I am currently working on a crime-thriller which will be released before end of the year. I like to do a certain amount of research whether I am working on a piece of fiction or non-fiction. I like my stories to possess a truthful ring about them. As part of this effort, I contacted a Police Chief – Chief Williams – that I happen to know personally. I did a short interview with him and then he arranged for me to spend a day with two females on his force. My main characters are female so I specifically asked if that was possible and he arranged it.
This was not an easy request being there are only two females on the force and they had to find a shift when their schedules were aligned. The force is in a small southern town but still it isn’t Mayberry. There are 50-60 people on the force at any given moment and Chief Williams is making an effort to recruit women but he explained the problem they have is finding women who can pass the physical. The force isn’t like that tv reality show where they follow a small-town police force so out of shape they nearly have a heart attack getting into the squad cars. Chief Williams has instituted a policy that officers have to be tested yearly which if you think of it actually makes sense. The department has their own workout room to facility the fitness goals.
Officer Falon (I am using only her first name here) has been on the force not quite a year. She was a tad tentative when I showed up. It turns out I was her first ride along ever so she didn’t know what to expect any more than I did. However, we soon were talking and she got use to having me in the car.
I liked her which is not an easy thing for me to say as where I come from the police are to be viewed with caution. She however, was not out to be a hard ass. When we pulled people over she gave warnings instead of tickets. She dreads engaging with the public for P.R. purposes (who doesn’t?) and would rather talk her way out of a situation than run someone in.
It was a slow day (a Monday plus it was raining) so there wasn’t a ton of action, and the fact her laptop was out of action didn’t help since that is what you use to run tags as you drive along, but we did get one call that required sirens and a jaunt across town at top speed. That was kewl. There was a domestic violence call and we had a shoplifting incident which was a bit funny actually. Apparently, the dollar store is the place to be shoplifting and is a common occurrence. Personally, if I was to shoplift, I think I would at least pick the 2 dollar store. 🙂
One thing I did notice about Officer Falon is that she really likes the thrill of the chase but I think this is a trait visible in most police officers, probably out of necessity or they would burnout. Both women, even though they were really different personalities, had a lot in common. I’ll write about the second one – a detective – in a later post.
An issue that arose that I hadn’t expected was my own experience. I was peppering Officer Falon with questions the whole shift and it occurred to me while we were talking I’d seen more blood and guts, been in more violent encounters than she had. I realized I was judging some responses through the filter of my own experiences and as a writer you have to reign that in a bit and look through the other person’s eyes. Still, not every day you get to chat about blood, dead bodies, and autopsies with someone.
Every officer I asked about what was the underlying current in most crime immediately gave the same answer: drugs. It is the common feeling that 9 of 10 criminals get into the position they are in because of a drug-related issue. It occurs to me that decriminalization doesn’t always solve this as a person who needs a fix will still spend their last dime on the drugs and then steal etc. to feed that habit. A change in the law doesn’t solve that situation. I was disappointed to learn also that heroin is making a strong comeback.
It was an interesting day and I really enjoyed it. Officer Falon was a really nice person with a good head on her shoulders. I’m glad she put up with my amateur arse and I wish her well in her career and personal life. I hope they find more females to recruit so she isn’t standing alone in the boy’s clubhouse.