Line of Duty Police Deaths ~ a recent rash of killings

Police Tape

It seems lately, every time I turn on the nightly news another police officer has been shot or killed by a criminal. So far this year there have been ten line of duty police officer deaths. 2015 had 133 police officer line of duty deaths, more than two per week.

In the past ten-days five US police officers were murdered in cold blood in shootings around the country. Last Monday a Colorado sheriff’s deputy died after being shot. Wednesday saw a lot of police death when two sheriff’s deputies were killed in Maryland and a police officer was killed in North Dakota. Thursday a Georgia police officer died after being shot. I didn’t need proof, but these five killings reinforced beyond a shadow of a doubt how dangerous police work is. The men and women who chose this line of work are exceptional human beings. They are the line of defense between us and the criminals who think nothing of pointing a gun at a police officer’s head and pulling the trigger.

Historical Tidbits: The first recorded police death was in 1791 and since then more than 20,000 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty. Nobody is at all surprised that the deadliest law enforcement day was September 11, 2001 when 71 officers died responding to the terrorist attacks on our nation.

 

Writing A Detective Novel ~ The Rules

Investigation

 

 

As in life…some rules can safely be broken, others can’t. Determining which is which often demonstrates who is the proficient writer and who is not.

Quite a few of the rules for writing detective stories are similar to those for writing murder mysteries, suspense novels, and thrillers. Others are very different.

BASIC RULES:

1. The story must have a detective, or detective partners as its main character(s). These can be duly sworn police detectives, fire department arson investigators, licensed private investigators, FBI special agents, homeland security investigators and the like, or military police officers of high enough rank to be investigating crimes. They are law enforcement professionals on the case to solve a particular crime or series of crimes.

2. The story must have a victim or victims. Usually there is a dead body, preferably more than one. But the crime could be kidnap, or arson that did not result in murder, or perhaps eco-terrorism resulting in corpses or not. The crime could involve the brutalization or killing of animals (especially if the detective is a park ranger). Most often there is a human murder or murders.

3. The detective story is an intellectual game, much like solving a puzzle or playing chess. There are opponents in this game. The detective is pitted against the criminal. They must be equally matched for it to be a good game. Although the reader knows the detective is going to win, for it to be a compelling story,  it has to feel at times, as if the criminal might triumph over the detective. The criminal must be clever enough to inflict some mental, emotional, and/or physical damage on the detective(s).

4. The old axiom was that the criminal’s identity must be unknown to both the detective(s) and the reader until the very end. This is still largely true. If the criminal’s identity is know the story becomes suspense. Lately, there’s been some line blurring in this area. In the modern market place, many genres have blurry lines.

5. The criminal should be introduced early in the story, amidst a field of plausible red herrings.  There’s nothing worse than having the criminal sprung on the reader, out of the blue, at the last minute. There could be more than one culprit. So, secondary culprits can be introduced later. Still, it’s sort of cheating to wait till the very end even for those to be brought into the story line. Don’t want to give the reader a bait-and-switch feeling. Finding out who the killer is at the end ~ good. Introducing the killer at the end ~ bad idea.

6. The crime should also be introduced at the beginning. It’s been said within the first three chapters. The first chapter is best. Opening up in the very midst of it, helps grab the reader’s attention. The specific crime must fit the criminal’s psyche and personality, and he/she must have had the know-how and ability to commit said crime.

7. Supply plausible and understandable clues that both give hints as to the identity of the criminal, and also clues that point to others who are merely red herrings. Also leave clues as to the motive for the crime(s).

8. In days gone by, it was almost written in stone that the detective story is simply one of detecting, that no social issues must be brought into it and certainly no romance. This is no longer the case. Readers enjoy a detective protagonist with a social conscience, or definite lack thereof. It makes him/her more interesting. In the same way a love interest for the detective often gives her/him an Achilles’ heel which the crafty criminal can take advantage of. The Christian detective story must have inspirational or redemptive elements to it. However, in the detective sub-genre, the overwhelming majority of the plot must be about the protagonist detective(s) detecting and solving the crime(s), or else it’s not a detective story.

9. The crime must not be solved by super-natural or extraordinary means. The criminal can’t be caught via psychic powers, magic, assistance from ghosts, aliens from another planet, or the like. Those scenarios make the story speculative fiction, not a detective story. Although in today’s world, it’s entirely possible to have a spec fic detective story, but that book would not be shelved with detective stories in a book store. Then again, you might hit a bookstore where it would be. Go figure.

Murder

BROKEN ALLEGIANCE by Mark Young ~ nobody gets out alive from a gang

Broken AllegianceAn accident that killed his son, shattered Detective Tom Kagan’s life. The offending driver, a gang-banger, ran from the scene and was never brought to justice. Now back from a temporary assignment with the FBI, he’s once again hunting down gang members in Santa Rosa, CA.

The author pulled me into the emotional turmoil that is Tom Kagan’s life. Although he deeply loves his wife Sara, since the accident, he has shut down all emotion and is often remote from her. We see Tom with all his warts. He drinks too much and is also a first class cheap skate who begrudges tips he gives to waitresses.

Having been called to the murder crime scene of Paco, a high ranking, seemingly untouchable, “all good” member of the Nuestra Familia (NF) street gang, he knows this could become a no holds barred fight within the gang with innocent people getting hurt along the way. What he doesn’t know is a gang leader named Ghost is calling the shots from his cell within Pelican Bay State Prison, CA.

Kagan has a history with the Hispanic gangs since the accident that killed his son — a bad one. His sergeant thinks he’s a loose cannon who should be retired back to patrol, but the chief wants Tom in gangs. The detective has been receiving photographs of himself, his wife, and his partner’s wife with the message: we’re watching you. His partner, grounded in the spirituality of his Christian religion, is a sharp contrast from Tom’s depression and rage. Kagan keeps knowledge of this surveillance from his supervisors out of fear he will be removed from working on gangs, which is where he gets intelligence with which to protect his wife.

When Kagan and Hector Garcia, a gang expert with the Special Services Unit (SSU), visit Ghost in Pelican Bay, the gang-banger taunts Tom. He says he was the one driving the car that killed Tom’s young son, years ago. Agent Garcia has to hold Tom back. Ghost screams, “You’re a dead man.”

After an assault on Ghost in the prison, he’s transferred from Pelican Bay to a community hospital from which he escapes. Now the gang-banger is hunting Tom Kagan and his partner Detective Bill Stevenson. There is an emotionally wrenching scene where Tom and his wife go to his partner’s home for dinner, unaware that Ghost lurks outside watching the house. Bill reads his young son a story and then he and Tom listens as the boy says his prayers before bed. They have no clue there is evil lurking outside.

It is obvious the author has personal, career experience in law enforcement with gangs. He is totally successful in getting across how senseless gang violence is, that nobody gets out alive from a gang. Regardless of the demand for loyalty by the gang, there is no loyalty within. Eventually every gang member is killed by a rival gang, or by a stronger member of his own gang who seeks power. This novel is well written and readers who are thrilled by a good detective novel will love this one’s authenticity.

Amazon/Kindle. http://amzn.to/1keJgBd

Just The Facts Ma’am ~ Life Before Technology and Miranda

Police Car, 1950s 2

Fingerprints were the de rigueur means of positive identification from the 1920s to the 1950s. In 1903 the New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States for criminals. By 1904 Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and the St. Louis Police Department had begun using finger printing. They were assisted by a Scotland Yard sergeant who had been on duty at the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition guarding the British exhibition. In 1908 the first official finger print card was in devised.

In my Sanctuary Point series, set on the south shore of Long Island after World War II, stalwart detective Ian Daltry brings in suspects, gets out the marble slab, the ink, and the cards to finger print suspects. He then sends them to the lavatory where they endeavor to wash the mess off their hands with Lava soap.

At that time, every state and the FBI maintained voluminous, manually compiled, classified, and sorted finger print files. It would’ve been nigh a miracle to make a cold hit. There was nearly no way a latent print from a crime scene could be searched against all the various data bases country-wide as it can be done today with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The data bases were just too spread out for that type of search. However, once a suspect was developed through investigation, comparison of latent prints from the crime scene to the fingerprints of the suspect cleared lots of cases.

In those days, cases were solved the good old fashion way, going door-to-door looking for witnesses and asking questions. Developing strong investigative skills was a must. And circumstantial cases that would stand up in court were built by detectives, who had no computers to rely upon. Blood typing was available, but not conclusive. Still it would be compelling circumstantial evidence if the suspect had blood of the same type as the victim’s on his clothing.

Driver’s license and automobile license plate information was stored state-by-state in large, hand written ledger books. It took a phone call from local law enforcement to the state police or to the state’s motor vehicle department to get a look up. There was no NCIC computer system until 1967. Prior to that, the only way to find out if a car was stolen was by a telephone check of local police department hot sheets that were published daily in most cities. Police cars were radio equipped but there were no portable walkie-talkies. Most cities had call boxes scattered around town where police officers could periodically check in with headquarters. Every officer carried at least one dime with him in case he had to use a public phone booth. And it was a he. There were no female police officers.

There were also no tazers or pepper spray, so an out-of-control criminal would get a not so gentle tap of a black jack, sometimes called a sap or night stick. In my series the Sanctuary Point Police Department had a black jack hanging on the wall near the holding cells. In my Christmas whodunit, GOODBYE NOEL, it was used to threaten two mobsters who were getting out of hand during the booking process. There was also no Miranda warning during the detainment or arrest process. Detective Daltry simply pointed his revolver into the face of the bigger of the two and then marched them to the station. There was no doubt if they made a physical move on him that he would shoot.

Goodbye Noel, Amazon

 

 

 

The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon/Kindle.  http://amzn.to/12nzi3j

Barnes & Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/11L7quZ

Techno Undercover Tactics ~ Are They Today’s Reality or the Realm of Fiction Writers?


2007.5 Ziggy Incognito

In the good olde days, or the bad olde days, depending on ones perspective, the very first thing an undercover operative might want to do is mask his or her appearance.

But in today’s high tech world, things have changed a lot…

All the good espionage toys and gadgets have been the creation of action-adventure, crime fiction thriller, and futuristic sci-fi novels. Well not any more.

Although while not a secret, it’s not generally known that a powerful new tool was tested during protests at the Republican National Convention (2012). Smart phones were used to video the crowd and to communicate one agent to the other. Prior to that an undercover operative might be discovered if seen with an earbud sticking out of his or her ear. The use of specially outfitted smartphones and tablets made operatives blend in with a high-techno crowd. As first reported in the National Journal, September 17, 2012, these special apps allowed operative on the ground at the convention to send real-time voice, video, and data. Law enforcement officials around the country are excited about the possibilities of using this new technology. It’s as if they have entered a realm that here-to-fore had be the providence of hyped-up crime fiction thrillers.

According to the developers of this technology, police departments who were monitoring the protests used a next-generation broadband network not only to send secure voice, video, and data communications, but also to send evidence-quality, permanent recording of all data collected at the protest. But not only that, the system brought together fixed-surveillance camera feeds, live video transmitted from the operatives smartphones…as well as global-positioning system information, and traditional radio traffic. Wow!

According to Darlene Storm (whose motto is surveillance is sexy) on the blog CompterWorld, this real-time video and data was fed into the 94 camera RNC surveillance system which is connected to a wireless network. All video of the protest will be stored for four years.

Now, since turn-around-is-fair-play, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has encouraged reverse-surveillance and has released a stealthy Android app called Police Tape whereby citizens can secretly record law enforcement personnel. It’s become an age where everyone can spy on everyone, anywhere, all the time. Ain’t it wonderful?

Must Read Blogs For The Crime Fiction Writers ~ Researching

Mark Young’s Hook ’em and Book ’em blog is one of my personal favorites. It’s a blog that’s always interesting and topical.


Hook ’em and Book ’em. http://hookembookem.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

I took a Romance Writers of America (RWA) course on the History of Forensics given by Doug Lyle and it was fantastic…just as his The Writer’s Forensic Blog is.

 

The Writer’s Forensic Blog.  http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

On Lee Lofland’s blog The Graveyard Shift, a writer can learn to cook with cops and also find out about a myriad of things law enforcement officers face every day.


The Graveyard Shift. http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/home/

 



On the Law and Fiction blog, Leslie Budewitz, author of Books, Crooks and Counselors, will tell you whats going on with the Supreme Court, at the state court level…or you might just get a Saturday writing quote.


Law and Fiction.  http://www.lawandfiction.com/blog/

 
A blog I find myself going back to repeatedly is PoliceOne.com. You can find so much info here from breaking police news to article on the police wife and a policeman’s life. http://www.policeone.com/police-blogs/


If you need to know what’s going on with the Supreme Court of the United States, you can’t beat the SCOTUS blog sponsored by Bloomberg Law. http://www.scotusblog.com/