Happy Cops Whistle While They Work


While sitting at my desk trying super hard to come up with a new blog topic for the day, I heard the sound of a whistle blowing outside. The sharp but distant tweetings were coming from a nearby soccer field, signaling that what was likely an exciting game was currently underway. And then it hit me, I once wrote an article about, of all things, police whistles. So, without further adieu, I present to you … a Saturday “tweet.”


Police officers use whistles to attract the attention of motorists and pedestrians, and to call for assistance from fellow officers.

Prior to the use of whistles, officers used hand rattles to summon back up. Radios eventually took the place of whistles; however, the shrill-sounding devices are still used when directing traffic or for signaling pedestrians.

Types of police whistles.

(Wikipedia photo)

The model 300, a solid brass, nickel-plated whistle, comes with a water-resistant cork ball. This high-quality piece of police equipment can even be imprinted with a logo of choice.

Finger whistles are equipped with an adjustable finger band.

Whistles are available in various colors, such as those pictured below. They’re made of molded plastic.

Whistle with lanyard and rubber safety tip.

Rubber safety tips in assorted colors.

Whistle hook (pins to uniform shirt).

20″ snake chain with button hook (attaches to shirt button and whistle).

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 9.48.04 AM

Civilian Safety Packs contain a whistle for blowing when in danger, and a key ring that can be used as a weapon of self-defense. The manufacturer advertises this pack as being ideal for people who live alone, college students, women, and senior citizens.

24K gold-plated whistles are sometimes presented as awards. They come in velvet-lined walnut cases.

And, just for fun, the number one song on this day in 1966.


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Gunpowder and Lead: The Firearms Stuff You Might Not Know … But Should


Guns. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. As writers, though, you probably handle them, if only in your minds, more often than the average person. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what it is you’re trusting your characters to carry and use as part of their crime-fighting tool box. So, to help your heroes sound as if they really know their stuff, here are a dozen not-so-well-known firearm facts.

1. Not all firearms require official registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Those that do include machine guns, short-barrel rifles (barrel less than 16? in length) and shotguns (barrel less than 18? in length), silencers, gadget-type firearms (pen and cellphone guns, etc.), *destructive devices, and what ATF calls “any other weapons.”

*Destructive devices include Molotov cocktails, bazookas, anti tank guns (over .50 cal.), and mortars. Interestingly  grenade and rocket launchers that attach to military rifles are not considered to be destructive devices. However, grenades and rockets are listed as destructive devices.

*Any other weapons include Ithaca Auto-Burglar guns, H&R Handy-gun, and cane guns.

Violators caught with a non-registered NFA firearm may be fined not more than $250,000, and imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

2. Dealers who sell gas masks must be registered with ATF. It takes 4-6 weeks for the agency to process the registration paperwork.

3. Parts or devices that are designed to convert a firearm into a NFA firearm must be registered with ATF.

4. The semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) ban went into effect on September 13, 1994. The law made it illegal to manufacture or possess SAW’s. The law expired 10 years later on September 13, 2004.

5. The ban on large capacity ammunition feeding devices (magazines, belts, drums, etc.) went into effect on September 13, 1994. It, too, expired 10 years later, on September 13, 2004.

6. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is in place to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives (not a convicted felon or otherwise ineligible). The system is utilized each time someone purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer. NICS is maintained by the FBI. More than 100 million checks have been conducted since the system was initiated. 700,000 of those checks resulted in denials.

7. Muzzleloading cannons are NOT classified as destructive devices.

8. Machine guns may be legally transferred (sold) from one registered owner to another. *Note – the firearms you’ve seen in the news, the ones so often incorrectly referred to as assault weapons, are NOT machine guns.

9. It is illegal to manufacture, import, and/or sell armor-piercing ammunition. However, this law does not apply to those who manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition to the government of the United States or any its departments or agencies, or to any state government or any department and/or agency thereof. It is also legal to manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition for the purpose of exporting to other countries.

ATF defines armor-piercing ammunition as:

(a) projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or

(b) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

10. Brandish – to display all or part a firearm, or make it known a firearm is present, for the purpose of intimidating another. “Cops charged my cousin with brandishing a firearm. He’ll do six months in county for this one. It’s the second time he’s done it.”

11. It is illegal for persons convicted of crimes of violence to purchase or possess body armor.

12. Gun sales to foreign embassies on U.S. soil are considered exports; therefore, typical gun sale paperwork is not required. Instead, dealers need to obtain only one of the following – an official purchase order from the foreign mission, payment from foreign government funds, a written document from the agency head stating the weapons are being purchased by the embassy, not an individual. Standard laws apply to individual parties/diplomats.

Bonus – It is illegal to knowingly sell a gun to anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances. It is also illegal to knowingly sell a firearm to someone has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.

*     *     *

I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he’s got one

I’m gonna show him what little girls are made of
Gunpowder and lead

Miranda Lambert ~ Gunpowder and Lead

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Revolver v. Pistol: Do You Know the Difference?

Pistol (semi-automatic)

The term “Pistol” means a weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having:

  • a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s);
  • and a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).

Pistol nomenclature (below)


The term “Revolver” means a projectile weapon of the pistol type, having a breechloading chambered cylinder so arranged that the cocking of the hammer or movement of the trigger rotates it and brings the next cartridge in line with the barrel for firing.

Revolver nomenclature (below)

*All of the above (text and images) are from ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). Thanks to the folks at ATF for allowing the reproduction and use.

For Writers: Semi-autos and fully automatic (machine guns) automatically eject spent cartridges. Revolvers DO NOT. Therefore, writers, chances are slim and mostly none of finding empty revolver cartridges at a crime scene. Please remember this when writing the “aha” moment in your WIP.

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Body Cameras: Smile While You’re Hitting Me


If only police wore body cameras…

“Body cameras will reduce violence.”

“Wear a camera and assaults against officers will decrease.”

“There will be less incidents of force by officers if they’re forced to wear body cameras.”

Those were just some of the comments we heard when the issue of police body cameras first began to emerge. So yes, police officers across the U.S. have begun to wear cameras as part of their duty gear, but the results of their use are a bit surprising.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge worked with eight police forces across the UK and US—West Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Northern Ireland’s PSNI, as well as Ventura, California and Rialto, California. The research (a large study involving 2,122 officers, 2.2 million officer-hours, and interaction with 2 million citizens) was comprised of ten randomized-controlled trials where officers either wore body cameras that were switched on the entire time of their shifts, did not wear body cameras, or they wore cameras but were permitted to switch them on or off at the officers’ discretion.

The results:

  • Use of force incidents by officers wearing cameras fell by 37% (suspects readily complied with officer commands).
  • Use of force rose by 71% among officers who were permitted to switch cameras on and off at their discretion.
  • The rate of assaults against officers wearing cameras increased by 15% as opposed to non-camera-wearing officers.
  • Assaults against officers were greater in number when the officer told a suspect they were being recorded or when they announced they were switching on their cameras.
  • Officers wearing cameras reported more assaults against them as opposed to the officers who were not wearing cameras. It’s thought that officers wearing cameras felt they could report assaults because they had video proof of the incidents.

Further study is needed to determine if wearing a body camera causes officers to feel less confident/self-assured which could result in being more vulnerable and susceptible to assault. This could be the cause for the increase in number of attacks against camera-wearing officers.

An odd thing about the study is that it showed the results varied from one area to another, meaning that camera use in one location within a city may produce a different reaction in another. For example, the presence of a body camera could be welcomed in the south side of AnyTown, but in the north side the presence of a body camera they might anger those residents. The same is true from town to town. Town A citizens might love seeing their officers wearing cameras. However, Town B citizens may feel resentment or enticed to use violence against the officers who’re recording their actions.

My take on the study results – body cameras may or may not be a good thing, and whether they are or are not is controlled by a number of influences over both the police and citizens, including human judgement, human error, and even human emotion—fear, shame, pride, etc. So, like anything else where split second decisions are made…it depends. That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it…maybe.


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Officer, Please Button Your Shirt and Zip Up Your Pants!


Working the graveyard shift was always a thorn in my side, and the reason for the ill will boils down to the simple fact that I like to sleep when the rest of the humans I know are sleeping. Yes, I too, like to go to bed when the moon is in the sky, when birds are roosting, and when sweet, darling burglars are out and about plying their trade.

If, by design, man should earn a living at the time when bats are flitting, fluttering, and circling streetlights, well, we’d most certainly have leathery wings and would sit down to plates of steaming hot mosquitos for our evening meals. We’d have built-in night vision, and we’d enjoy long walks in cemeteries. So yeah, in spite of once being a hardcore night person who for many years played guitar in bands that performed in dive bars and clubs across the south, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open once the clock struck 4 a.m. That particular time, of course, was the precise moment when the sandman began to tug downward on the invisible strings attached to my eyelids. I prefer to sleep AT NIGHT. Thank you very much.

But, being a person who truly enjoyed receiving a regular paycheck, at 11 p.m. each night of the midnight shift rotation, I’d shower and shave and then begin the process of transforming from gardener, cook, dad, husband, neighbor, repairman, mechanic, and carpenter, into the police officer known to the citizens on my watch. By the way, this metamorphosis must be completed in near silence because your family is fast asleep and dreaming of unicorns and fairies and happy thoughts of not having to go to work or school in the middle of the night.

So, after a dab of Old Spice to cool the sensitive post-shave cheeks, came the installation of proper undergarments—boxers, briefs, or whatever bottom-huggers were your preference, if any. This step also includes putting on a pair of anaconda-strength, calf-crushing socks that’re designed to never slip downward. After all, there are not many things worse than having your socks inch toward your ankles while you’re sprinting through backyards and alleys trying to catch the guy who just robbed the clerk at Billy’s BBQ and Butt-Waxing Emporium.

Also included in the installation of the “unmentionables,” was donning a cooling t-shirt. These handy articles of clothing are designed to wick moisture, ward off humidity, and reduce the beneath-the-Kevlar temperature to a manageable 2,000 degrees instead of the typical “bake-a-loaf-of-bread-in-under-two-seconds” heat every officer endures on a daily basis, especially the men and women who work in areas of extreme humidity.

The type of trousers officers wear depends upon their assignment and/or department policy. For now, let’s put our feet, legs, and rear end into a pair of those fancy polyether pants, the ones with the sporty racing stripes that stretch from waist to ankle on the outside of each leg. That material is as slick and odd-feeling as eel snot when the eel is suffering from a bad summer cold.

Once the pants are on it’s best to leave them unfastened until tucking the front and rear tails of the vest carrier (the material that holds the Kevlar panels in place) into your trousers. I knew several officers who also tucked the tails of their undershirts into their underwear to prevent the loose material from riding up and going all wonky beneath the vest. A dress belt is slipped through each of the pant loops (more on this belt in a moment).

After the pants are in place it’s time for the shiny shoes, which, by the way, are fabricated from some sort of space-age stay-shiny-all-the-time material. The days of shoe-shining, thankfully, went out with the round red bubblegum lights perched on the tops of patrol cars. Although, I sort of missed shining my own shoes because the scent of shoe polish was sort of comforting, much like the cooking smells at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

I say now is the time to put on the shoes because it’s far easier to do so BEFORE putting on the Kevlar vest, a contraption that hinders bending over, taking deep breaths, and scratching those pesky itches that always occur the moment the vest is strapped in place.

This thing, “the vest,” a life-saving piece of gear for sure, is like strapping two chunks of dense clay to your chest and back. You slip the thing over your head, taking care to not whack yourself in the noggin, a blow that could induce instananeous unconsciousness. Heaven forbid you should wake the rest of the family when your body hits the floor, right? Anyway, a quick pull on the velcro straps while mashing the hooks and loops together, and then you’re ready to reach for the shirt.

The uniform shirt, a billboard of sorts that advertises an officer’s rank, length of  time in service, conduct status, how well they shoot, and even their name in case a safe-space-rock-tossing protester for the cause du jour wants to include it in the latest social media video, is the most complicated garment of them all. And that’s due to those various pins, medals, and badges that must be arranged and fastened in their respective places. It helps to do all of this in advance because it’s a bit tedious and time-consuming.

There’s a spot on the shirt that’s designed specifically for the badge. It’s easy to spot due to the two permanently sewn-in badge tabs which help prevent excessive wear and tear on the material caused by daily pinning and unpinning. The shirts also feature permanent sewn-in military creases, stiff collar stays, and a slick, stain-resistant finish for repelling blood, grime, and other “goop” that could find it’s way onto the material during a scuffle or bad burrito spill. Some uniform shirts are also fitted with zip-up fronts, in which case the zippers are covered by a thin strip of vertical material and row of buttons that serve no purpose other than to give the appearance that they’re used to button-up the shirt. Zippered shirts are great because bad guys cannot rip and pop the buttons during a friendly “encounter.”

Here’s an example of some do-dads worn by officers.

From top to bottom:

– Name tag.

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

– Pistol expert (in our area, 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 Commonwealth of Virginia (many years ago).

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

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.

Unfortunately, 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 officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.

So, with all articles of the uniform in place, you are now in position to tuck the tails of the vest carrier into the pants, button up, zip up, close up, buckle the dress belt, and then add the final piece to the puzzle…the gun belt.

Gun belts wrap around the waist, hook in the front, and are attached to the dress belt to hold it in place. Belt keepers are are used to connect the gun belt to the dress belt. Their purpose is to prevent the gun belt from falling down around the ankles, an act that could cause a bit of embarrassment, and make drawing the weapon extremely difficult.

Two belt keepers, between the two handcuff cases, loop over both the gun belt and the dress belt. They’re held together by the two pairs of silver snaps pictured here. Some keepers have only one snap. Belt keepers are worn in various locations around the belt. Specific placement and the number of keepers used is up to the officer and depends upon where support is needed.

So, once the officer is properly attired and outfitted, it’s time to tiptoe out the front door, taking care to not wake anyone. However, the leather creaks, keys, jingle, shoes squeak, and the radio crackles. But you look fantastic, even with the trail of toilet tissue stuck to the bottom of one super-shiny shoe. It’s a shame, though, that all the clunky and heavy gear and care you put into looking sharp and dressing sharp prevents you from bending over to far enough to remove it.

So, you make your first split-second decision of the night. The toilet tissue stays and off you go.

Hopefully, somewhere between eight and twelve hours later the sweaty and exhausted officer, the one with the wrinkled and rumpled uniform, will return home where he/she will begin the process in reverse…and then try to sleep when the sun is high in the sky, the streetlights are off, and while the rest of the family is banging and clanging around the house, the TV is blaring, the neighbor is mowing his lawn, a mockingbird is singing its ass off in the tree next to their window, and the dog is licking their face.

Oh, and let’s not forget trying to drift off to sleep while thoughts of the auto crashes, shooting and stabbing victims, pursuits, fights, and battered kids and women all are flashing through their minds.

Yeah, sweet dreams…



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You Actually Think Your Cell Phone Conversation is Private…LOL


Worried about government overreach? How about the pesky invasion of your privacy by law enforcement officials and agencies?

Does it bother you that the government, along with fictional mystery writer/PI Richard Castle and crew, has the capability to see practically every step you make and listen to nearly every word you speak? Or, does your next book need a cool high-tech twist? Yes or no, you might want to take a moment to ponder these…

1. Cellbrite Battlefield Recovery – a portable handheld device used to suck a device/phone dry of its data. Extracts photos, text messages, videos, and call logs. You could purchase this cool thingamajig for $9,920, plus a 1 year fee of $900 to cover support and maintenance.

2. Raven – used to interrogate and geolocate target phones. *To interrogate a phone means to trick the target phone into sending its identifiers. Geolocate is to determine the location of a target phone. The Raven can be utilized from fixed wing aircraft or on the ground. The Raven price tag is a modest $800,000.

3. Blackfin – for listening in on calls and viewing text messages. For the low, low fee of $75,000, you, too, can own one these little darlings.

4. DRT (aka “dirt box”) – targets and locates up to 10,000 devices (phones) and tricks them into “thinking” the DRT is a cell tower. DRT then collects and analyzes data, including voice data. Can be used from aircraft or ground. DRT, a soup-up version of the Stingray, has the capability of capturing data from up to 10,000 devices during a single flight/operation. DRT = $100,000. Stingray = $134,952.

5. Stargrazer III – locates devices, captures their data, and jams their signals preventing users from making and receiving calls.

6. Thoracic – handheld cell phone tracking device. Pinpoints location of target phones. $7,500.

*It is believed (it’s true, but you didn’t hear from me) that devices such as the Stingray and DRT are capable of intercepting private conversations by using the person’s cell phone as a “bug.” Simply use the phone’s firmware remotely and it’s like becoming the “fly on the wall.” Some of you may remember the old party-lines where you could pick up your receiver and listen in on the conversations of your neighbors? Yeah, t’s like that.

Isn’t it funny how we’ve traveled full circle, from people wanting to move away from party line phones because they weren’t private, to sophisticated cell phone technology that requires expensive high-tech equipment and resources to transform our newfangled and complicated gadgets back into party line phones.

*For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of sharing your phone line with neighbors.



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