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View Full Version : Police procedure -- can somebody check me?



slhuang
01-10-2013, 11:59 PM
If any law enforcement-knowledgeable people would be so indulgent, I'd love a quick check to make sure none of what I've written in my current WIP strikes you as blatantly unrealistic. Here's how I have it playing out right now.


Place: Los Angeles, CA.
Time: Approximately present day.
Research done: I've done massive, extensive searching on every piece of this I could. I also live in LA, so I'm basing some of the responses on what I see in real life (like when there was a murder on my street, eek!). But I've also made some guesses . . .

As it stands:

Characters A and B are noticed by someone at the scene of what is discovered a few hours later to be a VERY BRUTAL mass murder (10-20 bodies).

Their composites are in circulation by later that day. A police officer notices them acting suspicious that afternoon and then sees the composites at the precinct. Cue a massive police response to where they are, stated to include SWAT (it's a residential area and the police suspect they have hostages). A and B escape.

Later that day, A and B are seen by multiple witnesses discharging weapons in a public park (they kill several people, but those bodies may or may not disappear before the police get there -- right now I say they do).

By the next day, their composites are in the newspaper. That morning, A is stopped for not showing an ID while buying alcohol (ETA: There's an escalation that happens here that isn't really important; it's not just the alcohol-with-no-ID.). She is recognized by a civilian, and the store security guards call the police. She tries to run. There is a vast response of police, including SWAT and at least two helicopters.

[She ends up arrested. She refuses to answer the booking questions, but they take her picture and fingerprints and then take her in to do a lineup. After that she is taken to an interrogation room, where she is cuffed to the table (getting this part from TV shows, I couldn't find anything online). She asks to go to the bathroom at one point, and two female officers take her. Eventually she is interrogated by a detective, and then by the detective and her partner, and she never says anything. They question her for several hours, over which time she never answers any questions -- nor does she invoke for a lawyer, deny the charges, or say anything else -- and then the detectives receive airtight evidence that she isn't actually the person they're looking for (and they are told she is slightly mentally disabled, as a cover for her not answering anything). They let her go. ETA: I'm told this doesn't work. If anyone can point me in the direction of some sort of scenario in which she can get arrested and a magical!hacker on the outside (who is in touch with her beforehand) can engineer things so the police feel like they have to let her go, I will love you forever. And also give you rep points. Well, I'm giving everyone who answers me rep points, but extra love for anyone who can help me with this! :D]

Realistic? Not realistic? Did I get anything horribly wrong? ::bites nails:: This is SFF, but it's contemporary, so I'd like it to play mostly by the rules.

Unrelated part of the book: What would be the response if someone called in a death threat on a woman who'd been having repeated threats placed against her for months without any actual action against her? Right now I have a patrol car come out and two cops talk to her for a few minutes, and then they leave.

Thanks in advance!

ironmikezero
01-11-2013, 01:00 AM
The witnesses are going to be a problem...

One sees A & B at the scene of multiple homicides - that makes them persons of interest or material witnesses... (material witnesses can be held with court approval)

Are there any witnesses to the alleged hostage taking? Where did that complaint come from?

Multiple witnesses see them discharging weapons in public (felonies) - missing bodies notwithstanding...

- Don't put two helicopters in the air for her arrest; only one can be in the airspace above the arrest scene.

Remaining completely silent during booking and subsequent interrogation is not that unusual. However, such lack of basic cooperation is duly noted in the official report that is made available to the court at her initial appearance. She can stay silent in court, too - but that's not wise. A public defender would likely be appointed and her case continued. Her release is not likely since she offers no info on her ties to the community and that she lacks propensity for flight. Even if someone tells the investigators she's mentally disabled, that must be corroborated or refuted and presented to the court. The court may order a psychiatric/mental fitness exam that can take some time, during which she'll stay in custody.

Once she's booked/charged, the police can't release her - only a court of record can. Don't let TV make you think otherwise.

If you don't want her in custody, you'll have to craft the story to have her interviewed in the street and not further detained... or have her escape (now there's a thought...).

cornflake
01-11-2013, 02:23 AM
I don't understand the 'stopped while buying liquor with no id' thing. A store simply won't sell it to you - it's not a crime to attempt to buy booze with no ID, you just likely don't get the booze because the store doesn't want to risk that someone from the licensing bureau is there or you're an undercover agent for them and they'd be fined.

Also, a theoretical hostage situation will generate a hostage negotiation team.

Also also - my problem with your witnesses is that they're too good. You have a random person see the person near the scene of what LATER turns out to be a crime and that person generates an accurate and informative picture? The likelihood of that is so low... eyewitnesses are generally useless in the extreme. They're often contradictory, confused, and can be convinced of almost anything, even if you're not trying. See Dr. Loftus for more info.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 02:50 AM
This is very helpful, thank you! (And could possibly derail my plot, but that's okay . . .)


The witnesses are going to be a problem...

One sees A & B at the scene of multiple homicides - that makes them persons of interest or material witnesses... (material witnesses can be held with court approval)

To be more clear, it's different witnesses at each scene. And I don't particularly care what happens to them or whether they are detained, as we never see their POV, but that is still very good to know!



Are there any witnesses to the alleged hostage taking? Where did that complaint come from?I cut this in my OP for the sake of a little more brevity *g* -- right now they're very worried someone they know (call her C) might be in danger, so one of them calls in a death threat on her in the hopes that police will respond since they might not be able to get there fast enough. When they get there a couple of officers are talking to C. They wait till the officers leave before approaching the house, but the officers notice them on the street (because of something stupid A does) and then see their composites when they return to their precinct and think they are the people threatening C's life.


Multiple witnesses see them discharging weapons in public (felonies) - missing bodies notwithstanding...Yes, I know, I was sort of banking on the idea that the police become convinced it was a mis-identification and she is not actually the person in the witness reports, not that they don't think she did anything wrong. But it seems that might be more complicated than I figured . . .



- Don't put two helicopters in the air for her arrest; only one can be in the airspace above the arrest scene.
Thank you! That's exactly the sort of little detail I want to make sure I get right. :) (I was basing that on often seeing 2-3 helicopters hovering in the air when something happens here, but I think that's usually for traffic, so maybe it's different!)



Remaining completely silent during booking and subsequent interrogation is not that unusual. However, such lack of basic cooperation is duly noted in the official report that is made available to the court at her initial appearance. She can stay silent in court, too - but that's not wise. A public defender would likely be appointed and her case continued. Her release is not likely since she offers no info on her ties to the community and that she lacks propensity for flight. Even if someone tells the investigators she's mentally disabled, that must be corroborated or refuted and presented to the court. The court may order a psychiatric/mental fitness exam that can take some time, during which she'll stay in custody.

Once she's booked/charged, the police can't release her - only a court of record can. Don't let TV make you think otherwise.
Ah ha. Hmm. Thank you, very much -- it looks like I jumped the gun on writing this part. So if the police become convinced they arrested her in error, there's no scenario in which they'll just let her go?



If you don't want her in custody, you'll have to craft the story to have her interviewed in the street and not further detained... or have her escape (now there's a thought...).She can escape pretty easily, actually (she has superpowers), but it would be . . . violent. What I'm trying to do with this sequence is set up a scenario where she has to trust someone else and as a result nobody gets hurt (versus her escaping herself and taking out a whole bunch of cops to do it). The person she's depending on is a computer guy who's basically a magical!hacker (I'm perfectly comfortable having him be able to make computer systems do anything in the context of my SFF). So my intent was for him to be able to make it seem *to the police* like she should be released, and thus nobody gets hurt.

What I need plot-wise (if I can get it!) is for her to get arrested and for his magical!hacking to get her unarrested. They're in touch right before this, so he can tell her to act a certain way / answer the booking questions in a certain way, if that would be helpful . . .

I REALLY appreciate all your input! It looks like I might have a lot more research to do on this than I thought.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 03:13 AM
I don't understand the 'stopped while buying liquor with no id' thing. A store simply won't sell it to you - it's not a crime to attempt to buy booze with no ID, you just likely don't get the booze because the store doesn't want to risk that someone from the licensing bureau is there or you're an undercover agent for them and they'd be fined.

I was trying to make my OP as brief as possible :) but I forgot people wouldn't know the context! Sorry! There's a whole escalation that happens; it just starts with her trying to buy alcohol with no ID. I wasn't really worried about that part of it so I glossed over it, but I see now that I really wasn't clear -- my apologies and thank you for pointing that out regardless!



Also, a theoretical hostage situation will generate a hostage negotiation team.
Thank you!



Also also - my problem with your witnesses is that they're too good. Really? I actually don't want them to be good, because I want there to be room for doubt in the ID. There's reason for the first eyewitness to remember them -- they're fairly distinctive-looking and are both significantly bruised like they've been in a fight recently (which they have), and look completely out of place for where they are. I guess I tend to assume everyone is better with faces than I am because I have some level of prosopagnosia and can't really recognize anyone, *g* so I'm always stunned by how good my friends are at it!

My witness is the desk attendant at an office building, and my head canon (you never see the witness reports) is that the office building was not well-trafficked and they were by far the most suspicious people who came in that morning (the only people he noticed as BEING suspicious, in fact), combined with none of the other businesses in the office building actually having seen or interacted with them.

Thank you very much for the comment and the recommendation! I'll talk with my betas about it and see if they found the first eyewitness's context to be too unrealistic. (The witness statements from the shooting in the park are outright stated to be wildly contradictory and inaccurate.)

cornflake
01-11-2013, 03:48 AM
Hold up - you have the LAPD responding, with multiple officers, to a death threat? What kind of death threat?

Also, in general, I think you're confusing arrested with questioning.

Cops can and do ask people to come in for questioning. They can be intimidating about it. Unless they arrest you, they have no ability to compel you to come in or to stay once you're there. However, people in general are intimidated by cops and go along. Same as people answer cops' questions when they shouldn't, in general.

So, if they just ask/tell her they want to question her and she goes along, they can put her in a room and interrogate her to their heart's content. She's there willingly. People don't quite get this a lot and will go in because they don't know they don't have to and then will do stuff like ask for a lawyer or answer things and protest that they weren't read their rights. They weren't arrested.

I think you can work it that way unless she's unlikely to go/will know enough to tell them she's not interested in answering questions but they can feel free to come back once they've secured a warrant for her arrest, thanks.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 04:03 AM
Hold up - you have the LAPD responding, with multiple officers, to a death threat? What kind of death threat?

"What kind" isn't shown right now, they just say they did it. I Googled up and down the whole Internet trying to figure out what kind of response the police would give to different levels of threat and got wildly conflicting answers . . . I have a lot of latitude in what kind of call this could be, and it could definitely be something worse than a death threat if the LAPD doesn't bother with that sort of thing -- basically the MCs think she's in danger, and they want to convince the LAPD to get on site until they can get there, but for ::story reasons:: they can't tell the police what's actually going on, so they're trying to get a patrol car out there until they can make it over. And one of them *should* know enough to know what to tell the police to get them there. If there's another type of call they could make that would work better (domestic disturbance, maybe?) I can definitely change it!

I ended up partially basing the response on the result of some 911 calls I witnessed as a kid that were for things that were much more minor but still resulted in several officers appearing. But that was in a much smaller town, not in LA . . . I had a lot of trouble finding an LA-specific answer for this.

As always, MUCH gratitude for your input!!

slhuang
01-11-2013, 04:07 AM
Also, in general, I think you're confusing arrested with questioning.


Thank you! I did want her to be arrested, as she's the type of character who would definitely tell the police to stuff it if they weren't actually arresting her, and in that case there's no obstacle. *g* But you're absolutely right that I didn't really think about the difference -- I'll have to ruminate on that and see if maybe I can use that to make things work.

I really do appreciate all your help -- I thought I had done a lot of research on this but I clearly wasn't even aware of how much I didn't know!

cornflake
01-11-2013, 04:13 AM
"What kind" isn't shown right now, they just say they did it. I Googled up and down the whole Internet trying to figure out what kind of response the police would give to different levels of threat and got wildly conflicting answers . . . I have a lot of latitude in what kind of call this could be, and it could definitely be something worse than a death threat if the LAPD doesn't bother with that sort of thing -- basically the MCs think she's in danger, and they want to convince the LAPD to get on site until they can get there, but for ::story reasons:: they can't tell the police what's actually going on, so they're trying to get a patrol car out there until they can make it over. And one of them *should* know enough to know what to tell the police to get them there. If there's another type of call they could make that would work better (domestic disturbance, maybe?) I can definitely change it!

I ended up partially basing the response on the result of some 911 calls I witnessed as a kid that were for things that were much more minor but still resulted in several officers appearing. But that was in a much smaller town, not in LA . . . I had a lot of trouble finding an LA-specific answer for this.

As always, MUCH gratitude for your input!!

That's why I asked what kind of death threat. ;)

If you want more info, you can find some places put up dispatch logs or blotter info. Here's (http://ws.ocsd.org/Blotter/), randomly, first I got, the OC sherrif's blotter. You can pick an area and a time period to view and see what they were called for, to get some better idea.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 04:33 AM
That's why I asked what kind of death threat. ;)

If you want more info, you can find some places put up dispatch logs or blotter info. Here's (http://ws.ocsd.org/Blotter/), randomly, first I got, the OC sherrif's blotter. You can pick an area and a time period to view and see what they were called for, to get some better idea.

Wow, that is SUPER useful! Thank you! :)

I'm beginning to think I didn't really know the right questions to ask when I was researching all this . . . I thought I had gotten it all pretty close, but apparently not! Thank you again!

JournoWriter
01-11-2013, 06:45 AM
By the next day, their composites are in the newspaper.

Since it's modern day, be sure to account for the fact that the images would be out that same day - online and on TV, on smartphones, etc. They may have to hole up overnight to avoid detection by some kid on Twitter on his iPhone.

Also account for media coverage of a SWAT operation with suspected hostages and the escape of suspects. Talk about a media frenzy. Heads would roll at the LAPD, if that makes a difference.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 09:18 AM
Since it's modern day, be sure to account for the fact that the images would be out that same day - online and on TV, on smartphones, etc. They may have to hole up overnight to avoid detection by some kid on Twitter on his iPhone.

That's a good point! Thank you! Right now they hole up for unrelated reasons, but I'll have to keep this in mind if I change that . . .

I had a murder on my street once (actually, I've had like three murders on my street, and I don't even live in a bad section of LA!), and by the next day (IIRC) there were composites of the guy plastered on every vertical surface up and down the street, plus in every newspaper. But you're right, we'd already seen the picture online because we were following it!



Also account for media coverage of a SWAT operation with suspected hostages and the escape of suspects. Talk about a media frenzy. Heads would roll at the LAPD, if that makes a difference.Ooo, another good point! You never see the law enforcement or media POV, but that very well might impact how they handle the characters. Thank you!