Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Thanks to everyone for making The Graveyard Shift a huge success!

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

Deputy Sheriff Randy Hamson

Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department

Deputy Hamson was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic at an accident scene on August 16, 2004 . He succumbed to his injuries on October 24, 2008. He is survived by his wife, three children, his parents, and two brothers.

Officer Shane Figueroa, 25

Phoenix Arizona Police Department

Officer Figueroa was killed in an automobile accident on October 25, 2008. He was responding to a call when the accident occurred. The driver of the truck that hit the officer’s patrol vehicle was wanted by police on four outstanding warrants.

Officer Figueroa leaves behind a wife and three-month-old daughter.

Lieutenant Frank Stecco, 42

Fairfax County Virginia Police Department

On October 21, 2008, Lt. Stecco drowned while participating in helicopter water rescue training. He is survived by his wife, three children, and mother.

* Thanks to ODMP

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Rank: Who’s The Boss?

How do officers know, at a glance, when they’re addressing a ranking officer from another department? Well, the answer is as clear as everything else pertaining to law enforcement – it depends. Police departments use many symbols of rank designation. Some department supervisors wear white shirts (some departments issue white shirts to all officers), while others issue gold badges to their higher-ranking officers. But the easiest way to tell an officer’s rank is to look at his collar insignia. Each pin is a representation of that officer’s rank.

Collar insignias beginning with the top ranking officer (chief).

An eagle (birds) on each collar – Colonel, or Chief (some chiefs prefer to be addressed as Colonel).

Oak leaf on each collar – Major

Two bars on each collar – Captain

One bar on each collar – Lieutenant

Three stripes – Sergeant

Two stripes – Corporal

Chevron, or single stripe – Private, or line officer

* An officer without a collar insignia is normally a private.

Other pins and medals worn by officers may include (from top to bottom):

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

– FTO pin issued by the state of Virginia.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place. The clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officers skin.

Sheriffs and chiefs may also wear a series of stars to indicate their rank.

The Bulletin Board

– The 200 word short story contest is now closed. We’ve received tons of excellent entries. In fact, the response was overwhelming. Good luck to you all!

– Police officers in New York (Suffolk) rescued a 70-year-old man from a burning building. One of those officers also saved a drowning man earlier in the month.

– Massachusetts authorities are investigating the abuse of overtime by seven police officers. How much money was involved? The dollar amount is a shocking $80,000 – $100,000 for the first six months of this year.

– Philadelphia police will be holding a memorial service today for Andy, a police dog that was accidentally shot while searching a building for bank robbery suspects.

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Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman

1925 – 2008

Elaine Flinn has also left us. She lost her battle with cancer last weekend.

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Vivian Zabel: Research with Law Enforcement Experts

Research with Law Enforcement Experts

While I sat at my computer working on Midnight Hours, typing what my characters wanted to do and say, I realized I needed some expert advice to be sure what my antagonist wanted would work. Oh, yes, Midnight was a wily villain indeed and knew how to manipulate and use technology to do unethical things. However, he wanted to access the data base (NCIC) that would give information only certain people can have.

The idea would put punch in the plot and create havoc for the protagonist, Martin Rogers, and his team. Midnight begged me, threatened me, and tempted me to add the twist.

I wrote that Midnight gained access, but something bothered me. Could the data base, the National Criminal Information Center set up by the FBI, be that easily hacked? Would the state overseer agency (in Oklahoma the OSBI) not know it had been? With a deep sigh, I began researching. I contacted a friend who trained as a dispatcher and has been an administrator in a county jail for years. She told me the plot twist couldn’t happen. She told me that only certified people can access the NCIC data base. The local police department also informed me that “hacking” into that data base couldn’t happen. Therefore Midnight had to find a way to gain the information he wanted another way.

Back at the keyboard, Midnight argued, but I said, “Hush right now or I’ll change you to a frog.” With a lingering look in the mirror, a shake of a head, and a deep sigh, Midnight went to a corner of my mind to pout to plot ways to “bug” the computers in the police department. The consensus was for the technologically brilliant Midnight to physically access the department’s servers and computers. To give more information and examples would reveal too much of the plot and its twists.

I did learn more about the NCIC, and even though I didn’t use it for Midnight, I’ll be using the information in sequels. The amount of information available for law enforcement is amazing: a computerized index of criminal justice information.

I asked many questions of law enforcement officers from three different police departments and the county sheriff’s department where I live, as well as the friend in another state. I learned how inter-agency task forces could work (a must for my novel). I read articles from experts in the police procedure and investigation fields and computer and technology fields, and learned some “tricks of the trade” for using one computer to appear to send messages from a different one.

I found much of the information I needed for my novel, but I discovered more. I discovered how the Internet can be used and abused.

Midnight used the Internet to prey on disabled men and bring death, and thanks to the help from law enforcement agencies, I could portray that realistically.

However, according to a sergeant in the Oklahoma City Police Department, I didn’t have the hierarchy correct for their department. He was nice enough to tell me, that since it was my story, my book, I could arrange the department differently, that some departments in other places actually have a similar chain of command as in Midnight Hours.

In the future, I will work even closer with law enforcement agencies to be sure I have details as close to correct as possible in future novels, and maybe leave a little room for creativity.

Click here for details about Vivian’s Midnight Blog Tour and Contest.

– Views, comments, and opinions of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the opinion and views of The Graveyard Shift.

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The Bulletin Board

– Author Tony Hillerman, author of the Navajo Tribal Police mysteries, passed away yesterday. He was 83. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family.

– El Paso County sheriff’s Deputy Juan Muñoz was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Lifesaving Medal Award for saving a 2-year-old boy from a burning car earlier this month.

– A former New Bloomfield, Pa. police officer was recently convicted of molesting or propositioning more than a dozen teenage girls for sex while on duty. The incidents leading to the officer’s arrest date back as early as 2000.

– USA Today reports that more than one-third of police officers murdered last year were not wearing body armor.

– The Associated Press reports that the Washington State Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a man who was searched by police solely because of his odd behavior.

The Court’s unanimous decision reinforces the rules for simple pat-downs under state law, which offers stronger safeguards against police searches than the U.S. Constitution requires.

– The Paris Review: Tehran’s all-female police units. Photos and story Here.

*Only two days left to enter the The Graveyard Shift’s 200 word short story contest! Details here.

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Weekend Road Trip: Sunrise in Ocean City, Maryland

I grew up in Delaware, spending summers with my grandparents in a little town on the Choptank River in nearby Maryland, an hour from Ocean City. My summertime treat was to spend a day at the beach with my beloved grandfather. He was a strong, hard-working, quiet man who loved the water, the salty air, and the Maryland sunrises. It’s not hard to see why he loved his life on the water, and why he loved sharing it with my brother and me.

I walked this beach, on this very sand, a thousand times as a small boy, hand-in-hand with my grandfather. I can still hear him describing the roiling, black thunder clouds, and the crashing waves brought on by angry nor’easters. I set out for an early morning walk last weekend, and found myself wondering how many of the footprints in the sand above were made by a present day grandfather and his grandson.

When Denene and I strolled along the boardwalk last weekend after we left Bouchercon, my senses came to life. The hot oil smell of Thrasher’s famous French Fries permeated the morning air, and the sounds of bells, whistles, and carnival barkers attacked us from all sides. Suddenly, I was a small boy again, back with my grandfather holding his hand as he led me to the arcades.

I felt the magical draw of my youth. One of my fondest memories of all time was pulling me toward its source. I knew then what I had to share with my wife – the best arcade game ever – Skeeball! I loved this game and I wanted to share that experience with Denene. I also recalled that I was pretty darn good at it, too. After all, I had beaten my grandfather at practically every game we’d ever played. Yes indeed, I was a Skeeball wizard back in the day.

Well, after losing several games to Denene, a rookie – actually, she was a virgin Skeeballer – I realized that my grandfather had probably let me win all those times. Of course, I told Denene that I’d let her win, too. Unfortunately, she knew better.

And then it was over, and I grew up all over again.

* * *

The Bulletin Board

– From CNN News: U.S. police departments are streamlining patrols, reducing training and cutting back on some preventative programs as their budgets fall victim to the struggling economy.

Many police chiefs are warning deeper cuts may be coming.

– Baltimore police say the best way to reduce crime is to lock up the criminals and throw away the key! Forget rehabilitation, probation, and parole!

– According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, over one third of Atlanta’s recent police academy graduates have criminal records!

– Assaults on police officers are on the rise. Philadelphia, for example, reports a 19% increase on assaults on their officers over last year.

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