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NANOWRIMO Forums and Police work questions

Funny thing about people embarking on a voyage to the unknown. They don’t know. It’s just writing. Calm it down.

I received emails from a stampede of people, all of them wondering about what to do with the plot or character. They are all writing police procedurals, or maybe some sort of supernatural mystery, it’s all the same to me. Let me clear up some police stuff.

Cops don’t spend a bunch of time doing book-ins. I did them in the car. It was one sheet out of the report and not a whole lot goes on it. Just the particulars. Name, rank, serial number, DOB. Back in the day I rolled ink and fingers, but that went out the door in ’98. We use a new fangled laser system now. Slap the hand on the screen and push the button. It tells you what the alias is and where the tattoos are. Pictures are digital. Did I mention there is a reason for that social security number? It matches to the finger prints sent in to AFIS (look it up), and NCIC (that too). How do you think police are able to identify somebody through fingerprints? We have hundreds of millions of people, but only a few have been arrested. Which brings me to this, DNA. Your DNA is not on file…

Unless you have been incarcerated in an actual prison, or served in the military since…since… I don’t know, let’s go with ’93. It was probably before then because I had my blood taken and was told it was for identification purposes. So if your killer has ever been arrested, or in the military, or in law enforcement, their DNA is on file. If your killer was a student at the Snot and Dribble University of Fine Arts, it’s not. Serial kill away.

A girl wanted to know what would happen if a bomb went off in book-in and the suspect had to be transported to a hospital. Nothing. Book-in was done in the car. Right, old school cops? We only did the roll and ink with the snappy snap of the picture in book-in, but that was the old days. It’s a card, at the most, and a drop off. The only time I saw a guy carted out of book-in by EMS is when he faked a cardiac problem/insulin issues, or he toted an ass whooping. And ass whoppings in book-in are always spectacular, one sided, and justified (no shizit, cops will let you have the upper hand in book-in and give you a chance, I would advise against it. Cameras do not lie, you got what you deserved, eternally, seriously. You will look like a complete dipshit, get your ass handed to you, and have no recourse because it is on camera.) If Book-In blew up we would all be screwed. Thanks corrections officers for making us dependent upon you.

More reality in police work. Cops don’t smoke. Anymore. We used to. It was cool. I had an FTO that smoked like a chimney with a family of raccoons living in it, building a fire on top of his fire. He taught me how to tell drunks to blow into my hat as a field sobriety test. Kick ass.

Today, police are nonsmokers. Most of them maintain a physical fitness program on their off time. They lift, run, do Crossfit. Not all of them, but most of them. The hardcore SWAT type will engage in regular, mandatory, physical training. Smoking is a thing of the past. And that’s a good thing. It messes up the BAC calculator in your cover. Always wear your cover, by the way.

Another writer wanted to know about the average police department. The size, and type of people that worked there.

Most agencies are what we consider small. Less than 100 employees. That is nation wide. The average police department is staffed by patrol officers (the most), a few detectives (the least), and then unsworn (courts, records, secretaries, office staff, which total more than detectives but should be fewer than patrol). In the real world patrol officers are the “meat and potatoes” of policing. They are the first responders, and the ones who handle most of the “shit”. Detectives read through reports and make decisions after the fact. Sometimes the detective doesn’t even do that. Agencies that employ “solvability factors” put the bulk of the problem on the patrol/uniform cop. If a detective gets a case it is considered “unsolvable” for the moment. It might be “high profile”, like a murder, rape, or robbery. For the most part, patrol officers solve cases. That’s right Mr. and Mrs. America, that uniform cop you called an idiot last night for scratching you a ticket, they solved a case (despite you asking if they had better things to do. They are that fast at what they do.).

Another question I received asked what are the most “lucrative” positions in a police department. I have no idea. I tried several. I will say being assigned to narcotics is probably where an officer can do whatever the hell they want, but then again I did see those guys assigned to the Atlanta “Fugitive Task Force” doing a bit more of whatever they wanted. The problem with narcotics is you have to produce results. Those results are not always tangible, and they don’t always involve “detective work”. A good portion of it involved patrol officers looking harder, and maybe they had a K-9 who smelled harder. Narcotics was luck. Lucrative? Nothing about being a cop is lucrative. You work for people who constantly remind you they pay your salary (didn’t I pay taxes?). You want to know who I thought had it good? Federal. Not just any Fed. Secret Service. Turns out I was right. Those guys were getting hookers in Columbia. That’s a cushy job. After that, I don’t know? CIA, or NSA. But they aren’t cops, so screw them. Write a story about a K-9 Officer playing cat and mouse with a trafficker of drugs/humans. Good story there, and it happens. Watch the Georgia PBS special “Stopping the Candy Shop”. Those people are heroes.

I will warn all of my police Facebook connections. I plan on sending any further queries your way. However, if you find anything worthy of publication I will jump on the edit job and promptly claim a 10% fee. I’ll do the screenplay, you can advise for credit. Last line credit, but at least your name gets out there.

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