Using fired bullets and casing examinations to solve murders is not a new thing. Not at all. In fact, I recall a case I worked back in the 80s where a man was murdered/executed by a drug dealer and a couple of his “employees.”

They’d kidnapped the fellow, a crack addict, because he’d ripped off the dealer by pinching cocaine from the supply he was supposed to sell, replacing it with pieces of soap which he peddled as the real thing. Customers quickly grew angry and, well, that’s when life grew short for the addict.

The trio of drug dealers took the addict to a secluded spot down a long and rarely used country road where they forced him to get on his knees. One of the men then fired a .32 round into addict’s head. They then pulled the body into the woods and left it for animals and weather to dispose of it.

One of the three couldn’t live with what they’d done so he contacted me. But he said right then and there that he’d never in a million years testify against the gang leader. I understood.

Without his testimony or further assistance, I knew I had find evidence that would connect the men to the crime. So I tailed the dealer day-in and day-out until he got careless and gave me a reason to search him. Long story short, the gun I found tucked in his waistband matched the one used to kill the kidnapped man.

Lab scientists at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science used a variety of methods to determine the match. Some of what they do when these things are presented to them for testing and comparison are:

Measure the base diameter of the evidence bullet and compare this measurement with known measurements published in reference material.

Determine the number and widths of the lands and grooves and compare to those in the current edition of the AFTE glossary.

Determine the widths of one land and groove impression. Then multiply by the number of total land and groove impressions. Use the mathematical formula C=πd to determine the circumference of the bullet.

Spiral grooves are cut into a gun barrel to produce rifling. Lands are the raised portions between the grooves.

Rifling – spiral grooves cut into a gun barrel in order to produce spin on the projectile. The spin/spiraling stabilizes it while in flight.

The categories of rifling characteristics are:

  • caliber (bore diameter),
  • number of land and grooves
  • direction of twist (the cut grooves produce the bullet’s spin which, in turn, improves accuracy and distance).
  • land and groove impression dimensions.

 

Physical characteristics of the evidence bullet—weight, shape, composition, nose design, and number and placement of cannelures, may help to determine the caliber of the fired round.

 

If a suspect firearm is submitted, a direct microscopic comparison is done between test-fired bullets and the submitted questioned bullet. ~ FBI

The FBI’s General Rifling Characteristics File (GRC) is often utilized when attempting to determine possible firearm types that could have fired an evidence bullet. This extensive file is particularly useful when the firearm used has not been located.

  • Comparison Microscope
  • Caliper/Micrometer/Ruler
  • Scale/Balance
  • Ammunition references
  • Stereo Microscope
  • Stereomicroscope (provides three dimensional viewing of a bullet).

When examining fired bullets, and when comparing them to known samples (bullets test-fired from suspect’s weapon and compared to round found at the scene or inside a body), investigators and/or scientists should record the following information

  • Caliber/gauge
  • Bullet/slug weight
  • The number of land and grooves
  • Direction of twist
  • Width of  lands
  • Width of grooves
  • Bullet diameter.
  • Composition of bullet.
  • Style.
  • Manufacturer/marketer of bullet/projectile. If applicable, use reference materials such as an ammunition database.
  • Detailed description  of the bullet.
  • Note type and position of cannelures.
  • Note any foreign/extraneous markings—shave marks, flared base, etc.
  • If possible, compare marks on bullets with tests from a firearm or with other bullets.

For nearly two decades, ATF has maintained a database of ballistic evidence (since 1999). The database—National Integrated Ballistic Information Network—contains well over 3 million bits of evidence and information that’s available to all law enforcement agencies.


Remember, writers, modern ammunition uses “smokeless” powder. It’s fairly stable, the quality is uniform, and it leaves little residue and a less offensive odor. IT IS NOT CORDITE!!!! Cordite manufacturing ceased at the end of WWII.

The characters in your stories CANNOT smell cordite, unless, of course, you’re writing historical fiction.

 

Many people have asked me what it was like working as a police detective. Well, in retrospect, my emotions are mixed. Of course, there are far too many good memories to count, but many events took place I’d consider as some of the lowest points of my life, like the day I was involved in a shootout with a bank robber, or when I witnessed the state execution of a serial killer. The electric chair is not exactly a humane means of execution. Those years were a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

Anyway, my publisher, Writer’s Digest Books, once posted on their website an excerpt from my book about police procedure. The segment is about my thoughts on becoming an investigator, the intro to the chapter devoted to detectives.

I thought it might be fun to share it with those of you who haven’t read the book. Those of you who have read the book, well, we can chat about something else while the others are reading.

To order your copy, click here.

From Chapter Four:

Detectives usually begin their careers as uniformed police officers who work their way up the chain of command, striving to obtain either the position of a uniformed supervisor or move into what some officers think of as the ultimate police job – a detective.

How an officer becomes a detective varies with each individual department. Some departments offer the position as a promotion. These departments post the vacant position and officers apply and test for the job, and the most qualified person receives the advancement. Promotions, or assignments to a detective division, aren’t normally awarded to officers until they’ve completed at least five years of service. Other departments take the rivalry between uniformed officers and the plainclothes detectives into account and simply assign officers to a detective’s position on a rotating basis, which allows every officer a turn as an investigator.

A detective is responsible for the investigation of both misdemeanor and felony crimes. How each department carries out these investigations depends upon the size of the department. Some departments are large enough to have detectives who specialize in certain areas such as credit card fraud, homicide, juvenile crime, arson, narcotics, rape, vice, etc. (We’ll look at some of these areas in greater detail later in the chapter.) Detectives sometimes work in several specialized areas before finding one they like. Once they do, they usually make that area their permanent assignment.

Other departments have only a couple of detectives for the entire agency – if any. In some rural departments where manpower is limited, patrol officers serve as first responders, evidence technicians, and investigators. There are advantages to each situation. The specialized detective becomes very skilled at his particular craft, whereas a detective or patrol officer in a smaller department has the opportunity, out of necessity, to work all kinds of cases.

No matter what the assignment, the duties are the same. Detectives are investigators who gather facts and collect evidence in criminal cases. They conduct interviews and interrogations, examine records and documents, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in and conduct raids or arrests. A detective is usually charged with applying for and obtaining search warrants. To accomplish these tasks effectively, detectives are trained with a more diverse approach than patrol officers.

Both detectives and patrol officers are required to attend, at minimum, semiannual in-service training to stay abreast of new laws and procedures. In addition to the in-service training, a detective’s education must be endlessly updated, and his base of knowledge must be constantly expanded. Criminals are continually developing new ideas and methods to get around the law, and the detective has to make every effort to stay one step ahead of them.

Modern criminals are more highly educated than offenders of the past, and today’s crooks rehearse and practice every aspect of their craft, like actors studying for a Broadway production. The thugs even hone their shooting skills. I was once searching the trunk of a drug dealer’s vehicle and found an automatic weapon, several rounds of ammunition, and a police silhouette target. The center of the target was filled with bullet holes, and Lee Lofland was written above the head. That was an eye-opener.

There are many new ways to fight crime in today’s computer and technology age, but nothing can compare to the old-fashioned method of the detective getting out and beating the streets for information and clues.

The image of the detective has changed as well. It has evolved from the trench-coat-wearing sleuth to a more stylishly dressed investigator. That image possibly reflects a larger clothing allowance than was once provided by departments. I think, years ago, I wore the long coat not because I was cold, but to cover my outdated cheap suits. All my sport coats had torn linings from years of friction caused by my gun’s hammer constantly rubbing against the fabric. When I began my career, the pay was around 8,400 dollars annually, with no clothing allowance. Also in those days, we had to buy our own guns, handcuffs, flashlights, raincoats, ticket books, and shoes. Oh yeah, and bullets. If we thought we might need them, we purchased a handful of those as well.

Today, all expenses are paid by the officer’s department, including clothing allowances for undercover officers who sometimes must wear really unusual clothing in order to blend in with their working environment.

A case begins with the commission of a crime. Uniformed patrol officers are often the first officers on the scene, and they gather the pertinent information-the who, what, where, why, when, and how, if available. It’s the duty of the uniformed patrol officer to secure the scene until a detective or the officer in charge relieves him. The officer who gathers the information later passes it on to the detective assigned to the case. Cases are usually assigned on a rotating basis, or a detective can be assigned to a particular case based on her particular knowledge and skills that relate to the offense. Once assigned to a case, a detective will follow it through until the case has been solved and the suspect is tried and convicted. The detective may use other officers to assist in the investigation, but the case will remain in her charge.

Fact gathering is a must in police work. Detectives can only relate specific details in a court of law and may not offer opinion, as a rule, for testimony. However, during the investigation, gut feelings and instinct play a large role in the detective’s search for information. Years of experience can be, and often are, the most formidable tool in the detective’s arsenal.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY: ON BECOMING A DETECTIVE

Note: These In The Line Of Duty headings appear a few times throughout the book. They’re my real-life reflections of something that actually happened to me while I was on the job.

When I raised my right hand to take the oath to serve my state and my country, I felt a lump rise in my throat. It was such an honor and a thrill to finally be sworn in as a police officer. The feeling of putting on a uniform and pinning a shiny, silver badge to my chest was one of the greatest moments of my life. When the day finally arrived, though, to transition from a uniformed officer to a plainclothes detective, I couldn’t wait to trade the uniform for a new suit and to hook a new, gold badge on my belt. After all, my childhood dream was to become an investigator, and I could finally wear cotton again instead of double-knit polyester shirts with fake buttons that zipped up the front and pants that retained enough heat to bake bread. (Of course, that cool stripe down the leg offset all negatives!)

I turned in my marked patrol vehicle and received my first department-issued, unmarked car. It was an old, beat-up Chevrolet Caprice, a car I write about fondly in my books and stories. The car was midnight blue, several years old, and would reach its top speed of eighty-five miles per hour only after going downhill for about three miles. I didn’t care. It was mine. I washed it, cleaned the tires and wheels, and put my things-a fishing-tackle box filled with fingerprint equipment, a shotgun with an eighteen-inch barrel, extra ammo, hand cleaner, paper towels, and a roll of crime scene tape-into the trunk. I’d get more tools later as I figured out what I needed. For now, I was ready for my first case.

In my early days as a patrol officer, I looked on with envy as the detectives came in and took over my cases after I’d done the dirty work. They were the guys getting their pictures in the newspapers and getting all the glory for doing nothing … or so I thought. It took just a few months of being a detective to dream of an eight-hour shift, like the old days, instead of a twenty-hour day, and of not being called out in the middle of the night, every night! The thought had never occurred to me that it would be irritating to have newspaper reporters snapping photos of me while I struggled to hold in my lunch at a gruesome homicide scene, or that reporters would write things in the paper I didn’t say or leave out the important things I did say.

Nobody teaches you how alienated you become from your old co-workers, the boys in blue, once you become a detective. Uniformed officers sometimes feel a bit of jealousy toward detectives, and detectives sometimes experience a bit of an unjustified superiority complex toward uniformed officers. It’s a rivalry that’s always been in place and probably always will be.

Nobody explains the many hours you’ll spend sitting in the woods, or in the bushes, with hungry mosquitoes and spiders and snakes, or in the rain or snow, watching suspects in your attempts to build cases. Nobody tells you how it feels to work undercover and to walk into the middle of a drug deal, unarmed and without a radio. Nobody describes how it feels to be shot at, spit on, beat up, kicked, scratched, stabbed, cut, knocked down, punched, and pepper sprayed (with your own pepper
spray), all the while wearing a suit.

Yes, I was finally a detective and it was absolutely … glorious!


BIG Writers’ Police Academy NEWS!!

By now, you may have heard that the Writers’ Police Academy is teaming up with Sirchie in 2019 to present an absolutely fantastic one-of-a-kind special event featuring Sirchie’s top team of expert instructors, among others, who’ll present exciting hands-on workshops and lectures relating solely to homicide investigations. Of course, as always, there’ll be surprises.

The Sirchie team, WPA staff, and our wonderful website designer, are all hard at work ironing out details, including an all new website and special logo just for the 2019 event, all of which we hope to announce in early January in advance of the opening of registration in mid February.

Since this is such a unique event, one that’s never been made available to non-law enforcement folks, well, you’ll definitely not want to miss out on this rare opportunity to train and learn at the source of “how it’s done,” the very private and elite Sirchie compound just outside of Raleigh, N.C.

*Sirchie, the Global Leader in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions; provides Products, Vehicles, and Training to the global law enforcement and forensic science communities.

Please keep in mind that space at Sirchie is extremely limited; therefore, we’re offering spots on a first-come, first-served basis.

So, mark your calendars for August 1, 2019. Hotel and other details coming very soon.

With that said, I hope to see each of at …

 

 

 

 

 


*The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to present Heather Graham as our 2019 Guest of Honor.

It was a blustery, cold night in the mid 1980s, sometime near Christmas, when I had my first taste of tear gas. It wasn’t pretty. Not at all.

A man who was zonked-out-of-his-mind-high and terrifically “wired”after days of binging on crack cocaine, decided to pull a 9mm handgun on his mother, threatening to kill her. The frantic and extremely frightened elderly woman somehow managed to  escape her home unharmed and then call 911 from the home of a nearby neighbor.

I was in plainclothes that night and was riding with a sheriff’s captain. We’d taken a dinner break and stopped by a holiday gathering of his family members. He was driving his marked police car and parked it at the curb in case we needed to make a hasty departure.

The house was small—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a hall bath. It was quite warm and cozy inside. Cedar logs crackled in a brick fireplace sending their pleasant scent wafting throughout. People were wall to wall in both the living room and kitchen. A couple of men stepped out on the small front concrete porch to smoke cigars. The partying family members were not lacking in smiles and laughter. Not one frown to be seen.

We’d filled a couple of paper plates with homemade goodies—country ham biscuits, candies, pecan pie, cookies, and the like. We’d also filled a couple of small plastic cups with homemade eggnog (no booze).

The captain and I had just sat down to enjoy our treats when the call came in. Shots fired. Officers were under fire and requested our assistance.

When we pulled up at the scene chaos was already in high gear. The two responding officers had taken a position of cover in the driveway behind their patrol cars. Backup officers were on the scene with more on the way. Each were crouched behind some portion of a police vehicle. The shooter had broken out glasses in two large front windows and was taking wild shots toward the officers. We later learned that he had plenty of extra ammunition and magazines.

The captain took charge and assigned several officers to posts around the perimeter, including at rear and side entrances. Water and electricity were cut to the home. The plan was to fire a tear gas canister into the house, hoping to flush him out. The captain carried a 37mm tear gas gun in the trunk of his car.

Fire and rescue were called to the scene and were staged a safe distance away. Sometimes tear gas canisters ignite materials inside a home, thus the need for the fire crew. Obviously, the barricaded suspect, or a wounded officer, might need medical attention.

Tear Gas = ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas)

Once everyone was in place the command was given for the subject to come out of the house or tear gas would be launched. The order was given three times with enough time in between to allow the man to come outside. After the third announcement followed by a bit longer wait time, hoping he’d surrender, the captain fired a Type Il-Single-Thickness Penetrator round through a large front window, shattering the remaining glass and parting the curtains in its wake.

Type Il-Single-Thickness Penetrator rounds are designed to penetrate materials such as single-glazed windows, plywood sheathing, or drywall.

We again sounded the command to come out, but nothing. After waiting for a rather long time, another round was fired. Still nothing. Moving to the rear yard, the captain fired rounds through more window, including basement windows.

We waited.

Nothing.

Finally, a team of three officers donned protective gear, a shield, and masks, and then entered the home. They searched for long time but came out empty-handed. They said he’d somehow escaped.

Well, we on the outside knew there was no way. But they were adamant, saying they’d searched every single nook and cranny, from attic to basement.

The captain gave me one of his “looks” and told me to follow him. We were going to have a look for ourselves. So in we went. No protective gear (I wasn’t even wearing a vest), and no masks. I was armed with a Chief’s Special 5-shot revolver and the captain a .357 revolver.

We searched the home, coughing and crying all the way down to the basement, clearing one room at a time. Eventually the captain opened a closest door and saw a large pile of clothing. He poked it with his Maglite and the man leapt up like a clown in a Jack-in-a-Box.

The next sound I heard was a loud “Ding,” sounding like a baseball being slammed by an aluminum bat. The Captain nailed the guy dead center between the eyes and he went out like a light.

Together, with tears rolling like those of bawling babies, we carried the limp man outside and handed him over to EMTs.

The man used the time between warnings to wet several bath towels in the water inside the toilet tanks. Then he used them and the clothing pile to shied himself from the CS fumes.

Since EMS was busy with their newly handcuffed patient and had no time for either the captain or me, we spent the next several minutes flushing my eyes and skin using a water hose in a neighbor’s yard.


CS Gas – irritate the eye, mucous areas, the skin and airways. It causes immediate “crying” and convulsive eyelid closing. It slightly burns the skin and even causes sneezing, cough, a severe runny nose, and sometimes nausea. As I stated above, it’s not nice.

 

By now everyone is or should be familiar with the term “leaking.” After all, we see it in the news nearly every day. It’s as if not a single soul in this country can manage to keep a secret no matter how vital it is to not let certain information reach the ears of well, anyone who shouldn’t hear it. But, it’s not a new thing, nor is it limited to the politician-media pipeline.

For example, Edward Snowden and Bradley/Chelsea Manning.

Then there are the law enforcement officers who leak information, for whatever motivation that floats their personal boats. Such as Deep throat, the alias of Mark Felt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent and Associate Director who provided information to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. The information Felt passed along to the reporters led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Over the years, Felt was a constant, non-corkable dripper of inside information.

And, there are those officers who leak information to the bad guys, and they usually do so for cash or other types of rewards. These thugs in uniform have little regard for the safety of their fellow officers. Here’s a perfect example. One from my own files.

I was in charge of a narcotics operation that involved a longterm surveillance op team, a boatload of specialized spying equipment, a couple of really good undercover officers, and a gaggle of confidential informants. We’d “wired” a couple of officers who’d gone “inside” to purchase cocaine and guns. Then, after months of hard, tedious work, I wrote and had a magistrate sign the search warrant. I was a cautious detective who trusted no one, outside of my immediate circle, with secret information. I was not fond of leakers. So, not wanting any details to find their way out, I waited until the last minute to assemble the raid team.

Once the team was in the briefing room I handed out layouts of the building and surrounding grounds. The positions of lookouts were also noted. I explained the situation, the dangers associated (these guys were heavily armed), and then doled out assignments, including the address on the search warrant.

Next, to make certain that all was still okay, I called the informant who was in the house at the time. He acknowledged that the drugs were inside the residence as well as the key players named on the warrant. Not wanting him there when we arrived (I didn’t want him to get hurt) I told him to excuse himself and leave. He was an excellent informant who knew how to play the game, so I wasn’t worried that he’d blow the deal..

At the briefing, I gave specific instructions—time to hit the doors, who would travel with whom and in which vehicles, and, since this was a nighttime “no-knock” warrant, I wanted absolute silence until the man on the door yelled, “Police. Search Warrant!”

Due to the danger level and area to be covered, the assembled team was fairly large. We needed to secure a perimeter to catch anyone fleeing the scene should they somehow make it past the entry team. There were also lookouts, runners (the guys on the street who sold the cocaine to “customers”) and, well, anyone else who decided to rabbit.

We were all ready to go and someone said one of the perimeter guys slipped out to use the restroom but hadn’t returned. One officer short on the perimeter was no big deal so we left him. There was no time to waste once the plan was in motion.

We left the department and met at a staging area to allow all the vehicles to catch up. We didn’t want a twenty-police-vehicle parade traveling in one direction because that’s a sure sign that’s something’s going down.

Once everyone was in place we headed to the target’s neighborhood. It was dark, late, and quiet. We approached the home, surrounded it, and the “GO” signal was given. The next sounds heard where that of the entry team’s explosive breach of the front door and the raking and braking of windows.

Then nothing.

The place was as empty as a California creek in the summertime. No people and no drugs.

The occupants had left in a hurry, though. An old monster movie was playing on the living room TV, tall cans of cold beer inside individual paper bags sat on a cigarette-burned coffee table, and a pot of red beans and rice was in full-on scorch mode on a hot electric stove eye.

They’d cleared out within a matter of twenty minutes or so. From a house full of drug dealers and a couple of women, to zero.

Tipped off.

The officer who left the briefing room to use the restroom.

Couldn’t have been anyone else.

After a bit of questioning he finally admitted to alerting the drug dealers. He also told me he’d been an informant for a couple of major players in the city. They’d paid him well, he said. Needed the money to pay bills. Spent his paychecks on liquor, women, and gambling and didn’t want his wife to know.

He was fired but not prosecuted.

He died a few months later after suffering a massive heart attack.

We’re lucky that the dealers hadn’t decided to ambush us or you may have seen my name on someone’s Friday’s Heroes page.

 

We’ve all read books where the characters within are basically clones of those we’ve seen in other books, with the only difference being a name change. This is often frustrating for readers who want to believe the world you’ve created. They know that in the real world people have minds of their own. They do things and think about things that affect their lives. They make mistakes. There’s conflict in their lives. And things occasionally go as planned or wished.

Every single person on this planet has some characteristic that’s different from other people; therefore, it’s imperative that writers develop and show those differences among the fictional folks in their made-up tales.

To get these details right involves careful planning, especially when writing about people and professions that are unfamiliar to us. In advance of writing the first word, it’s a good idea to create a file, a place to store important details about your future fictional person (or setting). I know, this is writing 101 but I am heading somewhere with this, I promise.

Creating Cop Characters

Law enforcement officers and their traits are a bit different than the average person. Therefore, creating a special file could be a lifesaver, if realism is the goal, and it should be if you want your readers to become emotionally invested in the characters you create. After all, caring for a character could certainly keep those pages turning.

Keep Your Eyes on the Cop

Cop are a bit set apart from the rest of the population because their daily lives are far different from the day-to-day activities of most people. Why so? Because their daily routines include seeing and dealing with the extreme bad sides of people, and they do so on a regular basis, day-in and day-out, unlike most of us who rarely encounter people who beat on us and sometimes want to kill us.

Dealing with the worst that life has to offer—extreme violence and the lowest of the lowest human behaviors—causes cops to act  and react differently to many scenarios than would the average Jane and Joe. For example, and you’ve all heard this before, when gunfire sounds, most people start running as fast as they can in the opposite direction. But not police officers. Instead, their instinct is to move as fast as they can toward the source of the danger.

Watch for the Little Things They Do

Since cops see so much bad stuff and know the dangers associated with it, and how quickly something could go south, they’re always on the alert, even when in the safest of situations.

Even while seated in church, for instance, a cop glances about, scanning the congregation, looking for the nearest exit in case a gunman pops up and begins shooting. The on- or off-duty officer wants to know where to have people leave the sanctuary while he battles the shooter. This is going through the officer’s mind at the time he selected a seat near an outside wall to allow views of all entrances and exits, and to provide the tactical advantage of not offering a chance for a rear track/ambush.

The same is true when dining in restaurants, going to movie theaters, and even while grocery shopping. Eyes are forever darting from one person to another. Is that bulge beneath the baggy t-shirt on the guy’s side a concealed firearm? The woman carrying a crying baby. She’s wearing a ton of makeup around her right eye. Is she hiding a bruise? She’s obviously with the man wearing the Black Sabbath t-shirt, the guy pushing the cart containing several cases of cheap beer. Did he get drunk and punch the woman?

Sitting with their backs to the wall? That’s to watch the doors, the crowd, and to prevent a surprise attack from behind.

There’s a specific meaning and purpose as to why cops stand as they do, and it’s a trait that should appear in your stories. Such …

The Interview Stance

Officers are taught early on that when speaking with someone, especially in the instances where they’re faced with the unknown, that they should stand with their gun side away from the person—body bladed 45 degrees to the suspect, feet shoulder width apart (also at a 45 degree angle to the suspect). In the ideal situation, their body is facing slightly toward the suspects non-dominate side (this typically becomes apparent by hand gestures, smoking cigarettes, etc.).

The leg on the non gun-hand side should be slightly forward. The other slightly to the rear. Body weight is distributed equally on the balls of the feet. The front leg is then in position to strike or deflect attack.

Standing toward the non dominate side also enable the officer to gain quick control for applying a joint lock or pain compliance tactic, if needed. Controlling the non-dominate side allows the officer to add distance between him/her and the suspect’s strong side.

Their hands should be above the gun belt, appearing in a non-threatening, non-fighting position.

A cop’s gun hand should be poised, ready to draw either a firearm or TASER, whichever the situation dictates, while the other hand is ready to deflect incoming blows or to carry out other defensive actions, such as reaching for pepper spray, etc.

They should stand in this “ready position” in the event a situation turns violent.

All this while appearing at ease (yeah, right!).

Officers typically have their hands open when speaking with people, not clenched like they’re ready for a physical confrontation. This sends a nonverbal signal of “I’m not a threat to you.” Sometimes it’s the little things that prevent conflict.

This, my friends, is the tip of the iceberg. There are many tiny details that could make your cop tales zing with realism and excitement and fun, and it’s those details that bring fans back to your books time and time again.

 

Using common sense when writing about cops

Detective I. M. Manly here, and I’ve stopped by today to tell you about a serious situation concerning today’s protagonists.

We, the heroes of your stories, have been meeting in secret, trying to figure out ways to put an end to the torture you force us to endure. For example, and this is indeed a sad, sad, case. I ran into Biff Steele a few days ago and within a matter of seconds I knew I’d caught him at a weak moment.

He’d barely spoken two sentences when his emotions came spilling out. Right there on the sidewalk in front of the Piggly Wiggly, for everyone to see, including Pastor Ben Theredunthat who went inside to purchase a tin of foot powder for his wife. On the way out he offered a quick blessing, an act Biff sorely needed at that moment. Pitiful is what he was, I’m here to tell you.

Attack of the Killer Typewriters

I. M. Manly looking especially tough on the set of his new film, “Attack of the Killer Typewriters,” a gripping thriller based on the book of the same title.

Biff is typically a tough-as-nails protagonist. He rolls with the punches and quite often delivers a few hay-makers of his own. But on this day, Biff was pretty down in the dumps. He was feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. Feeling blu … Well, you get the idea.

I asked him why he was sporting such a long face. His response was stunning.

He said he’d had about all he could take from his writer. She’d stopped conducting any real research and turned to the internet for every scrap of crappy information. Then he paused a second before delivering the really big bombshell. He said he was thinking about leaving, maybe even killing himself off in the final pages of the next book.

I couldn’t believe it. Not Biff Steele! I asked what, if anything, could be done to make things right again. That’s when he told me everything. Then he drove straight home to confront his writer. One of his co-characters was there, sitting on the typewriter, when Biff burst through the front door and started his rant.

This, she said, is what Biff told yelled at their writer.

1. Quit having me smell the odor of cordite at crime scenes. For goodness sake, I’m not that old. Actually, even my parents hadn’t been born when they stopped making that stuff. No. More. Cordite!

2. I love tense moments in stories as much as the next character, but having me kidnapped in every other book? Come on, you know me better than that. Having me abducted so often makes me look weak. And, quite frankly, a bit stupid.

3. Don’t you remember the discussion we had the last time you had me draw a chalk outline around a dead body? Oh, it’s coming back to you now … That’s right, they don’t do that anymore! Yep, doing so could destroy or alter evidence. Geez … pay attention.

4. For the last time, the FBI does not have the authority to take over my murder cases, my office, or my entire department. Stop sending them into my scenes!

5. Speaking of the FBI … NO, they don’t investigate all kidnapping incidents. So please let me solve my own cases. Your friends stopped writing that garbage years ago and their heroes are looking pretty sharp because of it.

6. So you insist upon writing me as a stupid, bumbling, idiotic clown who can barely find my way home at night, huh? Well, you’re showing a lack of knowledge there, Sunshine. You are aware that I had to pass a ton of tests and show an outstanding ability to solve crimes in order to land the promotion to detective, right? It’s not a job for dummies. Tell me, what are your qualifications that make you an expert on my career?

7. Let’s do this one more time. My sidearm is a Glock semi-automatic. It does NOT have any type of safety that I can “thumb-off.” No Way. No How.

8. Remember book three, back when I carried a revolver, a Chief’s Special? Think hard. Yes, that’s the one. Now think about the scene on page 87 where you MADE me say, “The sunlight reflected hotly from the brass casings as they automatically ejected from my revolver?” Remember that? Well, to this day I’ve never lived it down. Reacher and Bosch and the other guys bring it up all the time, and it’s embarrassing. Why, just the other day I overheard sweet little Kinsey Millhone cracking a joke about it. For the last time, revolvers do NOT automatically eject spent cartridges. I have to push them out manually, using the extractor rod.

9. While we’re on the subject of Kinsey, why can’t I have a steady girlfriend? You know, someone nice, like her? I’m pretty tired of living alone and drinking by myself in dark, dreary bars. I want to have some fun for a change. What don’t you ever let me go dancing, or to a movie? Anywhere where I don’t end up fighting or blasting someone’s brains all over the ceiling. That’s no way to live.

10. You never take me anywhere. I’m tired of living on dusty bookshelves. So I have an idea. I heard the Writers’ Police Academy is teaming up with Sirchie to host a special event called MurderCon Why don’t you do us, and your readers, a favor and sign up the second registration opens? Then you’ll see first-hand all the things you’ve been writing WRONG all these years. All the other writers will be there.

Reacher has been to the WPA. So has Bosch, D.D. Warren, Dance, Rhyme, Jordan, Longmire, Brennan, and, well, the whole gang has been. It’s where all the cool kids go to learn how to “get it right.”

So I’m going. How about you?


It’s Black Friday, so to help out, here are a few recommendations.

By the way, someone asked why I post all Amazon links for the books I recommend. The answer is that they work well for and with this site, but by all means feel free to purchase books anywhere you like. But why not here by simply clicking the links I provide?








“He’s running!”

A bag of cocaine is tossed to the ground along with a small handgun. The bad guy takes off, and he’s well prepared for the run—tennis shoes and loose clothing. More importantly, he has a small head start … and he’s younger. Much younger. A kid.

You know, it’s difficult to chase someone, especially while wearing a suit and dress shoes, but that’s the nature of the beast. So detectives don’t complain, they just do it. Sure, they’ll hear the teasing from the uniforms, later … “Who taught you how to run, your grandma?” “Slowest chase I’ve ever seen.” “You got weights tied to your ankles?” “You put your feet on backward this morning?”

However, in spite of the awkward, wingtip-clad feet, the investigator almost always catches the thug, wrestles to get the cuffs on his wrists, and stands him upright for the walk back to the unmarked police car. Then it’s back to the police station for processing, which includes mugshot photos, fingerprinting, and normally the prisoner’s phone call to his wife or girlfriend, or both, mother, attorney, or bail bondsman (sometimes, there’s a list of local bail/bond folks beside the jail/police department lockup phone).

The actual foot chase …

Yes, that’s me in the above photo, with sweaty hair pulled behind my ears. At the time, I was working a special assignment where a bit longer hair, and facial hair, helped to blend in with the targets of the investigation. Since I’d been to court to testify in a trial on the day the picture was taken, I’d worn a coat and tie. Unfortunately, for me, this foot chase occurred in the summertime and it was extremely humid. On a typical day I’d have been in jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes.

The picture was taken by a newspaper reporter who somehow managed to show up just as I captured an escapee from a prison located twenty miles or so from the city. I’ve never understood how reporters always seem to find you, when backup cannot.

Anyway, I’d just left court and was on my way back to my office when I spotted the guy walking along the railroad tracks. He saw me and took off like a rabbit. I jumped from my car and chased him through neighborhoods, over a short fence, under a taller fence, through alleys and parking lots, and finally into someone’s unlocked apartment. After a brief and quite intense struggle while listening to nonstop screaming and squalling coming from the two women who lived in the apartment, I handcuffed the escapee and proceeded to walk the long trek back to my car. Of course, I’d jumped out of the car without grabbing my portable radio, so backup had no idea where I was. Not a smart thing to do. Couldn’t blame them … this time.

 

Signs like the one above are reminders for the officers who sometimes have a tendency to forget the details.

Officers must lock their weapons inside a lockbox before entering the booking area. This is to prevent prisoners from gaining control of a firearm. The officer locks the box and takes the key with him.

Lockbox at entrance to booking area.

 

Officers, in this case a deputy sheriff, secure their weapons inside a lockbox whenever they deal with prisoners.

Arrested persons are often seated and handcuffed to benches while waiting for processing. Notice the handcuffs attached to the second rail from the left, below.

Prisoners are fingerprinted for both in-house records and for the FBI national database. Most departments now use automated fingerprinting devices, such as this LiveScan terminal.

Capturing a suspect’s fingerprints on a LiveScan terminal

Prints are transferred to a computer terminal where the suspect’s personal information is entered.

Digital images replace ten-print cards (cards used for capturing inked fingerprints).

Some departments still use the old ink and ten-print card method of fingerprinting (LiveScan terminals are expensive).

booking111.jpg

Then, with the processing complete, prisoners are placed into a holding cell until they post bond, or until they are transferred to the county jail to await their first court appearance, usually an arraignment.

Police department holding cell.

Steel plates mounted on the walls serve as beds. Prisoners are issued mattresses if their stay is overnight.

Combination sink and toilet

In-cell telephone

When prisoners are transported from the lockup to a county jail, or for court proceedings, they’re often placed in full restraints—handcuffs, waist chain, and leg irons, like those pictured below.

The deputy pictured above unlocks a holding cell door to begin shackling prisoners for their court appearances. The deputy is armed, as you may have noticed, but this is a staged photo taken by me for the purpose of educating writers about the process. In a real situation his weapon would be in the lockbox. There were no prisoners inside the cell at the time we took the photograph.

 

 

0200 hrs.

Wispy fog

Whirling, swirling.

Streetlight.

A lone bat.

Looping, swooping.

Night sounds.

Frogs, crickets.

Train whistle, far away.

Radio crackles in still, night air.

Prowler complaint.

Noise outside window.

“I’ll take it.”

“10-4.”

“Backup?”

“Negative.”

Front porch light.

Shadows.

Moth.

Flittering and fluttering.

Flower bed.

Weeds.

Dried and crispy.

Slight breeze.

Leaves ticking, clicking across weathered porch floor.

Wooden swing.

Rusted chain.

Crooked.

Front entrance.

Paint, peeling.

Loose knob.

A knock.

Door swings inward.

Slowly.

Just a crack.

And a creak.

Tiny face, crinkled with days long since passed.

“I heard them again, Officer.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Damp, anxious eyes.

Faded gray with time.

“They were at the window, like before.”

“I’ll check around back.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I wish my Bill was still here.”

“I know.”

“He’s been gone ten years this week.”

“A good man.”

“Thank you.”

“Coffee?”

“It’s fresh.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Two sugars and a little cream, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Be right back.”

Outside.

Flashlight.

Waiting.

Neighbor’s house, dark.

Furnace, humming.

Rattles, then stops.

Quiet.

Two minutes pass.

Kitchen window.

Brightly lit.

Darting here and there.

Full coffee pot.

Silver tray.

Cookies.

Cups.

Saucers.

Spoons.

For two.

Screen door.

Spring, squeaking.

Thump.

“Everything’s okay.”

“Yes, I do feel better now.”

“Thank you.”

Warm smells.

Vanilla.

Fresh bread.

Pumpkin spice.

“It’s just with Bill gone …”

“I know.”

A downward glance.

Wall clock tick-tocking.

A sigh.

A tear.

Silence.

Tick, tick, tick.

“Would you mind if I sat for a minute?”

A sniffle.

“I’m tired, and really shouldn’t drive.”

“After all, how would that look?”

“A cop asleep at the wheel.”

A smile.

Relief.

Just like last night.

And the night before.

And the night before.

At 0200,

Ten years after her Bill passed away.


TODAY’S MYSTERY SHOPPER’S CORNER

Since the holiday season is nearly here, I’ve decided to feature a few fun items for your mystery shopping needs and wants. I’ll post these regularly throughout the remaining weeks of 2018.

So, for day six of MSC, especially for those of you who’re shopping for writer friends who enjoy a bit of research and/or relaxation, here are my picks. By the way, someone asked why I post all Amazon links for the books I recommend. The answer is that they work well for and with this site, but by all means feel free to purchase books anywhere you like. But why not here by simply clicking the links I provide?

First up, a Thin Blue Line Mug.


Thin Blue Line Unisex Crew Socks.


Gnome Police Statue. I have one in my office and you’ve seen him, Sergeant G. Nome, in many of my blog and Facebook posts. (Statue ONLY – fingerprinting supplies, book, drug testing kit, etc. not included).

 


Handcuff Necklace


Kendra Elliot is a longtime sponsor and supporter of the Writers’ Police Academy. I’m a fan.


Also a longtime sponsor and supporter of the WPA is Melinda Leigh. Again, I’m a fan.

As a police detective in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I investigated a vast assortment of criminal cases ranging from forged checks to robbery to B&E, major narcotics cases, murder for hire, occult crimes, and murder, to name a few. Solving those cases, including murders, often involved laboratory scientists who conducted a range of tests on various types of evidence.

Determining the Cause of Death

In Virginia  it is the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Office (OCME) that’s responsible for determining the cause and manner of deaths that that fall under a handful of circumstances. Those specific conditions are:

Pursuant to § 32.1-283 of the Code of Virginia, all of the following deaths are investigated by the OCME:

  • any death from trauma, injury, violence, or poisoning attributable to accident, suicide or homicide;
  • sudden deaths to persons in apparent good health or deaths unattended by a physician;
  • deaths of persons in jail, prison, or another correctional institution, or in police custody (this includes deaths from legal intervention);
  • deaths of persons receiving services in a state hospital or training center operated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services;
  • the sudden death of any infant; and
  • any other suspicious, unusual, or unnatural death.

Autopsies in the state are conducted at one of four district offices: Manassas, Norfolk, Richmond or Roanoke. The chief medical examiner’s office is located in Richmond. At the time when I worked as a detective the Central Laboratory, where the majority of forensic testing of evidence was conducted, was located in a downtown in a building shared with the medical examiner’s office. Ironically, much like a TV show setting, the morgue was in the basement.

Dinner with the Inspiration for Kay Scarpetta

I know this may sound a bit morbid, but I often made my way to the morgue simply to hang out and to learn. After all, this was the morgue  that gave birth to Kay Scarpetta, the famous fictional medical examiner created by Patricia Cornwell. The character was based on real-life Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro, a brilliant, renowned medical examiner. Dr. Fierro was the M.E. who conducted the first autopsy I attended, an event I detailed in my book police procedure.

When Denene received her PhD (in pathology) from the University of Virginia, we celebrated at the Commonwealth Club in downtown Richmond. Dr.Fierro and one of her assistants, Dr. Kay, joined us for dinner. Tell you what, nothing beats a good autopsy conversation during dinner.

Another point to ponder – Cornwell’s first book, Postmortem, was based on the case(s) involving the brutal murders committed by serial killer/rapist Timothy Wilson Spencer. Spencer was the first person in the country convicted of a capital crime through DNA testing.

Spencer’s victims were discovered nude or partly nude in their bedrooms with their hands firmly tied, with rope, belts, or socks secured tightly around their necks. Spencer entered their homes through windows and then raped, sodomized, and then choked them until they were dead.

In April of 1997, the man known as the Southside Strangler was electrocuted and pronounced dead at 11:13 p.m. I sat just a few feet away and watched him die a gruesome death. To read the entire story of that night, click here.

Okay, enough rambling and reminiscing, so back to the lab – The upstairs floors of the laboratory high-rise complex housed various labs where scientists and laboratory personnel examined and tested every from gunshot residue and fingerprints to blood stains and poisons.

When I and other officers delivered evidence to the lab we were required to check in with an official stationed at the front desk. It was there where we submitted the items and the accompanying forms (see below).

Request for Laboratory Examination forms must accompany all submitted items. I’ve hidden the suspects’ identifying information in the form above, this one from my own case files. The items tested positive cocaine and the individuals involved accepted plea deals.

After the evidence was logged into the system and assigned a number(s) it was officially/physically received by the lab’s police officer on duty. They then delivered the materials/items to their proper place(s) where it would then be picked up by the expert who’d conduct the testing.

While a the facility I often visited various labs to see how far along other evidence was in their respective processes—fingerprints, trace evidence, DNA, etc. One of the places I visited was the toxicology lab. I did so for three reasons. One – I found the place to be fascinating. Two – I knew the person in charge and we’d been friends for quite a while. Three – They offered free coffee and sometimes a doughnut or two.

Back to my fascination with the tox lab. I find poison cases to be intriguing since they’re often so personal. They typically require a bit of planning and a ton of patience. And, to solve those kinds of murders, it take a good toxicologist to help put the pieces together in a form that’ll point to the killer.

In Virginia’s tox labs, they (per their website) “analyze body fluids and tissues for the presence and concentrations of alcohol, drugs, and other potential poisons. Support is provided to Medical Examiners to assist in determining cause and manner of death, and to law enforcement agencies investigating crimes where drug or alcohol use may be implicated.

The toxicology lab is often key to DUI and DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) cases Here’s how (again, from their website):

“Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DUID)
The Toxicology Section receives all blood samples taken by law enforcement agencies during DUI/DUID investigations to determine alcohol and drug content. After alcohol, the most frequently detected drugs are marijuana, prescription pain relievers (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin), benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium, Klonopin), cocaine and zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo). While statutory limits exist for alcohol, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy) in blood, none are set for other drugs. Consequently, expert toxicology testimony regarding the effects of a drug or a combination of drugs on human performance and driving behavior is often necessary to establish impairment.”

And …

“The Department supplies Blood Collection Kits for use in DUI/DUID cases in Virginia. With these kits, the DUI/D Submission Information Sheet  may be used instead of a Request for Laboratory Examination Form.

  • Non-Implied Consent Cases
    Law enforcement agencies also submit blood, urine or other body fluids from suspects or victims of other crimes. Examples of these situations include drug-facilitated sexual assault, DUI/D investigations not pursuant to the implied consent statute, and child abuse or endangerment.
  •  Alcoholic Beverage Testing
    The Central Toxicology Section in Richmond also tests suspected alcoholic beverages submitted by law enforcement agencies.  Most of these cases involve the investigation of minors in possession of alcohol, open intoxicants in vehicles and illegal sale/distribution of alcohol.  These types of cases require the analysis of alcohol content.  Any beverage containing greater than or equal to 0.5% ethanol is defined as an alcoholic beverage (Code of Virginia § 4.1-100).”

TODAY’S MYSTERY SHOPPER’S CORNER

Since the holiday season is nearly here, I’ve decided to feature a few fun items for your mystery shopping needs and wants. I’ll post these regularly throughout the remaining weeks of 2018.

So, for day five of MSC, especially for those of you who’re shopping for writer friends who enjoy a bit of research and/or relaxation, here are my picks. By the way, someone asked why I post all Amazon links for the books I recommend. The answer is that they work well for and with this site, but by all means feel free to purchase books anywhere you like. But why not here by simply clicking the links I provide?

First up, Postmortem, Patricia Corwnell’s book based on serial killer Timothy Spencer.


Next is my book about police procedure. Inside, in addition to valuable information about cops and what they do, you’ll find a detailed chapter on autopsy as well as the complete story on the night I watched Spencer die in the electric chair.


Tactical pen/Self-Defense Weapon and Flashlight.


Multi-Tool Pliers and Handtools


Case Police Mini Trapper Pocket Knife

It’s often the tiniest of details that’ll pique a reader’s interest in your work. Those elements, by design, just might make a lasting fan out of someone who recognizes that you’ve done your homework and that you know how to subtly weave fact into fiction.

Like a well-rehearsed performance of Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II by The Philadelphia Orchestra, where we as concert-goers don’t see all the behind the scenes practice time that goes into scores such as The Rabbit of Seville, and Rhapsody Rabbit, a seasoned cop’s daily motions come with ease, as should the scenes you create where officers make arrests and carry out other duties that come with the job..

Cops perform certain tactics and techniques on a regular basis—handcuffing, using the car radio, pat-down searches, etc. They do these things so often that they could almost perform them in their sleep.

They rehearse tactics and techniques at the academy through role-playing. They practice what they’re taught, in their minds. They run through scenarios, in their thoughts. All of this to prepare them for the big show … the encounter with that person or people who violently resist arrest, or those who simply want to hurt or kill a police officer.

That sense of “comes naturally” is the feel that fictional characters should exhibit on the page.

Detail, detail, detail

Living, breathing, pulse-pounding detail hooks the reader by thumping their hearts and increasing their respirations. Details that cause them to grip the book a bit tighter when the danger level is high and then reduces the tension when it’s done. It’s a rollercoaster ride that hinges on a writer’s ability to conduct a harmonious symphony of words, from the first moment through the last.

So, just as conductor George Daugherty and The Philadelphia Orchestra leads the audience on a speculator journey with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner, the writer should compose their stories in a manner that leads the reader on an eye-popping emotional journey, a trip they want to take and won’t soon forget. Readers want the writer to stimulate their senses. They want and need to know your characters on a personal level. You want readers to step into the pages of your books. It’s an escape from reality that must begin with a passion to tell a tale.

 

Ask Yourself the Important Questions

So, in order to add those tiniest of important details needed to breathe true life into your cop characters, you should ask yourself a few basic questions, such as:

How should an officer position themselves when making an arrest?

Answer– Always, always, always stand with your gun side AWAY from the suspect. This is especially important when the subject is combative/resisting.

Which areas of an arrested subject should an officer search for weapons? Is there a standard procedure?

Answer – Start with the most obvious locations first—the waistband, of course, and this is especially so when dealing with male subjects. Each officer should establish a routine as to how they conduct searches of a person. By doing so the chance of missing an area is greatly decreased.

For example, after searching the waist and leg areas (boot knives and holsters are good hiding spots for weapons such as small guns and knives), I started at the top, beneath hats, and then worked my way down until I reached the ground, leaving no area untouched, and that includes a firm hand in the groin area. This, believe me, is not the time to be shy. I’ve found more than one handgun jammed inside pants and underwear.

Another point to note is that when officers hand over a suspect to another officer, the second/receiving officer should conduct another detailed search of the suspect. I know, it seems redundant, but it’s not worth risking your life by depending upon the potential sloppy search, or no search, by another human. Anyone, even the best of the best humans could make a mistake.

What are some of the danger signs do officers look for when dealing with unknown people?

Answer – There are many, so I’ll mention a few of the basics, such as:

A person wearing a coat during the summertime. This could indicate the subject is armed and is using the outer garnet to conceal the weapon. The same is true when a person touches an area on their waistband, or that a shirttail is untucked on one side. Or even when a person’s clothing “appears” a bit heavier on one side. Sometimes, the shape of a gun’s grips/an outline is noticeable  beneath the material. Pockets that appear heavier than normal, sagging due to a heavy object inside could indicate the presence of a weapon. Keep in mind that even heavy objects such as rocks and bottles can and are used as instruments of death. Yes, a rock can kill when used with enough force.

Many, if not most of the “killed in the line of duty” deaths occur during an officer’s initial approach to a subject. This is why it is imperative that the officer quickly, almost within the blink of an eye, size up the person and then formulate a plan. Remember, no two situations are perfectly identical nor are two people the same in every way. So quick thinking and a plan are necessary.

It’s a given that it’s rude to not look someone in the eye when speaking to them. But eyes cannot hurt us. So officers should always, always, always watch the hands of a suspect/subject. Next, watch the feet. They, too, can be used as powerful weapons.

Officers are forever scanning their surroundings, Ambush attacks are common, and deadly.

Have a backup plan in case Plan A fails. And never hesitate to retreat if a situation becomes unmanageable and/or unsafe.

Call for backup!

What do cops do wrong that could be a hazard to their safety?

Answer – Officers should maintain their weapons in excellent condition. They should make certain that firearm operates properly and they should practice their shooting skills on a regular basis. This practice should include scenario-based training, not simply going to the range and popping 60 holes in a stationary paper target. After all, how many times have you heard of an officer being killed by a non-moving sheet of paper?

The same is true of vehicles and other emergency tools and equipment. Maintenance and practice, practice, practice driving skills, as well as other tactics, such as building entries, etc. PRACTICE!!

What are some things that officers overlook?

Answer – Officers sometime become complacent. It’s easy to do when doing the same thing day after day after day. Unfortunately, when an officer is careless and, say, skips searching the crotch area of an arrested subject because he was too embarrassed to put a hand “there,” well, it could be the last mistake he’ll ever make when the guy reaches into his pants to retrieve a hidden .380.

This isn’t so much “overlooking something” as it is being careless, but officers often tend to work while excessively sleepy and/or tired. Their pay level is sometimes not so desirable so they work a lot of voluntary overtime, and even second or third jobs. And, obviously, a job where your life could be threatened at any time requires a person to be on top of his/her game.

Overlooking the obvious is something that happens a lot. Just as I suggest to you that writing important details are, well, important, officers must take that to another level. For them, everything and everyone should be considered a danger until it’s proven that it’s not.

Hiding behind things such drywall and plywood works as concealment, but not as true cover. Bullets slice through both items as if they weren’t there. So find the best possible cover to protect against gunfire.

I’ve seen officers run to a man down as if the danger ceased immediately once the suspect hit the dirt. This is an extremely perilous time. Always assume the suspect is still armed and capable of shooting and killing you. Approach with caution, still using cover and concealment, if possible, until you’re certain the threat has ceased to exist. Keep in mind that the downed person may still have a hidden weapon and is pretending to be incapacitated. Do not let down your guard. Never.

Finally, here’s Bugs to wrap up the day …

 


TODAY’S MYSTERY SHOPPER’S CORNER

Since the holiday season is nearly here, I’ve decided to feature a few fun items for your mystery shopping needs and wants. I’ll post these regularly throughout the remaining weeks of 2018.

So, for day four of MSC, especially for those of you who’re shopping for writer friends who enjoy a bit of research and/or relaxation, here are my picks. By the way, someone asked why I post all Amazon links for the books I recommend. The answer is that they work well for and with this site, but by all means feel free to purchase books anywhere you like. But why not here by simply clicking the links I provide?

First up, the Police Blue/Black folding knife. It’s also a firefighting rescue tool.


The Thin Blue Line flag.


LEGO’s City Police Mobile Command Center


Uniden Handheld Police/Fire/Rescue Scanner. I had one of these in my police car. In fact, I still have it.


The Book Corner

I’m on and off with Stephen King’s books, but I just completed this one and found it enjoyable.


Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors and I especially enjoy reading her books at night while snuggled beneath the covers. I read this one a couple of weeks ago.

I’m currently reading this one on my Kindle and it, like her others, is a wonderful read.


My friend Lisa Gardner has attended the Writers’ Police Academy both as Guest of Honor and as an attendee on a return visit. The second time she attended was a research trip for one of her bestselling books, Crash and Burn. The event provided her with the accident reconstruction material needed to write a believable make-believe story.

Fun fact – Lisa also wrote a hit short story that was set at the Writers’ Police Academy. In the tale, her protagonist, D.D. Warren, was an instructor at the WPA.