Sunday, September 19, 2010
I had the privilege of going on a ride-along last Friday night through the Citizen's Police Academy I'm attending on Tuesday nights. If you write in any sub-genre of mystery, I encourage you to contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask about any classes they offer civilians.
I'd requested District 1 for the action it promised. It covers the northwest part of town which tends to have the highest number of calls for the . . . um . . . most interesting crimes. Turns out my guy's sector was the southern part of District 1. I'm thinking it's not quite as interesting.
There was no blood on my ride-along. One DK (drunk) domestic and a few other routine and rather boring calls. A young kid is hopefully getting a wake-up call by being cited for assault and battery, a man in the ER asked what made the cop check for warrants on him and was told it was because he was mouthy, a woman is receiving creepy but legally non-threatening messages from an ex but needs to wait until Monday to request a Restraining Order, another cop asked for help because the domestic violence suspect she had handcuffed in the back of her cruiser was saying he'd slip the cuffs, so we followed them to the jail. I'd never seen such a swivel head on a live person before. He kept spinning around to see if we were following.
What struck me as totally weird is that no one, not one person, questioned why I was standing with the cops while their screwed up evenings (and lives) were playing out in front of me, a total stranger, without a uniform, who said nothing. Just stood there and watched.
The value, as a writer, was in the details: how the shift begins; what equipment is checked; what (if any) radio code is used; where cops tend to stop when they need a bathroom break (my guy will only use restrooms at police or fire stations); their approach to suspects and civilians. Those kinds of things are invaluable.
Two years ago, I "tagged" along with detectives. I wrote a few posts about that experience beginning with this one, if you're interested.
CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan in hardcover.
It's all better with friends.