Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm teaching a Savvy Authors class on Police Techniques

I teach a lot of online classes. I don't make a hell of a lot of money doing it -- it sometimes pays my book bill for the month -- but I absolutely love helping other writers either learn their craft or learn something they didn't know about the topic they're writing on. Since Romantic Suspense is currently very big, I decided to teach an online lesson on police techniques.

If you’d like to attend the class, you’ll find more information and a registration link here. The basic cost for the month-long class is $35.

It's a topic that especially interested me since I'm currently writing a romantic suspense about a cop couple with the working title of SOUTHERN SHIELDS. Now, I'll admit I have an advantage when it comes to researching the topic, since I'm sleeping with a cop.

I have been Lt. Mike Woodcock’s wife for 30 years, and he’s been in law enforcement for 26 of them. He began his career as a uniformed patrol officer during the most violent years of the drug war, and indeed was a member of the Spartanburg Police Department's Complex Team, which patrolled the city's dangerous housing projects.

He worked his way up to sergeant over a team of detectives who dealt with murders, domestic violence, and burglaries. He went on to become a polygraph examiner who has interrogated everyone from accused pedophiles to murderers to rogue cops.

He then created Spartanburg County’s first hostage negotiation team, which handled barricaded subjects threatening to harm themselves and others. As a hostage negotiator, he dealt with subjects who were often violent, including a schizophrenic who opened fire on him and other cops.

I've also had first hand-experience with police that had nothing to do with Mike. Though I’ve been a published author for the last ten years, for ten years prior to that, I was a reporter who covered everything from murders to fires to court cases.

I’ve followed particular cases through the entire criminal justice system, from the actual commission of a murder, its investigation, and through out the court trial of the subjects all the way to sentencing. I’ve also seen people get off when I was fairly sure they were guilty.

Though I worked in Cherokee County for the most part, several times I had to watch my husband handle crimes in Spartanburg County, including two different bomb calls. I once watched him hunt 14 pipe bombs at one scene with a team of officers, and listened in horror when a bomb went off. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The two of us have given talks about hostage negotiation at the Romance Writers of America National Convention, as well as other writer’s conferences around the country. I’m happy to say these talks have been well-received.
I’ve been thinking about doing a more general talk on police techniques for several years now. Mike and I finally got the chance to present a RWA National Convention workshop called “Hearts and Handcuffs: Creating Believable Police Heroes.” It was very well received, so I decided to present a more detailed online version of the class at 
During this class, I’ll be interviewing Mike and a number of his police friends, and presenting lessons based on their comments. Here’s a rough outline of the lessons I intend to present.
2.)  Finding, Screening and training cops. How do you figure out who would make a good cop? How do you make sure they're ready to go out on the street without getting themselves, their fellow officers, civilians or suspects killed? What do you teach them during field training and  what do they learn at the Criminal Justice Academy?)
3.)  Female officers—Why do women become cops? What are some of the advantages that women bring to the job? How do they deal with people that are generally larger and stronger than they are? How do they handle hand to hand? Since women are often the chief caregivers in the family, what are the techniques they use to juggle those demands and policing? I'll also talk briefly about my experience as a cop's wife and reporter, and how I handled my fear when he was in danger.
4.) Police tactics — How television gets it wrong; characteristics of a good police firearm and the techniques of using one; using lethal force — Why do cops aim center mass rather than trying to hit the legs, etc? What’s the professional, emotional, social and legal toll on officers who have to use lethal force? Non lethal tactics and their drawbacks; Police driving tactics for auto stops and high speed chases. What are the warning signs that a driver in a traffic stop intends to attack you?
5.) Hand to hand—What warning signs do officers look for that a suspect is going to attack them?How do you handcuff a suspect who is resisting? Why do cops pile on suspects? What’s it like fighting hand to hand with someone? What special pitfalls does a male officer encounter with female suspects?
6.) Investigating crimes — What techniques do detectives use to investigate murders? Sexual assaults? Child sex crimes? Criminal domestic violence?What's the impact on the victims, and how do you question victims of violent crimes, particularly children?
7.) Interrogation — How does television get it wrong? What are the techniques you use in interrogating suspects? How do you approach family members differently than other suspects? What are some of the signs a suspect is lying? What are techniques you use to obtain a confession?
8.) Evidence handling—How do you collect evidence of a crime, particularly blood evidence, DNA, hair, fiber, and fingerprint? What sort of evidence can the tech process in the department's own lab, and what type must be sent out? How do techs handle photographing autopsies? How do the tech handle the chain of custody? How does he or she handle court testimony?
9.) Uniformed patrol—What are the particular challenges faced by uniformed cops? What kind of dangers do uniforms face that other cops don’t? How do senior officers help rookies adjust to the job? How do they deal with adrenaline? What’s their shift schedule?
10.) Arson investigation — What are the signs that a fire is an arson? What are the particular challenges of handling an arson case?
11.) Narcotics—What’s the current drug that is causing the most problem on the street? What role do gangs play in towns like Spartanburg, SC, which is a blend of rural and suburban territories? How do you handle drug stings? Who becomes a confidential reliable informant? Why do you use them? What do they do? How do you ensure their safety? How do you make sure they’re not ripping off the department? Do cops in your department go undercover? If so, how do they deal with the problem of posing as drug users without actually using drugs?
12.) Forensic chemistry — Testing the different type of drugs. How do you tell marijuana from oregano or some harmless substance? High-tech mass spectrometers used in drug testing, and how they work. How meth is manufactured, and how do you dispose of a meth lab safely.
13.) Bomb techs — Why would a relatively small southern city like Spartanburg SC need bomb techs? What do bomb techs do? How do bomb techs deal with explosives while keeping safe? How do you disarm an explosive? The different types of explosives bomb techs must dispose of. Wearing a bomb suit. Using robots to deal with explosives. What reasons would people in Spartanburg, SC use bombs, and how common is it?
I’ll also take questions from the class and get them answered either by Mike or one of the other officers. It should be a really great opportunity for anyone who is writing romantic suspense.
There will be a special forum for the class where I will post lessons three times a week on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.There will be twelve lessons, plus any additional ones I decide to include. You can also ask questions at any time, and I’ll get them answered for you.
Savvy Authors' workshops are held on a forum: a bulletin board based system. Instead of an invitation to join a loop you will receive a reminder notice one or two days prior to the start of the workshop that includes instructions on how to access the workshop forum and register to receive your user id and password. If you have not received instructions by the day the workshop begins, please check your spam filter.

The forum will be available the morning (EST) of the day the workshop starts and will remain accessible to all participants thereafter, until 1 month after the workshop ends. With instructor approval you will be provided with a PDF of all the class lectures and assignments after the class is completed.  You will also be given simple instructions on how to create a  PDF of all your discussions along with our privacy and data retention policy.

I hope you’ll be able to join us. Thanks!

Angela Knight