what zebras have to do with medicine, especially medicine in the U.S. (You’ll see, it’ll come together in a moment).

Zebras and Medicine

Chest pains could indicate cardiac issues. Likewise, those same pains could indicate trouble with the gall bladder, blood clots, etc. Statistically, though, the more likely cause of chest pains is related to the heart.

Therefore, the general rule of thumb is to begin with the more obvious (cardiac, in this case) before moving on to other issues. In other words, if you hear hoofbeats don’t expect a zebra. In other words, we expect the obvious. Then, after ruling out the common cause, well, he trouble could be the unexpected.

When writing fiction, especially a tale with a twisted ending, writers often achieve successful scenes by concocting scenarios that seem typical on the surface (the approaching hoofbeats to conjure-up a mental image of galloping horses). However, when the dust settles, the hero and readers are faced with a surprise, or twist. In the case above, the unexpected twist was the sudden appearance of three zebras.

What we’re talking about is simply another gadget for the writers’ tool kit—base-rate neglect. For example, when a detailed description of something entices us to overlook the statistical reality of a given situation. In our case, the chances of the approaching hoofbeats coming from a group of zebras is practically nonexistent.

As they say in medical school …

When You Hear Hoofbeats, Don’t Expect a Zebra

Unless, of course, the cloud of dust you’ve just written into your story does indeed contain three zebras—The Unexpected!

When the dust in your craftily-devised scene settles, readers will want to hear more about your striped beasts and why they’re now standing at the front door of Paul D. Plow’s ramshackle farmhouse.

What does Paul Plow know that we don’t, if anything?

One thing is for certain, though, we’ll want to turn the page to learn more about the zebras, about Boiled Beaver Elementary School, and if the missus will leave the cellar or decide to move her things down there to escape Paul and his weird phobias. Rumor has it that he’s also afraid of dust and sunlight and moonlight and bees and artichokes and space aliens.

Plot Tips 

  1. Devise ways to make your hero NOT succeed. However, when she does come out on top your reader should be caught off guard as to how the success was achieved.
  2. You want your readers to say, “I should’ve seen seen that coming but didn’t and doggone it, it makes perfect sense. But wow!
  3. Do not trick readers. Give them a reason to believe your twists.
  4. No stereotypes. Be original.
  5. If your hero has a problem, and he should, make it worse so your reader will worry about him/her.
  6. Got to have secrets to help develop suspense.
  7. Use reversals to break the expectations of your readers. Changing directions keeps ’em guessing!
  8. Increase tension by leaving issues unresolved at the end of breaks and chapters.
  9. Place your hero in danger. Send him/her to a bad location where trouble is certain to occur. If the job is too dangerous to accomplish in the rain, then have the scene take place during a hurricane.
  10. Conflict around every corner. Everything’s an issue to overcome—family, friends, the job, that stupid hurricane and … three crazy zebras!

 

 

barney-fife-itis

What is Barney-Fife-itis, you ask? Well, lots of writers suffer from it, and it’s a horrible disease. Nasty, in fact.

The best way to describe it is to take you to a small town somewhere deep inside your imaginations, where this stuff lives and breeds like the black mold that hides beneath an HGTV fixer-upper bathroom vanity.

So lets go there, to that spot in your mind where …

Yes, it’s a small red-brick building nestled between Betty Lou’s Cut ‘n Curl and Smilin’ Bob’s Hardware and Pawn Shop. The lone parking space in front is reserved. A sign reads “Chief’s Parking Only.”

Inside, the hallway to the right takes you to the water department and the office of the building inspector. There, you can also purchase dog tags and yard sale permits.

A left turn leads to the town’s police department, a force comprised of five dedicated, hardworking police officers—one chief, one sergeant, two full-time officers, and one part-time guy who’s also the mayor of the next town over.

Complaints can be filed with the dispatcher at the window, or by dialing the local number. Calling 911 in Small Town works the same as calling 911 in New York City. Hmm … there is a tiny difference, though. When you call 911 in Small Town somebody always shows up to see what’s wrong. Not always so in Big City.

Small Town dispatchers also work the computer terminals, and they handle calls for animal control, fire and rescue, sometimes reports of needed street repair, stoplights that are out, and even severe weather reports . They know CPR and they know everyone in town and the quickest routes to their houses.

Officers in Small Town attend the police academy and they receive the same training and certifications as the officers over in Big City. No, Small Town PD doesn’t have all the latest fancy equipment with the shiny, spinning dials and winking, blinking lights. They don’t have special detectives who only work homicides or white collar crime. And they don’t have divisions dedicated for traffic, vice, narcotics, and internal affairs. Budgets simply don’t allow it.

Officers in Small Town are cross-trained. They each know how to run radar, direct traffic, dust for fingerprints, interview suspects and witnesses, and they know how to investigate a murder.

Small Town officers investigate burglaries and assaults. They also arrest drunk drivers, drug dealers, people who abuse their spouses, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. They break up fights, help kids cross the street safely, and they locate lost pets. And, if one of their officers steps out of line they’ll straighten them out, too.

Of course, Small Town is totally fictional, but there are many actual small towns with small police departments, and those small departments work the same kinds of cases as the departments in larger cities. No, not all departments are large enough to have officers who serve as detectives. But they all employ police officers who are fully capable of investigating any type of crime, and they do, from traffic offenses to murder. Sure, they perform the same work as a detective, but they do it while wearing a uniform instead of some fancy-smancy suit.

Yep, most small departments operate the same way as the large ones, just on a smaller scale.

For example:

The Yellow Springs, Ohio Police Department serves a village of slightly less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, the department is small. However, there’s a college in town and the village is located near Dayton and Springfield, which translates into the potential for a higher crime rate than would normally be found in a town that size. And, the potential for more crime means more proactive police work for the small number of officers.

Several years ago, back during the time I was conducting research for my book o police procedure, the YSPD didn’t have plainclothes detectives to investigate major crimes. Instead, as is the case with many small departments, uniformed officers investigated all crimes. Therefore, when an officer received a call from the dispatcher they’d see it all the way through, from the 911 call through court, including evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, etc.

If the officers needed additional help, or resources, they called on the county sheriff’s office.

Remember, not all departments operate in the same manner. Some smaller departments DO have detectives, and those investigators may or may not wear a uniform. They could dress in a coat and tie, and they could have the title of detective, or investigator. If they’re a detective who wears a uniform their rank would normally remain the same. There is no standard rule. It’s entirely up to the individual department.


Remember—a police department and a sheriff’s office are not the same. Deputy sheriffs work for sheriffs, not police chiefs. But that’s a topic for another day.


Since the topic today is “small town departments” and the officers who work there … well, hold on to your hats because I’m about to make an earth shattering announcement! Ready?

Here goes.

Sure you’re ready? Are you sitting down? Have your nervous medicine in hand? Your doctor on speed dial?

Yes to all of the above? Okay, then. Here it is, and I’m holding nothing back. Not this time.

(One second. I’m taking a deep breath)

Okay, here’s the news …

Small town cops are the same as cops in big cities!

Yes, they are. I’ve said it and the secret is OUT!

They receive the same training. They do the same jobs. They go through similar hiring procedures. They enforce the same or similar laws. They use the same or similar equipment. And, well, to write them all as inferior, stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. is not only absolutely and unequivocally wrong, it’s extremely offensive.

I’ve often wondered why some people assume that people who have little are to be considered inferior, or less intelligent when compared to those who have a lot. This is also true when considering law enforcement agencies. Those with the shiniest and best equipment are often seen as employing officers who are smarter than their peers who work for small town departments with meager budgets. Of course, this unfair stereotyping occurs throughout most walks of life.

Try breaking it down in this way:

  • Small Town, a town of 4,000 residents, employs five police officers. Those five officers provide police protection and coverage for those 4,000 citizens.
  • Big City, a city of 100,000 employs 125 officers.
  • Break down the number from Big City into three shifts (day, night, and rotating for the off hours of the other shifts) and you wind up with just over 40 officers per shift.
  • Now, since Big City covers a much larger land area than Small Town, officials divided Big City into 8 precincts.
  • Each of the eight precincts covers a land area the size of Small Town.
  • Each precinct employs … wait for it … FIVE officers. Just like Small Town!
  • Some of those precincts have 4,000 residents, or more, including the extremely high-crime areas. Therefore, these precincts of 4,000 residents are covered by five police officers, which is the same scenario that plays out in every small town and city across the country.
  • Many small town police officers attend the same police academies as their peers in larger cities. In fact, they’re often classmates in the same academy. And, their instructors are the same, their desks are the same, and the equipment used is identical.

Anyway, budget, land area, and location are the major differences. Not intelligence or training.

*The above scenario is fictional. I merely used it to illustrate the point. It is, however, a loosely accurate portrayal.

Let’s continue to explore our small town department.

YSPD dispatcher.

NCIC and other equipment.

Above – Felony traffic stop in a small town. The procedure is the same in both large and small departments.

Issuing a traffic summons in a small town is no different, other than surroundings, than the same situation in a larger jurisdiction.

An arrest is the same no matter where it takes place. Tactics and techniques are identical. So is training and equipment. Even the handcuffs used are the same in both Big City and Small Town. Imagine that!

Small departments may not have the latest, modern equipment, such as LiveScan fingerprint terminals. Instead, they still use the old ink and ten-print cards. Both produce the same results—fingerprints.

Ten-print fingerprinting station.

Small departments collect and preserve evidence using the same methods and materials as do larger departments.

Evidence storage is the same, but is on a smaller scale in smaller departments.

YSPD evidence room office/processing area.

Evidence safe in a small department (for narcotics, etc.).

YSPD officer’s workstation/office.

Small departments follow the same procedures as any other department. The job is identical to that of a big city officer, just in a different location.

Interior of a YSPD patrol car. Some cars feature mobile data terminals (computers), and some don’t.

Check with Experts, Not Guess-Perts

As always, please check with experts in the area where your story takes place. Those are the people who can best help with your research. Not someone who once read a book about how cops work in small towns. Obviously, to read incorrect information and then pass it along is, well, it’s wrong.

To do so would be no different than me reading a book on brain surgery and then telling you about so you can then operate on your readers and fans. Reading a book or asking your Uncle Percy who sister-in-law was once married to a guy whose cousin know a guy in elementary school who later married a woman whose father was a cop, well, that certainly does not make Uncle Percy a crackerjack law enforcement expert. It’s actual experience and training produces experts.

Otherwise, we still see “Guess-perts” (the folks with no real experience or training) telling authors to write small town cops as “Barney Fifes,” when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know, there are “Barneys” in many departments (other professions as well), but they’re not exclusive to small towns. It’s just that they’re far more obvious when they’re one of only five officers citizens see every single day.

So, if you’re going for accuracy, the best advice for you, my writer friends, is to …

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Writers’ Police Academy

The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) offers actual hands-on police training. It is the ultimate research tool for writers.

The next event is scheduled to take place June 2-5, 2022, at NWTC’s renowned public safety academy in Green Bay, Wi. The 2022 event is so massive that it’s stretched between two cities—Green Bay and Appleton!

Details TBA.

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

It’s the year 2021. Since last year we’ve all endured COVID, working from home, quarantine, wildfires, flooding, more COVID, lockdowns, shutdowns, layoffs, tornados, earthquakes, masks, vaccines, the loss of loved ones, riots, a mess overseas and, well, you know. Pick a disaster and at least some of us have been there. Some lost jobs and others found new employment. It’s been a stressful time for all of us. Even Denene, my wife, has a new job having recently accepted a position as Director of Microbiology and Immunology at college of medicine. Perfect timing, I know.

Anyway, to get to the point, while reading current novels and blogs and news articles, I’ve once again run across the misuse of various cop-type terms and information. As a result, I decided to compile and post a bit of information to help set things straight.

I hope this helps somewhat in your quest to avoid a writing disaster, and to …

Write Believable Make-Believe

 

Defendant: Someone who’s been accused of a crime and is involved in a court proceeding.

Defense Attorney: A lawyer who represents a defendant throughout their criminal proceedings.

Departure: A sentence that’s outside the typical guideline range. Departures can be above or below the standard range; however, the most common departure is a downward departure, a sentence reduction solely based on the defendant’s substantial assistance to the government. For example, a defendant who spills the beans to law enforcement about the criminal activity of someone else for the sole purpose of obtaining a lesser sentence. In jailhouse/layman’s terms, “a snitch.”

Diminished Capacity: A defendant is eligible for a downward departure (reduction of sentence) if they can successfully prove they suffer from a significantly reduced mental capacity, a condition that contributed substantially to the commission of the offense of which they’re charged with committing. Merely having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense is typically not considered grounds for diminished capacity.

* This applies to the defendant only, not the defendant’s attorney, judges, or police officers. Their sometimes reduction in mental capacities is fodder for another article.

Duress: The federal sentencing guidelines allow for a downward departure if the defendant committed the offense because of serious threats, coercion, or pressure. An example is the person who’s been forced to commit a bank robbery by crooks who’re holding his family hostage until/unless he carries out the crime. The courts could/would show leniency by granting a downward departure (or complete dismissal) based upon the fact he was under severe duress at the time of the robbery.

Extreme Conduct: Here, an upward departure from the guidelines range may be appropriate if the defendant’s conduct during the commission of a crime was unusually heinous, cruel, and/or brutal. Even degrading the victim of the crime in some way may apply and earn the defendant a longer sentence that’s typically called for within the sentencing guidelines.

Brutally maiming and murdering federal agents simply because they dared to ask questions (revenge), well, that may be a crime that warrants an upward departure from the typical sentence.

Felony: An offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or longer.

Felony Murder: A killing that takes place during the commission of another dangerous felony, such as robbery.

To get everyone’s attention, a bank robber fires his weapon at the ceiling. A stray bullet hits a customer and she dies as a result of her injury. The robber has committed felony murder, a killing, however unintentional, that occurred during the commission of a felony. The shooter’s accomplices could also be charged with the murder even if they were not in possession of a weapon or took no part in the death of the victim.

Hate Crime Motivation: An increase of sentence if the court determines that the defendant intentionally targeted a victim because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability or even due to their sexual orientation.

Heat of Passion/Crime of Passion: When the accused was in an uncontrollable rage at the time they committed the murder.  The intense passion often precludes the suspect/defendant of having premeditation or being fully mentally capable of knowing what he/she was doing at the time the crime was committed.

Indictment: An indictment is the formal, written accusation of a crime. They’re issued by a grand jury and are presented to a court with the intention of prosecution of the individual named in the indictment.

Misdemeanor: A crime that’s punishable by one year of imprisonment, or less.

Obstruction of Justice: Obstruction of Justice is a very broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

For more about obstruction, see When Lying Becomes A Crime: Obstruction Of Justice

Offense Level: The severity level of an offense as determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much or how little prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime.

To learn more about these guidelines, go here … So, You’ve Committed a Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

Parole: The early and conditional release from prison. Should the parolee violate those conditions, he/she could be returned to prison to complete the remainder of their sentence. Parole, however, was abolished in the federal prison system in 1984. In lieu of parole, federal inmates earn good time credits based on their behavior during incarceration. Federal inmates may earn a sentence reduction of up to 54 days per year. Good time credits are often reduced when prisoners break the rules, especially when the rules broken are serious offenses—fighting, stealing, possession of contraband such as drugs, weapons, or other prohibited material.

Federal prisoners who play nice during their time behind bars typically see a substantial accumulation of good time credit and will subsequently hit the streets much sooner than those who repeatedly act like idiots.

Due to earned good time credit, federal prisoners who follow the rules are typically released after serving approximately 85% of their sentence.

Writers, please remember, there is no parole in the federal system. People incarcerated in federal prison after 1984 are not eligible for parole because is does not exist. I see this all the time in works of fiction.

By the way, this regularly occurring faux pas (incorrect use of parole in novels) brings to mind the dreaded “C” word … cordite. I still see this used in current books. Your characters, unless in works of historical fiction, cannot smell the odor of cordite at crime scenes because the stuff is no longer manufactured. In fact, production of cordite ended at the end of WWII (1945).

After all, you wouldn’t write that the only means of entertainment in a modern home is listening to old-time radio shows, or that today’s foods are kept cool in iceboxes chilled by a 25 lb. block of frozen water. Why wouldn’t we incorporate those things as standards in modern fiction? Because it wouldn’t be believable. After WWII, radios were soon replaced by television. Likewise, iceboxes and the icemen who delivered the ice to individual homes were forced out of service by electric refrigerators.

So why in the world would a modern writer so freely accept newfangled refrigerators and television, but remain stuck in 1945, or so, when cordite use in ammunition became a thing of the past? It’s over. Done. NO CORDITE in modern ammo. It’s not sexy to write something so horribly inaccurate.

Please, please, please, step into 2021 and stop using “stinky information” in your books.

Please read this:

Once Again – Cordite: Putting This Garbage In The Grave!

 

It was five years ago when Emily, my second cousin and daughter of my first cousin Shelley, was assigned to write a paper about D-Day for history class. Wanting to do her absolute best, Emily set out on a fact-finding mission for the project that included visiting various online sources. I understand she wound up writing a very nice report, but Emily’s narrative incorporated one tiny bit of unexpected and puzzling information.

Obviously, the subject matter surrounding the entire D-Day campaign is of an extremely serious nature because so many troops lost their lives on that day. But, in spite of the gravity of the real-life story, it was that one small tidbit of “information” in her paper that sent her mom into a spell of side-splitting laughter. I’m posting this because as writers we’ve all been in Emily’s shoes at one time or another.

In her detailed summary, Emily covered the overall basics of the invasion by penning facts found in most research sources. Things such as—On June 6, 1944, thousands of troops began the Battle of Normandy. The day, of course, is known as D-Day. The invasion began when Allied troops stormed the beaches in the early morning hours. More than 4,000 troops lost their lives in the invasion, with many more wounded. However, approximately 156,000 successfully completed the operation. Within a week, over 325,000 troops were in place along with 50,000 vehicles and 100,000 tons of much-needed equipment.

But my young and well-intentioned second cousin wanted to delve a bit deeper into the incredible accounting of such bravery and intricate battle planning, so she included an unexpected “fact” about the paratroopers who were dropped that day. Later, while proofreading the paper, her mom came to the part about the paratroopers and stopped in her tracks to do a bit of head-scratching. For some reason, she said, the sentence didn’t quite seem to make sense. So she studied it again to be sure she hadn’t misread it. But no, it was what is was.

The line in question in Emily’s intricately-crafted and well-researched paper was, “Thousands of uneducated soldiers were also dropped in order to draw fire and confuse the enemy.”

Shelley asked her daughter to clarify the part about airdropping uneducated men onto the beaches. It simply couldn’t be correct. Emily told her the information was solid, but that she re-worded it so as to not plagiarize the material. Shelley then asked her daughter to show her the site from where she’d gotten the material. And then it all came to light. Here’s the line that Emily so studiously transposed to avoid plagiarism (I’m paraphrasing).

“Thousands of ‘dummies’ were also dropped in order to draw fire and confuse the enemy.”

I can see how the tactic easily confused the Nazis, because that single word scrambled poor Emily’s thinking. Now, whenever I write something that’s just a wee bit askew of an actual meaning, well, those bloopers will forever be known as “Emily moments.” Sorry, cuz …

*By the way, Emily’s away at college now, a top student, working hard at her biology/pre-med studies. She’s also extremely active in her school, and in the community, including volunteer work at a local zoo.

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Emily


Sign up today to reserve your spot while there’s still time!!

Forensic Psychiatry, Murder, LAPD Lipstick, and Memorable Characters  

Presenters

Guest of Honor – Charlaine Harris

Susan Hatters Friedman, MD 

Kathy Bennett

Robert Bruce Coffin

 

Schedule

Schedule (Times are EST)

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

 

11:00 – 12:20

Forensic Psychiatry and Crime Fiction: Correcting the Top 10 Myths 

Instructor,  Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D.

 

In this illuminating session, acclaimed forensic and perinatal psychiatrist, Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D., describes common misunderstandings about her field of forensic psychiatry when it appears in crime fiction. These include: 

-confusion between forensic psychiatry and psychology 

-misunderstandings about forensic hospitals 

-how confidentiality works in forensic evaluations 

-psychiatrists testifying about their patients 

-whether people look left when they are lying 

-how malingering is determined 

-how forensic psychiatrists get paid 

-what insanity means legally 

-what incompetency means legally 

 

12:20 – 12:50

Break

 

12:50 – 2:10

Murder for Real—Adding Realism to Your Mystery Writing 

Instructor, Bruce Robert Coffin

 

Former detective sergeant and award-winning author Bruce Robert Coffin shares his years of experience as supervisor of homicide and violent crimes investigations. This workshop is filled to the brim with behind-the-scenes law enforcement information. This class, taught by one of the best in the business, is certain to help writers create stories that rise to the highest levels.

  • The CSI effect. What is it and why it doesn’t fly in high-end writing?
  • Evidence gathering (the real deal).
  • Cold Cases. What are they and how are they investigated?
  • First response vs. CID (two worlds-two goals)
  • Dealing with the media.
  • Hierarchy and chain of command.
  • Job stressors and how cops cope (or don’t).
  • Telling lies (everybody does it).

2:20 – 3:40

A Badge, a Gun, and Lipstick: A Female Perspective of Working Patrol on the Mean Streets of Los Angeles 

Instructor, former LAPD Senior Lead Officer Kathy Bennett

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in a high-speed chase and then be involved in a shoot-out at the pursuit termination? Do you think the cop who gave you a traffic citation was wrong? Do you know what it’s like to tell a mother her only child was killed in a traffic collision? Well, Kathy Bennett experienced all these things and more. In her presentation she’ll reveal candid information of the life of a street cop. Kathy is also happy to answer those burning questions you have but were afraid to ask. 

3:50 – 5:10

How to use Research” and “Making Characters Memorable” 

Instructor, Charlaine Harris

Author extraordinaire Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse novels were the basis of the television series “True Blood,” reveals the secrets to using research to craft unique characters. This is a rare opportunity for writers at all stages of their careers.

 

5:10

Final words


Presenter Bios

 
Guest of Honor Charlaine Harris is a true daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry, plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her to write full time. Her first book, Sweet and Deadly, appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series, with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one husband, three children, two grandchilden, and two rescue dogs. She leads a busy life. www.charlaineharris.com is her website.

Susan Hatters Friedman, MD is a forensic and perinatal psychiatrist. She has practiced in forensic hospitals, general hospitals, court clinics, community mental health centers, and correctional facilities. Dr. Friedman has served as vice-President of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL), and as Chair of the Law and Psychiatry committee at the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP). She has received the AAPL award for the Best Teacher in a Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship, the Red AAPL award for outstanding service to organized forensic psychiatry, the Manfred Guttmacher Award for editing the book Family Murder: Pathologies of Love and Hate, and the Association of Women Psychiatrists’ Marian Butterfield early career psychiatrist award for her contributions to women’s mental health. She has published more than 100 articles (including in World Psychiatry and the American Journal of Psychiatry) as well as book chapters. Her research has primarily focused on the interface of maternal mental health and forensic psychiatry, including notably child murder by mothers.  

She currently serves as the inaugural Phillip J. Resnick Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, where she also has appointments in the departments of Pediatrics, Reproductive Biology (Obstetrics/ Gynecology), and Law. Dr. Friedman also serves as honorary faculty at the University of Auckland (New Zealand). 


Kathy Bennett worked for the LAPD for twenty-nine years. Eight years were spent as a civilian employee, and she served twenty-one years as a police officer. While most of her career was spent in a patrol car, Kathy also worked at the police academy as a firearms instructor, promoted to the position of a field training officer, then worked in the “War Room” as a crime analyst. She promoted again, this time to the position of Senior Lead Officer—where she was in charge of a basic car area within a geographic division. She’s done a few stints undercover and was honored to be named Officer of the Year in 1997.

In her spare time, Kathy started writing romance books. However, she decided she wasn’t really cut out to be a romance author—she’d never write the romance but was always killing off one or more characters in the book. After a few years she realized she’d better write what she knew: Authentic Crime told in Arresting Stories. So, this retired cop started killing off fictional people…and she likes it! 

Kathy lives in Idaho with her husband and soul mate, Rick (also a retired LAPD officer.) They have two entertaining and energetic Labrador retrievers, and one cat who isn’t nearly as energetic or entertaining…but she’s loved just as much. Kathy likes to garden, exercise, and spend time with their daughter and her family. Kathy says, “Life doesn’t get much better than the one I’m living. Welcome to my world, and I hope you’ll feel comfortable enough to contact me and say “Hi”.

Kathy can always be reached at [email protected]

Her website is www.kathybennett.com


Bruce Robert Coffin is the award-winning author of the bestselling Detective Byron mystery series. A former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Bruce spent four years investigating counter-terrorism cases for the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest award a non-agent can receive.

His novel, Beyond the Truth, winner of Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award for Best Procedural, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Best Crime Fiction. His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories 2016.

Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular contributor to Murder Books blogs.

Bruce is represented by Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary.

He lives and writes in Maine.

www.robertbrucecoffin.com

 


This is a truly must-attend event for crime writers!!

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!)

51uTGkVA7kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

New-Picture-14

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.

sex in a graveyard

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.

 

 

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

 

Dreams and even nightmares are often great fodder for a story or scene. Sometimes, though, those nocturnal fantasies are absolutely bizarre and offer no help whatsoever. Not even a tiny twist for an ending.

A questionable murder (above image), to say the least, is a perfect example of the gaggle of “punctual” characters who, for some reason, show up in my mind from time to time. However, these guys often come to me while my eyes are open and I’m wide-freakin-awake. Yep, my brain is a weird one. So are the things found inside my ever-working twisted mind. Such as …
 

The renowned 100-yard Em Dash

The em dash is perhaps the most versatile of all punctuation marks.


 

Whatcha’ gonna do ’bout the puppies?

Colon owners consider semi-colons as mixed breeds, therefore they prefer to keep the two apart. This is to prevent an unfortunate encounter that could result in large litters of periods and commas.

Unfortunate encounters produce large litters of periods and commas.


 

Do you have your ellipses glasses?

Punctuation marks have been known (in my mind) to join together to wreak havoc on the weather.

Periods, in teams of three, attack the sun.


 

Braces for Junior

Braces are also known as curly brackets “{ }”.


 

Quotation Marks have places to go!

Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks in American English; dashes, colons, and semicolons almost always go outside the quotation marks; question marks and exclamation marks sometimes go inside, sometimes stay outside. ~ Grammerly

 
Stop Shouting

In my mind, everyone gets to speak, and to ask questions, without being shouted down. Everyone …


 

Too many questions …

 

Boogaloo: a slang phrase used as a shorthand reference for a future civil war. (Also known as “Boog.”)

Boogaloo Boys (aka Boogaloo Bois): A leaderless group whose “members” seem to have extreme libertarian politics, with a strong emphasis on gun rights. Their objectives vary greatly, from some claiming to be strictly antiracist, while others lean toward white-supremacist beliefs. Group members often post memes to social media pages featuring neo-Nazi themes. Boogalooers love their guns and many openly carry them while wearing colorful Hawaiian shirts as part of their Boogaloo “uniform.” Their stance is anti-authority, anti-state, and definitely anti-law-enforcement. The collapse of American society is quite possibly their ultimate goal. Some members have murdered police officers. Others attempted to aid foreign terrorists.

The Boogaloo movement roughly formed in 2019 and is still developing. When 2020 rolled around, “Boogalooers” increasingly became engaged in protests about gun rights, police shootings/killings, restrictions related to the COVID pandemic and, well, basically anything that involved authority over citizens.

Typically, Boogalooers are not white supremacists. In fact, as a result of their anti-cop beliefs, many actively participated in the Black Lives Matters protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Most likely, though, the George Floyd protests were an excuse to confront and attack law enforcement.

In May 2020, a 26-year-old Texas man, Ivan Harrison Hunter, participated in one of the Floyd protests. He was seen wearing a tactical vest and a skull mask over his face as he used an AK-47 style rifle to fire 13 shots into an occupied police building. Shortly after Hunter fired those rounds the building was set ablaze. Hunter also claimed to have joined with members of the Black Panthers organization to burn other police stations.

Shortly after Hunter fired those rounds into the police precinct he sent a brief series of messages to a a fellow Boogalooer in California, a man named Steven Carrillo.

“Boog,” Hunter wrote.

“Did,” Carrillo responded.

“Go for police buildings,” Hunter said to Carrillo.

“I did better lol,” replied Carrillo.

Carrillo was referring to the fact that he’d just shot and killed Federal Protective Service officer, David Patrick Underwood, in Oakland, California.

Later in the year, Carrillo was arrested and accused of shooting and killing a Santa Cruz, Ca. sheriff’s deputy. Prior to the arrest, Carrillo used his own blood to scrawl the word “BOOG” on the hood of a white van.

Boogalooers believe in a vast assortment of causes, from “wanting the heads of politicians on spikes,” to “wanting pedophiles to die by putting them feet-first in wood chippers.”

The group is so loosely organized that one faction of Boogaloorers seem to support Black Lives Matter, while others muddy the waters by posting an opposite view on social media—“F*** BLM. They’re one of the most racist groups out there. It is ignorant to think BLM isn’t a terrorist organization filled with black supremacists, and white liberal Marxists.”

Boogaloo Michael Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter have been accused and arrested for their plot to sell weapons to someone they thought to be a member of the terrorist group Hamas. The person with whom they’d planned to do conduct business was an undercover FBI agent. Prosecutors say the pair considered becoming “mercenaries” for Hamas in order to fund the boogaloo movement.

In October 2020, eight boogalooers were tied to the plot to overthrow Michigan’s state government. Part of the plan was to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Fortunately the FBI thwarted those actions by arresting Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, and Daniel Harris before the kidnapping could be carried out. The other five men involved were also arrested by the FBI. However, in addition to federal charges, the five men also face state charges of plotting to attack Michigan’s Capitol for the purpose of initiating a civil war.

The basis for the plan centered around Gov. Whitmer’s strict COVID lockdown regulations.

As bizarre as this all sounds, the Boogaloo movement is quite real.

Unfortunately, another casualty caused by the Boogaloo movement are the few brightly-colored, extremely comfortable, Hawaiian-style shirts hanging in my closet to which I must now say goodbye.

The good side to all of this, however, is that writers have more wacky fodder for stories than ever before. Strange politics, spies, moles, whistleblowers, secret meetings, etc. So a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing villain could be shaped into an interesting villain, right? Nah, who’d believe such nonsense could happen in real life?

Of course, this is, after all, 2020!

Aloha, y’all.

Research is the name of the game if a crime writer’s goal is accuracy about a particular aspect of their story, such as murder, cops, and investigations of crimes. Unfortunately, some writers avoid any and all cop-type research, believing they already have all the answers because they watch crime shows on television, and/or their BFF’s cousin’s next door neighbor once lived in the same town as a guy who used to work with a woman who dated the brother of a man who once stood in a grocery store checkout line next to a police detective’s auto mechanic. Well, that sort of connection won’t quite cut it if the desired result is realism.

So, to assist writers who may have incorrectly used one or more of the terms listed below, well, here you go. Yes, I’ve seen each of these used incorrectly. For example, no, transient evidence is not the evidence left behind by homeless criminals …

ABFO Scales: (American Board of Forensic Odontology scales). An L-shaped piece of plastic used in crime scene photography. Scales are marked with circles, black and white bars, and gray bars. These markings aid in distortion compensation and provide exposure determination. Measurements on the scales are typically marked in millimeters.

Bindle Paper: Paper that’s folded to safely contain, store, and transport trace evidence.

Crime Writer: Person who commits multiple murders within the narrow confines of book covers. Crime writers are known to leave behind scores of evidence and sometimes a handful of cliches.

Faraday Bag: Special collection bags for electronic parts. Faraday bags are lined to protect the contents from electromagnetic forces that could damage or destroy evidence.

Historical Fiction: The official residence of cordite. Actually, historical fiction is the ONLY place where cordite and its odor should be used by writers.

Latent Print: A print that’s not readily visible, or one that’s visible only by enhancement.

Odor of Cordite: An imaginary odor detected only by modern writers who should know better … but don’t.

Porous Container: Packaging through which liquids or vapors may pass (cloth, paper, etc.).

Presumptive Test: A non-confirmatory test used to screen for the presence of substances such as drugs or blood. Test kits used by officers in the field are presumptive test kits. Confirmation testing is conducted in official laboratories by trained and/or certified professionals.

Primary Crime Scene: In homicide investigations, the place where the body is found is the primary crime scene. Typically, this is where the investigation begins. Keep in mind, though, there may be multiple crime scenes (crime scene – any place where evidence of a crime is found).

Scene of the Crime: The location where a crime was committed.

Slide-Racking: The totally unbelievable action of pulling and releasing the slide on a semi-automatic pistol just prior to engaging a dangerous situation. Cops carry guns with a round in the chamber. To rack the slide would eject the pre-loaded round leaving them with one less bullet.

Tertiary DNA: DNA can be accidentally transferred from one object to another. A good example could be the killer who shares an apartment with an unsuspecting friend. He returns home after murdering someone and then tosses his blood-spatter-covered shirt into the washer along with his roommate’s clothing. The machine churns and spins through its wash cycles, an action that spreads the victim’s DNA throughout the load. Police later serve a search warrant on the home, seize the clothing, and discover the victim’s DNA on the roommate’s jeans. The innocent roommate is arrested for murder.

Tertiary Transfer of DNA Evidence

The same can occur with touch DNA. A man shares a towel with his wife and his DNA is subsequently transferred to her face and neck. Later, a stranger wearing gloves chokes the woman to death, transferring the husband’s DNA from the victim’s face to the killer’s gloves. The assailant removes the gloves and leaves them at the scene. Police confiscate the gloves, test them, and find the husband’s DNA. He is then charged for his wife’s death while the real killer is free to murder again.

The example above (the choking case) actually happened, and those of you who attended the Writers’ Police Academy session taught by DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane heard him speak of it. He was the expert who proved this was indeed possible and he testified to it in the groundbreaking case involving accused killer Dr. Dirk Grenadier.

Transient Evidence: Evidence which could lose could lose its evidentiary value if not preserved and protected from the elements or other hazards (blood, semen, etc.). This is not evidence left behind by homeless people. It could be, though, if the killer just happened to be someone who lives on the streets. If so, the items collected could then be called transient transient evidence.

White Horse Syndrome: No,  FBI special agents do not ride into town on white horses to take over cases from local cops, nor do they work local murder cases. And … they do not investigate all kidnapping cases. Many writers, bless their hearts, are infected with White Horse Syndrome (WHS). Fortunately, it’s an easily curable disease. Unfortunately, though, some refuse to seek help.

If you or someone you know is affected by WHS, immediate intervention is needed.

To help battle WHS I strongly urge you to attend the upcoming Writers’ Police Academy Online daylong seminar “Mystery and Murder: Transforming Reality into Fantastic Fiction.” In this session you’ll learn behind the scenes tips, tactics, and techniques used by top crime scene investigators Lisa Provost and Lisa Black. Also, forensic psychology expert Dr. Katherine Ramsland is scheduled to teach a fascinating workshop about staged homicide scenes.

Then, in a rare learning opportunity, #1 bestselling author Tami Hoag wraps up the event with her class “Not Just the Facts, Ma’am.” Hoag’s amazing workshop details how to carefully weave all your newfound knowledge of police and forensic work into your story.

Attending Writers’ Police Academy Online classes could be the important first step on the road to recovery from the dreaded White Horse Syndrome.

Registration details and an all new website are coming soon.

In addition to Tami Hoag’s session, other classes include:

“Little Known Facts About Crime Scenes” – instructor Lisa Black.

Lisa Black is the NYT bestselling author of 14 suspense novels, including works that have been translated into six languages, optioned for film, and shortlisted for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award. She is also a certified Crime Scene Analyst and certified Latent Print Examiner.

 

 

 

 


“Sleuthing the Clues in Staged Homicides” – instructor Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,000 articles and 68 books, including How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and The Mind of a Murderer, she spent five years working with Dennis Rader on his autobiography, Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer. Dr. Ramsland currently pens the “Shadow-boxing” blog at Psychology Today and teaches seminars to law enforcement.


“The Call You Get is Not Always the Call You Get: When a Routine Death Investigation Crosses State Lines and Multiple Jurisdictions” – instructor Lisa Provost, Forensic Supervisor at Aurora Colorado Police Department.

Lisa has completed over five-hundred-hours of forensic training that includes basic death investigation, child death investigation, advanced child death investigation, and officer-involved shooting investigations.

 

 

 


Tami Hoag is the #1 International bestselling author of more than thirty books published in more than thirty languages worldwide, with more than forty million books in print. Renown for combining thrilling plots with character-driven suspense, crackling dialogue and well-research police procedure, Hoag first hit the New York Times bestseller list in 1996 with NIGHT SINS, and each of her books since has been a bestseller, including her latest, THE BOY. She lives in the greater Los Angeles area.

 

 

 


Here’s a brief video of crime scene processing, photography, and evidence collection.

For over a dozen years the Writers’ Police Academy has delivered sensational hands-on training, as well as the extremely popular Virtual MurderCon event that took place in August, 2020.

During those twelve-plus years, many writers, fans, readers, and law enforcement professionals requested that we develop online courses since many people would love to attend our in-person events but are unable to do so for various reasons.

A few years ago I asked our website guru, Shelly Haffly, to create an online teaching platform that would run in conjunction with this blog. Unfortunately, it has sat dormant since that day. My reason for not launching the program was that some of the pre-designed, built-in functions were a bit too complicated for my “tech-less” mind. However, with the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing and teaching programs, well, the time is now right.

So, without further delay, I’m pleased to announce that “Writers’ Police Academy Online” will officially open its virtual doors in October, 2020. The all new website is currently under construction and registration will soon be available for the first daylong seminar called “Mystery and Murder: Transforming Reality into Fantastic Fiction.”

This first session is live and interactive, meaning that instructors will deliver their presentations and respond to questions in real time. By the way, the instructors for this first seminar are fantastic!

Registration for this fabulous and unique online event is coming soon!


Mystery and Murder: Transforming Reality into Fantastic Fiction

When: October 24, 2020


Classes and Instructors:

 

Not Just the Facts, Ma’am  

How to take all your newfound knowledge of police and forensic work and carefully weave it into the tapestry of your story.

Instructor, #1 International Bestselling Author Tami Hoag

Tami Hoag is the #1 International bestselling author of more than thirty books published in more than thirty languages worldwide, with more than forty million books in print. Renown for combining thrilling plots with character-driven suspense, crackling dialogue and well-research police procedure, Hoag first hit the New York Times bestseller list in 1996 with NIGHT SINS, and each of her books since has been a bestseller, including her latest, THE BOY. She lives in the greater Los Angeles area.

Sleuthing the Clues in Staged Homicides 

Death scenes have been staged in a variety of ways, and it takes an observant investigator to spot the signs. It might be a 911 call, an inconsistency between the scene and the narrative, an uncharacteristic suicide note, or a distinctive signature that signals something not quite right. Some set-ups have been ingenious! Ramsland uses cases to illustrate actual staged scenes, and describes the types of skills investigators need to be able to spot and reconstruct staged incidents.

Instructor, Katherine Ramsland

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice and serves as the assistant provost. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 66 books.

Dr. Ramsland’s background in forensics positioned her to assist former FBI profiler John Douglas on his book, The Cases that Haunt Us, to co-write a book with former FBI profiler, Gregg McCrary, The Unknown Darkness, to collaborate on A Voice for the Dead with attorney James E. Starrs on his exhumation projects, and to co-write a forensic textbook with renowned criminalist Henry C. Lee, The Real World of a Forensic Scientist.

For seven years, she contributed regularly to Court TV’s Crime Library, and now writes a column on investigative forensics for The Forensic Examiner and a column on character psychology for Sisters in Crime; offers trainings for law enforcement and attorneys; and speaks internationally about forensic psychology, forensic science, and serial murder.


The Call You Get is Not Always the Call You Get: When a Routine Death Investigation Crosses State Lines and Multiple Jurisdictions

Case Study – On Valentine’s Day, 2014, the staff of a local dialysis clinic were worried. One of their elderly patients had missed three appointments. They called 911 and asked if officers could check on their patient, wondering if maybe he’d fallen and needed assistance. When officers arrived on scene, they found the elderly patient deceased from an apparent medical apparatus failure. At least that’s what it looked like at first; however, they’d uncovered a homicide. This convoluted investigation took Lisa Provost and members of her CSI team two states away during their investigation.

Instructor – Lisa Provost, Aurora Colorado Police Department Forensic Supervisor

Lisa Provost began studying Forensic Biology at Guilford College, in Greensboro, N.C., where she received a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Biology. In December 2012, she joined the Fayetteville Police Department as a Forensic Technician. 

During her time as a Forensic Technician trainee, Lisa completed a six-month instruction program with the Fayetteville Police Department which culminated with a one-week exam and oral review board. With the training and testing behind her, Lisa began working the road. Her passion for learning and for her work were the catalysts that pushed her to attend advanced training courses, in earnest. In May 2015, she was promoted to Forensic Supervisor overseeing Fayetteville PD’s Forensic Unit. 

Four years later, Lisa accepted a position with the Aurora Colorado Police Department as a Forensic Supervisor. So, she and her husband, an Air Force veteran, packed their belongings and moved to Colorado.

 In 2016. Lisa attended the Management Development Program at the N.C. Carolina Justice Academy. In its twenty-eight-year history, at the time the program was held, Lisa was the only civilian accepted into the program and, of the nineteen attendees in the program, Lisa was the only female. The five-hundred-hour leadership training program was completed over an eleven-month period and, besides the completion of her bachelor’s degree, is one of her proudest achievements.

In addition, Lisa has completed over five-hundred-hours of forensic training that includes basic death investigation, child death investigation, advanced child death investigation, and officer-involved shooting investigations.

Lisa Provost was was born and raised in NY state where she started dating the man who would later become her husband. The couple married in 1998, the time when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In 2003, when her husband’s enlistment was complete, they moved to North Carolina.


Little Known Facts About Crime Scenes 

An in-depth look at the problems and challenges with crime scene evidence such as fingerprints, arson, bite marks, and more. Instructor, Lisa Black

Lisa Black is the NYT bestselling author of 14 suspense novels, including works that have been translated into six languages, optioned for film, and shortlisted for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award. She is also a certified Crime Scene Analyst and certified Latent Print Examiner, beginning her forensics career at the Coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and then the police department in Cape Coral, Florida. She has spoken to readers and writers at numerous conferences and will be a Guest of Honor at 2021 Killer Nashville.

In her August release, Every Kind of Wicked, forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner track down a nest of scammers. www.lisa-black.com


More spectacular online workshops, seminars, and webinars are on the way!! Details TBA.

 

obstruction of justice

Obstruction of Justice (aka perverting the course of justice) is a broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from state to state, and the federal government. For example, in Virginia, Obstruction of Justice is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

Misdemeanor Classes in Virginia

§ 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of a misdemeanor.

The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:

(a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(b) For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.

(c) For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.

(d) For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.

The federal government sees the crime of obstruction in a different light. In their eyes, obstruction is a felony that carries a stiff penalty. For example, in 2010, a Georgia deputy sheriff, Mitnee Jones, was convicted of Obstruction for lying to the FBI and providing false statements as part of an investigation into the death of a Fulton County jail inmate.

The jury convicted Jones of filing a false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation, making a false material statement about the incident to a Special Agent of the FBI, and obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury investigating the death of the inmate.

Jones faced a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for filing the false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation; five years for making a false material statement about the incident to the FBI, and 10 years for obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury. However, at sentencing, Jones received a much lighter sentence of one year and three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

Not all obstruction of justice cases are simple, with paper trails to follow. Remember Martha Stewart? The government’s criminal case against Stewart was based solely on the fact that she made false and misleading statements to the SEC, and those accusations led to Stewart’s conviction for obstruction of justice, and the charge of lying to federal investigators.

By the way, the feds love to add obstruction charges to their cases (every suspect lies to the police at some point, right?).

federal bureau investigation

They do so because the threat of the additional 5-year sentence for obstruction is a great bargaining tool when offering a plea deal (We’ll drop the obstruction charge if you plead guilty to possession of the cocaine).

Here’s the obstruction section from the Code of Virginia:

Obstruction of Justice – Code of Virginia

§ 18.2-460. Obstructing justice; penalty.

A. If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, any person who, by threats or force, knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 lawfully engaged in his duties as such, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

C. If any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, lawfully engaged in the discharge of his duty, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court relating to a violation of or conspiracy to violate § 18.2-248 or subdivision (a) (3), (b) or (c) of § 18.2-248.1, or § 18.2-46.2 or § 18.2-46.3, or relating to the violation of or conspiracy to violate any violent felony offense listed in subsection C of § 17.1-805, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

D. Any person who knowingly and willfully makes any materially false statement or representation to a law-enforcement officer or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 who is in the course of conducting an investigation of a crime by another is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

* Not everyone who lies to local and state police is charged with obstruction. If so, nearly every person who’s been questioned by officers would be in jail, because, based on my experiences, approximately 9 out of 10 suspects lie when they’re in the “hot seat.”

When it comes to charging someone with obstruction, well, you’ve got to carefully pick your battles, and then fight them wisely.


“Don’t Tell Me No Lies” ~ The Golliwogs