Killing Your Readers with Bad “Stuff”


I’ve been writing this blog for over eight years and I admit that it’s sometimes tough to come up with a new topic each and every day. However, I suppose there’ll always be questions that need answering as long as writers continue to write stories about cops and crime. So … here are a few responses to recent inquiries.

(By the way, I’ve seen each of these used incorrectly in at least one book, or on someone’s blog).

1. Do revolvers eject spent brass with each pull of the trigger?

Answer – No, they do not. Spent brass must be manually ejected. Semi-autos, however, do indeed eject individual empty brass casings each time a round is fired.

2. I heard a stupid thing the other day. Someone told me that thermal imagers can “see” through black garbage bags, allowing officers to identify the contents without opening the bag. This is not true, right? 

Answer – This is true.

3. How many locks are on a pair of handcuffs? One or two?


Answer – Two.

4. Speed Loaders are competition shooters who are extremely skilled at loading their weapons in a very short amount of time, right?

Answer – Read about speed loaders here –

5. Isn’t it true that cars almost always explode when hit by gunfire.

Answer – No. In fact, the opposite is more likely to happen … no explosion at all.

6. A writer friend told me that DNA evidence is used to convict defendants in nearly every case. Is she correct?

Answer – DNA is rarely the deciding factor in a criminal case. Sure, it’s nice to have, but it’s not always available.

7. The FBI can take over any case, any time, from local police, so why do the locals bother?

Answer – This couldn’t be further from the truth. The FBI does not have the authority to take over a criminal case. Besides, they have a ton of their own cases to work, which, by the way, does not include murder (as a rule).

8. Do the Kevlar vests worn by officers (or similar types) also stop punctures from knives and other sharp objects.

Answer – No, they’re not designed to stop punctures from knives and other edged weapons. There are, however, vests that do guard against stabbing-type weapons, but they are typically worn by officers who work in prisons and jails.

9. Do cops have to release bad guys if they forget to read them their rights the moment they arrest them?

Answer – No, Miranda is required to be read/recited only when suspects are in custody AND prior to questioning. No questioning = no advisement of Miranda. Some departments may have policies that require Miranda advisement at the time of arrest, but it’s not mandated by law.

10. Are police officers required by law to wear seat belts while operating a police car?

Answer – No, not in all states. In fact, some state laws also allow certain delivery drivers to skip buckling up (USPS letter carriers, for example).


11. Are all deputy sheriffs sworn police officers?

Answer – No. Normally deputies who work in the jails are not police officers. On the other hand, sheriff’s deputies have far more responsibilities than you may be aware of, such as (click the link below to read about the duties of deputy sheriffs):


12. Coroners have to be medical doctors, don’t they?

Answer – No, in many areas corners are elected officials who have absolutely no medical training whatsoever. Actually, some California sheriffs also serve as county coroner.

13. Isn’t it true that small town police departments never investigate murder cases?

Answer – All police officers are trained to investigate crimes, and small town officers investigate homicides all the time.

14. Robbery and burglary are synonymous. I mean, they’re the same, right?

Answer – No, robbery and burglary are two entirely different crimes.

Robbery occurs when a crook uses physical force, threat, or intimidation to steal someone’s property. If the robber uses a weapon the crime becomes armed robbery, or aggravated robbery, depending on local law. There is always a victim present during a robbery.

For example, you are walking down the street and a guy brandishes a handgun and demands your money. That’s robbery.

Burglary is an unlawful entry into any building with the intent to commit a crime. Normally, there is no one inside the building when a burglary occurs. No physical breaking and entering is required to commit a burglary. A simple trespass through an open door or window, and the theft of an item or items, is all that’s necessary to meet the requirements to be charged with burglary.

For example, you are out for the night and someone breaks into your home and steals your television. That’s a burglary. Even if you are at home asleep in your bed when the same crime occurs, it’s a burglary because you weren’t actually threatened by anyone.

15. I once read that narcotics dogs are fed small amounts of cocaine at an early age to get them used to the drug. This is cruelty to animals and cops should be arrested for doing it.

Answer – This couldn’t be more false. Dogs are never, not ever, given narcotics of any type. Instead, they’re trained to locate drugs by their scents.


16. Shotguns and rifles are basically synonymous. I know this because my grandfather had both and used both to hunt wild game.

Answer – False. To read about and see the differences, please go HERE.

17. Has there ever been an escape death row?

Yes, and a great example is the escape of the Briley brothers from Virginia’s death row at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center.

18. Is there a gun that allows officers to shoot around corners?

Answer – Yes, and you can read about CornerShot here

19. Cops are definitely trained to aim for arms, legs, and/or to shoot a knife or gun from a suspect’s hand. This I know because I read it on a blog written by a popular activist and she should know.

Answer – Officers are taught to shoot center mass of their target. It is extremely difficult to hit small, moving targets while under duress. Therefore, officers DO NOT shoot hands, legs, elbows, or weapons (well, not on purpose). Your friend’s statement is totally incorrect.

20. Why do officers always shoot to kill? Couldn’t they shoot an arm or leg, or something?

Answer – See #19 above, and … Police officers are NEVER trained to “shoot to kill.” Instead, they’re taught to stop the threat. When the threat no longer exists the shooting stops, if it ever starts. Often, the threat ceases before shots are fired.

Shoot to Kill or to Wound? Here’s the Answer



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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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The Internet of Things: Who’s in Your Bed…or Toaster?


This is an article about your toasters, toothbrushes and TV’s, and your refrigerators and the locks on your front doors. Your new cars and baby monitors and your wrist-worn exercise trackers. And let’s not forget watches and even your mattress covers. Yes, I said mattress covers.

I’m talking about the “Internet of Things” and how our homes are ripe for anyone and everyone to use our gadgety-things as listening devices. That’s right, the tinfoil-hat-wearing-folks were absolutely and undeniably correct. Our toothbrushes are indeed capable of spying on us.


The Internet of Things is basically a system of sorts that’s built on cloud computing, where sensors built into our gadgets—FitBit, TV, appliances, etc.—send and store collected data. Information received from those sensors is what allows the above-mentioned mattress cover to learn your sleeping habits and then adjust the temperature of your bed to one that’s comfortable to you. It even monitors your sleep through the night and makes whatever changes that may be needed as the night goes on.

The mattress cover also learns your normal bedtime and prepares the bed for you in advance of your pajama-wearing arrival. And…it checks the door locks to be sure they’re secure, switches off lights, sets the home thermostat, sets the alarm clock, switches off the stereo should you have forgotten to do so, and it’s even capable of turning on the coffee pot as soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning.

The smart-mattress cover connects wirelessly to your other gadgets to gather intelligence about your daily activities, such as the amount of exercise you had and what you ate. It uses the data to create the perfect bedtime rest environment. This thing even wakes you when you’ve reached the precise moment of light sleep that’s optimal for starting your day.

Sure, all of this sounds wonderful, however, hackers can use current information to see when you’re in deep sleep and then use your very own mattress cover to switch off your alarm system, unlock your front door to gain access to and steal your other smart stuff, including the doorknob, if so desired. There’s even a built-in microphone and who knows what that’ll detect…

Next, your car with it’s fancy GPS, emergency response systems, and back-up cameras. Yes, those systems are easily hacked and easily used by both the government and bad guys, with the latter desiring to steal your car or to possibly kidnap the occupants. Hackers can listen to conversations, use the GPS to locate the car, and activate the camera to view its surroundings.

Of course, you’ve all heard about criminals activating baby monitors and other household cameras, and the WiFi enabled toys for the purpose of locating children. The same is so for wearers of exercise and activity monitoring devices whose wearers can be quickly and easily located.

Smart sensors are being installed in concrete bridge decks that will enable your car to know in advance if icy conditions exist, or if the bridge is damaged and in danger of structure failure. Your car will soon be able to communicate with bridges and roadways and then tell its driver to select an alternate route when problems exist.

Police body cams and dash cam video recording devices are all susceptible to hacking. I suppose it’s not necessary to detail how harmful it could be for a hacker to destroy official evidence footage.

Anyway, the Internet of Things is now freakishly huge and freakishly spooky. There’s even a search engine devoting to allowing subscribers view live streams of non password-protected webcams, such as those in baby monitors, security cameras, computers, and televisions. This particular search site also features back rooms of banks, marijuana grow operations, school classrooms, private residences, and more. Any camera that’s not protected could be sending its live feed to this site, among many others all over the world, including to your neighborhood robber-rapist-pedophile-killer’s computer.

Remember, some devices, especially newer ones, have the option of password protection and opting out of cloud storage and communication, but many users skip the “opt out” function during device set-up. 

Who knows, your car could soon talk to my car and tell it to stop tailgating. And, of course, my car could respond to yours with a flip of a middle mirror.

Seriously, secure your devices and encrypt the communication between them. Instruction manuals should provide all the necessary information. If you do nothing, the device may be set to send it’s data to a cloud thats accessible by the manufacturer which is likely in another country. And, by doing nothing you’re leaving your entire home open to cyber-snooping. Otherwise, set an extra place at the table and add another pillow to the bed, because you just might have unexpected company.

Sleep well tonight, my friends. Sleep well…


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