911: Help My Story Needs the Real Police!

Why Contemporary?
August 29, 2010
Get Ready for the Heat: Castle
September 2, 2010

We all have specialties in life. And then there are specialties within the specialties.  In police departments there are street cops, tactical officers, detectives, investigators, instructors, media officers-the list goes on and on depending on what department you’re talking about.  They have ranks:  Officer, Master Officer, Master Detective, Corporal, Lieutenant, Detective, Sergeant, Detective Sergeant, Captain, Major, Colonel, Deputy Chief, Lieutenant Chief, and Chief.  Then you have all those acronyms for different fields, DEA, DEU, DV, SVU, SNU, IAD, FAU, CSI just to name a few.  Don’t even get me started on ranks and acronyms for government agencies.

When you start to write a cop story you need to know who your characters are.  Trust me—title, rank and unit form the individual and their behavior.  And policies create the boundaries for that behavior.  So you need to have some basic knowledge about police procedures as well.

But who’s going to tell you detectives don’t work at the police academy or what kind of weapon a tactical officer carries? Who’s going to tell you the Chief doesn’t expect her/his officers to get shot in the gut, fight the bad guy hand to hand, and then jump into a raging river to save not one, but two people who got washed away in a car as blood pours from the officer’s gaping wound? (Of course the Chief would absolutely love to have these infallible cops!)  

Your local officer is your resource.  You would be surprised how helpful your police department can be.  They struggle with the prevailing media images of muscle bound meat heads, over weight slobs, butch females who want to be men, and control freaks above the law.  They’re none of that-yet all of that.  They’re human.  They make mistakes at their job.  They have good days and bad days.  Some eat donuts-some despise donuts.  And like every other occupation, there’s good, and there’s bad.     

But mostly they want to help educate the public about safety and crime, and still catch the bad guy so he can be held accountable for his actions.  And believe it or not, they want you to know what life is like as a police officer.  They want you to know their hierarchy—who’s in charge and where.  They want you to know their policies and procedures—why they do the things they do. 

What they don’t want you to do, is to call 911 to ask these questions.  That’s for emergencies only.  But the answers are at the tip of your fingers.  Look them up on the web.  Police department’s structures and their policies and procedures are all there for you to see.  And if the website doesn’t answer your question, most of the time it will list someone to call.  If it doesn’t, call the non-emergency number.  Tell them you’re an author writing a book and you have some questions-they’ll direct you to someone who can help you.  Just be patient, they’re there to help you, but they also have more important issues they may have to deal with first.

Do you have a cop question you can’t find the answer to?  Ask away.  I’ll answer to the best of my ability or help point you in the right direction.  Or look up your local police department-they’re open  24/7.
In the mean time, check out some of the links to my favorite police departments: 

City of Kansas City Police Department

City of Kaua’i Police Department

17 Comments

  1. What a fantastic group for a blog! Thanks for the cop info, Kym. 😉

  2. Misa says:

    Such great info! Here's my question: If you have someone arrested for a crime, they're held in small town lockup until they see the magistrate/judge, then they're arraigned and would they be taken to the county facility? I don't want that to happen to my character. I want it to stay in the small town, but murder is big, so just wondering how to keep in in the local lock up for longer than the typical 48 hours.

  3. D.D. Scott says:

    Hello, Heather and all your Bloody Pen Sisterhood members too!

    Fabulous info here, Kym!

    As the wife of a 27-year veteran of our Sheriff's Dept (he's a Captain & also our County Jail Commander), I wanted to share another fabulous resource for writers…my Dh has a fabulous blog on all the inside scoop and Tweets a bunch too! Here are his links:

    http://laportecountyjail.blogspot.com/

    http://twitter.com/CaptainBell

    Sexy Sassy Smart Cop Talk Wishes — D. D. Scott

  4. Kym Roberts says:

    Misa-

    In a small town everything takes a while. Have him sit in lock up waiting for transportation to the county. It's an easy enough fix and there can be all kinds of issues with transportation. Or you could have an over crowding issue at the county jail. That's occurred nationwide and when another judge orders the county jail to reduce their numbers, they use other facilities til they can get their numbers within compliance of the judges order. Hope that helped with your WIP! Thanks for joining me today.

    Kym

  5. Kym Roberts says:

    Thanks D.D.!
    The more resources available the better. I appreciate your input. Tell your hubby to stay safe!

    Kym

  6. Thanks for this – One other resource that I personally have found helpful is Citizen's Police Academy. I'm an alumni of the North Richland Hills one and thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot, made some new friends (especially the community resource officer), and even got to participate in training exercises for the rookies!

  7. Angi says:

    AWESOME post, Kym.
    As always, you are wonderful to shasre this information with us.

    Can't wait for the next Bloody Monday you write.

    ~~Angi

  8. Nikki Duncan says:

    Love your first post, Kym! Great job.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great first post!
    Cheers
    Michelle Kopra

  10. Kym Roberts says:

    Karen You're right the Citizen's police academy's are an awesome opportunity for anyone to participate in. The only drawback is the time commitment, but considering how much hands on training you receive, it's worth your time. Some local fire departments also have a similiar program. Check it out in your area!

    Thanks Karen for the wonderful input.

    Kym

  11. Kym Roberts says:

    Thanks for stopping by Angi, Nikki and Michelle. I hope it helped in your WIP.

    Kym

  12. Marsha says:

    Great post, Kym. I'm always glad to get your input. Marsha

  13. Great first post, Kym. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and advice.

  14. Kimberly Quinton says:

    Great post Kym!! And a great reminder that as writers we have the best excuse to seek out the experts! So glad to have one in our group.

  15. Kim Shaw says:

    I'm sooooooo happy you are doing well Kym!!! You can always count me in as a resource too – but looks like you've got it covered pretty well! Just know I'm always there for you!
    Kim 🙂

  16. Kym Roberts says:

    I want to thank everyone for stopping by my first Bloody Monday's Blog. Thank you Heather for setting it up for the Bloody Pen Sisterhood and thanks to my critique partners for being a wonderful support system! I'll see you soon for another Cop Blog on Bloody Monday!
    Kym

  17. Great post Kym. Love the info!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *