Garden of the Gods


I’m in Witchita, Kansas at the Scene of the Crime conference, so this week’s Weekend Road Trip will be hosted by author Terry Odell. She’s decided to take you guys to Pikes Peak, Colorado for a tour of the Garden of the Gods. Terry promises to have you back in time for our visit on Monday with publisher Ben LeRoy. Enjoy.





Photography by Jason Odell

* Tomorrow (Monday April 14): Publisher Ben LeRoy On The Importance of Introductions

Tuesday – Author/police secretary Joyce Tremel on Civilian Police Employees

Wednesday – World renowned forensic psychologist Dr. Katherine Ramsland. Dr. Ramsland has written over two-dozen books, including The C.S.I. Effect, The Human Predator, and the biographies of Dean Koontz and Anne Rice.

Next week: New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennon, Literary Agent Scott Hoffman, and author Martha Alderson.

Should know about DNA


Sometimes, we just seem to get our tangs all tonguled up and use the wrong words in our stories. Perhaps we learned those incorrect little language units while watching television, or while reading a novel written by a die-hard CSI fan. Either way,  here’s some words and facts about DNA that all writers should know if their stories involves this area of forensics.


ABI 310 Genetic Analyzer – capillary electrophoresis instrument used in laboratories for DNA testing.

Allele – an alternate form of a gene, such as hair color and the shape of your nose.

ASCLD – American Society of Crime Lab Directors.

Autoradiogram – a sort of x-ray picture of where radioactive probes have adhered to alleles. (It’s a picture of someone’s DNA).

New Picture (1)

Band – a picture of a DNA fragment.

Capillary Electrophoresis – a method of separating DNA using straw-like capillaries.

The scientist is pointing to the eight capillaries.

Chromosome – a very large piece of DNA.

Males have one Y and one X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes.

CODIS – Combined DNA Index system. Established in 1998.

Degradation – chemical or physical breakdown of DNA.

Electrophoresis – method of separating DNA molecules using an electric field.

Gel electrophoresis

Electropherogram – A plotted printout of DNA test results.

Gel – medium used in electrophoresis to separate DNA.

Forensic Facts

Loading DNA into gel.

Genome – an organism’s genetic composition.

Locus – Location of a gene on a chromosome. (pl. Loci)

Mitochondrial DNA – DNA transferred only from mother to child.

 STR – repetition of four tandomly repeated nucleotides. The FBI typically uses 13 STR loci in forensic analysis.

DNA Facts:

Identical twins have identical DNA.

Humans are genetically 99.9% identical. Only 0.1% of our genetic makeup is different.

It takes about eight hours for one cell to copy its own DNA.

Red blood cells do not contain DNA.

DNA is used to determine pedigree in livestock.

DNA is used to authenticate wine and caviar.

Detergent and Alcohol will not destroy DNA.

DNA can be transferred from article of clothing to another, even in a washing machine. This is called secondary and tertiary transfer.

DNA testing is not 100% accurate.

Criminal cases involving DNA evidence are usually quite serious in nature (homicide, rape, etc.). Less than 1% of that DNA evidence is reviewed by defense attorneys.

*Want to know what it’s really like to work The Graveyard Shift in a busy police department? Find out tomorrow when romance author/police dispatcher Tracy Seybold stops in for a tell-all visit.

Literary Agent Janet Reid Goes Undercover


I’m here undercover.

Lee Lofland thinks he invited me over to do a guest stint on his blog.  What I’m really doing is getting to know you, his readers, and worming my way into your good graces.  Why?  Cause I just sold a book about female police officers and when it comes out next year my author is going to be promoting it to police officers, former police officers and people interested in reading about them.

So why am I here a year early?  Those who know me might say cause it takes a year for anyone to think I’m charming or a year to not think I’m a sarcastic (um…Lee…can I say bitch on your blog??) but that’s only half the answer.

Blogging is just a new form of word of mouth, and building relationships for effective word of mouth, in the blogosphere as elsewhere, takes time. There are no shortcuts.  There aren’t lists of big time bloggers, with their email addresses, and the kinds of things they like to hear about.  Newp.  This is research one click at a time.  Blogroll after blogroll.  Thank god for bookmarks and RSS feeds to help keep track of things but it’s still tedious work.

Tedious, but essential.  I believe the day of the physical book tour is coming to an end.  With the high price of gas, authors spend even more money on what was largely building good will rather than one which sold a lot of books.  Fewer authors are willing to do that. Fewer publishers are willing to pay for it. That makes sense from their point of view of course, but it makes promotion and visibility all that much harder.

Word of mouth marketing online is going to do nothing but grow. It’s not going to grow through social networks like Facebook or MySpace either. Those are so sprawling, and devoid of useful content and so clearly self-serving that, as a marketing ploy, they are basically useless. Effective online marketing is through blogs like this.  Lee provides interesting content – content we come back to read daily or weekly.  When/if Lee finds a book he likes and wants to talk about, and mentions it on his blog, I’ll see it.  I’ll pay attention to it because Lee is someone I like, and read. He’s an effective advocate because I have the sense I know him by reading his blog.

If I see a book once on Lee’s blog, that will be nice.  But if I see the book again on three other blogs, then I’ll start to remember.  Market research tells us that consumers need to see something 12 times before the image “sticks.”

As an author, what that means is that you have to start early. Get to know bloggers in your area. Not geographical area (although that is another good place too) but in your area of writing.  If you’re writing about cops, you check out cop blogs. Like this one.  And you read it regularly. You offer a comment periodically so your email address or posting name gets known. You become part of a community essentially.

The trick is that it takes time.  You can’t just barrel in and announce you’re everyone’s friend and aren’t they lucky you have a book out now for everyone to buy.  Well, you could.  But I’m trying to be effective, not stupid. I get those emails a lot from people. I routinely delete them without reply. Every other blogger I talk to does the same thing.  I see those kinds of posts on listservs I belong to, and I skim right over it as the ineffective mention that it is.

The books I do mention on my blog, are by people I know, and like, and want to promote. The books I do notice on listservs are those talked about by actual readers as books they liked (or sometimes didn’t–I am always intrigued when people rant about a book.)

I firmly believe this is the marketing template of the future. And not just for authors at small publishers, for ALL authors.

And now, back to my clever surveillance plan.


*Janet Reid is a literary agent a literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management in New York City.  She specializes in crime fiction. You can vist her at

Narcotics Evidence


Narcotics officers spend a great deal of time conducting surveillance in some of the worst places imaginable, and they do it while enduring some pretty rough conditions. After all, it’s not pleasant sitting in a patch of poison ivy during a rainstorm while watching a bad guy conducting his business. And, the narcotics officers never know if they’ll be discovered, which could lead to a violent confrontation, possibly even a shootout.

Once the surveillance is over, and officers have established the necessary probable cause for obtaining a search warrant, it’s time to locate and seize the evidence. Tactical teams rehearse for this moment over and over again.


Entry team serving a search warrant


Bale (or brick) of marijuana discovered during a search 


Twenty-five pounds of freshly harvested marijuana

Back at the police department, officers deposit evidence, such as narcotics, into an evidence safe. Once the items have been placed into the opening on the top of the safe they cannot be removed except by the property room supervisor.

Safes, like the one pictured below, are used during the nighttime hours when the property room officers are off duty. Each morning the property room officers remove the items, catalogue them, and place them into the property warehouse, or other storage facility. Some evidence rooms are huge, like the warehouses in stores like Target,Walmart, and Lowes.


Evidence safe


Property room supervisor weighing a bag of marijuana. No one has access to the evidence except the officers who work inside. If officers need a piece of evidence, they must sign for it much like you would do when checking out a library book.


Scales for weighing evidence. The weight is recorded on the yellow evidence tag along with other pertinent case information.

Evidence waiting to be catalogued

After a drug case has made its way though the courts, the drugs are destroyed.


Device used for destroying (burning) narcotics

Photos below are of officers destroying confiscated marijuana.


4/20 Day Cannibis


There’s one job within the police department that really takes special skills, patience, and abilities. It’s a demanding job that requires long, late-night hours, working in extremely dangerous situations, and hanging out with some of the worst criminals in the country.  The job –  narcotics officer.

Police departments take drug crimes seriously, and they take a proactive approach to locating and arresting illegal drug dealers and manufacturers. One reason they take such as hard stance against illegal drugs is because drug activity is often the cause of other major crimes, such as prostitution, larceny, rape, robbery, and even murder.


Drug crimes often spill over from one jurisdiction to another, so in order to better combat the illegal activity police agencies sometimes join together to form a drug task force. These task forces are often comprised of members from local police departments, sheriff’s offices, state police departments, DEA, FBI, ATF, etc. The officers in these task forces have jurisdiction anywhere within each of the member’s home county, city, or state.


Task force members receive specialized training in drug recognition, proper search warrant service, high-risk entries, undercover operations, drug slang and terminolgy, pharmaceuticals, and other areas relating to drug use and abuse. They’re also trained to locate marijuana growing operations.

To locate outdoor marijuana growing operations, police look for certain things, such as:

– Farm paths that have locked gates.

– Water jugs and fertilizer that’s been strategically placed along footpaths.

– Well-worn footpaths.

-People who regularly visit isolated woodlands.

To locate indoor growing operations, police look for:

– Air-conditioned outbuildings

– Outbuildings with plumbing and electricity.

– Stacks of potting soil and fertilizer

– Unusually large purchases of fertilzer, grow lights, and potting soil.

– Unusually high utility bills.


Indoor growing operation

Officers spend lots of time walking through wooded areas and other prime locations during the marijuana growing season. They also use helicopters and small planes to fly over suspected growing areas. Marijuana has a distinctive blue-green coloring that’s quite visible from the air, even in thick, wooded areas.


Looking down on marijuana plants from police aircraft

Marijuana plants stand out from the surrounding brush. Also, footpaths leading to the crop are like flashing neon lights to officers. Some growers attempt to hide their crops by draping camoflaged netting over their plants. They also grow individual marijuana plants in plastic five-gallon buckets so they can move the entire plant if they think the police may be getting close to their operation.



                              Confiscated marijuana

Drug task force shoulder patches:





Cops are people too


Police officers have a dangerous job, no doubt about it. They drive fast, dodge bullets, wrestle bad guys, and take knives away from rowdy drunks. But, if you take the time to look closely you’ll see that they’re just people, like you and me. They just happen to wear a uniform and carry a gun.













Officers must lock their weapons inside a lockbox before entering the booking area.











Kinesics is the study of nonverbal communication – body language. A suspect’s movements and gestures can tell investigators when he is being less than truthful. Some of these gestures are very slight while others are as plain as the nose on the suspect’s face.


– Like to take up as little space as possible. To do so, they limit their arm and hand movements. They feel safer keeping their hands and arms close to their body.

– Movements are stiff and unnatural.


– Don’t like to make eye contact.

– Repeatedly touch their face, ears, and throat.


– Don’t like to touch their heart or chest area with an open hand.

– Repeatedly touch their nose or ears.


– Timing of gestures are delayed.

– Liars often use gestures that don’t match their verbal responses to a question (frown when they should smile).

– Guilty people are most often defensive.

– A guilty person likes to place an object (a pencil, paper, etc.) between himself and the officer as a protective barrier.

– Liars like to use the officer’s words to answer the question. (repeat the question before responding).

– Liars use contractions (I didn’t do it). Innocent people do not.

– Liars are not comfortable with silence. They ramble, and detectives should allow them to do so.

– Liars mumble and speak in monotone.

– Guilty people love it when detectives change the subject. They immediately become happy. Their sullen moods return when the detective returns to the subject at hand. Investigators intentionally switch topics as a ploy during interrogations.

– Liars and guilty people often use humor in their responses.

The Eyes Have It


Can interrogators really look into a suspect’s eyes and determine if he’s telling the truth? Can they spot a fibber by the way he moves his hands, or by the tone of his voice? Of course they can, and they’ve been doing it for years.

During the questioning of criminal suspects, investigators study an individual’s hand, eye, and body movements. This vocabulary of nonverbal communication is called Kinesics.

Even bestselling author Jeffery Deaver uses kinesics in a few of his novels as a crime-solving tool.

A killer’s eye movements and gestures can set off alarm bells in a detective’s mind. Those bells cause experienced officers to take a closer look at the suspect sitting before them. Scott Peterson exhibited many of the classic signs of a liar during his television interview with Diane Sawyer.

Scott Peterson

Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.

Peterson exhibited many of the tell-tale signs of a liar.

John Mark Carr falsely confessed to killing Jon Benet Ramsey. His eye movements were not consistent with the eye movements and other body language of a truthful person.

When investigators ask a suspect a question they watch his eye movements. When asked a question about a specific event, if the (right-handed) suspect looks:

Up and to the right (VC), he probably did not commit the act and is trying to picture the event in his mind.

Up and to the left (VR), he probably committed the offense and is actually remembering (re-living) the act in his mind.

Directly to his right (AC), he is trying to imagine what sounds – gun shots, screams, etc. – would have been heard at the crime scene had he been there.

Directly to the left (AR), he probably committed the act and he’s remembering the sounds he heard while he was at the scene of the crime.

Down and to the right (F), he is recalling emotions or sensations, such as how he felt when he first smelled burnt gunpowder or the feel of wet, sticky blood on his hands.

Down and to the left (Ai), he is talking to himself as he thinks about what he’s done.

*Kinesics works nearly every time. Eye movements are opposite for left-handed people.

Fun Fact – Kinesics is often used during pre-employment screening to help determine if an applicant is being truthful with the interviewer.

Kinesics – The study of non-verbal communication

* Tomorrow we’re pleased to announce that Daniel P. Smith, author of On the Job: Behind the Stars of the Chicago Police Department, will be our guest blogger. Danny comes from a long line of Chicago police officers, so stop by and get the inside scoop about one of the oldest and most respected police departments in our country.

*We’ll continue the lesson on How Detectives Know When a Suspect Is Lying on Wednesday.

Chief of police Scott Silverii


Police chiefs are responsible for enforcing the laws and ordinances of their city or town. They’re appointed by a city council and mayor, and they’re supervised by that same governing body. Since they’re appointed to their position by council, they can be removed from duty at any time by that same council.

Police officers wear insignias on their collars to identify their rank. A police chief normally wears a gold colonel’s eagle or a series of stars like a military general. The number of stars worn is usually dictated by the number of high-ranking officers serving directly under the chief. For example, a chief may wear four stars while her deputy chief wears three, indicating that he is the second in command. The third in command may wear two stars, etc.


Oceanside, California police chief, Frank McCoy wears four gold stars on his collar, indicating his status as chief of police.

Police chiefs are responsible for:

– Enforcing all laws and local ordinances (specially adopted town or city laws)

– Supervision of all police department employees – sworn and non-sworn (civilian)

– Organize training programs

– Act as liason between the community and the police department

– Develop policies and procedures

– Attend council meetings

– Maintain accurate departmental records

– Prepare departmental budget

– Develop and implement accident and crime prevention programs

Small town police chiefs sometimes have responsibilities other than law-enforcement, such as water meter reading, animal control, and overseeing garbage collection and other public works departments.

Others catch big sharks…

*Remember, I’m at the Emerald Coast Writers Conference this weekend, so my responses may be a little slow and sporadic, but I’ll be around.


A sheriff of a county or city is an elected official. He, or she, has no  boss other than the people who elected him into office. Once elected, a sheriff appoints deputy sheriffs to assist him with the duties of the office.

Deputy sheriffs are political appointees and work at the pleasure of the sheriff.

A sheriff and his deputies have jurisdiction anywhere within the county where he is elected to serve, including all towns and cities located within the county. This is true even if the town or city has a police department and a chief of police. A sheriff still has jursidiction within that city and, he and his deputies can make a legal arrest there. However, a police chief and her officers may not venture outside the boundaries of their city to make an arrest.

Not only is a sheriff responsible for the enforcement of the law within his county, he also oversees all county jails and lockups, provides security for all courtrooms and judges, and he is responsible for the delivery of all civil papers, such as jury summons, subpoenas, and divorce degrees. A police chief may not serve civil papers. Therefore, all towns, cities, and counties must have a sheriff, but a police chief is not an absolute must. The sheriff can assume the law-enforcement duties in a town or city without a police department.


Civil process department

Even though they all wear the same uniform, not all deputy sheriffs are police officers. Those who work in the jails, courtrooms, and in the civil process department normally do not attend a police academy. They attend separate training for their areas of expertise.

Deputies who work in the county jails are corrections officers just like their counterparts in the state and federal prison systems.


Most jail deputies (corrections officers) are not certified police officers.

Some sheriffs cross-train their deputies so they can work anywhere in the department.

The second in command in a sheriff’s office is called a chief deputy, or chief. The chief deputy is in charge of the entire department if something happens to the sheriff that impedes him from carrying out his duties. In the event of the sheriff’s death, the chief deputy willl remain in charge until the next full election, or until a special election can be held to elect a new sheriff.

The chief judge of the area may appoint the chief deputy as acting sheriff. Actually, a judge could appoint anyone form the community as acting sheriff as long as that person is a registered voter and has not been convicted of a crime. Many states do not require that a sheriff be a certified law enforcement officer.


The second in command of a sheriff’s office is called the Chief Deputy, or Chief.

Some sheriffs also serve as coroner.

Donny Youngblood, Sheriff-Coroner

Kern County, California

*As always, I recommend that you contact the law-enforcement agency where your story is set to learn the local rules, regulations, and standard operating procedures of the department.

*Tomorrow – Sheriff’s offices – part two.

*I’ll be speaking at the Emerald Coast Writers Conference in Fort Walton Beach, Florida this weekend (I leave today and will return Sunday) I’ll continue the blood evidence information next week.

I will be posting the daily blog, as normal, but my responses to your questions may be a little slower during my time at the conference. Today, I’ll be checking in periodically during my trip to Florida. So, just continue to post your questions and comments and I’ll get to them as quickly as possible. If any of you are attending the conference please stop in to say hi.