Monday, October 25, 2010

Citizen's Police Academy

A Nurse Goes To Police Academy
By Jordyn Redwood
(Editor's Note: Hey, novelists, want to write about crime scenes and police work with authenticity? Today’s guest–registered nurse and suspense novelist Jordyn Redwood—did just that. She ventured out and joined other brave citizens to learn first-hand about police work. Welcome Jordyn to Hook’em and Book’em  as she tells us about her experiences.)

I’m a nurse and self proclaimed medical nerd. After all, I do read medical textbooks for fun. That’s why medical inaccuracies in novels irritate me as much as someone dragging their nails down a chalkboard. Writing a medical scene is more than just being able to describe how to do a particular medical procedure. It’s about capturing the culture of how medical professionals interact with each other.

I face this problem when I write a scene that deals with law enforcement. I can do hours of research at Google University but still miss the nuances, those little details, that would enrich the scene because I’m not involved in the culture of a law enforcement agency. How can a writer learn about these subtleties from a book? Really, you can’t. What the next best thing?

Check out your local police department and see if they offer a Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). If there isn’t one locally, look to the next largest city.

The CPA I’m taking meets weekly for three hours for fourteen weeks. As part of the class, I’ve been able to ride-a-long with a patrol officer twice, seen the K-9 unit in action, and will be able to fire a weapon with the SWAT team. Some CPA’s may not have the same time commitment, so don’t let that dissuade you.

What are some of the finer details I’ve picked up? One interesting thing I never considered is where would a K-9 officer keep the dog’s leash when the dog is set free to search for or chase a suspect? It’s better if both of the officer’s hands are free versus having one holding the lead. They clip it around their waist. Now, both hands are free for work. I’m not sure that’s listed in many books that write about K-9 units. The dogs are working animals. They’re not allowed to cozy up with “dad”, as one K-9 officer referred to himself, at home in bed on a cold winter’s night. The dogs train on their key scents at least weekly. They also bite “the easiest available area."


Evidently in one K-9 unit, the dogs were trained to only bite someone’s arm. Criminals caught on to this method and when they were being pursued by the dog, they would run with their arms up in the air. The dogs wouldn’t bite. Training changed.

Writing is always more than translating a particular protocol onto the page. It’s about capturing the spirit, dedication, and culture of the professionals you’re fictionalizing. A CPA is one way to deepen your ability to write about law enforcement.

By the way, the CPA I was involved with did a background check. I wonder if they’ve ever arrested anyone who’s applied? 
Jordyn’s blog offers new readers a chance to win money by just signing up by October 30, 2010. Here is the link if you’d like to find more about her blog and this great opportunity. It is also a great site for those writers wanting to make their scenes medically believable.

Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric emergency nurse by day and suspense novelist by night. Redwood’s Medical Edge is her blog that deals with how to write medically accurate fiction for both historical and contemporary writers. Check it out at        

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