Friday, November 12, 2010

Writers’ Police Academy

by Kathleen Ernst

WritersPoliceAcademyLogo Old World Murder has two point-of-view characters, a museum curator and a cop. As a former curator, I had that one covered. When I started writing, though, I knew little about police work. Fortunately, the chief and officers of the PD I’m writing about have been wonderful, answering countless questions and letting me ride along on duty shifts.

Still, when I had the chance in September to attend the Writers’ Police Academy in Greensboro, NC, I took it. The event was organized by Lee Lofland, a veteran cop with a reputation for being generous with his time and knowledge. Lee assembled an astonishing group of professionals to provide programs, demonstrations, and workshops.



Topics included Crash Investigation, Going Undercover, Guns 101, Arson, Profiling Serial Offenders, Jail Searches, Police Equipment … and lots more.




Two of my favorite sessions were offered by Susan Powell, who works in Forensic Science. I got hands-on practice in dusting for and lifting fingerprints. I also learned about fingerprint analysis.



Susan also taught a session called Tools of the Trade, which covered firearms evidence. My WIP includes a gun being shot at close range, and I learned exactly what the powder residue would look like.


A couple of the programs were a little challenging for me. I attended a talk called “Why People Kill – Motives For Taking Life” by Bill Lanning, who has researched this topic for years. His presentation included slides, which I hadn’t expected. But as he explained, he was talking about—and we are writing about—something intense and terrible. He wanted to remind us that real people are affected by murder.

jonathan-hayes2 Another guest speaker, Jonathan Hayes, provided an Autopsy seminar. Mr. Hayes is both a writer and a Senior Medical Examiner in New York City.

I sat in the back, just in case I felt a need to slip out! But although a few of the slides were distressing (to me—no one else seemed squeamish at all), Mr. Hayes was such a respectful and fascinating presenter that I was glad I attended.

The Academy was deemed an enthusiastic success by everyone I talked to. Lee Lofland and his team are considering the possibility of future events. If you’re interested, you can keep track of the news on the WPA website.



Lee Lofland said...

Thanks for the kind words about the 2010 Writers' Police Academy. And I'm glad everyone had such a fantastic time.

Good news! Planning for the 2011 WPA is already underway. We've already added many new speakers and workshops. We've also secured a driving simulator (police car, fire truck, and ambulance).

It's Disneyland for writers!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I hear great things about this conference--sounds like a lot of fun (and educational) for mystery writers!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I've also heard wonderful things about this program. Great job, Lee and Kathleen.

Alan Orloff said...

Kathleen, you look like you were born to wear that vest. Just sayin'

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Kathleen for sharing about this workshop. While I don't write this type of fiction, I know lots of folks who do.
Mary Montague Sikes' blog book tour at my blog today...come on by. Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Darrell James said...

Thanks for a great review of events, Kathleen. It looks fantastic. I'm sorry I missed it.

And congratulations, Lee, on a truly unique conference for mystery writers. Looking forward to more about next year's event.

Kathleen Ernst said...

It really was a unique opportunity to talk with experts! Lee, I'm delighted that plans are already underway for the next event.

Beth Groundwater said...

Now this is my idea of fun!

Cricket McRae said...

I'm with Beth -- looks like FUN. Glad to hear plans are already underway for the next one.

Lee Lofland said...

Speaking of the pros, Kathleen...I've lined up one of the top experts on computer crimes who'll dazzle everyone with his presentations. I've also received confirmation from a very special guest who'll be speaking about distinguishing between a psychological autopsy and a criminal profile. Actual cases will be discussed.

And we're working on the tours of the jails and ride-a-longs with local sheriff's and police departments.

Of course we'll be bringing back the FATS training and new hands-on workshops.

Lee Lofland said...

Oh, I forgot to mention the helicopter...

Kathleen Ernst said...

OK, Lee, you had me with mention of the driving simulator! But... a helicopter? I am so there!

There were lots of workshops this year which I would have liked to attend, but wasn't able to (can't be in three places at once!) The additional speakers sound great.

I also didn't participate in the FATS training, which everyone else RAVED about.

Oh - and I've been wearing my t-shirt with pride! Writers, think of Castle's vest with WRITER on the back, and you get the idea.

Alice Loweecey said...

Kathleen, I am so envious! I wanted very badly to attend this, but the family budget wouldn't cover it.

Lee, I am crossing everything that I can attend next year's!

Jessie Chandler said...

Great post, Kathleen! What a fun and informative experience. Great pictures too :-)