I remember seeing an author tweeting about how excited they were to get to do a ride-a-long with their local police department, and the huge sense of—what the heck?—that went through my mind reading it. I mean, a civilian riding along with cops? How in the world did that happen? What angel had to be on your side for that to happen to you?
At the time, I didn’t I would ever have a reason to have that experience, but it was an interesting thought. I’m all about new experiences, and doing a ride-a-long would rate up there in the experiences I would jump at.
Fast forward a year, some months and change, and I had a conversation with another author about, ready for it? Citizen’s Police Academy*.
As a contemporary writer, I often run into situations that I have to write myself out of which include law enforcement. While I’ve hand waved a lot of this simply because I didn’t know the process, at the time I had this conversation, I was facing a book where I couldn’t pretend I knew about what went on in that mysterious world of blue uniforms, I had to write it. Believably. As if I knew something. Cue the panic!
February I started a fourteen week Citizen’s Police Academy course that covered everything from day-to-day procedure, high speed chases, SWAT and the bomb unit. I even had the opportunity to shoot fire arms on the training ranges and interactive situation video game. Yes, a video game. It was beyond cool! There’s a floor to ceiling screen and you interact with it, making choices about who to fire on and when, taking cover and even getting fired back on with rubber pellets.
While I didn’t get to do a ride-a-long, I lucked into a great program. I live in the Dallas-Ft Worth area, and it just so happens that I live in a very advanced city within this area. The tools my police academy has, and made available to me for learning, was top notch. From our SWAT team, to the patrol tactics and training, it was just phenomenal, and I can’t speak high enough of it.
I went from not even knowing how the police could legally enter my apartment when I didn’t show up for work due to an illness that knocked me out, to understanding the entire kit n’ caboodle! ((And yes, I really did wake up on my bathroom floor with two police officers, apartment management and my mother staring at me. Food poisoning is evil.))
What began as a course to give me hands on training and experience to write a single character has blown up on me. In a big, messy, wonderful way. It started with one idea, which became a series, Good Guys Wear Black, with the first title coming this winter, Hot Tango. But it’s turned into more.
I’m the kind of person who, when I don’t understand something, I want to learn. I want to be taught. I’d like to dig in, really get to the meat of the matter and comprehend what’s going on. And that’s what Citizen’s Police Academy has sparked for me.
A few weeks ago I purchased a book about an undercover agent’s first person account, this last week I purchased several books that span from complete histories of law enforcement agencies to autobiographies. I’ve made first person contact points who are excited about what I’m working on, have made themselves available to me for research and have even read my projects for me to help get the details down. I think one of my best compliments so far was from a retired officer’s wife who read Hot Tango. She read through the book and on a few points I nailed what it was to be married to an adrenaline hungry officer. Won’t lie, I was a little proud of myself for getting into that mindset so well it was realistic.
I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked. There’s something incredibly exciting about the operations the men and women who serve the country on our own ground go through. Yes, there are horrible circumstances and tragic events, but think of all the instances when their actions save lives. I’ve always had a high level of respect for police officers, firemen and other law enforcement entities. There’s a level of service and selflessness which is admirable. People don’t become a cop to get rich and have a comfortable life. I’m not saying that all officers are model citizens, by my experience by and large has been positive.
I think those are qualities that build a good framework for a hero or heroine, because women can be officers too! I hope to write more law enforcement characters in the future. Need to put all this research to good use, after all!
Have you read a book with a law enforcement hero or heroine that made you swoon? I think about Cynthia Eden’s suspense Deadly series. Men and women with spunk, drive and enough heat to make it uncomfortably hot!
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.
*If you’re interested in attending a Citizen’s Police Academy course, contact your local police department. Most of the time the departments that offer these do so for free as a public service. Space is limited and attendants are subject to back ground checks.