Writers’ Police Academy: Our History … and cover models


Many of you have asked how the Writers’ Police Academy started and why it did. So, here’s a brief outline to answer those questions.

  • In November of 2007, Sisters in Crime sponsored an event in St. Louis called Forensic University. Headliners for the event were Jan Burke, Eileen Dreyer, Dr. D. P. Lyle, and me (Lee Lofland).
  • While at this fabulous event I sat in on several of the workshops and lectures.
  • Each session consisted of an instructor/lecturer who typically used Powerpoint or handouts as part of their workshops.
  • The material covered was extremely valuable to writers.
  • At the end of the second day ATF Agent Rick McMahan (another presenter) and I were sitting in the lobby discussing the overall event.
  • I suggested to Rick that while Forensic U was one of the best conferences I’d seen for writers, I thought it would be fantastic if writers could attend a hands-on event, where they touch, and hear, and see, and physically experience police and other first responder training.
  • I said I’d like to try to do just that at an actual police academy.
  • Rick said I was absolutely and without a doubt, as crazy as a loon. It would never work. No police academy in the country would permit a bunch of eager writers to storm their facilities for an entire weekend.
  • I agreed with Rick. But … I wanted to try, knowing how extremely valuable a hands-on event could be for writers. After all, I’d seen the term “Cordite” used one too many frickin’ times in too many frickin’ books.
  • So try I did. And, as expected, I heard “NO, NO, NO, and NO” dozens of times.
  • Then I approached a popular writers conference in Ohio. I presented them with my idea and they connected me with their local police department.
  • I met with local police officials, the mayor, the coroner, the prosecutor, fire officials, and they each agreed to help.
  • We put together a small program for writers, the very first but very small WPA, that included a K-9 demo, sessions on arson investigation, a tour of the morgue and police department, a fire truck demo, and more. Other workshops were taught by Rick McMahan, Mike Black, Dave Swords, and me.
  • The Ohio event was a big hit. But too big for the Ohio location. There was no police academy.
  • Denene and I took a cross-country RV trip and during one of our stopovers in a North Carolina RV park we met Andy Russell.

Andy Russell

  • During a conversation with Andy I learned that he, coincidentally, taught at a police academy.
  • DING, DING,DING! A police academy!! A foot in the door??? It was FATE.
  • Andy took our proposal to his bosses and they agreed to meet with me. And …
  • In 2010, the WPA opened at an actual police academy, with Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector. Remember the movie with Angelina Jolie? Yes, THAT Jeffery Deaver) as keynote speaker.

Is that Jeffery Deaver with the fully automatic rifle? It sure is!

Special Guest Speaker – Dr. Katherine Ramsland (Katherine has been with us each year since).

2011 – We expanded the event.


2011 Guest of Honor – Christopher Reich

2012 – We continued to grow.

2012 Guest of Honor – Lee Child 


Special Guest Speaker – Marcia Clark (Yes, THAT Marcia clark – OJ Simpson prosecutor). Pictured with Denene and Lee Lofland.

In 2013 we decided to take attendees on an underwater evidence recovery adventure.

World-renowned DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane offered his expertise at the Friday afternoon session.

Dr. Dan Krane has testified as a DNA expert in over 100 high-profile criminal cases worldwide, including serving as a consultant for the “dream team” in the OJ Simpson case. Dr. Krane was also involved in the review of high profile cases around the world, including: the Washington D.C. Beltway sniper, the Jaidyn Leskie Coroner’s Inquest in Australia, the Omagh IRA bombing in Northern Ireland, and the Deventer murder in The Netherlands. He work closely with the Innocence Project and has been involved with several exoneration cases, including George Gould and Ronald Taylor.


2013 Guest of Honor – Lisa Gardner

New Picture (1)

2013 Special Guest Speaker – Kathy Reichs (producer and writer of the TV show Bones).

2014 was the year of the super-exciting police pursuit and shootout.

We also brought you a recreation of the Boston bombing where we detonated a backpack using a C-4 charge. An explosive detection K-9 alerted on the package.

The crowd was moved far away from the scene and then a bomb robot carried the backpack to a safe location.

The bomb squad did their thing.

And … now you see the suspicious backpack, and …

… now you don’t! We blew that sucker to somewhere beyond the suburbs of oblivion.

Michael Connelly

2014 Guest of Honor – Michael Connelly

And yes, we, too, had cover models, sort of like those at RWA events. Sort of …

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Rick McMahan shows his hard-earned six pack.

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Even I pulled off the shirt to help the cause …

By the time 2015 rolled around we’d outgrown the North Carolina facility, so we packed our bags and moved the entire operation to a police academy in Appleton, Wi., where we met Larceny Lori, the meanest bank robber in WPA history.


Lori didn’t do very well in a shootout with instructors Colleen Belongea and Ryan Gilbert.



2015 Guest of Honor – Karin Slaughter

New Picture

With special Guest Speaker Allison Brennan.

And that brings us to 2016 and our wonderful new home, NWTC.






Sisters in Crime president Leslie Budewitz is a wee bit excited as she prepares to execute a PIT maneuver with instructor Colleen Belongea.


2016 Special Guest Speaker – Lee Goldberg.


2016 Guest of Honor – Tami Hoag.

Next up – The 2017 Writers’ Police Academy. Bigger and Better than ever before!!