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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cop Series--Introduction

When I first started writing fiction, I was clueless about a lot of things, but one of my biggest dilemmas was how to ascertain whether or not my law enforcement content was accurate. That was important because I usually have at least one law enforcement character in my books.

I’m a firm believer that literary license is allowed, but to maintain my integrity as an author, certain facts should not to be trifled with, even in fiction. I don’t want to lose a potential reader’s respect and trust by ignorantly portraying a cop doing something that a real cop would just never do. (Unless I’m writing about a rogue cop.)

Thus began my search for sources. Six years into my writing career, before my first contract, a door opened for me at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. From a chance meeting, one of the deputies there offered to be my official consultant.

He encouraged me to take the citizen police academy. That led to a volunteer administrative position at the sheriff’s office police academy. I offered to volunteer for two reasons. The first was to give back something in return for my consultant’s generosity. The second was strictly for my own benefit. What better place than a police academy to learn about cops for my writing?

I feel immeasurably blessed to have my consultant, as well as the opportunity to be at the police academy. It’s my desire, in turn, to bless others by sharing some basic information for writers without direct access to a law enforcement source. The kind of information that a writer often doesn’t realize he or she needs until it’s time to write a scene—simple things, like, what is all that stuff on a cop’s belt?

The articles I post here will eventually be posted to our Keep Me In Suspense website in the reference section where they can be accessed when anyone needs them.

To assure the accuracy of my series, one of the deputies/instructors at the academy is helping me. I’m also getting information from my consultant and the staff at the academy. Cops love to tell stories, by the way. If I ask a question at lunch, the conversation that follows usually lasts for the rest of lunchtime. All I have to do is take notes.

My consultant, as well as the deputy/instructor, are both certified police officers in the State of Maryland, and both of them have approximately twenty years of law enforcement experience.

Please understand, though, that if I make any mistakes in the information I present, they are mine alone, due to my own failures to take accurate notes or listen well.

Here are samples of some of the topics I’m going to cover:

What, Exactly, is Hanging on that Belt?
The Use of Force Continuum
Hey, What’s in That Car, Anyway?
Routine Traffic Stops (Not Necessarily Routine)

My first post will be this week.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a paraphrase of a comment from my consultant: The most important thing you need to remember is that cops have to worry about defense attorneys. Everything a cop does will probably end up being scrutinized in a courtroom. Sloppy police work can lead to a criminal going free.

Something to remember when we write.


Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

I am so looking forward to this series. Right up my alley. Thanks so much for doing it.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Mary Pat said...

My son is applying to the frederick county police academy with new classes starting June 14th. We know nothing about the physical challenges he will be up against. Nor do we know much about anythiong else. Therefore you must talk to us like we were 2 year olds. But please provide any information or links we can go to to find out what the police academy in frederick is like.
I must confess, )you probably don't here that phrase enough) that this is my first time blogging and it took me two days just to find your site. Thanks for taking the time to help us.
Sincerely, a concerned parent.

7:32 AM  

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