Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Time it Takes to Die, Several Times

New Picture (2)


There it is, the word sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the movie “Mary Poppins.” Now, say it out loud. Or, if you prefer, say it in reverse – dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes. Either way, it takes us somewhere between one and two seconds for it to roll off our tongues, give or take a tenth of a second or two. That’s pretty quick, yes?

I suppose I could stop here and let you go about the remainder of your day with this ear worm digging its way into your brain:

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious


Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay…

But let’s stick with the time it takes to say that word. For me it’s somewhere between 1.01 seconds and 1.22 seconds, depending upon how quickly I start after clicking the button on the stopwatch.

Now, imagine that you’re a police officer who’s responded to a call where a suspect used a baseball bat to beat his spouse and children. You arrive at the scene and hear yelling, screams, and children crying from inside the home. You knock. No answer. Still more screaming. You force open the door and rush inside where you’re immediately faced with a man pointing a handgun at a badly battered woman. He begins to turn toward you. How do you respond to the threat, and how long does it take to do so?

Well, your body and brain must first of all figure out what’s going on (perception). Then the brain instructs the body to stand by while it analyzes the scenario (okay, he has a gun and I think I’m about to be shot). Next, while the body is still on hold, the brain begins to formulate a plan (I’ve got to do something, and I’d better do it asap). Finally, the brain pokes the body and tells it to go for what it was trained to do—draw pistol, point the business end of it at the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, squeeze trigger.

To give you an idea as to how long it takes a trained police officer to accomplish those steps, let’s revisit Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep, and that wacky word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Remember, it takes us a little over one second to say the entire word.

New Picture (3)

To put this scenario into perspective, a police officer’s quickest reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds. That’s far less than half the very brief time it takes Bert to sing that famous word, and certainly not enough time to stop, draw a weapon from its holster, take aim, yell a bunch of commands, check for passersby, look for accomplices, and, well, you get the idea.

So, when confronted with a potential deadly force situation, officers must perceive/identify the threat, evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, and then set that plan in motion, and they must do so in the time it takes to say “supercali.” Not even the entire word—about the time it takes to blink.

Go ahead, try it. Blink one time and then think about all the cool things you could accomplish during the time it took to quickly close and open your eyes.


During a traffic stop in Arkansas, a passenger in a vehicle shot at officers, killing one. The man fired the first round at the face of one officer. That shot occurred in less than supercali. Actually, it was more like, su-BANG!

The suspect then continued to fire at the other officers on scene, shooting several rounds during our imaginary supercalifragilisticexpialidocious timeframe. The officers were not able to return fire.

How about you? Are you able to make extremely complex decisions in less than a second? How about decisions that involve life or death?

Blink. A suspect just fired a round at you.

I dare say that many of us can’t decide what to select from a fast food menu within that scant time frame.

Blink. Round number two. Have you managed to draw your pistol yet?

Sure, it’s super easy to look back at deadly force incidents and offer opinions as to how they should, or should not have been handled. But only the people who were there at the precise moment the trigger was pulled know the real story. They alone know how they perceived and reacted to the threat to them and/or others.

Again, officers often have less than a second to react, and a lifetime to deal with the decision, if the officer survives the encounter.

SU …

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.34.57 PM

Read more
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

Read more
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



Read more
20 Things Cops Should and Shouldn’t Do




*I must mention that it is okay to lie to suspects during interviews and interrogations when the purpose of the lie is to garner a confession (a lie, not coercion or intimidation), save a life, etc. But to lie at any other time is not acceptable. Not ever.

Read more