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I post Wednesdays about law enforcement stories behind the badge or writer’s notes; on Sunday mornings, Hal Collier from LAPD (retired) posts his Ramblings from the south land.
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
Again, these are my suggestions on what makes a good supervisor and they certainly don’t reflect the opinions of the LAPD.
I use to think that the LAPD needed a promotion tree with two forks. One tree fork was for the building boys who promote, they can stay inside and read and write policy books. That’s fine, if that’s your wish. The second tree fork was for street cops who had experience in patrol and knew what worked regardless of what the psychologists said. I once expressed my two forked tree theory and found myself peeing in a cup and taking a Rorschach exam. After that I kept my opinions to myself, my first step in being a good supervisor.
“I’d like to intervene, but I haven’t completed the appropriate paperwork.”
A good supervisor also needs to have a good working knowledge of the department rules. The LAPD manual has so many rules and regulations that you never can know them all but know the ones that apply to field situations. Only a building boy will care how many copies of a LAPD form 15.7 are needed. That’s because they ask those kind of questions on the promotional exams. This will save you and your officers from complaints or worse yet, termination and jail!
One of my pet peeves was sergeants who were never in the field. I remember one sergeant who was always downtown at headquarters looking for a job to get out of patrol. The officers knew where the sergeants were and what they were doing, most of the time. If the cops have mischief in mind, they don’t worry about being caught. If the sergeant is in the field, they might have second thoughts about bending the rules. Sergeants should show up at the routine calls once in a while. The cops won’t expect you. If they ask why, I would tell them I was bored. You’re also available for help if they want it. But just let them do their job and only step in if they ask or are doing something illegal.
Be fair to everyone! That’s means even if you don’t like them. I once watched the watch commander tell the roll call that there were a few days that we were over deployed and officers could take a day off with their accrued overtime. Right after roll call, an officer walked up to the watch commander (WC) and asked for a day off. The WC (without even looking at the time book) denied the request. He didn’t like the officer. That WC was not a favorite of the officers or mine either. I hated sergeants that played favorites.
Ok, here’s a tricky one. One of my training officers use to keep a log of a sergeant’s misdeeds. You know—date, time, location and the violation of department rules. He called it insurance in case he didn’t want this particular sergeant to write him up for his own violations. If you bend the rules in front of an officer, you are theirs. Trust me, they’ll bring it up when the department is trying to fire them. Drowning rats have no friends. Be on time. I remember one sergeant wanted to write up an officer for being late to roll call. The officer reminded the sergeant that he was late more than he was.
I was a new sergeant in Watts and working graveyard. We had long quiet nights and I couldn’t find any of our officers in the division. Having been an occasional member of hitting the hole (sleeping) in Hollywood, I knew what they were doing, I just didn’t know where. One night I was driving down Figueroa in the industrial section of the division. A hot shot call came out and before I could turn around I was almost run over by half the watch. They came from behind a big building. Now here is the dilemma: If I confront the officers and do nothing, I’m an accessory and they have me. If I write them all up, I’ll have no back up. It’s not a major violation and the other seasoned supervisors probably already know about it. I kept my mouth shut and took the information with me when I transferred a few months later. They might have asked me to join them.
Police officer Randy Spelling mistakenly kills an innocent pregnant teen. Then she tries to apologize to the family. The results are catastrophic. Will police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff’s intervention help–or hinder–the ongoing investigation?
By Thonie Hevron
You are reading my first-ever book review post. Oh sure, I’ve reviewed many books on Amazon and as a life-long reader, I’ve recommended more than a few. But every now and then, along comes a book that speaks to me. The Right Wrong Thing is this book.
Yet, I am no book reviewing amateur. I am currently the co-chair for the Copperfield’s/Redwood Writers Fiction Spotlight 2016. My team and I read, analyzed and judged sixteen books submitted by Redwood Writers’ authors. We considered plot, character development, pace, style, emotional impact, grammar, and book/cover design. That’s a lot to be cognizant of while trying to be entertained and enlightened. While I don’t have an MFA, I am somewhat educated in what makes a good story and an entertaining book.
First, I must say, Ellen Kirschman knows her stuff. She’s the author of I Love a Cop, I Love a Fireman, Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know and her first novel, Burying Ben. She’s worked in the cop counseling field—on the vanguard—for the past thirty years.
It’s all of this experience that has gone into this novel. To be sure, it is a work of fiction (although I can see shades of Ellen in the Dot Meyerhoff lead character), but it rings closely to real life. The plot is so contemporary that you can’t believe it hasn’t happened. Actions and reactions are so realistic that those readers outside law enforcement could be dismayed at the characters’ manipulations. The characters are nuanced and complex, even the simplest minor one has elements that bring him/her to life. I recognized of the many cop personalities.
The Right Wrong Thing is a mystery, a police procedural. An uneducated reader might think this book is a cozy, but it’s not. While there is no gore or steamy sex, neither is totally absent. I always think of a cozy as a pleasant cup of tea. Kirschman’s book is a jolt of Red Bull.
The pacing is impeccable: the story draws in the reader and just about the time you think something should happen—it does! The action continues through the book to the last chapter. Kirschman’s style is simple yet eloquent. She doesn’t need fifty cent clinical words to get her point across. She leaves just enough to the reader’s imagination to keep interest up. If I was a teacher grading this book, emotional impact would have an A+. From the synopsis, you can tell that this should speak to law enforcement professionals. It does. Kirschman touches on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicide by cop, suicide by crook, self-inflated administrators, the entrenched “good-old boy” culture inside most cop shops, cops fitness for duty and other pertinent topics. It may sound like covering all these points in a fiction novel would be preachy, but it’s not. It’s an entertaining mystery that is very satisfying.
I have I Love a Cop and Burying Ben. These are the next on my ‘to be read’ list.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for an authentic whodunit, do yourself a favor and buy The Right Wrong Thing.
Many cozy mysteries are centered around food such as when the sleuth owns a bakery, is a fudge maker, owns a café, is a chef, etc. Some of these books even have recipes in the back.
I’ve read other mysteries where the protagonist never seems to eat at all.
In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, my characters eat like normal folks. Both Tempe and her pastor husband cook—though Hutch is a better cook than she is.
In my latest mystery, Tempe and Hutch have gone to Morro Bay to celebrate their son’s wedding. This tale has lots of food in it.
Because it is a beach setting, Tempe and Hutch eat in a lot of restaurants, many real ones that I’ve eaten in while visiting the area. I describe what they eat and made myself hungry while doing it. Discussing the mystery that they are involved in over food seems natural to me.
They also get a taste of Ethiopian food because they share a couple of meals with the bride’s Ethiopian parents.
Personally, I like to know what my characters and the characters in other books choose to eat.
Food is an important part of our lives, and most celebrations center around food. In Not as it Seems several celebrations require food including the rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself.
So tell me, how do you feel about food in your mysteries?
Not as It Seems Blurb:
Tempe and Hutch travel to Morro Bay for son Blair’s wedding, but when the maid-of-honor disappears, Tempe tries to find her. The search is complicated by ghosts and Native spirits.
Character Naming Contest:
Once again, I’ll name a character after the person who leaves a comment on the most blogs.
Marilyn Meredith now lives in the foothills of the Southern Sierra, about 1000 feet lower than Tempe’s Bear Creek, but much resembles the fictional town and surroundings. She has nearly 40 books published, mostly mysteries. Besides writing, she loves to give presentations to writers’ groups. She’s on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and a member of Mystery Writers of America and three chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter.
At the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police annual gathering of police chiefs from around the state, police commissioner of New York City William Bratton provided his perspective on the current state of policing in the country.
“The last 18 months has been a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities for the profession,” said Bratton. “We have a new world of issues that we need to deal with, but there’s an old world of issues that are resurfacing.”
Bratton, whose law enforcement career spans more than 45 years, encouraged chiefs to learn from the past and not allow the profession to repeat the same mistakes.
“The world I came into as a young officer in the 1970s was in great turbulence with civil rights and issues of racial inequality,” he said. “There was great political unrest and rising crime…It feels like déjà vu all over again.”
One of the primary mistakes law enforcement made during that time period was focusing on responding to crime rather than focusing on the causes of crime and trying to prevent crime. This shift from prevention to response, coupled with officers being taken off beats and put into cars to cover larger areas, all contributed to the disengagement of officers with the public. This approach negatively impacted community relationships and its impact became evident across the country with high publicity protests and riots.
During his keynote, Bratton shared a plan that will continue fighting crime, but also help bridge the gap between police and minority communities and rebuild police morale. Bratton highlighted five strategic areas, referred to as the “5 Ts”, which form the foundation and focus of this plan.
Rebuilding Trust One issue that has publicly and violently resurfaced around the country is the issue of trust, specifically the lack of trust of law enforcement officers and agencies by the public. This loss of confidence in policing stems around issues of race and police practices, as highlighted in riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.
This lack of trust goes beyond a loss of confidence in local agencies, said Bratton. The public has lost trust in the criminal justice system as a whole. For example, many people do not trust that district attorneys will pursue police-abuse allegations appropriately.
All of this needs to change, said Bratton. He emphasized that police chiefs need to work hard to rebuild community trust. “Going forward we must gain trust by winning back the communities we lost or never had,” he said. Reinstituting community policing practices is a good start and can help build stronger bonds between officers and community members.
Chiefs also need to look inside their own departments to rebuild internal trust and boost officer morale. “Our police officers feel damaged by all of this and the morale in departments has suffered significantly,” he said. “Chiefs must work to rebuild trust of the community, of political leadership, of the media, and of police officers themselves.”
Fighting Terrorism Another area of focus involves law enforcement’s role in the fight against terrorism. “American policing now has to spend a lot of time on a new form of crime: terrorism,” he said. Bratton said the NYPD has tactically trained and specially equipped 400 of its officers to protect and prevent a terrorist threat “in the likely event of an incident,” he said.
With the upsurge in terrorist attacks throughout the country and around the world, Bratton is realistic about the likelihood of more armed terrorist attacks in the city. “We want to have the capability and resources to respond quickly,” he said. One of the keys to fighting terrorism is training officers to be able to constantly and quickly adjust to unpredictable situations.
Embracing Technology The effective use of technology is another focus of the NYPD. “Technology keeps officers better informed in the field,” he said. Soon, all 35,000 NYPD officers will be equipped with smartphones and tablets that have custom apps so officers have instant access to information. “No officer will have to come back to the station to work on a computer—they can do it all from the car,” he said.
Bratton also discussed the use of body-worn cameras. “It’s not the panacea like we want it to be, but it’s a great boon to policing,” he said. This technology is helping verify officer’s actions. “Policing is going to benefit from this technology, but the public and the profession don’t fully understand it yet,” he warned.
Bratton’s parting message to the New York chiefs in attendance was one of future sharing and partnership. “At the NYPD we consider ourselves one of the country’s largest laboratories for policing,” he said. “We have a lot of resources that we’ve never had before and we have the ability to work with the leadership to improve the performance of our department and we will share those findings with you.”
By Marilyn Meredith, author of the Tempe Crabtree series and Rocky Bluff PD series
Recently I attended the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference and one of the panels was, “Are You a Pantser or a Plotter”. The attendees were a mixture of many law enforcement types, fire and emergency medical personnel, and of course, mystery writers.
Everyone who comes is a writer, or wants to be one. Some of the public safety authors are writing non-fiction, though many are writing mysteries.
When this panel was introduced, many in the audience had no idea what a “pantser” was. For anyone reading this post who also might not know, a pantser is someone who writers from the seat of their pants. In other words, they don’t do an outline of the plot before they start writing.
However, as the panel discussed the topic and who did what, it turned out that even the pantser did some planning ahead of time.
I’ve been writing novels, and mostly mysteries, for many years. When I wrote historical fiction, I did a lot of research and the research helped me with the plot of the book, though I didn’t actually do a chapter by chapter outline.
Now, with my mysteries, this is how I go about starting a new book.
First, because I write series, I know who my main characters are. I also know where I left off with their lives. What I need to plan is the crime(s) or mystery part which entails new characters:
Who will die? At least most of the time this is necessary. (In my last Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, ViolentDepartures, the main mystery was about a missing young woman, the only murder happened years before.)
Who would like to see this person dead and why? Of course there must be more than one person who had the motive and opportunity.
With new characters, they must be named and described.
How is the person going to die? I try to come up with new ways to kill off my victims.
When and where will the first scene take place?
Once I’ve made these decisions—and I’ve written them down, I usually begin writing. I try to come up with a first sentence that will immediately intrigue a reader.
As I write, new ideas flood in. So I don’t forget something that may happen later one, I have a notebook beside my computer where I keep notes about everything pertaining to the book I’m writing.
So, though I don’t outline the complete plot before I begin writing, I do some initial planning, which I think means I’m a combination Pantser/Plotter.
For you other writers reading this, which are you?
“Cadets, I’d now like to discuss something that’ll be vital for you to know when your, like, out here, on the job, as a police officer. And, that’s the correct way on how to eat a doughnut”
Zed McGlunk, “Police Academy 2”
When I first wrote this piece back in November of 2012, I took a slightly lighthearted look on the training I received when I attended the local regional Police Academy back in 1979. However, since then, almost daily controversial incidents are shaking the Law Enforcement profession to its core. One question I keep hearing with increasing frequency, and that I find myself asking, is what training these officers are receiving. When I attended my academy, in many respects, the curriculum was developed in response to the tumult and unrest that characterized much of the late 1960 and early 1970’s. The pushback against Civil Rights led to riots that tore apart entire cities. The dissatisfaction with the War in Viet Nam led to violent protest that spilled onto university campuses. Radical terrorists with violent agendas led the way to a surge in violent crime. Without delving into a historical dissertation of those troubled times, law enforcement found itself mired in an unprecedented quagmire caught between those wanting social change and those demanding a return to “law and order.” Short staffed, ill-equipped and ill-trained, police officers across the country found themselves the target of dissatisfaction from all sides, often with tragic outcomes. It soon became obvious the old way of policing was not working and change began to take place.
Among its virtues and vices, the first “Police Academy” movie was a satirical look at some of the “revolutionary” adjustments Law Enforcement was undergoing in the early 1980’s. While mostly farcical, one of the few aspects of police work the movie did get right was that first critical training every police officer, deputy sheriff, highway patrol officer, constable and every Federal Agent has to successfully complete, known as “The Academy.” Most all such academies generally have a two-fold purpose. Obviously, the first is to prepare a cadet or recruit both academically and physically for the rigors of law enforcement field work. More feared, the second is to identify and screen out those individuals who prove unsuitable for a career in law enforcement either because of academic deficiencies, an inability to meet the physical training demands or from a variety of other reasons, including psychological.
How this is accomplished can vary widely; sometimes state training regulations mandate what is taught and how. In other instances, departmental training philosophies dictate training methodology. More often than not, it’s a combination of both. Some are near-military in their training approach with high stress and intense discipline as one might find in a “boot” camp. Others take a more relaxed, college campus type approach to training. Budgetary concerns are a significant factor; some agencies either by choice or necessity, put their recruits through the bare minimum of required training hours taking the approach that what is learned “on the job” is more meaningful. Other departments want better rounded recruits and can afford longer training academies.
In California, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training mandates that a police recruit have a minimum “Basic Training” course of 664 hours. Most all police agencies in California have some type of field training program that follows graduation from an academy; they are usually around 12 weeks long or about 480 hours. Now 1200 hours or more of training may seem like a lot but consider this: in order to get a Cosmetologist license in California an individual must have 1600 hours of classroom instruction and another 3200 hours of formal apprenticeship. That’s a total of over 4800 hours! When’s the last time you read about a beautician taking someone’s life with a mascara wand?
Despite the plethora of books, movies or television shows of the police genre, few if any ever really devote much time to this essential beginners experience in anyway other than in a cursory manner. As every recruit is an individual, they bring to this formative training, differing levels of life experience, work experience, schooling, physical capabilities and emotional maturity. Consequently, while there are common training goals every recruit must meet, each always comes away with a differing perspective of their overall academy experience.
My own academy training took place in late 1979. While what I encountered was unique to me given my background, it does provide a framework for what someone going into the profession and attending a smaller, regional police academy in the early 1980’s would likely encounter.
I was hired by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in September, 1979, who sent me to the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) Police Academy in Santa Rosa, California. I had a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Los Angeles and had just spent four years in the Army on active duty, most of that time as a commissioned officer. I had actually begun my law enforcement career almost two years earlier when I received a transfer from the Infantry to the Military Police. Still, I was savvy enough to know I had much to learn as there are vast differences between the missions of military law enforcement and civilian.
So, what were my overall expectations and goals as I embarked upon this new training experience? I had been through some of the most stressful, physically demanding and mentally challenging training that the military offered at that time. I had read Joseph Wambaugh’s early book “The New Centurions” which painted a very stark portrait of the Los Angeles Police Academy of the 1960’s very much like what I had encountered in Officer Candidate School, where the slightest mistake or rule infraction could mean failure and dismissal. The training sergeant from the Sheriff’s Office had told me the regional academy I was to attend was pretty laid back compared to what I’d encountered in the Army. However, having been erroneously lulled by such descriptions before, I was going to hope he was right but prepare for the worst case scenario.
Injured on duty: The battle for benefits and the award that’s helping
The Badge of Life Canada is publishing this article for the benefit of American police officers. Also for anyone who knows any American police officer(s), can you please pass on the content of this article to him/her.
Too many officers are fighting the battle to classify their injuries as injured on duty (IOD), and a national dialogue needs to be started on this topic to establish universal guidelines and criteria.
Nominations for the Congressional Badge of Bravery (CBOB) award are being accepted — you can submit a nomination for a fellow officer now through February 15, 2015. The CBOB is one of the only national awards honoring law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty.
The award, sponsored by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, is bestowed by the United States Attorney General and presented to the recipients by their Congressional representative.
The call for nominations brings up an issue that many officers face — one that doesn’t get much press or attention: What exactly is considered a line of duty injury?
An Uphill Battle
Too many officers are fighting the battle to classify their injuries as injured on duty (IOD), and a national dialogue needs to be started on this topic to establish universal guidelines and criteria.
An officer who suffers and succumbs to a heart attack while chasing a fleeing suspect may be considered an IOD by one agency, jurisdiction, or state; but not another. Workers compensation qualifications and classifications for IODs vary from state to state.
Growing concern about undiagnosed cases of Post-Traumatic Stress in the law enforcement ranks has agencies evaluating their wellness programs. Even so, officers who have legitimate diagnoses of PTSD are rarely considered IOD. Officers who manage to obtain the diagnosis and IOD classification often face an uphill battle over benefits;the frustration with worker’s compensation programs is practically a secondary injury.
Hundreds of our officers risked their lives on September 11, 2001. These officers bravely ventured into the towers to assist civilians. The lucky ones climbed out of the rubble after the towers collapsed. Hundreds of officers from around the country helped retrieve bodies for weeks afterward. These officers continue to engage in an ongoing battle to prove their cancers and other health ailments are related to their line of duty activities at ground zero.
To be eligible for the CBOB nomination, an officer must have sustained a physical injury while engaged in lawful duties, during 2014, with those injuries occurring while performing an act of bravery as defined by the agency’s head in-charge.
Will a Post-Traumatic Stress injury sustained after a deadly force encounter or after picking up body parts of a murdered child be considered an act of bravery by your agency?
What about a narcotics officer who suffers health issues from exposure to a meth lab?
Who determines within your agency or state worker’s compensation institution what constitutes a line of duty injury?
The time has come for law enforcement officers and their families to demand standardized classifications to eliminate the frustration and heartache incurred as they battle for injuries and ailments to be classified as IOD.
I continue to receive emails from officers and their families reporting their struggles to receive benefits and the hardships faced when dealing with worker’s compensation and agency red tape.
I hear from officers shot in the line of duty who fight for prescription coverage. After living with an injury for decades, officers have had their latest health crisis deemed not related to the line of duty injury.
As governments and agencies become more cash-strapped, the fight for benefits and classification of injuries will only get harder.
I applaud the Bureau of Justice Assistance for sponsoring the Congressional Badge of Bravery award to honor injured officers.
We must honor all our injured officers by making the battle to have injuries classified as “in the line of duty” less stressful and frustrating. These officers live with the sacrifice of their injuries every day. Let’s strive to eliminate the red tape they must go through to sustain their lives.
Information on nominating an officer for the Congressional Badge of Bravery follows:
A federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement officer(s) nominated by his or her agency head, who:
• Sustained a physical injury while:
1) Engaged in the lawful duties of the individual; 2) Performing an act characterized as bravery by the agency head making the nomination; and 3) Put the individual at personal risk when the injury occurred; or
• While not injured, performed an act characterized as bravery by the agency head making the nomination that placed the individual at risk of serious physical injury or death.
Law enforcement agency heads looking to recognize an officer must submit a nomination between December 15, 2014 and February 15, 2015. The officer’s act of bravery must have occurred between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2014. You can enter a nomination here.
About the author
Barbara A. Schwartz retired after 30 years with NASA in Houston where she worked in Mission Control and Astronaut Training. She is a former reserve officer serving in patrol and investigations. She has been writing about law enforcement officers since 1972 and has been a contributing feature writer for American Police Beat for the past 10 years. Her articles and book reviews have also appeared in Command, The Tactical Edge, Crisis Negotiator Journal, The Badge & Gun, The Harris County Star, The Blues, and The Police News.
Schwartz earned a degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University with electives in Criminal Justice and Criminology. She helped fund her education by working for the campus police department.
It’s occurred to me that I may have something to offer to those fledgling authors out there. Not so long ago, I was in your ranks. In fact, I consider that most of my writing years were at this level. This was for three simple reasons: I was busy making a living, I had direction but no real goal set down, and I thought I had enough smarts to write a book without educating myself further.
If I knew then what I know now….blah, blah, blah.
Let me articulate the three points that I now work by: “making a living” —for me, this meant working at my alumni police departments (and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office). But more than just “making a living,” I was learning all the technical and emotional aspects of law enforcement. When I got serious about writing, I heeded the old adage, “Write what you know.” I certainly knew cops and emergency services. What’s more exciting than saving lives?
Besides, one of the earliest inspirations for a story came from witnessing a detective come into my office, yell at the top of his lungs in frustration (over a broken typewriter, of all things), then leave. My first thought was that it could be a short trip for him to go postal. Oh, no. What if he took us hostage? In our own police department? How would that work? Ewwww, what a story! That became a book that I wrote after “By Force or Fear.” It’s now sitting in my closet tucked away in a box until I have time to re-work it.
Anyway, the point is that all those years I worked, my brain was storing up details, impressions, and feelings about the job. All to be mined for future novels.
The second point was not having a goal set down. I wrote my first story in the fifth grade, “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” Between journaling and fiction, I’ve been writing ever since. But with no discernable goal, most of my stuff was never fully imagined, thus never finished. Despite my parents support as well as my husband, Danny’s (he once fully remodeled a bedroom into an office for me), I plodded, putting words down…to no end.
What happened to change that? About the year 2005, my husband pointed out an advertisement in the local newspaper for a writing group. I joined and over the following year, jumpstarted my writing. The instructor, Pat Tyler, encouraged me to join her writers’ club—Redwood Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club (founded by Jack London and literary friends). Through this club, I was able to discern my genre—suspense/thriller/police procedural, then define my goal—to publish my novel.
The third part of this process was a two-parter: to educate myself and keep writing. Redwood Writers had several workshops each year as well as contests, anthologies and conferences. I devoured information from magazines, blogs, websites, books and newspapers. The changing face of publishing made all of us authors entrepreneurial. Self-publishing is no longer considered vanity press because so much of what is available is independently published.
But even if you have a publisher, you must do most of your own marketing.
Daunting, to be sure. An introvert by nature, what writer wants to put him/herself in front of a crowd and say, “Come buy my book.” Well, that’s exactly what we must do. Through workshops, conferences, et al, I have learned how to put myself “out there” via social media and public contact. I’ve pushed past my comfort level and have read my work in public—with many more events to come—and God help me, I’ve found my inner ham. I’m pushing my limits by enjoying being in the public eye while keeping my audience entertained.
All these lessons come hard. Even though I suffered sweaty palms before getting up in front of a crowd, pushing myself made it easier each time. Still, I wish I’d paid attention earlier. I could’ve been writing with purpose all along.
But the instructions have been heard: pay attention to the lessons of life, decide on the goal, and writing and education continue forever.
Sheriff’s departments–at least in California–are charged with criminal, contract, correctional and civil matters. In addition to performing law enforcement duties, they must serve eviction notices, bank and property levies, and small claims. They also staff court security as well as county jails. Some counties, like Marin, require their deputies to work in the jail before being assigned to patrol. Deputies I’ve talked to about this have mixed reviews. Some like knowing who the criminals are before they get in a patrol car. Others don’t want to be confined all day themselves. There are the counties, like Sonoma, which is staffed by classified employees called “correctional officers”. Unless they test for deputy, they will spend their entire careers in the jail.
Even before the economy tanked, municipalities found themselves in fiscal trouble. Police protection is expensive for many reasons, not the least of which is that it must provide 24/7 service. In the past two decades, Sonoma County has provided contract police services with two cities-Windsor and, most recently, Sonoma. They serve in the same capacity as a municipal department but because of their resources, can often do it cheaper. Marin County Sheriff’s Department has taken over almost all police and fire dispatching.
Deputies in rural areas such as Mono County are called upon for coroner duties. Specific certification is required before assuming those responsibilities. Please note the difference here between a Coroner and a Medical Examiner. Often, a coroner is a deputy or an elected official and is mostly found in rural areas, while a medical examiner is at minimum a medical doctor, hopefully with a background in forensic pathology. Metropolitan areas can generate funding to support this pricey level of expertise, while boondocks agencies and thinner population bases cannot. If you write a story that involves a death-anywhere-it’s best to check a similar jurisdiction to see what kind of system they have. Nothing can shoot your credibility in the foot like a “local” medical examiner in the middle of Death Valley. FYI-Death Valley has one of the highest suicide statistics in the country-just because of its name. People travel from all over the US to do themselves in at Zabriske Point. Inyo County Sheriff patrols that area but relies on out of the area ME’s-such as Las Vegas, Nevada.
Back to Sheriff’s Departments: Deputies are a different breed from city cops–as any city cop will tell you! They do things by their own rules, maybe even tending toward aggressiveness. I think there is a reasonable explanation for this. When I worked for Sonoma County SO, I knew that the logistics for patrolling 1,769 square miles (minus the 7 incorporated cities who have their own departments) with about 275 deputies (never all on at the same time) would be cause for delay if more units were needed. I often saw back-up cars with an eta of 30 plus minutes. Any deputy in a hot situation would need to be a bit of a “cowboy” to survive. If you cannot, you don’t belong in a patrol car on the Sonoma Coast or in the remote hills of the Geysers or the multitude of vineyards. If you want some interesting reading, check out the history tab of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. Many stories, there!
This is one of the reasons I chose Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department as the setting for my first book. These are tough people who use the ingenuity that God gave them, sometimes with force.
They get the job done.
Next week, we’ll talk about Public Safety Departments, California Highway Patrol, State Police, the Marshal’s office and more.
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