Editor’s Note—This is the first of many articles by police officers written for Hook’em and Book’em. Many of these officers have become authors in their own right, creating fictional and real-life stories based upon their own experiences in law enforcement. There is a common link between these officers and this editor, though I have not had an opportunity to read many of their works. We all carried a gun, wore the badge, and tried to make our communities a safer place to live. Mystery readers and writers: As you read these articles, I hope it will help you come away with a better understanding about law enforcement and the personal side of this career that is rarely glimpsed by the public.
Lt. Dan Marcou is a nationally-recognized police trainer, a highly-decorated officer with 33 years of service. Lt Marcou retired from the La Crosse, Wisconsin Police Department (LCPD) in 2006, after serving as a Tactical Operator, Team Leader and Officer in Charge of LCPD’s Emergency Response Team among many other duties. He is a Master Trainer for the State of Wisconsin, in the area of defensive statics, firearms, SWAT, ethics, and supervisor excellence. He is the author of several novels and training textbooks.
Former SWAT Leader: "I am not a Police Writer, I am a Police/Writer"
By Lt. Dan Marcou
I spent 33 years as a police officer never looking for trouble, but always looking for troublemakers and discovered you often can’t find one without the other. The career offers the opportunity to experience more memorable events than one can possibly remember.
When I sat down to write my first novel, “The Calling the Making of a Veteran Cop,” my intent was not to be a writer, but to use the book as a quick enjoyable read for my academy recruits, who desperately wanted an answer to their question, “What is police work like?” I penned the story of Officer Dan McCarthy’s sojourn from rookie to veteran. The book’s success surprised me and I discovered a second career as a writer.
At the request of my readers, who liked the characters as well as the story, I sat down and wrote a trilogy to give the reader a sense that McCarthy completed his tour of duty and that the readers were with him all the way. I followed the first book with “S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor,” and the final in the trilogy is “Nobody’s Heroes,” in which an undetected serial killer wanders into McCarthy’s city and chooses his next victim. The story gives a unique view of the police versus killer story-line that is just as exciting as its more traditional literary comparables.
In the second book, “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” as the story line plays out McCarthy serves on an on-call SWAT Team. The calls McCarthy’s team is sent on have a reality breathed into them, by my personal SWAT experience.
There is a misconception about SWAT being well dressed trigger happy thugs. The actuality of the SWAT experience is that when suspects find themselves confronted by a fully equipped and highly trained SWAT Team and they are contacted by the team’s negotiators, who have black belts in dialog most situations end peacefully.
When a call clearly has a high degree of risk, where there are suspects, who are known to be armed SWAT Teams are called in to handle the arrest. In one such case, our team breached the door of the target’s residence in a pre-dawn attempt to locate and arrest a dangerous suspect. In moments, the light on the end of my H&K MP5 was shining in the eyes of a sleeping suspect. I shouted for him “Arms out palms up don’t move,” but he just squinted and did not respond for what seemed to be a long time. In reality, it was merely moments.
After repeating the commands, the suspect opened his eyes and suddenly took on the look of a passenger in a car just before a head on crash. If you are expecting to read, that the suspect pulled out his gun and I fired a burst of rounds into him, don’t hold your breath. He lay there stunned again for moments, finally putting his arms out and palms up to be handcuffed.
What made the experience so memorable was not a blazing gun battle, but his explanation for the delay in his compliance. He said, “I was sleeping and in my dream a SWAT Team had kicked in my door and was arresting me. Then when I woke up there you were.”
I felt it would have been the perfect SWAT arrest except it left me to ponder, “Do we need a search warrant to enter a man’s dream?”
Our team also was the core of the department’s Civil Unrest Team and trained extensively in crowd control, because on many occasions our team was called upon to handle riots and bring peace and sanity back to streets that were occupied by violent crowds. When a line of officers is facing a crowd of hundreds or even thousands chanting for their demise, while some of its number, are chucking rocks and bottles at them, the natural emotion of fear is replaced by confidence, when they are part of a team that has trained for this eventuality.
After crowds succeeded in orchestrating two riots a year in our city, team members engaged in a problem solving effort and formulated a unique plan to end the riots. The team’s controversial plan was approved by the Chief and put into action at the next event. When the event occurred, the entire city expected another riot. Instead, the team’s plan worked better than could have been hoped for. The event was peaceful as were all subsequent events.
Dennis Justus, a SWAT Trainer once said of SWAT Teams. “If you can imagine it, train for it.” SWAT Teams know some of what will happen and they practice team responses for those eventualities. They also can imagine what may happen and they train for those possibilities. Sun Tzu once said, “He will win, who prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.” SWAT Teams live to train and train to live.
For any reader, or writer, who wants to get a feel for what it is like to strap on body armor, a gun belt, and pin on a badge to hit the streets, without actually doing it, pick up these books and enjoy the read and enjoy the ride.
Readers and writers can visit this author's site for more information about his career, training, writing and public appearances. Lt. Marcou can be contacted directly through this web site.