Forget The Cold and Snow, Let’s Go Sand Sculpting!

We’re currently digging out from the results of a major snowstorm here in the suburbs of Mayberry and Mt. Pilot. So, instead of shivering and blowing our noses, let’s go to the beach!

Each year, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire hosts a sand sculpting championship that attracts master sand artists from all the world. Over 300 tons of special sand is trucked to the beach for the event. Each contestant is given ten tons of sand and just twenty-one hours to complete their masterpieces. Denene and I were on hand for the 2008 action.

Forrest Gump by Merideth Corson took the fourth place honors.

Michele Lepire’s Tropical Paradise placed third in the overall contest, but took home the most prize money, winning both the People’s Choice award and the Sculptor’s Choice award.

Salvador Dali Lama by Fred Mallet won the fifth place honors.

Steve Topazio of Rhode Island created this angry sun blowing down a sand castle.

Tim Russert remembered in sand.

Morning Bath by Carl Jara took the second place spot.

The winner of the 2008 Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting contest was titled Japanese Garden by Karen Fralich of Ontario, Canada.

Karen adds a few finishing touches to her masterpiece.

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We’ve received several emails asking us to extend the early registration date for the Writers’ Police Academy. Most people would like to see the period extended until after tax time, and after royalty checks arrive. Please drop me a note at if this extension would help you. We want to make this one of a kind event possible for everyone.

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Attention active-duty police officers. I need assistance with a bit of research. Sorry, I can’t divulge the subject matter in an open forum. Please contact me at


Lee Lofland

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

Chief of Police Carl Worley, 57

Ross Township Ohio Police Department

Chief Carl Worley suffered a fatal heart attack on January 26, 2010, while assisting in the pursuit of a robbery suspect in Butler County near Hamilton, Ohio. Chief Worley is survived by his wife, Kathy.

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Attention active-duty police officers. I need assistance with a bit of research. Sorry, I can’t divulge the subject matter in an open forum. Please contact me at


Lee Lofland

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Pistol Cleaning and Safeties

There’s been much ado about safeties on pistols, and I’m often asked which have them and which don’t? Is it safe to carry a pistol with the safety off? And, we’ve already addressed the question, “Do police officers carry their pistols with a round in the chamber, or not?” In case you missed that post, the answer is, without question, YES. However, our Canadian friends tell us officers in their country do not.

The image above is of a Sig Sauer P229, a pistol favored by many police agencies. I, in fact, carried a Sig Sauer P228 when I was still an active police investigator. To me, there is no better weapon for police duty. Beretta is also another fine pistol. I carried a Beretta 92F when I worked as a patrol deputy in Virginia. Actually, the Beretta was the first pistol I’d carried. We made the switch from Ruger .357’s to the Italian pistols in the early 80’s, when a generous citizen feared for our safety and purchased pistols for the entire department, as a donation. That citizen was a farmer who knew that a sheriff’s office sometimes operates on a limited budget. He also knew that local gangs and street thugs were much more heavily armed than the police who were charged with protecting his life and property.

So, to answer the question regarding safeties on Sigs. No, the Sig Sauer does not have a safety. And, police officers who do carry pistols with safeties, such as the Beretta, the weapon is normally carried with the safety off. Carrying a pistol with the safety in the off position and a round in the chamber is no different than carrying a loaded revolver. Exactly the same.

Here’s a photo of a Sig Sauer complete with the bells and whistles labeled for easy identification.

Beretta Nomenclature

Officers must completely disassemble their pistols on a regular basis to perform thorough cleanings and oiling.

Cleaning disassembled Sig Sauer

Disassembled Beretta

Pistol grips are easily changed by removing a couple screws. Shooters must find a grip that fits the shape of their hands.

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The Eyes Have It: Surveillance Tools For Your Favorite Detective

To get the job done with maximum efficiency and safety, carpenters and plumbers always use the right tool for the task at hand. Police officers should do the same. Here are a few to make the job just a bit easier.

The covert bullet camera is about the size of a tube of lipstick, which makes concealment quite easy. It’s wide angle lens and color capability work perfectly with pocket DVR’s.

This high resolution, color DVR is a great companion for the bullet cam pictured above. It features a time and date stamp as well as tamper proof video.

This pinhole camera kit comes equipped with lens covers designed to look like phillips screw heads, suit buttons, hex screws, and shirt and cuff buttons.

This sunglass camera is capable of connection to pocket DVR’s, which allows the covert operator to record what he/she sees as it happens. Great for that undercover narcotics officer in your life!

The climbing robot can scale vertical surfaces, and can even crawl across ceilings if placed there first. Perfect for searching hard to reach hazardous places, such as shipping containers and nuclear containment domes.

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Castle: The Third Man – A Review (of the police procedure)

Once again, due to various emails and blog comments, I’m compelled to point out that my Castle reviews have been strictly about the police procedure used in the show. Nothing more, nothing less. I am not a TV or film critic.

Honestly, I’ve begun to dread Monday night/Tuesday mornings. I normally start my note-taking at the beginning of the show and finish around 11:30 or 12:00 – pausing, rewinding, etc. Then I’m up until 3 or 4 so you guys can have the post available when you sign onto your computers. I didn’t mind this…well, I didn’t in the past, but things have changed, recently.

I started these reviews at the requests of a handful of serious writers who wanted to know how much of the police procedure they see on Castle is correct. That’s right, I was asked to do this.

Well, I agreed to do the reviews, in my own goofy style, but that harmless fun seems to have offended a few people who insist upon bombarding me with negative messages. Those messages don’t concern me personally. Not at all. In fact, I find many of them to be humorous, childlike, or even idiotic. However, I simply don’t have the time, energy, or desire to field the negative emails and blog comments that arrive with each Castle blog posting. Believe me, I delete more nasty, offensive comments than you could ever imagine.

So, those of you who think the only opinion in the world should be yours, have won. This is the last season of Castle reviews on The Graveyard Shift. The season finale cannot arrive quickly enough to suit me. And yes, I mean reviews of the police procedure.

Listen…The Fat Lady is singing right now. I’m done.

Okay, on with the show…

The Third Man

The show started with the main ingredient, a dead body. This one had been killed with a massive doe of Ketamine, a sometimes popular recreational drug that causes hallucinations, seizures, and elevated blood pressure. Oh, and death. Fun stuff, huh?

The M.E., Lanie Parrish has made a complete turn around this season. I’ve gone from cringing when I see her, to anxiously awaiting her latest dead-guy joke. She’s also been pretty decent with her forensics……so far. I’m still cautiously optimistic about that. But, in this episode she did just fine. She was also funny. I love the one-liners, because that’s how it is in real life. In fact, lots of one-liners pass through the autopsy rooms. I know of one morgue that has a huge white board filled with popular quips spouted by the pathologists as they slice and dice. Those of you who attended the Writers’ Police Academy last year were privy to that very white board during our morgue tour.

One small thing about Lanie’s forensic information. She’d have had to specifically ask the tox lab to run the ketamine test. It’s not part of the normal tox screen. But, she may have done that since she did observe the needle mark. But I strongly doubt it.

Detectives were forced to start with the basics in this case – knocking on doors. They made the comment early on that there no fingerprints or other physical evidence. That’s good stuff. Most cases are solved by talking to people, not with DNA and fingerprints. So if you like writing dialog, then go for it, by all means.

Beckett did it again. She woman-handled the paper guy as he was picking up his paycheck. Actually, she was sort of close to a real cuffing technique used by officers. Not bad. I’ve seen worse by real officers – clothes-lining, tackling, hits on the head with a flashlight, tripping, choking, pepperspraying, wrestling, pulling clothing and hair, etc.

Beckett and Castle questioned a female witness at the police station. The witness spilled a tiny, personal dirty secret and immediately said, “You won’t tell my boss, will you?” This was a great detail, because people do this all the time. I can’t begin to tell you how many affairs and office thefts have surfaced during these brief interviews. And they’re all followed by, “You won’t tell my wife/boss, will you?”

When Beckett and crew entered a suspect’s apartment, her two partners went in with guns drawn to clear the place while Beckett and Castle casually began to snoop around. Nope. Everyone should have weapons out until the place is declared clear and safe.

I really, really like the transformation made by Beckett’s partners. They’ve turned into very realistic cops this season. They switch from suits to more casual wear when needed, and it doesn’t hurt to show a little bicep. Today’s cops really do work out, a lot. And they wear shirts that are two sizes too small in order to show those guns. Good stuff, Guys. Keep it up.

Beckett and Castle, during a phone conversation from the restaurant with her partners, were finishing each other’s sentences. Again, good stuff all the way around. Cops who work together for long periods of time are able to do this. Then again, so are romantically involved couples. They’re getting too close to this. I fear the end is near if they do…

When Beckett and entourage entered the pet store and the owner came out with his gun drawn, we heard lots of yelling and screaming from the officers. That scene was pretty darn realistic. That’s sort of what it sounds like when real cops are faced with a “man with a gun” situation. The adrenaline is already high when the entry is made, and it kicks into high gear when we see that weapon. Fantastic scene.

The brother-in-law/husband/killer was pretty typical. First the denial, then the look down, followed by the look of shame, and then the gut spilling. And I really liked it when Esposito pulled out the cuffs and said, “On your feet.” The expression on his face was great. He’s turned into one fine cop.

At the end, Beckett went to bat with the DA for the informant. I liked this. I did it quite often if the information provided was good enough.

Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this show was really good. The police procedure aspect of it, that is. Remember, that’s all I’m reviewing. Even though, I thought the interaction between Beckett and Castle was priceless this week. Oh, and for the first time, I didn’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning to do this. And, I’ve added (review of the police procedure) in the title for the lone confused reader.

ABC photos

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The Day I Killed The Bank Robber – A True Story

Ever wonder what it’s like to kill someone? Well, I don’t have that worry. Been there, done that. And I’ve lived with the dead guy’s soul scrabbling around inside my head ever since. Once you’ve pulled the trigger sending the bullets on their way, that’s it. You can’t call them back.

Several years ago I responded to a silent bank alarm—a 10-90 as it was called in our department. The day started with me sitting in my office reading the offense reports from the previous night. Nothing special—a few drunks, some minor drug activity, a couple of break-ins, and the usual domestic he said-she saids.

Then it happened. A young man—22 years old—walked into a bank, pointed a gun at the teller and took all the money he could carry in his white, wrinkled, plastic grocery bag. He scared the poor teller to tears. Victim number one.

The robber fled the scene and wrecked his car trying to escape. Five of us cornered the guy in a drainage ditch beside his car. He decided to shoot it out with us. Big mistake.

Three officers had taken cover on the the top of a highway exit ramp, just out of the robber’s line of sight. I was closest to the gunman—twenty-five yards away to his left. Another officer, a fresh-out-of-the-academy rookie, was near me, to my right. My only cover was a small maple tree. A very small maple tree. At the time it seemed like a toothpick with a few leaves. I felt that he could easily see me, like I had no cover at all.

The robber had crouched down near the rear bumper of his car. I watched him load his weapon, an old revolver. I yelled, begging him to drop the gun and come to us with his hands up. He ignored my commands and fired a shot toward my fellow officers on the hilltop.

The sound of his gunshot activated my brain’s slow-motion function. Time nearly stopped. It was surreal, like I actually had time to look around before reacting to the gunshot. I saw my partners yelling, their mouths opening and closing slowly. Lazy puffs of blue-black smoke drifted upward from their gun barrels. I saw a dog barking to my right—its head lifting with each yap, and droplets of spittle dotted the air around its face.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl.

I turned back to the robber, took aim, and fired a single shot through the rear, side glass of the car and into the side of his head, the only part of the body I could see at the time. He fell over on his right side. I thought it was all over. Instead, the guy popped back up, smiling. I couldn’t believe it. A shot to the head from my Sig Sauer and he acted as if it were no more than a slight irritation, if that. In fact, he stood and began firing again. I answered each of his rounds with three of my own, all three directly into his chest. He fell each time a shot hit him, but each time he stayed down only for a second.


Bullet hole in the rear glass from my shot. The large hole in the side of the car is from a slug fired from an officer’s shotgun.

He popped up once more to fire another round, and that’s when my fifth bullet hit him, again in the chest. He stayed down this time. I called to everyone on my portable radio, letting them know it was over. Then, suddenly, the robber jumped up and ran toward the officers on the hill. Unbelievable.

I ran after him. He stumbled. And I and a sheriff’s deputy tackled him. We rolled him over to handcuff him and saw that he still clutched his weapon in his right hand and was squeezing the trigger repeatedly. To this day, I can still hear the click, click, click of the hammer each time it fell.

The gun was empty. He was out of ammunition.


Paramedics with wounded bank robber.

The bank robber died a few moments later. I’d killed him.

I didn’t know it—not a clue—but that’s precisely the moment my life ended, too. Well, the life I’d always known. The one where I was always happy. Never a worry. Happy…yeah, right. It wouldn’t be long before I’d forget that word existed. Not long at all.

The second my last bullet entered the robber’s body, his soul was already trying to make its way into my head, wanting to worm and writhe inside my thoughts and emotions.

You see, in those days there was no such thing as counseling and de-briefing. No post-shooting administrative leave. No desk duty. I was left to fend for myself. Tough cops were supposed to handle whatever came their way. And I was a tough-as-nails cop, or so I thought.

My chief actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up. In fact, he sent me to the morgue to photograph the body and to remove my handcuffs from the dead man’s wrists. I was stunned. After one of the most gut-wrenching and traumatic events of my life, I wasn’t even given the rest of the day off.

I’ll never forget the moment I pushed open the door to the morgue and saw the robber’s body lying there. No sheet. Just flesh on cool stainless steel. My eyes were immediately drawn to the tiny bullet wound on the side of his face. A line of rusty-brown blood had dried there, looking like a parched Arizona creek bed. I walked slowly toward the corpse and reached for the dead man’s wrists to unlock the handcuffs.

Just before my fingers touched the metal I saw that more blood had collected and dried in many of the nooks and crannies of the steel restraints. I had to take a moment to collect myself before I was actually able to touch them. And I tried really hard to not touch his skin. Really hard. But I couldn’t avoid it. It was cold and firm, like old jello that had sat in the refrigerator far too long.  I never used those handcuffs again.

Yes, a robber died that morning—a bad guy—and his soul left for wherever it is that troubled souls go. But a part of my emotions were tethered to him, and it was several years before they returned.

Two days after the shooting, my partner and I met with the medical examiner (this was the same medical examiner’s office where Patricia Cornwell based her Kay Scarpetta series).  Even though I’d watched each of my bullets travel through the air until they hit the robber’s flesh (those who shoot a lot have this ability), it still hit like a ton of bricks when she told me that all five of the rounds in the man’s body were fired by me. The famous pathologist spared no details. She described the damage caused by each bullet, and she told me which rounds were the life-stopping rounds. I could, and did, recall firing each one. Still can, just like it was yesterday.

In the beginning, the dead guy visited me only during my sleep. Soon, though, he grew restless and figured if he couldn’t sleep then neither would I. He began stopping by to see me while I was at work, and eventually he came to me during my off time. He walked beside me while I mowed the grass, and accompanied me to the store. His voice pierced my ears like shrill sirens. His spirit raked its jagged nails across the back of my neck just to let me know it was in the backseat as I drove my unmarked police car.

There was no downward spiral. No, for me it wasn’t that slow and easy. This was a free-fall straight to hell. Fortunately, just before I hit bottom I sought help on my own.

It took a few years to climb out of that dark pit, but I made it back and I actually think I’m a stronger person because of the experience. If nothing else, I have a real-life horror story to share.

Sixty-eight rounds of ammunition were fired during this shootout. The robber was hit five times, all five rounds were fired by me.  One police car was destroyed by gunfire. Luckily, no police officers were injured during the actual firefight. However, within a year after the shootout, one officer suffered a heart attack and died. He was 44. Two officers quit, and two retired (both are now dead). I, too, left law enforcement behind within a year after the shooting. Not one of us had received any de-briefing or counseling.

I’d say all total, there were six victims that day.


Police car destroyed by gunfire. That’s me with the cop/pornstar mustache. This photo was taken by a newspaper photographer just minutes after the robber had succumbed to his wounds.

*This is a repeat of an earlier blog post. If Castle can do reruns, then so can I.

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