Posts

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.

 

 

The rules were simple. Write a story about the above photograph, using exactly 200 words, including the title. Not 201 or 199. Exactly 200 words.

Each story needed an original title and it was mandatory that the image be the main subject of the story. We offered no clues as to the subject matter of the photo or where it was taken. That, we left to the imaginations of the authors.

Stories then began to pour into our mailbox, were screened (words counted, etc.), and the top 14 tales were delivered to bestselling author Heather Graham for final judging. Here are her top picks, starting with the the winning story penned by Ry Brooks.


 

First-Place Winner

ASHES

By Ry Brooks

 

Nothing of the warehouse remained but its spindly scorched bones. To Sullivan, determining the cause seemed impossible. Flammable chemicals, stored in plastic barrels, had fueled the flames to unimaginable temperatures more like cremation than ordinary fire.

Arson? But the building was underinsured, and the owners had no motive. As he probed among the detritus, he heard a muted wailing. Sully moved in the direction of the sound, which came from under a scalded sheet of metal roofing. Gently lifting the obstruction, he discovered a small brown puppy among some old rags, singed but alive. He bent to wrap it in his scarf, and at that very moment, one of the charred uprights crashed down, right where he had stood moments before.

Startled, he squatted down to gather his wits and that is when he noticed the rags also covered a body. Apparently it was a homeless person, who perhaps had made a campfire for warmth. When the flames got out of control, his instinct had been to shield the little dog with his own body, sacrificing himself for another.

The dog squirmed, and Sullivan hugged the puppy close, whose life had been spared and had then saved his own.


 

Second-Place Winner

THE FALLOUT

By Chelle Martin

It had been a beautiful day full of warmth and sunshine. Family and friends were jumping about, unaware of any danger. But the world as we knew it came crashing down in an instant when a cold, dark mist fell upon us with a powerfully pungent, yet sweet odor.

Tranquility warped into pandemonium as families scrambled for higher ground or desperately burrowed for shelter.

The cloud seemed to last forever. Once it had lifted, our surroundings appeared black and white from the dust that had settled. My comrades who had been directly hit, lie dead and dying around me. I coughed and staggered onward, searching for other survivors.

One, two, we gathered together and moved on to a drier place. Would we survive? Sadly, the youngest and oldest were most affected by the onslaught. The chemicals were just too strong for their systems to ward off.

The ground shook violently beneath our feet, but we clung to the uprights around us for balance.

A large creature approached and spoke in a strange language as flood waters slowly began to rise. “Hold still and be a good boy, Rex. This flea and tick bath will finish off any survivors.”


 

Third-Place Winner

NURSING YOUR DATE

By Teela Davis

What an awful, boring, insufferable first date. Why did she still do these?

The movie was tolerable, but now a walk?  She huffed, and not just a walk, a walk to the ‘haunted factory’. Did the creepy romantic thing ever really work out for guys? In all honestly, she just wanted dessert, and sleep!

“So, you know the legends here?”

“What, vengeful ghosts?” She barked a laugh, already rolling her eyes.

“Hah, not ghosts,” he grinned, dropping her hand once inside the crumbling monolith.

Relieved, she wiped her palm on her skirt, why was he so sweaty?

“Actually, there is a long list of unsolved murders here.” His cold tone made her take a step back, almost causing her to trip on debris.

“Oh?” Her hesitation made him nod. A knife flashed in his hand and she met his gaze as he advanced closer. Ugh, how typical…

“Yup, and I want to add to it.”

“Oh,” she chuckled darkly, done playing, “don’t worry, you will.” He stepped closer but paused, clearly confused.

“Wait, wha-” The sentence died in his throat just as she launched herself at him, teeth tearing into his flesh.

Finally, she laughed, dessert!


The following finalists are in no particular order …

 

THIS IS IT

By A.R. Kennedy

They walked up to the destroyed building in silence. Each wondered how they would find the missing woman’s pendant in the wreckage.

The tip had come in that the killer had marked the woman’s gravesite with her four leaf clover pendant. She had worn it everyday since her fifteenth birthday. For luck, she told people who asked.

In silence, they traversed the site in search of that pendant. Lisa fell, tripping over one of the many obstacles in her path. She slowly got up.

“You alright, Lisa?” her partner asked.

She put her hands in her pockets and shrugged. “Could be worse.”

Her partner, Joel, knew she was right.

Twenty minutes later, they finished their inspection.

“Well, we didn’t find it. Did you think we would?” Lisa asked.

Joel paused, wanting to answer honestly. “I didn’t think I would find it.”

“I guess this is it, Joel,” Lisa said as she headed to their car.

Joel nodded because he knew it was. He pulled his gun and motioned for her to take her hands out of her pockets.

The tarnished four leaf clover hung from her fingers.

“You’re right,” Joel said. “This is it.”


 

BABY SHOWER

By Cassy Muronaka

“Oh, getting coffee? Me too, Jeannie?” asked Bob, junior salesman, giving his ceramic mug and winning smile to Jean, senior saleswoman.

Taking it, she immediately was flagged over by her boss, Jerry, who announced she was not getting her anticipated promotion, despite being number one in sales.

“Politics, you know. New owner, Porter, canned it.”

Then Jerry asked her to work late again.

At noon, Jean wrote on the company’s internal message group, “Girls: time to meet at the picnic tables. Surprise baby shower, Brenda!  No boys allowed!”

The tables were a fair distance from the building, enough for the women to comfortably inhale plenty of champagne with the potluck lunch. Jean wasn’t the only woman who needed relaxation.

When Brenda opened the baby gifts, she said, “You are all so generous.” She hugged Jean. “I know you’re responsible for organizing all of this. Thank you so much.”

It was then that the building exploded and caught fire. As Jean watched the brand-new sign reading “Porter Industrial and Mining Explosives” fly off the building and into the parking lot, she smiled at Brenda and said, “Yes, I’ve been planning it for a long time.”


 

CLOSE THE DOOR

By Pamela Raymond

“Aunt Lydia has a melancholy side. I’ll give her that. But this?” My sister held a black and white photo of a charred lot, encased in an ornately fashioned wrought iron frame.

“Why would Aunt Lydia give a 10 year old this grisly photo?” My sister was not amused.

“Mommy. Hang it over there!” The little girl crawled on to her bed and motioned above the headboard. “The picture will like it here.”

“Pictures don’t care where they hang,” Katherine muttered.

My phone rang two weeks later. Jumbled, shaken, Katherine spoke so quickly, I could barely understand her. “My daughter. She keeps. The picture. CLOSE THE DOOR!” The line went dead.

By the time I got to the house, a smoking pile of embers existed where a home used to be. I found Katherine sitting in an ambulance. She mumbled over and over, “That picture.”

In the chaos, the little girl wandered to me.

She pulled the picture from her soot smeared robe. “Mommy wanted me to close the door and leave the picture in the fire. Mommy should have been nicer to the picture.”

The look in her eyes chilled me to the bone.


 

UTOPIA, CALIFORNIA

By Phoef Sutton

There is no crime in Utopia anymore.

Officer Mingus drives the streets of this small California town like she has a hundred times before. Her police dog Vlad rides shotgun. Vlad is trained to sniff out meth and heroine and other illegal drugs. But there are no drugs now.

Utopia is peaceful.

Officer Mingus misses the turn onto Grevelia Street since there are no road signs. No landmarks. Only the occasional blackened chimney. The wildfire that ripped through town two weeks ago had wiped it from the face of the earth, leaving nearly ninety dead and hundreds more still missing.

Turning into a driveway, Mingus stops the patrol car and gets out. Vlad goes rooting around, reveling in the smells of destruction and incineration, while Mingus searches through the ruins of her own house. She had been there with her husband when the fire alarm first sounded. She had rushed out.

Brian had stayed behind.

She finds her bedroom and digs through the debris, until she uncovers Brian’s skull. Shaking it, a small caliber bullet falls out. She tosses it away and crushes the skull with the butt of her gun.

She is free now. Fire cleanses everything.


 

THE BRIDGE

By Ferd Crotte

My old knees shake as I pick my way through the loose rubble, struggling for balance and understanding. I find an unsteady purchase and pause to curse the utter devastation before me.

I repeat the calculation — seventy-four years since the bridge last stood. Seventy-four years since I felt my father’s hand, holding mine as we walked the bridge’s long expanse. Seventy-four years since the bomb.

The crumbled city was dead to radiation, and access was forbidden. Now it’s open, though no less dead. A primal scream explodes from me, but no one hears. The ruins are silent. The rage is my own.

An unwelcome wind scatters a flume of ashes by my feet. Was that my father? The ashes dissipate, and again he leaves me.

I’m told the bridge was beautiful, and my father helped build it with his own hands. I’m told he was a peaceful man. Am I my father’s son?

I take a wary step into the rubble, then another. It’s why I came — to cross this broken bridge of time. I try to remember the feeling of his gentle hand. I need to find my father’s peace.


 

FUMES

By Lynn Long

“Willie Nickels died today in the gas chamber…” Click.

Gordon Chandler twisted the radio knob in his Plymouth, sucked the life from his Chesterfield and tossed the butt.

“I hope the bastard’s lungs burned just like that poor girl’s did,” Gordo exclaimed to the roadrunner perched on the warehouse ruins. The carbonized columns stood like trees in a charred forest. Uninterested, the bird vamoosed. He rolled his window shut.

Gordo knew every detail. He cast the tire prints. He found the dented, orange gas can. He interviewed neighbors who recognized the can. He discovered the blackened remains in the ashes. The detective had done everything but strap Nickels down and drop the pill.

Nickels deserved to drown in a cyanide bath. The onetime pimp ran the city. Nothing happened without his permission. Graves were full of people who didn’t get the message. No one could touch him. Few tried.

Gordo tried. He poured the plaster in Nickels’ driveway. He planted the gas can. He flicked his Chesterfield into the gasoline spread around the abandoned warehouse, not knowing a runaway had sought refuge there.

Exhaust fumes whispered through a garden hose, poisoning the air. His eyelids fluttered.

“If only…”


 

AFTERMATH

By Elizabeth Haines

Despite the hospital slippers, my feet are freezing.  I wait for the nurse, a thin cotton shroud, the blue and white print bleached and faded, tied behind my neck.  After a moment, I realize the music playing faintly in the background is a Beatles’ song, twisted into a requiem.  I used to dance to this song, barefoot in a forest that no longer exists.

If we’d heeded the warnings, we would have been deep underground when the bombs came, but the woodland flowers were blooming and the alarms had always been false before now.  We were surprised when the high whistling sound surrounded us, coming from everywhere and nowhere.  We survived, if we can call it that, because we weren’t anywhere near ground zero where the trees were burnt to sticks.  Once we regained consciousness in the hospital, we learned our fate.  The news reported we “woke up dead.”

The nurse, outfitted from head to toe in a disposable covering, comes in to explain my options.  I remember seeing the drone footage of the remaining trees.  They looked like black obelisks in a graveyard.  My feet are still freezing.  I tell her I want to be cremated.


 

THE TELL

By Lynette Eason

Moonlight touched the steel post at the edge of the bombed ruins. This was his playground and he’d lured Karly here, incensed by her televised scorn.

“Come alone,” he’d texted. “Or she dies.”

She spotted a dark stain at the base of the post. And the next—a matching blemish. Each one the same. Representing every victim he’d suspended before using the blade’s edge to spill their life-blood.

Nausea churned. Neck hairs spiked.

From somewhere, he watched.

Her weapon offered minuscule comfort.

A footstep behind her.

She spun. “You?” Her sister’s fiancé? “Why?”

“I followed my calling.” The knife gleamed its intent. “I released their evil.”

She lifted the gun. He froze. “Shoot me and you’ll never see your sister again.”

“She’s alive?”

“Yes. I’ll show you.” He started towards her, fingers flexing on the handle.

Karly fired. Once. Twice. Again.

He fell, choking, gasping.

She stepped closer. Very little blood stained his shirt. Good. His evil would go with him. “You lick your lips when you lie.”

She turned to go.

A hand clamped around her ankle.

Terror surged. Realization hit.

Very little blood.

Because he’d worn a vest.


 

HELP WANTED

By Lisa Wheelan

Leonard helped the old woman across the pile of rubble.

“Are you sure this is the place Mrs. G?”

“Yes Leonard”

“But it’s just a busted-up building.”

She pointed to a far corner with her crooked finger “over there.”

Dementiaville, here we come, Leonard thought, time for a new job.

They made their way over crumbled concrete and broken steel. He found a spot where she could sit, laid his uniform jacked over it and eased her down.

“What are we looking for Mrs. G?”

“You’ll know when you find it. Please begin.” She gestured.

Leonard began moving chunks of concrete to the side.

“How long have you worked for me Leonard?”

“Almost ten years.

“We’ve been through a lot haven’t we”

“Yes, Mrs. G.”

“You know a lot of my secrets, don’t you?”

“I keep my mouth shut.”

“I’m sure you will.” said Mrs. G.

“How much more do” …. Leonard stopped.

“You find something?”

“It’s a jacket…like mine. I think it’s a body.”

“That would be John, he left my employment ten years ago.”

Leonard’s last thought…such a big gun for such a feeble old wom.…


 

ESCAPED MEMORIES

By Tammie Fickas

Dirt and concrete dust puffed as Edward Maximillian, Max to his friends, not that he had ever had any, shuffled through the ruins. Years had lumbered on since the night a raging inferno raced through the Emsdon Home for Boys, destroying the building. The hateful place was anything but home. That night played in his mind like an old movie. The thrill of the employee’s fear filled him, excited him. It always had.

Paper caught in the rubble, fluttered with the breeze. Max’s own face stared back from the poster.

Escaped prisoner.

Armed and dangerous.

You will never amount to anything, Edward Maximillian.

Max leaned against a rough, charred wall stud. Death lingered here like the spirit of the headmaster who never made it out of the building alive. Max could almost smell it. A misshapen sneer stretched his lips. Oh, how he hated that man who made his life miserable. Satisfaction danced in his heart as he relished his revenge.

Who will never amount to anything?

Not far off, police sirens wailed through the night. Max took a long, last look, then loped toward the thick forest, once again disappearing like a dream at morning’s first light.


 

HANDS

By K.P. Gresham

She said the bastard was buried beneath the support beam. But which one?

Then I remembered.

That first night. Laughing, he’d ripped away our virginity and put his hands places we didn’t even know we possessed.

With adulthood, payback time arrived. As always, I took the lead. We worked fast. Her job was to get the account passwords. My job was to kill him. I torched the warehouse while she buried him.

We both came through. After he was dead, her codes and keys got us into the house, the study, and the wall-mounted lockbox.

Then we saw the little opening beneath the safe’s keypad. It required a hand print.

So, here I am, back at the burned out warehouse—his favorite hunting ground.  Shovel and saw in hand, I walk over fallen trusses and crumbled cement blocks to where the dumpsters had once stood—the first hiding place where we’d been cornered. That horrible first night.

Sweat pours over me as I unearth the body. His face is finally as ugly as his soul. I uproot his arms and begin to saw below the elbow.

“Time to put your hands to good use, Daddy.”


2019 Golden Donut Contest image – Mare Island Naval Shipyard – Vallejo, California.

The Mare Island shipyard was the first U.S. Navy base established on the Pacific Coast. The base was purchased by the Navy in 1853 and remained open until it officially closed all operations in 1996. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) spread its wings a bit with the introduction of our first publication, an anthology titled AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT.

Book Description

The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.

Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy, include bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.

In addition to the stellar lineup of top authors, the WPA announced an exciting contest, a chance for two talented writers to have their stories included in this “killer” book.

Once  the contest closed the task of judging the entries began. To give you an idea of the process and superb quality of stories received, here’s a statement from the publisher, Level Best Books.

“A large number of very good stories were submitted for the two available spots. We certainly could have filled another whole anthology considering the quality of stories we received. All of the submissions were read blindly by a panel of three judges, who were anonymous to each other during the process.”

While all stories were exceedingly good, the judges selected two to include in the AFTER MIDNIGHT anthology.

And the winners are …

 

Ry Brooks and his story
Neighborhood Watch

and

Emilya Naymark for
A Confluence in Stow

After Midnight Anthology Details

  • Title:  AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
  • Publisher – Level Best Books
  • ISBN:   ISBN: 978-1-947915-11-4
  • Publication Date:  August 1, 2019
  • Edited by Phoef Sutton
  • Foreword by #1 Internationally best selling author Lee Child

About the Editor

Phoef Sutton is a New York Times Bestselling author and winner of two Emmy Awards for his work on the classic television comedy CHEERS. Phoef also won a Peabody Award for the popular legal drama BOSTON LEGAL starring James Spader, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen. Lately, he’s been writing television movies for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.


The Authors and Their Twisted Tales

Lucky Cop by RJ Beam (bloodstain pattern expert, WPA and police academy instructor, author)

The Brass Ring by Michael A. Black (author, retired law enforcement expert)

Sunshine Berkman by Joseph S Bonsall (singer with the Oak Ridge Boys – the voice on the hit song Elvira, and more – author, banjo picker, and longtime support of the WPA)

Ride Along by Allison Brennan (Bestselling author)

Neighborhood Watch by Ry Brooks (AFTER MIDNIGHT contest winner)

The Bookends Murder by Robin Burcell (retired law enforcement and bestselling author)

Gentrified Homicide by Marco Conelli (retired undercover detective, author, WPA instructor)

Prime Rib from Brahma by Les Edgerton (Bestselling author and writing teacher/coach)

The Devil in the Flesh by Heather Graham (international bestselling author and 2019 MurderCon Guest of Honor)

Justifiable Homicide by Lisa Klink (television writer – Star Trek Deep Space Nine)

Rookies by Howard Lewis (WPA staff, martial arts expert, author)

LeishMANIA by Denene Lofland (Bioterrorism and microbiology expert, author, founder and host of the WPA)

The Sheriff of Macabre County by Lee Lofland (retired law enforcement, author of Police Procedure and Investigation, founder and host of the WPA)

Code Murder by Linda Lovely (Author, editor, WPA staff)

Baddest Outlaws by Rick McMahan (retired ATF Special Agent, law enforcement instructor, WPA instructor)

A Confluence in Stow by Emilya Naymark (AFTER MIDNIGHT contest winner)

Shared Secrets by Carrie Stuart Parks (forensic artist, former WPA special guest presenter, author)

The Case of the Staring Man by Katherine Ramsland (author of over 1,000 books, professor of forensic psychology, TV consultant and on-air personality, longtime WPA presenter and expert)

Panther Bait by Mike Roche (Secret Serve Special Agent, author)

Disco Fries and Homicide by Shawn Reilly Simmons (publisher/editor Level Best Books, author)

3:45 in the Peacock Room of the Channel Grill on 6th Street 
by Phoef Sutton (bestselling author, renowned and award-winning television writer, editor of AFTER MIDNIGHT anthology)

Hostage (A Love Story) by Cheryl Yeko (author, WPA staff)

With a Foreword by Lee Child (author of the internationally bestselling Jack Reacher series, longtime WPA supporter)

Lee Child ~ Writers Police Academy

 


Book Launch Party and You’re Invited!

Please join Level Best Books and the Writers’ Police Academy to help celebrate the launch of this thrilling new book, AFTER MIDNIGHT.

The launch party takes place at the Friday night reception at MurderCon, and books will be available for purchase at the event and soon by preorder. This will be the first of the Writers’ Police Academy’s new series of books. Stay tuned for more!


BIG NEWS on the WAY!

Also, here’s an important BOLO. Be On the Lookout for an exciting announcement coming from the Writers’ Police Academy and Level Best Books. There’s something very extremely cool brewing behind the scenes!

 

It’s NEW. It’s UNIQUE. It’s SPECTACULAR.

And it’s never been done before, anywhere. Not in the U.S. Not anywhere else in the world, and, as far as we know, not in this galaxy.

You, my good friends, have the opportunity to attend an event that’s so special and so very rare that, well, it’s an event that many police homicide investigators would give their eyeteeth to experience—the chance to participate in world-class training at the 130 acre elite Sirchie training facility near Raleigh, N.C.

As a patrol officer and later as a detective, I used Sirchie products to help solve more crimes than I could possibly begin to count, from simple B&E’s to Murder and Murder for Hire

To give you an idea of just how impressive the Sirchie facilities truly are, please join me on my first in-person visit there, back when I was hoping to convince Sirchie officials to help writers “get it right.” It went something like this (from one of my blog posts from several years ago) …

“t was nearly seven years ago to the day when I first made the three-hour drive from our North Carolina home to the Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories compound. I could barely contain my excitement. After all, the folks at Sirchie are probably the best in the world at what they do and the mere thought of the many superstars of crime-fighting from around the world who’ve been trained at Sirchie is almost overwhelming. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of crimes that have been solved using Sirchie products—products that are made right there on the compound.

After traveling for what seemed like an eternity, while answering emails and phone calls regarding the Writers’ Police Academy, the sprawling Sirchie property appeared on my right. The first thing that caught my attention was the golf-course-like green grass that stretched as far as the eye could see. And it was surrounded by what appeared to be an endless, gleaming, white 3-rail fence. A large gate, complete with a coded-entry system, was the only break in the fence. Very impressive.

I made the right turn off the winding country road I’d been traveling since I left the bustle of interstate traffic around Raleigh and headed through the opening in the metal gates. The long driveway leading to the facility was split by a row shade trees. A nice touch.

Two or three huge white buildings sat at the end of the drive. There was a beautifully-landscaped pond in front (I later learned the pond was even stocked with fish).

There were no signs or identifying markers—nothing—to let anyone know that this was indeed one of, if not THE premier crime-fighting operation in the world. But, I soon saw a personalized license plate on a vehicle that let me know I was in the right place. The lettering referenced crime scene investigation. Bingo.

Anyway, the purpose of my trip was to meet with the folks who run the massive Sirchie operation to discuss their potential involvement with the Writers’ Police Academy. I can’t begin to tell you how lucky the attendees of the WPA are to have the opportunity to learn from Sirchie instructors. They’re the best-of-the-best and they teach the best-of-the-best. Needless to say, this is a rare opportunity and I’m so pleased to be a part of it.”

And here’s where things get even better. We, the Writers’ Police Academy, are taking you inside the Sirchie complex, a place where outsiders are generally not permitted. Sure, over the years, we’ve made it possible for a handful of writers to attend Sirchie’s weeklong Evidence Collection Course (another for-law-enforcement-eyes-only session), but this time we’re going beyond even what I’d hoped to achieve  … MurderCon.

MurderCon, presented by the Writers’ Police Academy, in conjunction with Sirchie, is the ultimate training event for writers who desire to bring the realism in their writing to a level most could only dream of attaining.

Yes, you, a MurderCon attendee will walk the same hallways, enter the same classrooms and training areas, and sit in the same seats as some of the top crime-solving experts from around the entire world.

Our group of renowned instructors who’ll present to you material that you’ll likely absorb like dry sponges soak up spilled liquids, are the experts who, for example, developed and founded the FBI’s Evidence Response Team (ERT). They’ve trained top agents from the FBI and US State Department. They’re instructors at the National Fire Academy, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand.

MurderCon instructors are top, highly-skilled experts in the areas of Cold Cases, Clandestine Grave Recovery, Drowning Forensics, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Geology (using soil to find killers), Biological and Chemical Weapons (bioterrorism),Toxicology, Pathology, Latent Prints, Bloodstain Interpretation and Analysis, and so much more.

This is hands-down the most exclusive collection of experts ever assembled as a team of instructors for an event for writers. And to top it off, MurderCon offers its attendees the same hands-on training taught to top police homicide investigators.

Dyer Bennett, Sirchie’s Vice President of Product Development and Training, said it best, I think, when he answered the question …

Why Should You Attend the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy – MurderCon?

 

When writers graduate from MurderCon, they’ll have the knowledge to describe what really happens—and doesn’t happen—in a homicide investigation.” ~ Dyer Bennett, Vice President of Sirchie’s Product Development and Training

The all-new MurderCon website!

After scrapping the WPA’s old dinosaur-esque  website, Shelly Haffly, Creative Director + Owner at Rusti Boot Creative, started building a new site, from the ground up. It was a massive task that took months of planning, tons of long hours, and lots of hard work. But the result was worth it. The website is super nice and the internal workings operate like a finely-crafted engine, or delicate clock. Lots of whirring gears and spinning gadgets, buttons, and knobs. I think she created a masterpiece. From where I sit, it’s a work of art.

Anyway, I am extremely pleased to announce that MurderCon’s Official Website is now LIVE!

We’re excited for you to see the all-new look in preparation for the opening of registration for this super-special, spectacular event. Registration is scheduled to open on February 24, 2019 at noon EST.

wwwe.writerspoliceacademy.com

We’ve tried to accommodate as many attendees as possible but, of course, there is only so much space to go around. Therefore, slots for the event are limited. Extremely limited. As in first-come, first-served. So I encourage you to please, please, please be ready to signup the moment registration opens. After all, we’ve sold out on the first day, sometimes within the first hour, several times in the past. And the event this year, being such a rare opportunity, well, be ready. You will not want to miss the extremely special opportunity!

Also, hotel rooms at the Marriott Crabtree Valley in Raleigh, our event hotel, are already going fast so it’s my advice to you to book your rooms today. Right now, if you haven’t already done so. You may book your room by clicking the link below. Many of the event activities take place at the hotel.

CrabtreeValleyMarriott


*The MurderCon website is brand new so please bear with us if you see a minor error or two. Several sets of eyes have scanned every detail, but you, as writers, know how the editing process goes. Sometimes “it” stares you in the face for months before you see “it.” And, as those of you with websites know, it takes several hours for a new site to fully propagate throughout the web. If you don’t see the new page(s), or if things don’t seem quite right with what you so see, please check back at a later time. It should settle in as the evening and night goes on.

Once you’ve had a chance to explore, please do begin to make plans to attend. It truly is a “killer” event!

 

Do You Quality for a SinC $150 Grant?

Are you a member of Sisters in Crime? If so, you may quality for a new SinC program that offers members a $150 grant that can be used toward registration fees at approved educational events/conferences. The WritersPolice Academy‘s MurderCon is one of the approved options.

The SinC program awards grants on a first-come, first-serve basis. So if you quality, you should apply as soon as possible. The funds are paid directly to recipients after they attend the event

Next in the lineup of fabulous 2019 MurderCon instructors is a pair of experts whose backgrounds and bios bring to your writing tables a huge and vast wealth of information that you’ve not seen at another writers event anywhere within this universe.

Since MurderCon, a very special hands-on event presented by the Writers’ Police Academy, is all about the factual side of solving homicides, and its purpose is narrowly defined to solving the crime of murder, we’re delving deeply into numerous aspects of how murders are committed and how top law enforcement professionals solve those cases.

MurderCon is an intense program designed specifically to teach writers how to think like homicide investigators, and this is so because MurderCon attendees will receive the exact same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide detectives and investigators from around the world. This detailed course of instruction takes place at the elite headquarters and training and manufacturing facility of Sirchie, the “Global Leader in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions.”

In addition to the murders caused by the guns and knives and poisons that are so commonplace in many of today’s novels, you’ll explore other means used by criminals who kill and sometimes wish to cover their tracks by whatever means necessary. In fact, one of our extremely HOT sessions titled Burn Baby, Burn!!!  Arson Investigation, is a workshop that explores how perpetrators of murder use flames to kill and then to conceal their devious activities.

Taught by a world-renowned ATF arson and explosives expert, Burn Baby, Burn is an outdoor session with demonstrations of “live” burns to highlight the effects of burning various pieces of evidence.  MurderCon attendees will learn the fundamentals of fire science, recognition of fire behavior including burn patterns and aftermath, and how fire is utilized by perpetrators during the commission of violent crimes and murder to attempt to destroy evidence.

So wait no longer. I’m pleased to introduce you to …

Ken Andrews 

Ken Andrews, CFI-IAAI, ATF retired

Ken Andrews has over 30 years of fire investigation experience, including 28 years as an agent with the ATF and as a private consultant. He is an International Association of Arson Investigator’s (IAAI) Certified Fire Investigator and Certified Fire Investigation Instructor.

Ken was a member of ATF’s elite National Response Team (NRT) and an ATF Certified Explosives Specialist for 18 years. He has conducted investigations related to fire and explosions involving vehicles and residences as well as large industrial and commercial scenes. Ken has also instructed fire and explosion investigators nationally and internationally. During his career with ATF, he was a regular instructor at the National Fire Academy, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand.

In a roundabout way …

Many of you have come into contact with this next esteemed presenter, Jim Gocke, and you never had a clue that he’s been involved in your writing research. In fact, he’s probably helped many of you add a bit of realism to your fiction.

Jim’s vast knowledge of the technical and educational side of Sirchie, and how much it means to Sirchie that writers have the opportunity to properly learn about crime-solving tools and equipment, is how you’ve met him, sort of. Jim’s expertise was introduced to you by way of my book on police procedure and investigation. I’ll explain in a moment.

I’ve used Sirchie products throughout my law enforcement career, and beyond. In the trunks of my various police vehicles, I carried fingerprinting kits that contained Sirchie products—powders, tapes, lifters, etc. In addition, as a police detective I used numerous Sirchie tools and equipment, from those same powders and lifters to casting materials and much more.

When it comes to crime-solving pros, there’s Sherlock, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot, of course. And then there’s Sirchie. Their products and training for law enforcement professional have served to help solve more crimes than novels written by Patterson, King, and Agatha Christie combined.

Therefore, when the time came for me to write the chapter in my book about fingerprinting, well, it was a no-brainer. I called on Sirchie and it was Jim Gocke who answered that call for assistance. It was he who provided those intricate details and it was he who was responsible for those super-cool photos in Chapter 8 of the book and, of course, throughout the years on this website.

Chapter 8 photo

Jim was more than happy to help out, telling me that he’d love it if writers of all genres were exposed to the facts about police procedure and equipment, and how the tools they developed and manufactured play such a vital role in crime-solving. Additionally, we both agreed that the CSI stuff often portrayed on television is factually incorrect. Anyway, Chapter 8 of my book is how the bond between Sirchie, me, and the Writers’ Police Academy came to be.

Soon, Sirchie instructors began teaching classes and workshops at the Writers’ Police Academy. They sent experts David Pauly and Robert Skiff to the event, along with a boatload of equipment and materials to enhance those presentations. They gave away prizes for the raffles, and they even developed a course especially for writers, a class that many WPA attendees traveled to the Sirchie compound in N.C. to attend.

Now, Jim and I have come full circle and we meet again , this time hat the most unique hands-on training event for writers that’s ever taken place, anywhere … MurderCon.

It is both a pleasure and an honor to introduce you to Jim Gocke, another of the fabulous 2019 MurderCon instructors.

Jim Gocke

Jim Gocke a graduate of West Virginia University and West Virginia College of Law. In addition, he completed a Fellowship in Forensic Medicine at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and earned a Master of Science in Forensic Sciences from The George Washington University.

He was employed by Sirchie Finger Print Laboratories, Inc as Vice President/General Counsel and Director of Education and Training from January 1979 until March 2008. He was then employed by Sirchie Acquisition Company, LLC as Director of Education and Training from March 2008 until his retirement in July 2015. Jim is currently an Independent Contractor to Sirchie, providing his expertise in Education and Training, product development, and evaluation and technical assistance.

MurderCon is a highly-unique event for writers!

The difference from prior WPA events and MurderCon is that this year’s special event features the current science and forensic technology, and analysis used to solve homicide cases. Writers will participate in hands-on training using modern testing and evidence collection tools and equipment, in workshops taught by some of the world’s leading experts. To sweeten the pot, many of MurderCon’s sessions are taught at the facility where the science and technology were developed and then transformed into the actual products used by today’s homicide detectives and other law enforcement professionals.

“When writers graduate from MurderCon, they’ll have the knowledge to describe what really happens—and doesn’t happen—in a homicide investigation.” ~ Dyer Bennett, Vice President of Sirchie’s Product Development and Training

This is a rare opportunity for writers, a unique juncture of fiction and fact at the source of modern crime scene investigation technology. It’s the chance to bring your writing to a level you never thought you could achieve. This type of incredibly detailed and cutting edge instruction has never before been available to writers, anywhere.

Yes, MurderCon is indeed a “Killer Event” and you’re invited to attend!


Registration opens very soon, within the next couple of weeks. Please watch for the announcement and then be ready at your keyboards the moment registration opens. Space at the Sirchie compound and training facility is extremely limited, therefore we expect spots to go quickly. Believe me, you’ll not want to miss this rare opportunity. It may be the only chance in a lifetime to attend such a special event.

LOCATION AND DATES:

August 1-4, 2019

 

Hotel Location / Training Location:

Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

 

SIRCHIE – Training Location:

100 Hunter Place, Youngsville, North Carolina 27615

 


Hotel Information

We’ve already had to increase our room block size twice at the Marriott. Yes, response is fantastic.

Since many activities and workshops will also take place at the hotel, including a special party (details to be announced soon), the Saturday banquet, book signings, and more, we strongly urge you to book your hotel rooms today, without delay!

Here’s the link for room reservations.

Hotel reservations – Marriott

Individuals may make their reservations by phone by calling Hotel‘s toll free Reservation Line, 1- 800-MARRIOT.
To receive the established Group rate, they must identify themselves as members of the Writers’ Police Academy 2019 when making the reservation. All reservations must be received by the group’s Cutoff Date of on or before July 10, 2019. Reservations made after the Cutoff Date will be subject to availability and the most available rate.

 

Registration

 

MurderCon 2019 registration – $435

 

*Breakfast each morning and lunch at the Sirchie Compound are included in your MurderCon registration.

 

Event Schedule

 

Schedule of Events to be announced in the coming days – very soon! BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for a news announcement from the WPA staff!

 

In the meantime, we are pleased to announce that the event begins on Thursday night with a brief orientation followed by a spectacular joint presentation by Dr. Craig Nelson (Medical Examiner / Pathologist) and Justin Brower, PhD. (Toxicologist).

 

Registration/check-in takes place on Thursday afternoon from 4:00 – 5:30.

 

One of the most dangerous aspects of working as a law enforcement officer is not the suspect who’s standing ready to fight, the armed robber who’s decided to stop running and turns square-off with the cop who’s been in pursuit for several blocks, or even heading to a shots-fired call. Instead, the most perilous, threatening, hazardous (you pick the synonym) situation officers face is the unknown—what they can’t see. It’s the what or who is waiting for them behind a doorway, a dark alley, or somewhere within a stairwell that sends the scary-meter off the charts.

The Fatal Funnel

The entrance to these areas of “the unknown” is often called the “fatal funnel.” For example, a murder suspect was seen entering a backyard garage at the end of dead-end street. The garage is a large building and the owner tells officers that it’s packed full of antique furniture, lots of boxes of all sizes, four old cars, a tractor, lawn care equipment, and an assortment of cabinets, shelving, and other typical garage bits and bobs.

There’s only one way in and that’s a side door made of solid metal. There are a few windows, of course, but unfortunately they’re blocked by stacks of cardboard boxes.

The door, then, is the point that separates the officers from access to the concealed killer. It’s the sole point of access to the interior of the garage. It is where the wide expanse of the outdoors narrows to a single point. The doorway and immediate area leading to it is the fatal funnel.

Unfortunately, for the officers, that doorway must be breached, and they must go inside to bring out the criminal. It’s their job. It’s their duty.

The Two “Cs”

“Cover” and “Concealment” are terms drilled into the minds of rookie officers during their academy training. They’re also stressed during briefings and training sessions for SWAT and High-Risk entry teams. All officers should keep those words and their meanings at the top of the “things I must do” each and every day” list.

A cover is an object or barrier that has the capability of likely and hopefully stopping projectiles such as bullets, rocks, bottles, etc.

Concealment is something that prevents officers from being seen. It’s any place where an officer could hide to prevent a suspect from knowing their precise position, and what he/she may be doing (reloading, calling for backup, moving into a more tactically advantageous position, etc.).

Doorways are the danger end of the fatal funnel. It’s the point where an officer can be easily seen. It’s where they’re the most vulnerable to attack, and it’s the place where  it’s difficult to move out of the path of incoming projectiles. This is the place where an officer is most likely to die during a high-risk entry.

Author Lee Goldberg learns safe building entry procedures while at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

It’s why officers are taught to never stand in front of a doorway during a high-risk incident. After all, the advantage in these situations is definitely in the hands of the suspect. They know where the officers are positioned but it’s up to the officers to learn the bad guy’s location.

Prior to entering the home/room, the first officer to enter should take a quick peek inside using just a small portion of the head to penetrate the doorway. With firearm at ready, the shooting hand also penetrates the doorway simultaneously with the head. This action enables the officer to address an active and immediate threat. The officer should then have an idea of the layout of the room that’s immediately beyond the doorway. They may also learn the location of the suspect and other possible threats, such as animals, boobytraps, etc.

Two officers preparing to enter the fatal funnel – 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

After the quick peek it’s time to pass through the fatal funnel. It’s the decision of the first officer whether he/she goes right or left. The second officer entering must go in the opposite direction. If the first officer goes right, the second officer enters to the left. Each officer then clears the corner nearest to them.

Room clearing instruction at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy

The eyes should be in the direction of the muzzle of the gun. Where it goes the eyes should follow. Peripheral vision is a MUST to detect movement and activity in all directions. Again, though, the immediate focus of the eyes is where the weapon is pointed.

Each area of each room must be searched in the same slow and methodical process, and each doorway within a house is its own fatal funnel.

Two techniques used to safely enter a building or room are “Criss-Crossing” and “Buttonhook.”


It is the goal of the officers to safely locate and apprehend the suspect. However, that’s not always the outcome, such as the recent shootout in Houston, where five narcotics officers serving a search warrant immediately came under fire the moment they entered the fatal funnel of the home to be searched. After the first officer entered and was shot, it was up to the remaining officers to first go in to bring out the injured officer, and then to apprehend the shooter(s). As a result, four of the officers were shot (two in the face) and a fifth suffered a knee injury.

When the first officer entered the house, he was attacked by a large pit bull. Then one of the suspects, 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, opened fire, striking the officer in the shoulder. The officer fell and the second suspect, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, tried to grab the officer’s service weapon. She was shot and killed by the officers who were on the way in to rescue their fellow officer. Tuttle was also killed during the shootout.

The officers obtained the search warrant because they knew black tar heroin was being soldfrom the house.

I’ve been the first officer through the fatal funnel, many times, and I can assure you that the feeling associated with doing so is practically indescribable. The adrenaline released when the decision to “go in” cannot be compared to any other. It’s a combination of fear and courage that, when teamed together, instantly forces your feet to move forward without hesitation. Your heart pounds and your vision and hearing become razor sharp. Your muscles are hard but fluid, and your mind is focused on nothing but the task at hand.

Once, when entering a house, I was attacked from the rear by man holding a steak knife in his hand. He’d been concealed behind a large piece of furniture to my right (I’d chosen to left after a quick peek). The second officer entering the room quickly stopped the attack and the third officer took the second man’s place and continued going to the right  while the attacker was pulled from the room. We located the main suspect hiding in a room at the back of the house. After clearing all the rooms and cuffing everyone inside, we located a fairly substantial supply of crack cocaine.

Looking back, I think about all the times I could’ve been shot, like the officers in Houston. Would I do it again, if in that position? Absolutely.

It’s what cops do. It’s part of the job.

Fatal funnel and all.


Sadly, on the same day I posted this article about the extreme danger associated with the fatal funnel, the Virginia State Police announced this sad news. I trained at the same academy as did this brave young trooper:

Trooper Lucas B. Dowell was a member of the Virginia State Police Tactical Team that was assisting the Piedmont Regional Drug and Gang Task Force with executing a search warrant at a residence in the 1500 block of Cumberland Road/Route 45, just north of the town limits of Farmville. The Tactical Team had made entry into the residence shortly before 10 p.m. Monday when an adult male inside the residence began shooting at them. The Tactical Team members returned fire, fatally wounding the male suspect.

Trooper Dowell was transported to Southside Community Hospital in Farmville where he succumbed to his injuries.

Using common sense when writing about cops

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

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

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

Attack of the Killer Typewriters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I’m going. How about you?


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

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