My first book, Sharing Hailey, had a romantic suspense element to it. My second and third books wanted romantic suspense—begged for it—but after doing all the law enforcement and legal research for that first book, I didn’t want to go there again. It’s not that I don’t like research. I love it. It’s just that it takes sooo long. However, with my new series, I gave in to my characters’ demand for that combination of danger and romance, and did a cannon ball into the pool of law enforcement. I’d like to share some of the wonderful resources I’ve discovered.
I started with my local citizens’ police academy. I had no idea these existed. I was even more surprised that the Albuquerque Police Department conducted a three month, two nights a week class at the police academy training center. Someone from every department in APD made a presentation on the work specific to that department: SWAT, K-9 (with a demo), Recruiting, Violent Crimes, Air Support, Horse Mounted, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (the bomb squad), and Prisoner Transport, to name a few. We toured the 911 call center, the evidence warehouse, the prisoner transport center (where prisoners are processed before being taken to the county jail), and the real time crime center. Some participants got weapons training at the APD Firing Range. (I passed. It was cold, rainy and windy that day. I’ll only go so far for my art!) We even got to experience FATS, the Firearms Training Simulator, where police cadets learn to handle use of force situations. It gave me a whole new perspective on what law enforcement is dealing with in the field.
Next up was the Writers’ Police Academy, the brain child of Lee Lofland, a former law enforcement officer. His resume is extensive. Some of the highlights: sheriff’s deputy, patrol officer, K-9 handler, undercover officer and detective. He’s worked narcotics, homicide, murder-for-hire, robbery and burglary. His book, Police Procedure and Investigation, is part of Writers Digest Books Howdunit series and sits within easy reach when I’m at my desk.
This year, the Writers’ Police Academy was held for the first time in Appleton, Wisconsin at Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center. It’s an incredible facility with resources for training firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMTs. I got hands-on experience in lifting fingerprints (processed using superglue, I kid you not), intubating a dummy, delivering a baby, breaching and searching a house, and use of force in MILO (another virtual reality training system for law enforcement). I toured the county jail, which was across the street from the conference hotel, and let me tell you that was a little uncomfortable. We could see the inmates through the glass windows and they could see us. I learned about the mindset of cops, women in law enforcement, interview and interrogation, processing a crime scene (Did you know that DNA evidence goes in a paper bag? Plastic can degrade the DNA.), and forensic psychology. The conference was so jam-packed that I didn’t get to attend every workshop I was interested in. Decisions, decisions.
NYT bestselling author Allison Brennan shared research tips, including the fact that many FBI field offices host their own citizens academies. Can’t make this incredible conference? Don’t have a local citizens police academy? Allison suggested checking out the Crime Scene Questions for Writers, where law enforcement officers, private detectives, medical examiners, EMTs, and combat medics (again, just to name a few) answer writers’ questions so we can get it right.
The research has been fascinating, not only from a writer’s standpoint but from a citizen’s, too. I’m glad I took the plunge. Do you have any resources to share?