Things to Expect at the Writers’ Police Academy … and policy explanations


It’s Q&A time at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. Here are a few housekeeping items you may want to remember.

  • Dress comfortably for the daily activities. Attendees typically wear jeans, shorts, BDU’s, t-shirts, loose fitting tops, and tennis shoes, for example. Sandals are not recommended. But please, no revealing clothing. This is, after all, a public safety training academy, not a nightclub.
  • Always be prepared for rain – umbrellas, ponchos, etc. Our outdoor activities take place rain or shine.
  • No video recordings of any type at any time in any location. No exceptions!
  • No weapons of any type are allowed on the college and/or police academy grounds. Weapons include firearms, edged weapons (knives, axes, swords, pepper spray, etc., and this includes pocketknives no matter how small the blade).
  • Lunches at the academy are included in your registration fee.
  • We provide transportation to all workshops and classes that are a part of the WPA program. You will not be permitted to drive personal cars to and from on-campus/academy sessions. Again, for safety reasons (live gunfire and fast-moving police vehicles) you must use the transportation we provide (buses and vans). You are, however, permitted to drive to the academy and then park in the designated parking lot. BUT, you must remain in your car until the buses arrive and we’ve given the all-clear to exit your vehicle. We have an important reason for this rule!
  • We will be providing campus maps to help you easily find your desired workshops. Volunteers and ample signage will also be positioned throughout the campus to help you with directions.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Remember, this is a working police, fire, and EMS academy where new and veteran officers and other first responders participate in live-action training. There will be gunshots and sirens.
  • Please ask before taking photos. We often feature instructors who are currently working undercover assignments and to have their images appear on social media could be very dangerous for them and their families.
  • Coffee and water will be available at the police academy. Vending machines are also available so please be sure to bring change.
  • It’s best that you attend the Thursday evening orientation session where we’ll go over numerous important details and schedule updates. You’ll also meet the key players and organizers who will be more than happy to answer your questions. Remember, our instructors are often active-duty law enforcement officials who may be called away to their various communities at the last minute. There is a special Thursday night session on drones, taught by a world-renowned expert. This is a workshop you’ll not want to miss.
  • The WPA is extremely fast-paced and exciting, and you’ll be moving about quite a bit. Think about that before you decide to bring along everything you own—desktop computer, 5-gallon water bottle, portable TV, kitchen sink, etc. What you bring with you to the academy grounds is what you’ll be lugging around all day.
  • You’ll be required to sign a liability waiver at registration. Basically, it releases us from harm due to the goofy things you might do should you decide to not follow our directions. This is nothing new. You’ve all signed them each year.
  • A book-signing featuring Tami Hoag, Lee Goldberg, John Gilstrap, David Corbett, Robin Burcell, Katherine Ramsland, Marco Conelli, Rick McMahan, Lee Lofland, and other WPA presenters will immediately follow the Saturday night banquet (I hope I didn’t forget anyone’s name). The campus bookstore will have their books available for purchase on both Friday and Saturday nights at the hotel. Please show your support for these authors!
  • Our extremely popular raffle/silent auction takes place Saturday night during the banquet festivities. So please bring cash…lots of it! Profits from the WPA raffle are used to secure the many supplies and material used during the event. If you’ve already sent something for the raffle or auction, well, thanks! If not, we’d appreciate anything you have to offer, from signed books to anything you think someone would love to own.
  • Please listen to your instructors. Pay attention to and carefully follow their directives and safety instructions. You are attending an actual police, fire, and EMS academy. Yes, there will be live ammunition and firearms. Yes, there will be fire (lots of it, actually,). Yes, there will be fast-moving police vehicles. Yes, those fast-moving police cars will, at times, be spinning out of control. Yes, there will be biting, barking, and snarling dogs. Yes, there will be BANGS, BOOMS, sirens, screams, and yes, there will be tons of squeals and laughter. Yes, you will have one of the most exciting times of your life. But PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings at all times.
  • Sure, you’re attending the WPA to better your craft. But please do let your hair down and have fun. This is an event you’ll remember for a long time to come.

Now, there have been recent questions regarding our cancellation and transfer policies. When you signed up at our website, the following is the first thing you saw, even before typing in the first letter. Remember? Please have a look at the lines stating – April 1, 2016 is the last day to cancel and receive a full refund (less $35 cancellation fee). Registrations can NOT be transferred to another individual. There will be NO refunds after 11:59 p.m., April 1, 2016. No exceptions.

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Anyway, I’d like to explain that particular policy and why it’s necessary. First, our cancellation policy is not really any different than other large writer events.

For example:

Bouchercon’s cancellation policy:

Bouchercon Registration Fee Refund Policy:

The cancellation fee is $25 on or before July 15, 2016.

From July 16 through August 15, 2016, the cancellation fee is $100.

After August 15, 2016, there is no refund.

Now, Sleuthfest

Cancellation policy: If you cancel no later than December 15, 2015, you will receive a full refund less any processing costs we may have incurred.

You will only be entitled to a 50% refund, less processing costs, for cancellations between December 16, 2015 and January 15, 2016. Due to the commitment we must make to the hotel, there are no refunds after January 15th.

The WPA cancellation policy, like the many other writer events, is in place because once we reach the cancellation date we lock in our many contracts and financial obligations – hotel, banquet, reception, academy and classroom spaces, equipment and supplies, buses, speaker fees and lodging and travel expenses, etc. At this point, our bills and obligations must be met and the funds we use to pay those obligations are the funds generated from registrations.

To add to the need for our cancel deadline is that we are not a typical writer event where attendees sit in hotel meeting rooms to listen to speakers, where event staff pays the hotel a fee for the use of a few rooms.

The WPA is a massive event. It takes place in various buildings, venues, facilities, and acres upon acres of grounds, etc. We employ top experts from across the country and our sessions include millions of dollars worth of equipment, including first responder and police specialty vehicles of all types, firearms, and training supplies. In addition to hotel meeting spaces we also rent an entire police academy and much of its administrative and training staff. We hire bus companies to transport everyone. And there are many, many more expenses not mentioned.

Once the cancellation deadline has passed we tally the number of people attending, the funds collected, and then, if necessary, add additional programing to suit the needs of the group. We absolutely do this for writers and we do what we do to provide the best of the best experience possible, and we do indeed deliver that one-of-a-kind and unbelievably exciting experience. Therefore, if we were to offer refunds at any time past that point we’d be losing money.

Believe me, we do the best we can but we simply cannot operate at a loss. I’m hoping you’ll now see/understand why we cannot offer refunds to anyone once the April 1st deadline has passed.

Now, the reasons we do not allow transfers of registration. Again, we’re not a typical writer event (I named just a few of the reasons above), and we are a staff of three people with two of the three being volunteers who help in their spare time. I’m the third.

As I’m sure you now see, there is a massive amount of work involved in producing the WPA, far more than taking names, making name tags, and assigning rooms to various sessions. Actually, we could use a couple of full-time employees, but we make do with what we have.

Linda Lovely and Howard Lewis, the two volunteers, put in a huge amount of time and energy to make sure the WPA runs smoothly, and they do so for free and always with smiles on their faces.

But we’re also faced with tough and strict rules and regulations from our host academies. We can’t spring last minute changes on a police facility where security concerns (background checks, etc.) take precedent over our wants and desires. We have to always be mindful that the WPA takes place at a working police academy, a place where the people who work and train there are often absolutely hated by many people who’d love the opportunity to slip inside through an event such as ours to do harm. I know most of the people who sign up, but the academy does not. (Keep in mind, please, that our event takes place at a facility that keeps on hand – live explosives and ammunition, firearms of all types, etc. An outsider with ill-intentions could do a lot of damage).

So, again, we’re not a typical hotel-based event where last minute changes are sometimes easily made. Even if we were allowed to make changes to some academy-type things, and we’re not, we’re a team of three with two who do most of the paperwork and organization of registrations, background checks, planning, etc. So to pile even more work on an already overtaxed group of two who work for free is not something I’d be willing to do. I wholeheartedly need Howard and Linda again in the coming years. 🙂

Regarding transferring a registration from one year to another – As far as next year … the money we take in covers current year expenses. Plain and simple. There is nothing to carry over. Your 2016 registration fees are applied to 2016 expenses. If we see there’s a bit more income than we expected we add more workshops, and we do so to further enhance the experience. So no, we do not permit the carrying over of a registration from one year to another.

Also, even if we had the man/womanpower to help with juggling registration transfers from one year to the next, and we don’t, and even if we had plenty of cash in reserve, we wouldn’t/couldn’t allow year-to-year transfers of registrations because we operate on a year-to-year contract with the academies. They can’t commit to us that far in advance. Likewise, we can’t commit to them that far in advance. We keep the registration fees at just enough to cover the cost of the event, so we don’t know from one year to the next what that fee will be until we’ve negotiated with the various vendors, speakers, the academy, hotel, etc.

The Writers’ Police Academy is a huge event with tons of moving parts. We’re not some fly-by-night wannabe outfit operating from deep inside a mosquito- and Palmetto bug-infested swamp. We’re the real deal. First class all the way, from luxurious sleeping rooms, exquisite food, an onsite casino, top instructors from all across the country, an international training facility, top equipment, and much, much more.

We do what we do for you. Always have, and always will!