Friday, October 01, 2010

Writers' Police Academy

If you were following my twitter feed last weekend, you probably received a deluge of tweets with the hashtag #writerspoliceacademy about subjects ranging from signing a waiver which stated I could die to a conversation with the Hazardous Device team that started "So if I wanted to blow up a building . . . ?" As the hashtag implies, I was at the Writers' Police Academy, a conference with the motto "Sweat now so your manuscript doesn't bleed red ink later." They promised a "hands-on, interactive and educational experience to enhance understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics." And I have to say, they delivered! I only wish the Academy had lasted longer because there was just so much to do, to see, and to learn--I couldn't get to all of it. Regardless, I still came home with pages of notes (how many pages? I'm not sure. I've been so busy with the blog tour I've barely had time to look at them!)

Hazardous Device Team's Armor
Obviously I will barely be able to scratch the surface in this blog post, but I'd like to highlight some of the things I did and learned while at the Academy. As always, while I had a camera and even carried it with me at all times, when I arrived home, I discovered I'd taken almost no pictures. Bear with me. (Funny aside, I wrote "Bare with me" at first, then I heard Cera's [one of the Tri Mu] voice in my head going "seriously, you want all your blog readers to get naked with you?" My CP has invaded my inner thoughts, what does that mean? lol.) Okay, on to information from the Writers' Police Academy:

The Academy started by releasing the writers onto a group of law enforcement professionals--some clearly less prepared for a writer's overly inquisitive nature than others. We had a couple hours to move between the set up stations and talk to these professionals. Several questions led to widened eyes, but most were met with amusement, and everyone was wonderful both about explaining what they did, showing us their toys, and answering our often rather alarming questions.

Some random facts gathered: (*Note: any inaccurate information is probably my note taking skills and not misdirection for the officers/agents.)

Remington 870
  • What we usually refer to as the "Bomb Squad' is officially called (at least in Gilford County, NC) the Hazardous Device Unit. Members of the team are not only certified bomb technicians but are also certified as hazardous material technicians. Their suits (featured in the picture to the left) weigh approximately eighty pounds and are made from Cavlar and Ceramic. In the event they are caught in a blast, the ceramic will shatter and absorb some of the blasts impact.
  • Fire fighter's tanks are filled with compressed air. Not oxygen.
  • Police cars in Gilford County are equipped with a Remington 870 in the ceiling of the vehicle. (picture to the right)
  • Finger print dust is used to lift prints on smooth, non-porous surfaces. For porous surfaces  like cardboard or styrofoam magnetic silver black powder will be used. 
Okay, those are a few quick facts from about three pages of notes--and the day was  only just getting started. That afternoon included tours of the firehouse, a two hour session with Jonathan Hayes who is an internationally best selling author and the Senior Medical Examiner in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan, and then the night rounded off with Lee Lofland (the organizer of the event, author of the amazing resource book Howdunit Book of Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers, and the man behind the The Graveyard Shift) detailing the true story of the grisly murder of Tina Mott.

Lee Lofland, Kalayna, and Jonathan Hayes after the Banquet
I have pages of notes from those events, particularly from Jonathan's lecture on decaying bodies, but as I wouldn't want this blog to end up with an "R" rating due to violence and gore, I think I'll keep those off this space. Moving on.

Day two started with a demonstration/dramatization of an active shooter in a school with law enforcement and EMS workers responding to the scene. This was followed by a full day of workshops and classes on several topics. I really needed to clone myself so I could attend multiple panels at once (but of course, I couldn't do that). These classes included topics such as Gun 101, Crash investigation, Handcuffing techniques, Firearms identification and ballistics, and undercover investigation.  The day was rounded off with the Banquet (where keynote speaker Jeffrey Deaver spoke) and a late night signing. But I've skipped the best part . . .

Tom Sweeney and Kalayna. FATS
Remember when I said I had to sign a waiver? That was for my FATS session. That's Firearms Training Simulation. Basically, it was the coolest video game I've ever played. I've always been more of the RPG gamer than first person shooter gamer, but yeah, I would own this system. The guns were real, but outfitted for the program and the scenarios were multiple variable life or death situations a law enforcement officer might come in contact with. In fact, officers are trained with this system (which means I probably shouldn't call it the coolest video game ever, but what can I say? I'm a product of my generation.) There were two parts to the training, the first I was with a partner, and after a rocky first scenario where I completely and totally missed the bad guy and shot up an innocent tree, I became a better shot and the two of us worked well together. We didn't kill any civilians, only got killed a few times, and didn't have any bad shoots that would have lost us our badges (you know, if we had one.)

The second room used a slightly different system, and this one was my favorite because the Glock I was using had a realistic amount of kick to it. Apparently had it been firing live rounds the riffling would have caused the gun to pull right more, but otherwise, it was just like firing a real weapon--which was extremely useful to me as I'd never so much as held a gun before but I write about them. I could go on and on about FATS (in fact, I did when I first got home. Poor DH. He got the story with pantomimes and play-by-plays of the scenarios I faced.) but I'll spare you and move on.

The last day was the "debriefing", which was really a very large question and answer session. If you've ever been around a large group of writers given free rein to ask questions, you can probably guess that this led to points where I was frantically taking notes because it was a great question with an informative answer, and other times I was shaking my head because they weren't asking a question and they didn't care to listen to the professional's answer. As a whole, the debriefing would have benefited from a moderator, but it was an amazing opportunity to get clarification on many things we learned and covered over the previous two days.

This post is becoming obnoxiously long. Kudos to those of you still reading. I think I'm going to end this by saying this post couldn't possibly do justice to how amazing and informative the academy was. I have every intention of returning next year, and if you are a writer who wants to learn more about law enforcement/ ems/ fire fighting/ and other similar topics, I would encourage you to check it out.

Happy Friday everyone. Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

Cathy M said...

Great post, Kalayna. My son graduates from the police academy on Wednesday, and I can't believe how much we've all learned through these past six months, totally wild.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend too.