I started The Graveyard Shift a few years ago in response to requests from numerous authors, most of whom are mystery and crime writers. Actually, many of those requests came from members of MWA and SinC. The first day I posted an article the site received a whopping 68 visits. I won’t say how many hits and emails we receive today, but it’s in the thousands, from all over the world. The blog is translated into several languages, and it’s used as a research tool for numerous school projects. The latter is why I do not allow bad language or other material that’s not suitable for children. And, believe me, it’s tough to maintain that standard when you’re writing about cops and criminals. But we try.

The Graveyard Shift has come a long way since our first day online. We’ve undergone major changes in the appearance, and we’ve had to increase the bandwidth a few times to keep up with the amount of traffic received. On Christmas Day, a couple of years ago, the site shut down because it couldn’t keep up with the incoming hits. Thankfully, our web host was able to take care of the problem even though it was a major holiday.

We’ve been both proud and fortunate to have featured many top-of-the-line guests on the site, including bestselling authors, TV and film writers, actors, law enforcement and forensic experts, literary agents, publishers, and professionals from other fields of interest to writers, readers, and TV viewers. We’ve advertised books and other products for our guests, and even a few connections between authors, agents, and publishers have been made as result of The Graveyard Shift. The idea for the Writers’ Police Academy (something else we do for the benefit of writers) was conceived as a result of The Graveyard Shift and reader response. Proceeds from that event are for the benefit of the criminal justice foundation at the police academy where the event is held.

This site is basically a free service for writers and anyone else who happens to drop by. We don’t make a dime from it. Never have. In fact, it costs us quite a bit of money to produce, and that’s not to mention the huge amount of time that’s put into bringing current information and material to our readers.

Somebody out there must like The Graveyard Shift because the amount of traffic we receive is astounding. Knowing that we’ve been able to help, in some small way, has been wonderful. But…and there’s always a but, huh? So here goes:

Normally, when a topic that I believe would be of benefit to the writing community (I base this on the questions I receive, chatter I hear from writers, and things I’ve read in books), I’ll post a quick mention of that topic and a link to the site on a few writer group loops. Apparently that practice, and this blog, have offended a handful of people on a couple of the loops. Those folks have expressed concern that my brief ads regarding the topic of the day are a form of self-promotion and that I should not be allowed to continue posting those short messages. Honestly, self-promotion was never my intention. Since the first post of this blog my intention has merely been to help writers with their work. I do not post the link to this site as a method of BSP. Besides, I have nothing of my own to promote. No new books.  Nothing. And, the site is free to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.

So, I’m torn between trying to help and continuing with business as usual, or changing our entire game plan.  We certainly don’t want to offend any more people than we already have. I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas, since you’re the reason we do this. Do you want to know when we’ve posted a particularly important topic?

You know,

when I post those one-line ads it’s normally because I’ve read something wrong about police procedure or forensics in somebody’s book. Was it yours?


A Philadelphia police officer used a Taser to take down a 17-year-old boy who ran onto the field during a Phillies game. The boy ran around the outfield for a few seconds before being brought down by the Taser’s electrified probes.

A December 2009 ruling by the liberal-leaning Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set judicial standards for police and their use of Tasers. “The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public,” said Judge Kim Wardlaw in the ruling.

So, what’s your opinion? Was the officer’s Taser use justified in this case? Was there a threat to the officer or anyone else?  Were restraint options other than Taser use available to security and police? Keep in mind that it is illegal to trespass on the ball field.

By the way, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, “The officer acted appropriately, and I support him 100 percent.”

– It seems that this incident was not much of a deterrence. The next day a second fan made his way onto the field, but was captured without the use of a Taser. Security managed to grab this one the old fashioned way, with their hands.

* 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

Officer down!

Two simple words with a huge meaning — life or death.

When searching for a topic for today’s blog I stumbled across a series of troubling headlines, many involving the shooting of police officers by a thug with a gun who thought nothing of pulling the trigger. In fact, shooting and killing a police officer in these modern times is an act regarded by some as no more serious than swatting a fly.

When did society make this turn, where a human life is no more valuable than that of an insect? Kids can longer travel to Mexico during spring break out of fear of being gunned down or beheaded by members of drug cartels. A simple walk in a park sometimes leads to a missing person case that all too often ends with the discovery of a body in a landfill or shallow grave in the woods. Suicide bombers kill anybody they can, doesn’t matter who. They just want to kill somebody.

Police officers respond to calls of domestic violence only to be shot by the very people they’re trying to help. Traffic stops result in gun fire. Bank robberies and convenience store hold-ups end in shoot outs.

Each and every day police officers are slapped, punched, spit on, kicked, stabbed, cut, and shot. All while enforcing laws, and protecting citizens and their property.

Cops didn’t band together and write up a bunch of laws so they’d have something to do.

It wasn’t a police officer who one day decided to make pot illegal, which, by the way, was the cause of two Baltimore, Md, police officers being shot this past weekend. Officers stopped a car and subsequently found marijuana. During the arrest of the car’s occupants the driver pulled a .25 caliber pistol and fired. He shot one officer in the cheek and the other in the hand. The suspect was shot and killed by the third officer at the scene.

Each Friday I post a list of officers killed in the line of duty during that week. As most of you know, I rarely ever report a death-free week. What you don’t see are the survivors — the officers who are hurt, wounded, or involved in shooting situations during the course of their shifts. To give you an idea of what goes on, here are just a few of the headlines for the past couple of weeks.

Jacksonville, Fl. – Arrest Made After Two Florida Cops Shot During Pursuit

Citrus Heights, Ca. – California Officers Shot During Struggle With Suspect

Baltimore – Maryland Officer Shot At Traffic Stop, Suspect Killed

Salt Lake City – DA Says Officer Justified In Shooting

Hemet – California Police Tense After Latest Gang Threat (police stations and cars have been booby-trapped with explosives, gas, and other deadly weapons)

Oak Hill – West Virginia Cop Survives Shooting; Manhunt For Suspect

Atlanta – Suit Says Ga. Cop Wasn’t Certified When He Shot Suspect

Elyria – Ohio Cop Killed Responding To Disturbance

Anaheim – Off-duty Cop Fatally Shoots Violent Man

Jefferson – North Carolina Officer Dies At the End Of His Shift

Philadelphia – Pa. Gun Trafficker Gets Ten Years After Cop’s Death

Liberty County – Texas Sheriff’s Deputies Shot, Suspect Dead

What has happened to people? Why are things as they are? Are bad things influencing good people? Are people copying what they see and hear?

Video games?

News?

Movies?

TV?

Bad parenting? Poor education? What????

Why do people kill? Why do the lives of police officers mean nothing to some people?

I ask you, would you want a job where going to work meant you might be stabbed, shot, or even killed? And people wonder why cops can’t trust anyone.

I’m just saying…

Police dogs are fearless animals, and so are their handlers – fearless, that is. So are patrol officers, investigators, motorcycle cops, bike officers, SWAT team members, hostage negotiators, corrections officers, and everyone else who wears a badge and swears to uphold the law and protect people and their property.

Everybody who raises their right hand to take that oath knows there’s a certain amount of danger involved with the job. They know there’s a chance that they just may get a little boo-boo every now and then – a scraped knee, or even a loose tooth or two. I, like many officers, have been cut, punched, and slapped silly. In fact, I still have a few boxes of band-aides that look like crime scene tape. It’s just a part of the job.

Officers are going to get injured. If they don’t, then they’re not pulling their weight on the street. But the point is, every cop knows the risks, and should not expect pristine, accident-free working conditions. A cop’s job is simply not the same as that of a concert pianist, or the guy who tests feather pillows for a living.

You know, the moment when your new boss hands you a gun, a handful of bullets, and a bullet-proof vest, is the moment, if there’s a doubt, when the average person should ask the new supervisor if there’s any danger involved in his newly chosen career. I do believe most people would pick up on those subtle clues without having to ask. Still, someone for the “Here’s your sign” club always seems to slip through the cracks.

“…I learned to drive an 18 wheeler in my days of adventure. Wouldn’t ya know I misjudged the height of a bridge. The truck got stuck and I couldn’t get it out no matter how I tried. I radioed in for help and eventually a local cop shows up to take the report. He went through his basic questioning. No problem. I thought for sure he was clear of needing a sign… until he says “So..is your truck stuck?” I couldn’t help myself! I looked at him, looked back at the rig, then back to him and said, “No I’m delivering a bridge …Here’s your sign!”

I’ve said all this to tell you a little story about Officer George Gabaldon, an Albuquerque, New Mexico police officer. In 2006, Officer Gabaldon was working patrol, a job he was hired to do (he’d already received his gun, bullets, and vest), when he and another officer stopped a truck that was traveling in the wrong lane of travel. In fact, the truck almost hit Officer Gabaldon’s patrol vehicle head on. See, there’s one of the dangers of the job right there. Hey, Gabaldon, this was a clue. Danger was approaching!

As it turns out, the truck was stolen. Danger clue number two. Bad guys who drive stolen cars are normally pretty desperate to get away, therefore they do crazy things like riding on flat tires, or even riding on just the metal rims when they run out of rubber (For some reason, these dummies always seem to have flat tires). Well, lo and behold, that’s exactly what Gabaldon and his partners were faced with on that particular November night – dangerous crooks riding on metal rims. Any cop’ll tell you that’s a bad combination.

Officer Gabaldon correctly called for backup. After all, a dead hero is exactly that…dead. Cops come out of the woodwork like frenzied roaches when one of the fellow Boys in Blue calls for assistance, and things were no different in this case. Even one of the city’s canine units rolled up to lend a hand and four paws. Those desperadoes weren’t getting away from Gabaldon and crew. No, sir! Besides, there’s safety in numbers. That’s why you see forty or fifty dozen police cars on the side of the road parked behind a VW Beetle while displaying enough spinning, flashing, and blinking candlepower to serve as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon light show. No one wants to get hurt. Everyone wants to go home safe and sound at the end of the shift.

Okay, so here’s how we stand – stolen car, desperate criminals, Gabaldon and crew are ordering the men out of the car at gunpoint. Nothing out of the ordinary. A typical felony traffic stop. Cops make stops like this one all the time, nearly every single night of their lives.

Well, here’s where things started to go a little south for Officer Gabaldon. He was approaching the passenger’s side of the car when the sound of a police canine barking and running approached from the rear. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, a police dog can single-pawedly take down a man and hold him until its handler arrives to cuff and stuff the crook (We haven’t quite figured out how to train canines to handcuff bad guys. Something about a lack of fingers for cuffing, and no pockets to hold the keys). The cavalry was on the way, right?

Unfortunately, the highly-trained dog had set it’s sights on Gabaldon, not the car thief. So the animal did what he knew best. It bit Officer Gabaldon on the leg, and then refused to let go, which is what it was trained to do – hang on until given the command to release. It was a mess to say the least. Gabaldon sat bleeding on the pavement until he could be treated by medical personnel.

Granted, being bitten by a dog is a very unpleasant ordeal, especially when that animal is a police dog that will not let go, no matter what. And the more you struggle, the harder it bites. The animals know they’re supposed to keep the bad guys in that spot until their boss shows up to tell them how truly wonderful they are. After all, that’s what the dogs live for, to please their handlers. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, Gabaldon decides to sue (the suit is nearing its end this year). After all, he claims the city wouldn’t even pay to have his torn pants repaired. He says the pain he suffered as a result of the dog bite was unbearable, and I’ll have to agree with him on the pain part of his complaint. I know when I went through the state police academy with my dog I was bitten several times by several dogs during the 2,141,920 week training class (I know, but it seemed as if it lasted that long!).

Now, here’s where stupid just gets stupid…

I’m not sure how much monetary compensation Officer Gabaldon is seeking, but I do know that he’s asking the courts to change the way police canines are trained. He wants them to stop biting. Instead, he’s asking that the animals be completely muzzled and be trained to locate dangerous murders and rapists and then merely stand there barking at them – no holding with their teeth. He says law enforcement absolutely does not need biting dogs – they’re just too dangerous to have around. No place for them in the business. The fact that he got bitten should come as no surprise, Gabaldon said, since the intent is for the dog to bite after being unleashed, without a muzzle. Duh.

Okay, to clear up a point for you writers. Police canines (the ones trained to bite, not explosive or cadaver dogs) are trained to focus on a specific target that’s pointed out to them by their handlers (there’s a little secret code that’s shared between the dog and handler). If you attended the Writers’ Police Academy last year, you saw an excellent demonstration of this by one of Hamilton PD’s canines (below).


That dog locked on his target and never once once took its eyes off the man (Officer Dave Crawford who kindly volunteered to wear the bite sleeve). I have to say, in the case of Gabaldon’s bite, I believe there may have been a bit of handler error. BUT, I cannot say this for sure because I was not there. But I can say this for sure, a dog that’s only allowed to bark at a gun-wielding murderer will be about as effective as sending in the…

Attack Bunny!

I’m just saying…

*     *     *

Writers Police Academy

* FYI – If you have chance , please stop by Murderati. Cornelia Read invited me over there to grill me about the Writers’ Police Academy.

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Writing Contest is now open!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Contest Award winner will receive The Silver Bullet Award, free Writers’ Police Academy registration ($235 value), and have the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript to one of the judges (to be determined later based upon the genre and work itself). Additional prizes forthcoming. Here’s your chance to get your work in front of top agents and publishers! The contest is open to the general public and writers from all genres, not just academy registrants and mystery writers!

Please visit the Writers’ Police Academy website for details. www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Contest judges are:

Annette Rogers, Acquisitions Editor of the Poisoned Pen Press, searches for new, unpublished mystery writers. Recent successes include Carolyn Wall SWEEPING UP GLASS, Jeffrey Siger MURDER ON MYKONOS, and Edward Ifkovic LONE STAR. In addition she evaluates and edits manuscripts, corresponds with writers and agents, and fends off Facebook friend requests. Rogers published a bestselling travel book on EGYPT-translated into six languages, wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine, and covered court hearings on the Mormon Bomber case for Time/Life. She has a Masters Degree in History and English. www.poisonedpenpress.com

Benjamin LeRoy is a founder of Tyrus Books-a publisher specializing in crime and dark literary fiction. Before starting Tyrus in July of 2009, he founded and ran Bleak House Books. He lives in Madison, WI where he works on his own writing and is endlessly fascinated with the history of baseball. www.tyrusbooks.com

Elizabeth Pomada worked at David McKay, Holt Rinehart & Winston, and the Dial Press in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1970 with her partner and husband, Michael Larsen. Together, they started Michael Larsen – Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Since then, they have sold books from hundreds of authors to more than 100 publishers. Elizabeth is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives, The Author’s Guild, ASJA, WNBA and co-founder with Michael of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change conference. www.larsen-pomada.com

Kimberley Cameron began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York. She worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. Her associate Elizabeth Evans opened Reece Halsey New York in 2008, and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates. www.kimberleycameron.com

Okay, so the Feds say they won’t raid facilities that sell legal medical marijuana, but they do anyway. States pass laws allowing the sale and use of medical marijuana, but the DEA still suits up and arrests the sellers, growers, and users. Well, some users were fed up with the constant worry of being arrested, so they began manufacturing a synthetic LEGAL form of marijuana called K2. Yep, this stuff produces a nearly identical high by replicating the effects of THC, the high-producing chemical that’s found in marijuana. And there are no laws anywhere that regulate the manufacture, sale, or possession of the stuff.

K2 was developed by one of Professor John Huffman’s students in a Clemson University chemistry laboratory. The student discovered the chemical while studying the effects of pharmaceuticals on the brain. The new chemical was named JWH-018 (JWH are Professor Huffman’s initials).

Professor Huffman collaborated with researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and began a study of the effects of K2 on laboratory mice. The scientists quickly noted that K2 is more potent than marijuana. However, human users say the effects, while slightly similar to marijuana, simply are not the same, nor are they as pleasant.

There have been no studies conducted regarding the effects of K2 on the human body. No one knows what harm could occur as a result of smoking the newly discovered chemical. But many users say they don’t care, because they no longer have the fear of arrest and imprisonment that’s associated with smoking pot.

One user said a K2 “buzz” did not last nearly as long as a marijuana high. He went on to say that he’d rather spend a few extra dollars to purchase the real thing. Other users offered these comments about K2:

“Made me nauseous. I had to lie down immediately after smoking it.”

“It’s fairly comparable to a pot high, but it tasted like cloves.”

“The world just seemed to tick a bit slower.”

“It dulled my senses.”

“Gave me cottonmouth.”

“No red eye!”

“I could smoke this at work and no one would be able to tell!”

“I was very paranoid after smoking it. Two thumbs up!!”

“Oh, I’d definitely do this again.”

K2, also known as Spice. Genie, and Zohai, is available in stores for legal purchase. While K2 does not test positive for THC, it does show positive test results for synthetic cannabinoids, which doesn’t really matter because because the synthetic form is legal, for now. Needless to say, this is something that’s very attractive to former marijuana users who are now on probation or parole and must submit regular/random urine samples for drug testing.

K2 is extremely popular in Kansas where lawmakers intend to follow in the footsteps of Britain, Germany, France, Poland, South Korea and Russia—all have banned the sale and use of K2.

In Kansas, K2 sells for approximately $10 per gram (about the same +/- for marijuana, depending on where you are in the country), but the price may vary a bit depending upon the potency level. K2 is available in assorted flavors, such as Citron.

“As soon as I can figure out how to ignite my ‘package’ I’m blowing up this airplane and everyone on it. Merry Christmas, America.” That was Umar Abdulmutallab’s desire on Christmas Day, 2009. Luckily, all this terrorist managed to accomplish was burning his tightie-whities and singeing the family jewels. Passengers on the Detroit-bound plane were able to subdue and restrain the dangerous, smoldering idiot. Great job, guys.

Abdulmutallab was taken into custody immediately after the plane touched down. I’m sure the aircraft had barely stopped rolling before the feds swarmed the thing and dragged this piece of garbage off. Good for them. I hope they pulled him out by his feet, allowing his head to thump on each step as they went down.

Everyone was safe. The plane was unharmed. The terrorist was in custody. An attempt at terrorism over American soil had failed. Luckily.

But here’s where the sandpaper began to rub cross-grain. Nope, things were not going smoothly, according to some politicians. What happened?

Well, it seems that (according to AP):

– FBI agents questioned Abdulmutallab on December 25, shortly after the bombing attempt. They did so without advising the thug of his rights. This was a decision they made at the time. Then, ten hours later a new team of agents arrive and DO read the guy his rights before questioning. Oh no! The first agents blew it! Now they can’t use “anything he said against him.” That’s what most people think. But are those folks correct in their assumptions? If you believe TV, then yes. But…

Did you know there’s a special exception to the Miranda rules? Yep. There sure is. A 1984 rape case involving defendant Benjamin Quarles set that standard. Quarles argued that police approached him (actually, they chased the scrote inside a supermarket where they recovered the pistol he’d used to make his female rape victim comply with his demands) and questioned him about his weapon before advising him of Miranda. Well, according to the Supreme Court decision in this case (I’ve only posted brief portions of the decision):

U.S. Supreme Court
NEW YORK v. QUARLES, 467 U.S. 649 (1984)
467 U.S. 649

NEW YORK v. QUARLES
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK

No. 82-1213.

Argued January 18, 1984
Decided June 12, 1984

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent Benjamin Quarles was charged in the New York trial court with criminal possession of a weapon. The trial court suppressed the gun in question, and a statement made by respondent, because the statement was obtained by police before they read respondent his “Miranda rights.” That ruling was affirmed on appeal through the New York Court of Appeals. We granted certiorari, 461 U.S. 942 (1983), and we now reverse. 1 We conclude that under the circumstances involved in this case, overriding considerations of public safety justify the officer’s failure to provide Miranda warnings before he asked questions devoted to locating the abandoned weapon.,,

…We hold that on these facts there is a “public safety” exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be given before a suspect’s answers may be admitted into evidence, [467 U.S. 649, 656] and that the availability of that exception does not depend upon the motivation of the individual officers involved. In a kaleidoscopic situation such as the one confronting these officers, where spontaneity rather than adherence to a police manual is necessarily the order of the day, the application of the exception which we recognize today should not be made to depend on post hoc findings at a suppression hearing concerning the subjective motivation of the arresting officer. 6 Undoubtedly most police officers, if placed in Officer Kraft’s position, would act out of a host of different, instinctive, and largely unverifiable motives – their own safety, the safety of others, and perhaps as well the desire to obtain incriminating evidence from the suspect.

The officers in the Quarle case were absolutely correct when they put their safety first (as well as the well-being of everyone in the store) before worrying about advising a rapist of his right to stop flapping his gums or they’d use his words to put his sorry butt in prison for life.

 

So what’s the big deal. Why all the political doo doo smearing over this attempted airplane bombing case? The FBI agents acted properly. According to The Supremes, EVERYTHING the terrorist said can legally be used against him. Besides, the feds don’t need a single spoken word from the bad guy to convict him. They have dozens of eyewitnesses, the smoking gun (in this case, smoking undies), a history of terrorist activity in the guy’s past… So why would they need him to say, “Uh huh, I done it.” The answer is, they don’t.

What the politicians do want is information regarding his connections in the terrorist camps. So, as usual, our elected leaders have decided to use this incident as a political weapon. Maybe they’re right, maybe not. But I do know this, based on what we’ve been provided, the FBI agents acted properly. So leave them alone and let them do their jobs. It’s over, done, and we have to live with their decisions. Move on, let them build their case against the guy, and then put him away for life. Let him think about the burning bush for the rest of his days on earth.

I’m really tired of all the political squabbling over every single minute issue (I know this one’s not minute, but…). So I have an idea for the next election. Forget Obama, McCain, Clinton, Gore, Cheney, Bush, Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Romney…forget all of those folks. Here’s my choice:

I’m just saying…

Due to the particularly harsh storm that passed through our area last Friday, we, along with 25,000 other residents of our little county near Mayberry, were without power until last night. We were also out of water for quite a while. And, no power meant no internet service.

Fortunately, we have a generator so we didn’t suffer as badly as many people in the area. Well, other than the ten trees that came crashing down in our back yard. But, two of our neighbors fared far worse—trees landed on their homes and cars.

With the generator, we managed to watch TV, cook meals, heat hot water, etc. The only things I couldn’t make work were the heat (our gas fireplace heated the home nicely) and the internet, meaning no new Graveyard Shift posts and a total of 1226 emails in my inbox.

Thankfully, the last remaining utility—internet service—finally came on sometime during the night last night.

So, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I’ll be back on schedule tomorrow, hopefully. There’s another winter storm heading our way, so who knows.

It could’ve been worse…I guess…