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Kate Thornton
04-03-2007, 12:15 AM
Do you ever research your local law enforcement entities? Or visit the Coroner's Office? I once visited a funeral home and they were very helpful. (It helps if you dress nicely for funeral home research)

Sometimes I take character names for stories from cemetery headstones.

Carlene
04-03-2007, 01:14 AM
Well, let's see...I volunteered at the Sheriff's Department for two years and still keep in touch with duputies there so I can ask questions. I had dinner with the previous San Diego M.E. (he's a vegetarian!) and asked him lots of questions. I met a very nice man who works in QD in the local CSI - I can email him with questions at any time. Also met a coronor's investigator and have HIS card - I've emailed him more than once with questions and he's great. He's told me crime stories that almost made me puke - super!

At one time I shot pistols in competition - so that helps. I'm familiar with guns and not afraid to shoot them - yes, I keep a loaded .38 next to my bed.

When we lived in central Massachusettes, I often wandered through the old cemetary, reading grave markers. No one locked me up and I got marvelous story ideas.

My husband frequently tells people he only married me because I'm weird - it that a neat compliment or what? When asked what I he, he says "She sits alone in a room, makes up people and them kills them." Gotta love a man like that!

Shara
04-03-2007, 01:31 AM
I wanted to research police procedures for the novel I've just finished, so I emailed my local police station, explained I was a writer doing research, and was there anyone I could talk to. A very nice detective inspector got in touch, and after a few emails I made arrangements to meet him at the station for a chat.

I was a bit nervous, as this was the first time I'd gone to interview anyone in a capacity as Writer. He kept me waiting in reception for over an hour (that was an interesting experience in itself, though) because I kept leaving messages on his pager and then I thought he must be doing something really important and I didn't want to keep hassling him. But in the end it turned out he'd forgotten to switch his mobile phone on, so wasn't getting my messages!

He was very helpful with all my questions in the end, but I was quite disappointed to learn that Detective Inspectors seem to spend most of their time at their desks filling in computerised forms, and don't actually have to go out and hunt murderers very often.

Still, I have promised him a copy of the novel if (when!) it gets published. Hopefully I will be able to keep that promise before he retires...

Shara

Mom'sWrite
04-03-2007, 01:45 AM
Do you ever research your local law enforcement entities? Or visit the Coroner's Office? I once visited a funeral home and they were very helpful. (It helps if you dress nicely for funeral home research)

Sometimes I take character names for stories from cemetery headstones.


Some city police departments allow ride-alongs if you sign enough waivers and releases. I had a friend go on one and she loved it.

Carlene
04-03-2007, 02:02 AM
Oh yes definitely - any crime/mystery author should do it. I've been on two but by far the best was with a female duty. Out here, they work 12 hour shifts, so I headed out with the duty at six pm. on a Friday. (Try to do a weekend - lots more action) She told me she'd bring me back to the station anytime so I'd told my husband I'd be home around midnight. Yeah, right. I finally rolled in around 0300. The minute we got to the black-and-white, she asked me if I knew how to work a shot gun. When I said, yes, she showed me the release and said (she was kidding and I knew it) that if we got into anything hairy, I could back her up! All I can say is it was one of the most fun things I've ever done - so far - in my life. There is NOTHING like going 110 MPH on the freeway running code 3 (lights & sirens). I actually went on a couple of calls with her (I was in my volunteer uniform and had a radio) but there were also times she told me to stay in the car and I did.

So - yes, DO IT!

Jamesaritchie
04-03-2007, 02:34 AM
Do you ever research your local law enforcement entities? Or visit the Coroner's Office? I once visited a funeral home and they were very helpful. (It helps if you dress nicely for funeral home research)

Sometimes I take character names for stories from cemetery headstones.


Constantly. I've even, finally, witnessed an autopsy.

Soccer Mom
04-03-2007, 06:56 AM
Yup. I'm a career prosecutor and I exploit my connections shamelessly. Just attended a dandy seminar on the latest techniques in DNA last week. I haven't seen an autopsy in a few years. I'm probably due for a refresher.

JDCrayne
04-03-2007, 07:50 AM
No, I don't do any live research, but then I write very light frivolous little mysteries and accuracy isn't a high priority. I do try to keep up with advances in the field and in culture in general. After several books in which my detective went to his truck to make a call back to the police dispatcher, I finally had him haul a cell phone out of his pocket instead.

WackAMole
05-16-2007, 09:41 PM
My dad is a Coroner, so I've stood in on several autopsies just to get a feel for what it's like and what kind of feelings go through your head.

I'm lucky that I have that resource, very lucky. But one thing it has made me realize is that most people, whether they are related to you or not, are perfectly willing to let you observe a little if they are allowed to do it.

Of course I am not allowed to stand in on a Homocide autopsy because only law enforcement can during an open investigation, but I read a lot of reports after the fact.

Because I have seen how willingly my dad responds to people who want to observe, it has made me less afraid and intimidated to ask people in jobs i am interested in to observe.

The worst thing that can happen, is that they say no.
best case scenario, they say yes and you get some valuable life experience to help you write as authentically and believably as possible.

Jamesaritchie
05-18-2007, 06:06 PM
My dad is a Coroner, so I've stood in on several autopsies just to get a feel for what it's like and what kind of feelings go through your head.

I'm lucky that I have that resource, very lucky. But one thing it has made me realize is that most people, whether they are related to you or not, are perfectly willing to let you observe a little if they are allowed to do it.

Of course I am not allowed to stand in on a Homocide autopsy because only law enforcement can during an open investigation, but I read a lot of reports after the fact.

Because I have seen how willingly my dad responds to people who want to observe, it has made me less afraid and intimidated to ask people in jobs i am interested in to observe.

The worst thing that can happen, is that they say no.
best case scenario, they say yes and you get some valuable life experience to help you write as authentically and believably as possible.

You know, autopises do not bother me at all, but I always find watching a mortician prepare a body for viewing just a bit, well, spooky.

Nancyleeny
05-31-2014, 09:09 PM
I looked up autopsies in this thread so I could see if anyone has been to one. My husband used to be in the NYPD, and the FDNY, so I think I'm going to ride along one night, but I'd also like to watch an autopsy.

I'm not squeamish at all. My daughter and I stayed in the room at the ER (after my husband broke his hand badly) while the plastic surgeon poked around in my husband's hand putting the bones back in place, showing us what he was doing, and then for fun he had my husband move his fingers so we could see the tendons move (like pink rubber bands, so cool!) When my dog had a huge tumor on his chest removed, I asked the vet if I could have it in a jar. It was just so wild looking. He said no. :( And when my kids were young, I tried to get their doctor to teach me how to do an emergency tracheotomy, just in case. He refused, too. Nothing grosses me out.

The human body has endlessly fascinated me. In my next life, I think I'm going to come back and be a ME. So any advice as how to see an autopsy, while understanding the sensitive issue of respect for the dead?

Snowstorm
05-31-2014, 09:16 PM
Sure. In their office I've interviewed two different county coroners, the university chief of police, and a historian in her museum. By phone (the facility is 400 miles away) a funeral director because his facility had a crematory.

Nancyleeny
05-31-2014, 09:21 PM
Sure. In their office I've interviewed two different county coroners, the university chief of police, and a historian in her museum. By phone (the facility is 400 miles away) a funeral director because his facility had a crematory.

Thanks! I want to contact my county coroner. In my mystery, set in NJ, coroners have to be doctors. I think where I,live (upstate NY) they can be anyone.

wonderactivist
05-31-2014, 10:00 PM
I've done ride-alongs in our town and in Houston plus met with an FBI contact about some procedures. For forensic, death details, a writer named Debra LeBlanc, an official crime scene cleaner-upper of some sort, taught me SO MUCH at a conference. She gave a great presentation and I was that annoying person asking loads of questions. :)

I viewed an autopsy but think that honestly, I got more out of research and consults, but then my books don't focus as much on that. Keep in mind that watching an autopsy gives you feelings, smells, in my case nausea, but you still need to consult a professional about details.

Example: I shot a few different guns in the country when writing my first book, but when it came time to get everything straight, I consulted the FBI contact and an Army sharpshooter/SAW gunner who was a family friend. They all just loved talking about what they do and double-checking details. My afternoon of shooting didn't replace their expertise.

I think the ride-alongs were much more useful to me than anything else. Those and the FBI contact. I enjoyed as much talking to the officers as the events unfolding around us. Each time we were quite busy but had slow spots too. Make the most of those times.

Priceless to me are those chaotic moments on the ride-along. The sense that anything can and will happen.

PS: YA author Tara Hudson worked with me on a couple events recently. She used a cemetery for both setting and characters. Great minds think alike!

Snowstorm
05-31-2014, 10:40 PM
Thanks! I want to contact my county coroner. In my mystery, set in NJ, coroners have to be doctors. I think where I,live (upstate NY) they can be anyone.

Oh, I hope you do. A face-to-face appointment is best. I think he or she'd be pleased to answer questions. Plus, talking (well, listening) with the coroners gave me ideas to improve the story!

In Wyoming, our coroners are elected and can be any occupation.

Fizgig
05-31-2014, 11:33 PM
Well I was an investigator for a public defenders office where I got to attend an autopsy and do a ride along with an emt and cop.

Now I'm an anthropologist/archaeologist with training in forensic anthropology and I exploit my personal connections like crazy. I know medical examiners, a member of the western DMORT team (called out to plane crashes and stuff to process human remains), and a ton of forensic anthropologists (a la Bones). Makes research easier!

Ellis Clover
06-01-2014, 03:22 PM
I'm not squeamish at all. My daughter and I stayed in the room at the ER (after my husband broke his hand badly) while the plastic surgeon poked around in my husband's hand putting the bones back in place, showing us what he was doing, and then for fun he had my husband move his fingers so we could see the tendons move (like pink rubber bands, so cool!) When my dog had a huge tumor on his chest removed, I asked the vet if I could have it in a jar. It was just so wild looking. He said no. :( And when my kids were young, I tried to get their doctor to teach me how to do an emergency tracheotomy, just in case. He refused, too. Nothing grosses me out.

You sound awesome.

jeseymour
06-01-2014, 05:08 PM
I When my dog had a huge tumor on his chest removed, I asked the vet if I could have it in a jar. It was just so wild looking. He said no. :( Nothing grosses me out.



Speaking of old dead things, this thread is ancient. :D

We had a pony with an infected tooth that had to be surgically removed. The vet saved the tooth for us, and it's sitting on a shelf in my kitchen.

jeseymour
06-01-2014, 05:18 PM
Do you ever research your local law enforcement entities?

I went to our State Police citizens academy. It was great research, and the head instructor loved that I was there because I was a writer.

I've considered going on a ride along with our local cops, but I'd have to ask the chief, and he's a grump.

Funny cop story - We have a newsletter in our town (yes, this is a small town) and when my first novel was published I put a piece in the newsletter announcing it. I got a phone call like the next day from our detective in town. He said something along the lines of "I saw you had a book published and that's so cool, I just self-published a book and I was wondering how you got someone to pay you to publish yours and we're the same age and can I come talk books sometime?" I was kind of, well, creeped out, (what, did he run my license?) but I like to talk books and writing, so I said sure. Two minutes later there was an unmarked cruiser in my driveway. I let him in the house, although seriously, if it hadn't been late November I would have talked to him outside. Cops are like vampires, they have to be invited in, and you don't want to do that, for much the same reason. Anyway, he stayed for like an hour, and he ended up sending me short stories to look at. He's a cool guy. I haven't asked him too many questions about law enforcement that would pertain to my writing, because he specializes in accident reconstruction and I've never had need for that kind of expertise.

asroc
06-01-2014, 10:50 PM
Well, I'm from a cop family. My husband is a cop, my mother was a cop, my uncles are cops, you get the idea. Plus I'm in public safety myself, so I work closely with the police every day. We also got the FBI in town and I know some people there.

I've observed a couple of autopsies, I've run DNA and dissected animals in college and I expect to be dissecting a human in the near future. So far I've had no trouble getting my research done. Although sometimes I disregard my research if it makes for a better story (to the endless frustration of my husband. "This is not how it works in real life!" "Well, real life should be more dramatic then.")


And when my kids were young, I tried to get their doctor to teach me how to do an emergency tracheotomy, just in case. He refused, too.

Good.

(Nothing against you and I don't know how serious you were, but I've been in EMS for a long time. Most people err on the side of caution when it comes to other people's emergencies, but there are always some people who try things they're not remotely trained for. That includes going to town on people's necks with straws and pocket knifes. Tracheotomies are surgery. It's not something your family doctor can teach you. Do NOT try anything like that unless you absolutely know what you're doing.)

Nancyleeny
06-02-2014, 04:46 AM
Well, I'm from a cop family. My husband is a cop, my mother was a cop, my uncles are cops, you get the idea. Plus I'm in public safety myself, so I work closely with the police every day. We also got the FBI in town and I know some people there.

I've observed a couple of autopsies, I've run DNA and dissected animals in college and I expect to be dissecting a human in the near future. So far I've had no trouble getting my research done. Although sometimes I disregard my research if it makes for a better story (to the endless frustration of my husband. "This is not how it works in real life!" "Well, real life should be more dramatic then.")



Good.

(Nothing against you and I don't know how serious you were, but I've been in EMS for a long time. Most people err on the side of caution when it comes to other people's emergencies, but there are always some people who try things they're not remotely trained for. That includes going to town on people's necks with straws and pocket knifes. Tracheotomies are surgery. It's not something your family doctor can teach you. Do NOT try anything like that unless you absolutely know what you're doing.)

Don't worry! I wasn't really serious! He just knew I loved all things medical, and was also neurotic, so I was busting his chops. My kids are now 23, 22 and 20, and safe from any scalpel!
Nancy

Nancyleeny
06-02-2014, 04:47 AM
Speaking of old dead things, this thread is ancient. :D

We had a pony with an infected tooth that had to be surgically removed. The vet saved the tooth for us, and it's sitting on a shelf in my kitchen.

OK, I know I'm in good company now. :)
Nancy

Nancyleeny
06-02-2014, 04:48 AM
You sound awesome.

I think to write in this genre, we all need to be a little twisted, aka awesome!
Nancy

Nancyleeny
06-02-2014, 04:51 AM
I went to our State Police citizens academy. It was great research, and the head instructor loved that I was there because I was a writer.

I've considered going on a ride along with our local cops, but I'd have to ask the chief, and he's a grump.

Funny cop story - We have a newsletter in our town (yes, this is a small town) and when my first novel was published I put a piece in the newsletter announcing it. I got a phone call like the next day from our detective in town. He said something along the lines of "I saw you had a book published and that's so cool, I just self-published a book and I was wondering how you got someone to pay you to publish yours and we're the same age and can I come talk books sometime?" I was kind of, well, creeped out, (what, did he run my license?) but I like to talk books and writing, so I said sure. Two minutes later there was an unmarked cruiser in my driveway. I let him in the house, although seriously, if it hadn't been late November I would have talked to him outside. Cops are like vampires, they have to be invited in, and you don't want to do that, for much the same reason. Anyway, he stayed for like an hour, and he ended up sending me short stories to look at. He's a cool guy. I haven't asked him too many questions about law enforcement that would pertain to my writing, because he specializes in accident reconstruction and I've never had need for that kind of expertise.

I am going to get my husband (who was a cop for the NYPD for three years before becoming a NYC fireman) to talk to some guys he knows about a ride along for me. You aren't that far - if I can get it worked out, you want to come?
Nancy

Wilde_at_heart
06-04-2014, 07:18 PM
I used to have a landlord for a commercial space I rented who became a cop. Whenever he'd come in to pick up the check I'd get him to tell me all sorts of stories and he volunteered a lot of minor procedures and so on as well.

gp101
07-30-2014, 05:20 AM
Do you ever research your local law enforcement entities? Or visit the Coroner's Office? I once visited a funeral home and they were very helpful. (It helps if you dress nicely for funeral home research)

Sometimes I take character names for stories from cemetery headstones.

I've interviewed both a State Police detective and my local Chief of Police (we're a small town, so it wasn't too much to ask). They were both very accommodating and cleared up a lot for me. As long as you approach them nicely and don't harass them for info, I think they'd be willing to help--if they're not busy with a body, of course.

And character names from headstones? Yup. Done it. I also use street names--a lot of times they're named after people anyway, some of them very old with names not that common in the area anymore.

gp101
07-30-2014, 05:28 AM
There is NOTHING like going 110 MPH on the freeway running code 3 (lights & sirens).


That sounds like a blast. Question I have, I hear that call codes vary from state to state, especially 10-codes. Not sure if that's accurate, so if anyone can elaborate that would be great.

Also heard that a lot of detectives use cell phones instead of radios--it's quicker and provides less opportunity for people with scanners (like reporters) to overhear things. I'm talking detectives, not uniformed beat cops. Has anyone else heard the same?

jeseymour
07-30-2014, 06:14 AM
That sounds like a blast. Question I have, I hear that call codes vary from state to state, especially 10-codes. Not sure if that's accurate, so if anyone can elaborate that would be great.

Also heard that a lot of detectives use cell phones instead of radios--it's quicker and provides less opportunity for people with scanners (like reporters) to overhear things. I'm talking detectives, not uniformed beat cops. Has anyone else heard the same?

I googled 10 codes for our state, and they are different from other places. I wrote a short story and the editor of the ezine that bought it said I had the code wrong, and I had to show him where I got it.

My scanner doesn't work anymore, everything is digital now. I'll have to ask my detective friend about the cell phones.

gp101
07-30-2014, 07:03 AM
My scanner doesn't work anymore, everything is digital now. I'll have to ask my detective friend about the cell phones.

Oh please do! I would like to get to the bottom of this.

ZachJPayne
07-30-2014, 09:51 AM
This is an awesome thread -- and I had no idea that so many of these things were openly available for people to do! I really should look into finding an autopsy or a ride-along that I can do in the area (though if I can get down to Vegas, I'm sure that'd be a riot of different proportions).

asroc
07-30-2014, 06:23 PM
That sounds like a blast. Question I have, I hear that call codes vary from state to state, especially 10-codes. Not sure if that's accurate, so if anyone can elaborate that would be great.

Yes, this is true. 10-codes can vary wildly not just from state to state but from PD to PD, and many PDs donít use them at all. Ours doesnít, they've always used plain language, although they do have codes for some service-related things. (I don't think "code 3" was meant as a 10-code here though, it indicates the urgency of the response. My service uses Priority 1 to 3, other places use Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.)


Also heard that a lot of detectives use cell phones instead of radios--it's quicker and provides less opportunity for people with scanners (like reporters) to overhear things. I'm talking detectives, not uniformed beat cops. Has anyone else heard the same?

Yes. Ours still have radios to communicate with dispatch, but most of it happens via phone.

Los Pollos Hermanos
07-31-2014, 05:19 PM
If you don't ask, you don't get - that's my motto!

In England I've met with "my" county police's Cold Case Unit, picked the brains of various friends in the police and a family friend who's a consultant anaesthetist, grilled colleagues who are originally from the US and Mexico and hope to see a postmortum (I should really start putting out feelers on that one). I also spent the day with the local CSI years ago for something connected with work and they said I'm more than welcome to go back, but my story doesn't go into lots of forensic detail and a friend's sister works in that field (so said I can send her questions if I need anything).

For the US-based sections of the story, it's a little more tricky. I've done four research trips (and am now addicted to road trippin') and asked any locals I can engage in conversation all manner of random questions - luckily they just seem to think I'm some eccentric Limey type and politely humour me! You can learn a lot about a place by talking to the locals and doing "mundane" things like riding the bus, going to the supermarket, reading the local newspaper, etc.

I even emailed the FBI for some information, assuming they'd politely say they were too busy, but ended up having a looooong chat (on their bill too!) with a very helpful agent, who I've since emailed for an extra snippet of info. I also phoned the Reno resident agency to find out which one of two addresses they were at in 2009 - and had yet another informative chat which gave me a few extra authentic details to incorporate.

Like WackAMole said, the worst they can do is say no. ;)

Cheers...

LPH.

RJ_Beam
08-08-2014, 04:17 PM
As a police officer I would like to add that many of us cops enjoy taking civilians on ride-a-longs. It is a nice change to have someone else in the car, assuming single officer patrol units.

I might sound like a geek here, but I take ride-a-longs with other police departments. When I have been on trips out of state I will often call the local PD to see about riding with an officer.

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-10-2014, 04:37 AM
A friend recently offered me a Saturday night ride-along in the riot van - haha! Not sure if I quite had that in mind when I asked if I could maybe go out and about (on police business) with him sometime. We'll see.

If I was to try to charm my way into a ride-along next time I'm in the US, how do you suggest I go about it? Would contacting the public relations office be the way to go, and see if we could sort something from there?

Of course, I could always just turn up with:
http://media.katu.com/images/110806_donuts.jpg
(I've sampled this place's offerings - Mmmm!) ;)

asroc
08-11-2014, 08:15 PM
If I was to try to charm my way into a ride-along next time I'm in the US, how do you suggest I go about it? Would contacting the public relations office be the way to go, and see if we could sort something from there?

Depends on where. If you want to do it with a larger PD you'll probably have to submit a request in advance. They'll have forms on their website if they have a ride-along program.


Of course, I could always just turn up with:
http://media.katu.com/images/110806_donuts.jpg
(I've sampled this place's offerings - Mmmm!) ;)

Reeeaaally. On a completely unrelated matter, you wouldn't perchance be interested in a ride-along with an inner-city ambulance, would you?

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-11-2014, 09:14 PM
Ha! You only say that for the donuts! Actually, I'm quite squeamish about live bleeding people (and vomit) - I struggle to watch reality shows which feature ambulance crews and their cases. However, give me a book of real crime scene photos and I'll take my time looking though and ask for another (my local CSI department were shocked when I did this - they're apparently more used to people passing out/throwing up). Weird eh?

Thanks for the heads-up on the big city ride-along request etiquette. I think LAPD do this, but I'll look into it for next time I'm in Denver (hopefully next summer, couldn't afford it this year). Apparently they now have a Voodoo Doughnut in Denver (I've been to the original one in Portland), so those mile high cops should be more than welcoming! ;)