View Full Version : Police procedure

07-26-2010, 01:47 AM
I'm working on a short horror story with a protagonist who's a police officer. The thing is, I've realized that I'm not sure how to handle a handle a few things.

The story takes place in the United States, and my character is a patrolling officer.

In the start of the story, the police are called because someone spotted a car belonging to a recently missing person. Who would respond to something like this? Is it realistic for my character to respond and go to the scene, or would only detectives go? How many police people would be likely to respond to something like that, and if my character went, what would she have to do, considering she's not a detective or forensics person? I imagine the car would probably be towed and checked over for signs of foul play, but she wouldn't be involved in that part of it.

Next, my character responds to a report of a trespasser in a cemetery. I'm told that with something like this, two officers would probably respond. Would it be realistic for them to split up to look for the trespasser?

Thanks for any input. I appreciate it.

07-26-2010, 02:54 AM
RJK is the best person to reply to your questions. If the person is missing and somebody has reported it to the authorities, the car's plate number would be in the NCIC data system. As to who would respond, it pretty much depends on where your story is set. Is it in a big city or is it in a small town? Has somebody been investigating the missing person? In that case he/she may get the call. Otherwise it will be the first officers patrolling nearby and getting the call. If there are reasons to believe that the missing person has been kidnapped or involved in some crime, then it is likely that the missing person case has been assigned to a detective who would come to the site. The detective may decide to call forensics and have the car examined there, but most likely, they'll just take a quick look and then have it towed to a place where the forensic team can turn it inside out.
I'm no expert, this is stuff I learned for my own WIP through my own research and after talking to a few cops I know. So I'll leave for others to pitch in their input. But remember that things do change from place to place and there could be big differences depending on whether you are in a large city or in a small community.

Oh, I wanted to add that even if the missing person has been investigated I think it would be reasonable to send a patrolling officer right away to "secure" the site, in other words make sure that nobody gets close to the car or messes around it, and stay there until the detective(s) arrive. That's what they do with crime scenes, and I think in this case the car would qualify as a "crime scene"...

07-26-2010, 03:34 AM
What One writer said.
Patrol officers have beats or sectors that they are required to patrol and are responsible for. They will travel beyond the borders of those sectors to back up other officers, but generally are expected to stay in their sector.

If the car is spotted, parked and unoccupied in her sector, she'll be sent their by her dispatcher. Or, she may find it on her own. If there's evidence of a crime (blood, jimmied ignition, etc.) she would call for a detective, and he/she would take over.

Trespassers in cemeteries are common (teens go there to drink and smoke pot). One car would normally be sent, unless there was more to it. Say, the trespassers were damaging headstones and markers, then they'd send two or more cars to try to catch them.

07-26-2010, 04:14 AM
Thanks for the input. It's helpful. Ideally, it'd be nice to have her go to the cemetery alone (that's the site of the main action, so it'd be nice to have more tension by having her alone, but I wasn't sure how likely it'd be that she'd respond alone). Would the fact that there'd been a grave robbery in that cemetery not long ago impact how many officers get sent?

The situation with the missing person is that a woman called the police because her young adult son never showed up at her house after planning to come for dinner, and she eventually filed an official report after a day had passed. Nothing particularly strange about the case, but a couple other people have disappeared in the city recently, so my protagonist is concerned it's all connected.

I'm thinking it's a medium-sized city. Not huge, but not a small town, either. There's a university campus nearby.

07-26-2010, 10:46 PM
Even if two cars would normally be sent, if it's a particularly busy shift, one car will be sent and the dispatcher will send the next car that clears his assignment. Calls get backed up all the time. That's why sometimes it takes an hour for the cops to show up. They were assigned two or three calls before they got yours.

I've been sent alone on "Man with a gun calls" and had to handle the call by myself before another car was available to back me up. That's the way it works. I worked in a city of 65,000 or so, with a department of under 200, including clerks, dispatchers, detectives, juvenile, community services, traffic, and patrol. There were times when we went out on patrol with 6 cars for the whole city.