Mother would call it a ministry

Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. They’re in a class all to themselves, and it’s a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in often don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is an operation that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Of course, compounding the trouble is the necessary secrecy involving some aspects of law enforcement, acts that can drive even larger wedges between the general population and the police. Therefore, over time, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them, for whatever reason(s). And, unfortunately, the circling of those wagons transformed the an already large wedge into a nearly impenetrable wall between citizens and the officers who’ve taken an oath to protect and serve them.

The wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even fear death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. Are those feelings justified? Sadly, in some cases, the answer is yes. But in most instances the answer is a definite and resounding NO. But, those bad apples in the barrel ruin things for everyone on both sides of the badge.

As a detective in charge of certain operations, I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, and that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writing. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy five years ago.

I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below, I also knew the event had achieved far more than helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life. It’s almost overwhelming to think that the WPA actually impacted someone this way means a lot to me.

So here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity, and, please, if you think you recognize the author of the letter, keep the name to yourself). The incidents mentioned in the letter occurred in New York City, but this could be said about any location in the country. And, by the way, I deeply appreciate the courage it took for this person, the author of the message, to attend the WPA and then to follow up with such a raw and emotional letter.

The Letter

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September of 201* and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld

 

Last week my wife Denene and I traveled to North Carolina to be with her mother during yet another surgery (you may recall that she and our daughter were each diagnosed, just weeks apart, with serious cancer). Her surgery went well and she’s now back at home.

On our way back to our own home we took a detour to visit with my brother and his wife for a few minutes. The side trip to their house took us deep in the countryside where it’s not unusual to see a black bear crossing the road, or a dozen or so deer grazing on my brother’s property.

To return to a major highway after leaving my brother’s place, we first had to trek along several narrow treelined backroads, where thick leafy canopies overhang, allowing only bits of sunlight to leak through between branches, speckling the asphalt with splashes and dots of yellow.  It was like I image it would be to travel through the twisting and turning lens of an old kaleidoscope.

Denene and I chatted along the drive with our conversation turning toward the possibility of hosting a 2020 Writers’ Police Academy. We brainstormed ideas as to how, if we decide to host a 12th event, to top earlier years and which new classes and topics we could offer.

We discussed past events and favorite sessions and activities. We also discussed that 2020 would be a year without Linda Lovely and Howard Lewis, our two key volunteers who’ve decided to move on after many years of hard work and loyal service to the WPA. Of course Denene and I are grateful to all they’ve done for us and the event over the past several years. The four of us have been together during fun times and extremely difficult hardships.

But, as it’s been said, “The show must go on.” For now, though, the head-scratcher of the day is whether or not to return to Sirchie, NWTC’s Public Safety Academy in Green Bay, or to simply call it quits after 11 wonderfully successful years. I’d love to see your preferences in the comments below.

Okay, back to the rest of the trip back home from N.C.

We twisted and wound throughout the network country roads, passing a couple of boarded-up country stores, the kind that once sold hunks of hoop cheese and slices of bologna from long tubes, hand-dipped ice cream cones, pickled eggs and pigs feet from large glass jars, live minnows and crickets, and blocks and bags of ice.

Cotton field in Virginia

Small clapboard-sided churches and fields of soybean and cotton and corn were part of the landscape, as were modest homes and barns and tin-roofed sheds cobbled together from plywood and 2x4s.

Then, we passed a house that stirred a long forgotten memory. It was a brick rancher with a gravel driveway. The entrance to the drive was flanked by two large wooden wagon wheels, one on either side. A vivid picture crossed my mind—a Virginia State Police car parked in that very driveway. Wow, how could I have forgotten about this trooper, a man who played a part in shaping me as a police officer.

Let’s Back up a Bit

I’ve worked undercover assignments in my day, most of which involved narcotics operations. My very first one took place, and it pains me to say just how long ago it was, back in the 70s. I know, I’m one of the “old guys.”

By the way, writers, that’s a term sometimes used by younger cops when referring to active-duty officers who tend to show a bit of gray hair and “donut induced belly droop” at the waistline. Old Guy is a moniker that also refers to retired cops.

I was reminded of my “old guy” status during a past WPA when I overheard instructor Rick McMahan using me as an example to emphasis a point during one of his presentations. He said something similar to, “Lee Lofland could probably tell you about how it went back then. He’s one of the old guys.”

When Denene and I passed that brick house I mentioned above, I immediately recalled sitting in a beat-up old car while two troopers placed “bugs” in the passenger side door panel and beneath the dashboard. I didn’t wear a wire in case the dealer opted to check for one, and he did. My handler, the trooper who lived in the brick house, was briefing me about my “target,” a major drug supplier who sold only large quantities of marijuana (“pot,” back in the day). Nothing smaller than five pounds, actually.

It was my job to gain the man’s confidence and work my way into his trusted circle. The goal was to become one of his dealers. I was brought in from another area to prevent the possibly of recognition. It was a tough assignment for a couple of reasons. One – No one had been able to gain the man’s trust. Two – He was a black man who generally didn’t associate with white people, and I’m obviously white. And he didn’t, as a rule, sell to white people. Didn’t trust them. Not at all. So my assignment was an uphill climb from day one.

But, at the time was hair was quite long and my daily attire was often grungy jeans, t-shirts, and Converse tennis shoes. I definitely looked the part and I walked the walk and talked the talk.

Me completing paperwork at the time of this operation.

Long story short, I did indeed manage to work my way inside the “team” and was soon given five pound packages of “pot” to sell. I was easily successful at unloading the drug because I simply turned it over to my handler, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, through the Va. State Police, kindly forked over the cash/buy money.

To my supplier, I was a fantastic “employee.” He assumed I was selling to white folks from Richmond to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, to Raleigh and everywhere in between. He even accompanied me on a couple of sales to undercover Va. State Police troopers. We arranged these sales to prove that I was not an undercover agent.

So, the day came to make the arrest. Since I was then working other assignments I was not part of the raid team. In fact, I didn’t see the man again until we came face to face in court during his trial, and if looks could kill I’d have been butchered, burned, and fed to wild hogs and hungry lions.

When I took the stand to testify about, in great detail, the operation that brought us to the point of the arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings, his high-priced, fancy-dressed defense attorney tried his best to discredit me. But, it didn’t work. Not even close. To pat myself on the back a bit, I remained calm, cool, and sharp.

Entrapment?

The attorney tried every trick in the book, including the old standby of entrapment. But this one failed miserably. You’ve probably heard someone somewhere say that undercover (UC) police officers absolutely must identify themselves as officers at some point during the operation, otherwise the, as the myth goes, the suspect’s constitutional rights are violated. It is incorrectly believed that if a UC does not identify themselves then they have entrapped the person who committed the crime in question.

Well, hogwash. This is without any doubt whatsoever, a myth of epic proportion. It’s fake news spewed by people who do not know the law.

Yet, this highly-educated and quite successful attorney, well, he sort of went there, asking me this question during his cross examination. “Did you tell my client what you were going to do with the marijuana he gave you? 

I sat in silence for a moment to allow the prosecutor to butt in, object, or whatever,  but he elected to not do or say anything.

Therefore, my response to this dumb question was the first thing that popped into my somewhat warped mind. “No I did not. And I didn’t because I don’t believe he’d have given me large quantities of marijuana to sell if he knew I was handing it over to Va. State Police Troopers for the purpose of building a solid case against him.”

Laughter then roared from the courtroom, and even the judge chuckled before asking the defense attorney if he had any further questions for me. He replied, “No, sir. I don’t believe so.” Then he turned and took a seat.

The drug dealer was found guilty and was handed a lengthy prison sentence.


Entrapment

“Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” ~ Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540(1992).

 


Again, I’d truly like to hear you thoughts regarding a potential 2020 Writers’ Police Academy—return to Sirchie, NWTC’s Public Safety Academy in Green Bay, or to simply call it quits.

So please do post your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, if we are to continue hosting this wonderful event we may need volunteers to help out, especially people with experience in planning large events with lots of moving parts. We also may need a few people to fill smaller roles during the event—help with raffle, check-in, reception, banquet, etc.

Working as a WPA volunteer involves lots of hard work and no pay (sounds tempting, I know). However, the experience is extremely rewarding in many ways. If you should consider becoming a WPA volunteer, please keep in mind that the Writers’ Police Academy is not a typical writers conference. There are no craft sessions, agent and/or editor panels, nor are there pitch sessions with agents and/or editors.

The WPA is a hands-on learning event whose focus is solely on teaching writers about law enforcement, forensics, and crime-solving. It’s an event that welcomes everyone, and it’s a place that’s free of politics. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And it truly is a Disneyland for writers of all genres, from beginning writers to top bestselling authors. Fans and readers, journalists, librarians, booksellers, etc. are also welcome to attend.

Police officers must attend training academies where they learn the basics of the job. In Virginia, for example, it is required that new officers receive a minimum of 480 hours of basic academy training that includes (to name only a few subjects):

  • Professionalism
  • Legal
  • Communication
  • Patrol
  • Investigations
  • Defensive tactics and use of force
  • Weapons, including firearms, baton, chemical, etc.
  • Driver training

The list sounds simple but, believe me, the training is grueling and physically and mentally challenging and demanding. It’s also quite stressful because if a rookie happens to flunk any portion of the academy they are immediately returned to their department where it’s likely their employment will be terminated.

Of course, academies and individual departments may add to the basic curriculum, and they often do (mine was longer), but they may not eliminate any portion of the training that’s mandated by the Department of Justice and/or the state.

In addition to the basic police academy, in order to “run radar,” officers are required to successfully complete a compulsory minimum training standards and requirements course. This course is specifically for law-enforcement officers who utilize radar or an electrical or microcomputer device to measure the speed of motor vehicles.

The Basic Speed Measurement Operator Training requirements include the following:

  1. Attend a DCJS approved speed measurement operator’s course
  2. Pass the speed measurement testing
  3. Complete Field Training

Virginia State Police Basic Training

Academy training for the Virginia State Police (VSP) is much more intense and lengthy than that of local academies.

VSP academy training includes 1,536 hours of instruction covering more than 100 sessions that range  from laws of arrest, search and seizure, defensive tactics, motor vehicle code, criminal law, and much more.

A troopers basic training is completed in four phases.

  • Phase I – The first 12 days are at the Academy at which time the students receive abbreviated training.
  • Phase II – Pre-Academy Field Training—up to four months—at which time the students ride with a FTO.
  • Phase III – Return to the academy for 26 weeks of Basic Training, completing both classroom and practical courses.
  • Phase IV – Following graduation from the academy, troopers complete an additional six to eight weeks of field training with a FTO.

What Happens After Local Officers Graduate From the Academy?

Once local police and sheriff’s deputies complete the minimum of twelve weeks of academy training (remember, some are longer), the law enforcement officers are then required to successfully complete a minimum of 100 hours of approved field training. This is on the job training, working in the field under the supervision of a certified field training officer (FTO). FTOs, by the way, must attend and successfully complete a training program that qualifies them to train officers in the field.

The mandatory minimum course for FTOs shall include a minimum of 32 hours of training and must include each of the following subject matter:

a. Field training program and the field training officer.

b. Field training program delivery and evaluation.

c. Training liability.

d. Characteristics of the adult learner.

e. Methods of instruction.

f. Fundamentals of communication.

g. Written test.

During the field training portion of a rookie’s beginning days on the street, their FTOs are evaluating their performance while at the same time protecting them and the public from harm. Working as an FTO is a tough job. I know, I’ve done it. You’re forever watching to make certain the rookies do not accidentally violate the rights of citizens, and you’re constantly on high alert, watching for the unexpected. This is because you’re responsible for everything that could happen. And, you’re watching for two people instead of one.

FTOs typically allow rookies to get their hands dirty by handling calls, getting the feel of driving the patrol car on city streets or county roads, conduct arrests, etc. They serve as a crutch, to prevent missteps. They’re leaders and they’re teachers. They are the final barrier to the officers going out on their own, a day most new officers salivate for in anticipation.

That first night alone in your very own patrol car is a highly desired moment. It the official sign that you’ve made it. You are finally a police officer. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of boxes that must be checked off by the FTO.

During the field training period, each rookie must demonstrate that they know the streets in their patrol areas. They must know local and state laws and ordinances. They must know the working of the court system and how to effectively interact with local prosecutors. And, well, below is a list of topics that rookies must know better than the backs of their hands before their FTO officially signs the paperwork releasing them from the training.

  • Department Policies, Procedures, and Operations (General Law Enforcement)
  • Local Government Structure and Local Ordinances
  • Court Systems, Personnel, Functions and Locations
  • Resources and Referrals
  • Records and Documentation
  • Administrative Handling of Mental Cases
  • Local Juvenile Procedures
  • Detention Facilities and Booking Procedures
  • Facilities and Territory Familiarization
  • Miscellaneous

Academy instructors aren’t simply any Joe or Sally off the street who may know a little something about police work because they’ve every episode of COPS, twice. Instead, academy instructors in Virginia are well-trained and must meet a minimum standard set by the state/DOJ.

Yes, academy instructors are required to attend specialized certification classes for the specific subjects they teach. And, instructors who train/teach and certify other instructors must become certified to teach those high level classes. They are then certified instructor-trainers.

I was a certified instructor-trainer for Defensive Tactics and CPR, and I was a certified instructor for Firearms, Officer Survival, CPR, and Basic and Advanced Life Support.

Advanced Classes for Officers, and Writers

Officer training never ends. Laws change and tactics and techniques evolve. Academies and agencies across the U.S. offer numerous specialized training opportunities. A great example of such educational opportunities are the courses offered at Sirchie, the location of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy’s special event, MurderCon.

Each year, on a continuing basis, Sirchie offers advanced classes for law enforcement officers. If some of these sound familiar to you, well, they should, because they were made available to attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy. It was an extremely rare opportunity for writers to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and train at such a prestigious facility and to learn from some of the top instructors in the world.

Classes presented at Sirchie, for law enforcement officers, are as follows:

  • Clandestine Grave Search & Recovery

    SIRCHIE is offering a 4 day “hands-on” training class on searching for and properly investigating and recovering remains from a clandestine grave site. The legal term corpus delicti me…
  • Phase 1 – Footwear Impression – Detection, Recovery, Identification Training

    Footwear impression evidence is the most overlooked evidence at crime scenes. Criminals will often wear gloves or wipe down objects that they touch at crime scenes but rarely do they remove their s…
  • Bloodstain Pattern Documentation Class

    Throughout the United States and certainly in smaller departments, the crime scene technician faces the complexities of homicide scenes without the proper support or training. Like all forensi…
  • Mastering the IAI Latent Print Exam Class

    Minimum requirements for the class: Each student must have at least 1 year of Latent print experience to be accepted in the class.  Background: Examiners who are preparing to take the L…
  • Digital Device Forensics

    With over 9 Billion wireless subscriptions worldwide as of 2016, every criminal investigation involves information that can be captured from a digital device, including phones and tablets. Understa…
  • Latent Palm Print Comparison Class

    Minimum Requirements for the class: Each student must have attended and completed a Basic Latent Fingerprint Comparison Course to be accepted in the Advanced Latent Palm Print Comparison Cou…
  • Evidence Collection and Processing Training

    Our Evidence Collection and Processing Training Program provides law enforcement professionals and crime scene investigators with hands on training using forensic tools that will help to execute th…
  • Drone Forensics

    This 5 day course is designed to take the investigator deep into the world of Drone Forensics. The use of Drones is growing rapidly and expanding to criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations…
  • Comprehensive Advanced Latent Print Comparison Course

    How proficient are your individual comparison skills as pertaining to latent print casework? Are erroneous exclusions a problem in your skill set? If you are a manager are erroneous exclusions a problem in your latent print work unit? This class was developed to help improve latent comparison competency and knowledge whether you are already a Certified Latent Print Examiner or if you are preparing to take the exam in the near future. A broad and exhaustive level of complex latent print exercises were carefully compiled to improve the level of expertise for examiners. You will not find another class like this one anywhere.

So Much Training and So Many Required Certifications, but …

Law enforcement officers in Virginia (I’m not certain about other states) shall satisfactorily complete the Compulsory Minimum Training Standards and Requirements within 12 months of the date of hire or appointment as a law-enforcement officer.

Take a moment to re-read the line above and then let it sink in that officers may work for up to one full year before they attend a basic police academy. That’s potentially 12 months of driving a patrol car and making arrests without a single second of formal training.

Sure, most departments would never dream of allowing an untrained officer work the streets without close and direct supervision. However, I’ve seen it done and I have personal knowledge of deputy sheriffs who patrolled an entire county, alone, for nearly 365 days prior to attending any formal police training. I know this to be so because I was one of those deputy sheriffs.

Believe me, it’s an odd feeling to carry a loaded gun while driving like a bat out of hell with lights and siren squalling at full yelp during the pursuit of a heavily armed suspect, all while not having clue what you should and shouldn’t do when or if you catch the guy.

When I think about it today I realize how foolish it was for my boss to allow us to work under those conditions.

Author Melinda Lee – WPA firearms training

Thanks to the Writers’ Police Academy, many writers have received far more training than I had during my first year on the job. Actually, many writers who’ve attended the WPA have received more advanced training than many of today’s law enforcement officers.

 

 

 

 


Here’s a recap of past Writers’ Police Academy events condensed in an ad for the 2018 WPA.

 

 

I’d like to take a moment of your time today, please, to address the recent concern expressed regarding the spelling of the word “Donut” in the title of the Writers’ Police Academy’s short story contest.

Also brought into question is the manner in which the Golden Donut writing contest is judged. Let’s first begin with the word “donut” and why this particular assemblage of letters was selected.

Donut v. Doughnut

While the spelling “Doughnut” is the more widely used spelling of the circular, hole-in-the-middle tasty treats often enjoyed by both police officers and writers, “Donut” is also considered as an acceptable spelling.

The latter spelling of the word is often used when referring to the maneuver performed by drivers who spin their cars in tight circles, going round and round in a plume of smoke created by the melting and burning of rubber tires as they rub against asphalt or concrete surfaces. This is a trick known as “Doing Donuts.” Or, of course, “Doing Doughnuts” is perfectly acceptable.

Since the WPA’s 200-word contest is offered by a police-themed event, featuring stories that are so brief that they must be written tightly and precisely, much like the well-formed tight circles resulting from “doing donuts,” we chose the tongue-in-cheek option of Golden “Donut” as the title of the popular contest.

From Merriam-Webster:

“In most dictionaries donut is an accepted spelling variant of doughnut. The spelling of donut without the “-ough” has appeared in enough textual references, and been made popular by brand such as Dunkin Donuts, to the point where it has widely become an accepted version of the glazed treat.”

“We’re not the only ones; it looks like any dictionary worth its salt includes it. Here’s why donut is included in our dictionaries.”

Usage of Donut

“We’ve been encountering the variant donut in published, edited text since the mid-20th century. It was certainly helped along by famous doughnut purveyors – both Dunkin’ and Mister – but in truth they and all who’ve accepted the variant were following in a tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform also embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster.”

Also, from the Salvation Army website:

“The Salvation Army established the first National Donut Day in 1938 in Chicago.”

“Donuts and “doing good” have always gone hand in hand. During World War I, Salvation Army “Donut Lassies” served donuts to soldiers. Today, we continue to celebrate their work by delivering the sweet treat to those in need – and to donut lovers across the country.”

Finally, we selected the name and its spelling mainly because we liked it, much like people all over the world choose names for their children. Such as the celebrities who named their offsprings…

Birdie (Busy Philipps and Marc Silverstein)

Blue Ivy (Beyonce and Jay-Z)

North (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West)

Story (Jenna Elfman)

Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone)

Who knows, someone may someday decide to name their kid Donut simply because the name strikes their fancy.

“Here comes good ole Donut Duncan. He’s got six toes on his left foot and seven on his right. I hear tell his uncle Darby’s got ten toes on each foot and can swim like a duck.”

Or…

“Look out, there’s Donut Dahmer. He’s Jeffrey’s first cousin, you know. And they say “IT” runs in the family!”

 

Judging the Golden Donut Contest – The Process

Before addressing the recent complaint, I first would like to point out that we receive tons of entries each year. And, while each are wonderful stories, only one can be the winner. In fact, so many of these stories are so fantastic we are currently trying to work out the details to publish many of the past contest entries in a Golden Donut anthology.

But back to the complaint.

I’ve served as a judge for major writing awards, and it’s no picnic when it comes down to selecting a winner. So I feel the pain that our judges experience each year. Fortunately, the stories our judges read are not connected in any way to a person. Instead, the short tales speak for themselves. They’re nothing more than words on a page. Letters arranged in such an order that tell a story about an image we provide as the basis for each tale. The authors’ names are not attached to any of the stories sent to judges.

Yes, the Golden Donut contest is judged blindly, with absolutely no means whatsoever of bias or cherry-picking of stories. Each story received arrives through the WPA website where our software randomly generates a number that is assigned to each entry. The assigning of numbers to the stories is computer generated and no one, not a single person/human who’s associated with the contest or event is involved in this process. An independent entity—the software program installed for the purpose of randomly assigning of numbers—handles this stage of the contest .

Once the contest deadline is reached, the individually numbered stories, minus the authors’ names and contact information, are then sent by the independent body to a panel of pre-judges who screen the stories for word count and quality of the stories. Then they select their top 12 favorites. This year, however, there were a couple of ties based on judges scores. This resulted in a top fourteen entries instead of the standard dozen.

Those top fourteen anonymous tales were again checked for word count and were then sent to the final judge, bestselling author Heather Graham, a judge who also did not know the names of the story authors. Heather Graham read all fourteen tales and from them selected her top three favorites – 1st, 2nd, and 3rdplace. She sent the top three back to us, still by number and title only.

Again, the author names were withheld throughout the entire process. Even I didn’t know who’d won until the very end when it was necessary for me to know so that I could order the trophy.

So there’s that. Now this…

AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT … the contest

Additionally, it was brought to my attention that someone believed the judging for the AFTER MIDNIGHT short story contest was in some way biased, rigged, or that we’d cheated in favor of certain authors. They even went as far as to claim the entire contest was a scam.

The judging process for AFTER MIDNIGHT was nearly identical to the Golden Donut contest. Each story was assigned a number and those nameless stories were sent to a panel of readers, a group composed of both authors and non-writer fans who enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense, etc. This group of readers scored each entry on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest score.

When all stories had been read the scores were tallied and the top tales were then sent, again, minus the author names, to the publisher, Level Best Books. And it was the publisher who determined the top two stories from the batch with the highest scores. The Writers’ Police Academy staff and judges/readers played no part in the final selections.

The two winning stories were published in the exciting new book AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, which, by the way, was advertised last weekend as one of Amazon Prime’s selected Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books.

Others on the same Amazon Prime list included BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty, Louise Penny’s A BETTER MAN, Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS, THE NEW GIRL by Daniel Silva, SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham, Stephen King’s DOCTOR SLEEP, and other top bestsellers. I’d definitely say AFTER MIDNIGHT is among excellent company!

I’d also like to say that the Writers’ Police Academy’s contest judging is at the highest standard possible. Using the software available to us leaves not a single shred of an opportunity to commit a misdeed. Besides, even if we could, we wouldn’t. Our goal is simple—to produce a quality event designed to help writers achieve their goals and dreams. And that’s what we’ll continue to do until the time comes to turn off the lights and shut lock the doors behind us for the final time.


By the way …

  • Amazin Glazin Donuts (2006) – Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Baker’s Dozen Donuts (1978) – Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • Belair Donuts (2013) – Augusta, Georgia
  • Bess Eaton Donuts (1953/2011) – Westerly, Rhode Island
  • Blue Star Donuts (2009) – Portland, Oregon
  • Boston Donuts – Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Casper’s Donuts – Pueblo, Colorado
  • Country Donuts (1976) – Elgin, Illinois
  • Cravin Donuts (1983) – Tempe, Arizona
  • Crispy Donuts – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Curry’s Donuts (1971) – Wilkes-Barre (Kingston), Pennsylvania
  • Daylight Donuts (1954) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Dipping Donuts (ca. 2000)- Leominster, Massachusetts
  • Dixie Cream Donuts (2008) – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Donut Bank (1967) – Evansville, Indiana
  • Donut Bistro – Reno, Nevada
  • Donut Cafe – Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Donut Connection (1995) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Donut Country (1986) – Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Donut Crazy – New Haven, Connecticut
  • Donut Delight (1991) – Stamford, Connecticut
  • Donut Dip (1957) – West Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Do-rite Donuts – Chicago, Illinois
  • Donut King (2007) – Minneola, Florida
  • Donut King – Massachusetts
  • Donut Mania – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Donut Palace (1978) – Van, Texas
  • Donut Professor (ca 2009) – Omaha, Nebraska
  • Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • Donut World (2010) – Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Duck Donuts (2007) – Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (1950) – Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Federal Donuts (2011) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fractured Prune Donuts (1976) – Ocean City, Maryland
  • G & S Donuts – Montgomery, Alabama
  • Glaze Donuts (2014) – New Milford, New Jersey
  • Glazed & Infused Donuts (2012) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Granny’s Donuts – High Point, North Carolina
  • Happy Donuts & Bakery – Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Haskell’s Donuts (1983) – Ruston, Louisiana
  • Heav’nly Donuts (1975) – Methuen, Massachusetts
  • Holtman’s Donuts (1960) – Loveland, Ohio
  • Home Cut Donuts (1966) – Joliet, Illinois
  • Honey Dew Donuts (1973) – Mansfield, Massachusetts
  • Honey Dip Donuts – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Howard’s Donuts (1970s) – West Memphis, Arkansas
  • Hurts Donuts (2013) – Springfield, Missouri
  • Hypnotic Donuts (2010) – Dallas, Texas
  • Irish Maid Donuts (1960) – Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Jack’s Donuts (1961) – New Castle, Indiana
  • Jack N Jill Donut Shops (2001) – Abilene, Texas
  • Jolly Pirate Donuts (1962) – Columbus, Ohio
  • Jubilee Donuts (1947) – Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
  • Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts (1955) – Saugus, Massachusetts
  • King Donut – Connecticut
  • K-May Donuts – Athens, Alabama
  • Knapp’s Donut Shop (pre-1996) – Rochester, Michigan
  • LaMar’s Donuts (1960) – Kansas City, Missouri
  • Licking Good Donuts (ca 1986) – Mobile, Alabama
  • Loyless Donuts – Dothan, Alabama
  • Maple Donuts (1946) – York, Pennsylvania
  • Mary Ann Donuts (1947) – Canton, Ohio
  • Mary Lee Donuts (1969) – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Mello Creme Donuts – Lima, Ohio
  • Mel-O-Cream Donuts (1932) – Springfield, Illinois
  • Mighty-O Donuts (2000) – Seattle, Washington
  • Mike’s Donuts (1969) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mister Donut (1955) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Hot Donuts (1994) – Houma, Louisiana
  • Naughty Girls Donut Shop (2014) – Front Royal, Virginia
  • Not Just Donuts – Slidell, Louisiana
  • Paradise Donuts (1967) – Neosho, Missouri
  • Peace, Love & Little Donuts (2009) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Pink Box Donuts (2012)- Henderson, Nevada
  • Poppy’s Xtreme Donuts – Marion, Indiana
  • Ray’s Donuts – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Ray’s Donuts – St. Louis, Missouri
  • Rebel Donuts – Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Rise N Shine Donuts – Lubbock, Texas
  • Robin’s Donuts (1975) – St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
  • Sara Donuts – Suwanee, Georgia
  • Shipley Do-Nuts (1936) – Houston, Texas
  • Shore Good Donuts (2011) – Long Beach Island, New Jersey
  • Sip’N Dip Donuts (1985) – Warren, Rhode Island
  • Southern Maid Donuts (1937) – Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Sprinkles Donut Shop (2015) – Hudsonville, Michigan
  • Square Donuts (1967) – Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Stan’s Donuts (1963) – Los Angeles, California
  • Sublime Donuts (2008) – Atlanta, Georgia – ain’t it the truth
  • Sugar Rush Donuts (2011) – Bayou La Batre, Alabama
  • Sugar Shack Donuts (2013) – Richmond, Virginia
  • Super Donuts – West Monroe, Louisiama
  • Suzy-Jo Donuts (1955) – Bridgeport, Pennsylvania
  • Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (1983) – Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tastee Donuts – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tasty Donuts (2011) – Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • The Donut House – Denver, Colorado
  • The Donut Stop (1974) – Amarillo, Texas
  • The Holy Donut (2012) – Portland, Maine
  • The Whole Donut (1955) – Hartford, Connecticut
  • Tim Horton’s (1964) – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Tom’s Donuts (1970) – Lake James, Indiana
  • Top Donut – Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Top Donuts – Killeen, Texas
  • Top Pot Donuts (2002) – Seattle, Washington
  • Whole Donut – Connecticut
  • Winchell’s Donuts (1948) – Temple City, California
  • Yum Yum Donuts (1971) – Los Angeles, California

 

 

WPA melts the wall between cops

Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. They’re in a class all to themselves, and it’s a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in simply don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is an operation that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Over time, and as a result of hatred and violence directed toward cops, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them. Actually, hate would be a more appropriate term in many cases. Unfortunately, the escalating hatred of police combined with the circling of those wagons transformed what was once a wedge of apprehension between citizens and the officers into a nearly impenetrable wall.

Yes, the wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even fear death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. And likewise, the police, too, fear injury and death.

As a detective in charge of certain operations I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writings. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy several years ago.

I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below, I also knew the event had achieved far more than helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life.

Here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity and, please, if you think you recognize the author of the letter, keep the name to yourself).

Here goes…

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld


Details of the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy will soon be available. 2018 marks our 10th anniversary so expect the largest and most exciting event we’ve ever produced. It’s going to be BIG!

*Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor of the WPA.

Many of you have sent questions regarding what to expect next week during your thrilling experience at the Writers’ Police Academy.

I hope the following addresses at least most of your concerns and will also alleviate any anxiety you may be experiencing at attending THE most exciting event on this planet (for writers). No need for anxiety. It’s like Disneyland for writers!

For starters, the WPA is an extremely casual event where everyone is on the same playing field. No matter where a person is on their road to publication, all of your co-recruits are attending basic training right alongside you.

No agents to impress. No editors to woo.

The WPA is an action-packed and thrilling weekend of playing real-life cops and robbers.

Here are our recommendations to make your weekend go smoothly and fun:

  1. Wear comfortable clothing. After all, it is nearly impossible to duck live ammunition, crawl under loops of barbed wire, and defend yourself against twelve knife-wielding attackers while wearing heels and a skintight sequined ball gown. See, I told you it’s laid back!
  2. Bring only the things you need to the academy grounds. It’s tough to kick in doors and perform a PIT maneuver with a mini-fridge, desktop computer, and your three small kids strapped around your midsection.
  3. Speaking of kids, there are no childcare options at the WPA. We only have room in the timeout corner for misbehaving adults (those of you who insist upon breaking our ABSOLUTELY NO VIDEO rule). Again, ABSOLUTELY NO VIDEO! NONE!!!
  4. Camping is not allowed at the academy. Why not? Because we need the open spaces for hiding explosives. Yeah, you might not want to stray away from the group. I’m just saying.
  5. Please bring a photo ID and keep it with you at all times while at the police academy. Police officers are used to arresting people who have several aliases, so it’s best for them to know upfront who you really are instead of thumbing through a list of pen names and “writing as” monikers. Book covers/dust jackets do not count as official ID. We need your real names, please.
  6. When participating in the emergency driving workshops, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. And no mooning your fellow recruits as your car passes by them while spinning wildly out of control.
  7. If you plan to drive to the academy, please remain inside your cars until the buses arrive and your fellow recruits begin to exit. No exceptions. Potty breaks will have to wait!! There’s a very good reason for this rule and I think it has something to do with the armed tower guards who’re trained to pick off anyone moving around outside the academy.
  8. Thursday night orientation is where and when we provide secret details about the event—where to go, when to go there, what to expect when you arrive, receive your instructions regarding what to do and say if captured, schedule changes, classroom number changes, and … You should be there, if possible. Besides, it’s fun.
  9. The hotel bars and casino are well-stocked with alcohol, so pace yourselves. They will not run out of your favorite beverage. Keep in mind, too, that the next morning will indeed arrive and it will include lots of loud gunfire, sirens, and barking, snarling police dogs. Just saying.
  10. Be prepared for whatever weather Wisconsin plans to toss our way. We are a rain or shine event, meaning if it’s raining you will get wet. So rain gear, umbrellas, etc. As of today, rain is indeed in the forecast, for Saturday. Cloudy on Friday.
  11. We are currently seeking volunteers for the following:
  • Twenty attendees to wear a fully loaded duty belt … all day (Ten will wear it on Friday and then pass them over to the next group of ten to wear on Saturday. The two groups will share their experiences during the Sunday debriefing panel. Should be interesting and fun.. We’ll ask for the twenty volunteers at the Thursday night orientation.

12. Buses will depart the hotel at 7:30 a.m. each morning.

Depart – to leave, typically in order to start a journey.

Again, buses depart at precisely 7:30 each morning. The WPA operates on an extremely tight schedule. This IS an actual police academy!

13. Please remember to bring cash and/or credit cards. You never know when you may need an extra dollar or two. Besides, you’ll want to unload a boatload of dollars at the raffle, auction, and silent auction.

The prizes are unbelievable (a cool guitar signed by the Oak Ridge Boys, a PR package worth nearly $3,000, manuscript review by a top Harlequin editor, signed Murder, She Wrote Scripts (yes, actual scripts from the show),

Indoor/outdoor pond with filter, fountain and ready for fish and plants!

a huge, super cool indoor/outdoor pond (we have one and love hearing the water sounds and watching the fish swim awhile we relax on the deck), two seats available to a “law enforcement only” gang conference (this is over the moon cool, and special). I’ll post them and others later in the weekend.

To add to the fun, we will also be hosting a live auction of a few special items. Tami Hoag (that’s right, THE Tami Hoag) is the 2017 auctioneer. She is joined by author JD Allen. This is going to be a real hoot!

Tami Hoag has donated two character names in her next book. Yes, your name and physical description could appear as a deputy or a coroner in Tami’s next release! The prizes this year are crazy good! And, if you don’t shell out at least a few dollars to support such a worthy cause, well, you’ll see Tami Hoag again. She has ways to help you see the light …

Tami Hoag

14. Waivers – Each of us, staff included, are required to sign a general waiver. Each of you should have received a copy by today. If not, please check your spam folders, or you can pick up at copy at the Radisson, just outside the door where check-in takes place. Someone will be there to assist. You must have the signed waiver with you at check-in to receive your packets.

15. Reminder – If you are scheduled in a HIT class that involves shooting (live pistol and/or rifle) you must complete a background check. Most of you have already completed these, however, a handful of you still have not responded to our messages. Without the completed background check, prior to the WPA, you will not be permitted to shoot.

16. Drivers License checks – Those of you scheduled to participate in driving sessions (PIT, etc.), you must submit your license information to us prior to the event to allow enough time to run the checks. Some of you still have not responded to our pleadings. Again, no check = no time on the driving track.

Well, it’s almost time. Are you ready for the THE most exciting event on the entire planet, for writers?

Writers’ Police Academy

 

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Tribbles have not taken control of my computer.  Yes, Star Trek is indeed coming to the WPA, and in a big way!

With that said, those of you attending the Writers’ Police Academy this year should be ever mindful that, at any moment, you and your fellow academy recruits could be pulled deep into the Delta Quadrant, some 70,000 light years from earth.

Fortunately for us, Lisa Klink, writer and producer of the Star Trek juggernaut, has arranged for her personal transporter to “beam” her to Green Bay in time to stop any alien attacks on the event. In fact, while she’s there in Green Bay to save the day, she’s delivering an absolutely fantastic Thursday evening presentation titled, Pitching, Selling, and Writing for Television.

This is a presentation straight out of the 24th century. It’s epic. It’s … COOL!

For those of you who may not know Lisa Klink. Here’s a sample of her work:

Lisa Klink began her career in the world of Star Trek, writing for the series Deep Space Nine and Voyager before coming back to Earth for shows such as Martial Law and Missing.

Lisa Klink

In addition to her television work, she’s written short stories, graphic novels, a theme park attraction and three books in The Dead Man series, as well as co-authoring the novel “All In” with Joel Goldman. Lisa is currently writing an FBI thriller for SerialBox.com, which will be released one chapter per week starting this fall.

Lisa’s TV credits are vast, including writing and producing some of the most popular television shows in their genre, such as:

1-800-Missing

Earth: Final Conflict

Martial Law

Star Trek: Voyager

Flash Gordon

Painkiller Jane

1-800-Missing

Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion 4D

Roswell

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

Martial Law

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Earth: Final Conflict

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Roswell

Martial Law

And, to add to her already impressive resume, Lisa appeared on Jeopardy! (Contestant and Tournament of Champions contestant).


Thomas B. Sawyer

Now, as you know, each year, we strive to bring attendees the very best instructors, presenters, teachers, volunteers, material, information, and more. Well, the lineup this is no exception to our rule. The 2017 schedule is packed to the brim with superstars in their fields. And we were over the moon excited when Thomas B. Sawyer, head writer and producer of the Murder, She Wrote television series, accepted our invitation to present three wonderful workshops.

Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news. My good friend Tom experienced a very serious medical event this past Saturday and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The good news is that he’s on the road to recovery and should be back at home with his wife, Holly, in the coming days.

Toms sends his best to each of you and wishes he could there wth us.

Well, we have some exciting plans in store for you in 2018 and I’m thinking Tom will be a part of at least some of it.

Fortunately, for us and you, Lisa Klink stepped up to the plate to fill in for Tom.

So thank you, Lisa. and please , all of you join me in wishing Tom a big GET WELL SOON!

*Tom sent two signed scripts for the WPA raffle/auction. Break open the piggy banks this year folks, we have some cool items up for sealed bid, auction, and raffle.

 

In the world of make believe, the place that exists in the minds of writers and readers alike, THIS is how the story begins … for the savvy writer. So go full screen, crank up the volume, and hit the play button. Oh, and please do watch to the very end (after the credits). You know how I like twists and surprises!

 

For details – Writers’ Police Academy

 

Murder, She Wrote.

Yes, we watched Jessica Fletcher solve murders all over the world. We also saw her teaching students in New York City about how the criminal mind works and how to use that sort of information to write crime novels.

We even saw Jessica at the typewriter a few times over the years. She (the character) was the fictional equivalent to the real-life, top shelf crime writers of our day, a stellar list of authors that includes Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Jeffery Deaver, Christopher Reich, and Craig Johnson. This is a list of superstars who, if featured at a writers conference, would certainly be exciting to say the least— Wait a second, I have seen those folks at a conference. Where was it … Hmm …

I know, it was the Writers’ Police Academy! Yes, those writers of killer fiction have all attended the WPA as guests of honor..

Anyway, wouldn’t it be cool to somehow see inside Jessica Fletcher’s mind? You know, to understand how she was able to solve so many murders without us having to sit through scenes of extraordinary violence and a gazillion “F” bombs. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to learn her secrets for penning such over the moon wonderful and compelling works of great fiction, the books that allowed her to travel the world, dine in the best restaurants, and to rub elbows with royalty (and a few spies). And wouldn’t it be cool if some of Jessica’s talent rubbed off so we, too, could jet around the globe and sign our books for queens and kings and presidents and … yeah, right. Insert a big sigh right here.

Obviously we can’t ask a fictional character to stop in to teach you her writing and crime-solving secrets. But we can do this … feature the person who wrote the Murder, She Wrote TV show, Thomas B. Sawyer. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. That’s right, you asked for him and we delivered!

Tom will first be appearing Thursday night, at the event hotel, just after the laugh-fest we call orientation (lots of important information during orientation, but our delivery is a bit quirky, to say the least).

 

 

 

Tom’s Thursday night presentation is “killer.”

How Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote Made Homicide Fun – Without Science, Crazy People, or Gore.

In this entertaining and informative session, one of this classic 12-year TV series’ original group of writers, Tom Sawyer, lays out the early history of Murder, She Wrote, from the casting of its star and its subsequent effect on one of Broadway’s megahit Musicals, to Dashiell Hammett’s influence on the show, the show’s influence on Tom’s career both as Showrunner/writer, and – inadvertently – as a lyricist – and much, much more.

Next, on Friday afternoon at the academy, Tom presents:

Cinematic Writing Techniques That Will Make You a Better Storyteller: THINK Picture/THINK Action/THINK Dialogue

An Approach to Both Screen-and-Narrative Writing

Techniques I learned in TV & Film. From that Super-Critical Opening Grabber, to creating enigmatic bad guys, to “writing to the money,” and more – stuff every writer should have in the bank.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, Tom takes you on a journey to Tinseltown, with …

Packaging Your Baby for Hollywood!

How to write loglines, Movie treatments, synopses and TV series pitches with the Sizzle that’ll convince them they’ve got to seriously consider putting your novel, story or concept on the screen.

So get busy watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote and be prepared for three extremely cool and fascinating workshops taught by TV and writing icon, Tom Sawyer, the real Tom Sawyer not …

Murder, She Wrote … He Writes

Yes, we have a couple of spots available at the Writers’ Police Academy. Sign up today to attend this one of a kind, thrilling event!

 

Writing a complete story in exactly 200 words can be a bit of a challenge, especially when the stories must contain a beginning, middle, and end. After all, that’s sort of what makes a story out of a grouping of individual words, right?

The trick is to arrange those 200 words into an order that makes them pleasing to our eyes, ears, brains, emotions, and our hearts. In other “words” (pun intended), readers want to feel what they read.

So what’s the best way to get started on these micro creations? Easy answer. You need a subject/topic/story.

Small ideas

Keep the idea small. A BIG story can be far too convoluted to cut to a maximum goal of, say, 200 words, such as the word count for the wildly popular Golden Donut Short Story Contest.

You’ve often heard me speak of police officers needing to avoid tunnel vision and that need is for a few reasons, safety being number one. Number two is to avoid missing any and all details, including details that may later prove to be unnecessary to the case.

The opposite is true when writing flash fiction. Writers need a dose of tunnel vision to help them complete their word-challenged stories. Keeping on the blinders, focusing mostly on the end, helps to avoid the use of unneeded words.

The inspiration

No inspiration? No ideas? Brain as empty as a California lake in the summertime? Easy answer.

Use a photo prompt

For inspiration, pick a photo from your last vacation. Maybe you saw a cool image on someone’s website, the newspaper, a blog.

Okay, you have an idea for a story. What’s next? Again, easy answer.

Where to start?

What about starting in the middle of the story, where the character’s conflict begins, avoiding the use of backstory, flashbacks, prologues, and other filler. Why do this? You don’t have the space for it for one thing. Every single word must count when writing flash fiction. This is even more crucial with writing micro-flash fiction. Shorter paragraphs helps when editing.

Write

This, however, is not the time to worry about the word count. Simply write the story and let the words flow. You can trim later.

Emotion

You absolutely must make your readers feel … something. It is up to you to decide what that something truly is. But whatever you select, be sure to keep it simple. There is not enough space to branch out too far, so pick a couple of focus areas and perhaps start out having your readers experience one feeling at the onset but end with a different emotion altogether. Their rollercoaster ride will be worth your effort. But DO NOT go overboard. This is not the place for emotion that doesn’t remain within the boundaries of your tunnel vision-esque story.

Characters

One or two are all that’s needed. Any more and the dialog could become confusing. Besides, too many names eats up word count like watching videos on a crappy wireless data plan chews up precious minutes. The same is true with dialog. A family of twelve all talking to a homicide detective who’s barking out orders to a 10-person CSI team along with four other detectives could wipe out the entire word count in a single, unimportant scene.

Keep in mind that your story and/or characters may develop a different appearance than the one in your mind when you first sat down to write.

Character Arc

Sure, your tale is only 200 words in length (or 50 or 1,000), but your character absolutely must grow within that confined space.

Subplots

Skip them. there’s no room. Stick to a main theme.

SHOW, SHOW, SHOW!

This goes without saying. SHOW the action in your story. Don’t tell us. For example:

“They jumped until they quit.”

The line is a bit vague. It tells us something, but it’s extremely uninteresting. How about …

“Tom and Nancy played a game, seeing who could hop up and down the longest. Tom lost.”

I know. Not the best writing in the world, but you get the idea.

Beginning, Middle, End, and CONFLICT!

Writing flash fiction is not an excuse to cut corners. Each story must have a beginning, middle, and end (a twisted ending is sometimes a nice surprise). And there must be conflict and story resolution. We must feel the struggle (be it internal or external) and then we must see relief (emotional or physical) from that conflict.

Title

The title of a work of flash fiction is extremely important (especially if it’s also part of the word count). It’s the hook. It must cause the reader to stop in their tracks to read your story. It must be THAT compelling. But do not allow it to be so doggone good that it gives away the entire story.

Okay, you’ve finished your masterpiece. What next?

Edit

Now’s the time to break out the carving knives and go to work trimming all the fat. Why? Because your 200 word tale comes in somewhere the other side of 100,000 words. Why? Because you love to hear yourself write. You love your fancy-smancy words and you love your voice and your story was absolutely far too good to tell in only … 200 words???

Okay, with red pen sharpened it’s time to cut all the “LY” words and the other stuff you don’t need.

For example, Billy needs to let his mother know he’ll be late coming home after school. That’s all she needs to know to help our story advance. So we, a group of unapologetic flowery writers, write.

Billy picked up the black phone, the one with the blue buttons and the $200 screen protector, and used it to call his mom, a server at Pete’s Possum Gut Gourmet Diner and Horse-Shoeing Parlor, to tell her that he’d be late coming home after school because he wanted to play ball with 12 or 15 of his friends at the church lot over on Elm. 

Well, we know a lot about Billy, his mom and his friends and the area. But how much information do we really need to get the point across? How’s this?

Billy called his mom to say he’d be late for dinner.

69 words in the first sentence. 12 in the latter.

Words to lose – the space wasters.

These words are very nice words. I like them a lot. They’re amazing, good, incredible, and just plain uniquely and totally and pleasantly perfect. But avoid them if at all possible. You don’t need them. They’re space wasters.

Say NO to:

a lot
absolutely
actually
amazing
basically
essentially
funny
given the fact that
good
hopefully
incredible
just
kind of
literally
many
nice
perfect
perhaps
pleasant
pretty
probably
quite
really
so
sort of
suddenly
totally
truly unique
usually
very

And other words ending in “LY.”

Now You’re Ready …

to enter the Golden Donut Short Story Contest and win the Golden Donut Award and FREE registration to the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy (prize value is well over $400). Submission deadline is July 2, 2017. This is a FUN contest!!

Here are some of the stories (and a photo prompt) from past contests.

Golden Donut 200-Word stories