Monday, September 26, 2011

Writers' Police Academy = 1 full, awesome weekend

Combine a weekend full of hands-on workshops with a general lack of sleep (so excited I couldn’t sleep and then so excited from what I experienced I couldn’t sleep). Add 150 writers and the most energetic and welcoming group of police/forensic professionals. And so much more… I had a blast this weekend at the second annual Writer’s Police Academy. I learned a lot from the workshops, but also from just being around law enforcement folks and other writers. Here’s a quick summary of what I did, as well as a few photos:

Sonja, a latex cadaver
Friday: First things first, I experienced the Crime Scene Investigation workshop and learned that cold weather and rain really don’t make raw flesh smell all too bad, especially not in the first 24 hours. I also learned that my rain jacket is not waterproof and that clay stains from pouring rain jump to calf level. Photographed is Sonja, a latex body. Our instructor was incredibly knowledgeable and talkative, so I really did learn a lot, despite not being able to experience the smells and bugs.

Arrow points to kitchen knife
confiscated in real prison
Jail searches: I watched fellow writers search a mock jail cell and learned about where inmates stash various items. See the knife in her hand? It actually was seized from a cell!

Arson investigation: Did you know rust is a form of fire? I didn’t! We learned why you shouldn’t make a Molotov cocktail using a plastic bottle (it might bounce back at you) and a whole bunch of other facts about arson. Also saw some gruesome photographs.

Lunch: Who would have thought I’d be so famished I wouldn’t mind eating lunch in a room with real (equine) blood stains demonstrating how blood dries when it hits various inclines.

Handcuffing and arrest techniques: I tried to handcuff my fellow writer with the cuffs upside down the first time. And then I was cuffed! The snick and cold metal felt exactly as I thought it would. See me in my sopping wet clothes? I’m still happy!

hostage negotiators
Bloodstain patterns and presumptive testing: The nice folks from Sirchie showed us tons of photographs of evidence and demonstrated how bleach and blood look when sprayed with a special chemical. The bleach actually was very pretty, the stain (illuminated purple) seeming to shift like fog blown by a breeze! Just like CSI (kind of). We also learned that blood seeps into cracks and crevices, under baseboards, and so when criminals clean up, they may forget these areas… and that blood can spatter upward (under tables)…

Psychological sleuthing: Dr. Katherine Ramsland gave a fantastic presentation that touched on victimology.

hostage negotiators
Evening reception: Sisters in Crime sponsored a reception… with cake, celebrating its 25th birthday. I’m so grateful for the organization, which also offered a discount to the academy. We also heard a presentation from a former officer about his experience during and after a shootout.

AND THAT’S DAY ONE! I collapsed into bed, completely exhausted, but it took me a while to wind down, and then I had some fairly strange dreams…

Saturday: First thing, six Guilford Tech Community College instructors and police staged a hostage situation. A sniper finished off the perp. Great, dramatic action and a really cool scope! (See 3 photos)

sniper from hostage dramatization

Women in law enforcement: Two instructors discussed how women law enforcement officers are sometimes treated differently, how shirts may not fit so snugly in various areas, how going to the bathroom takes time for female officers (because of stays on their belts to prevent the belts from being easily ripped away from their uniform), how inmates treat women correction officers… Great stories were told. And when the primary instructor talked to us like we were a misbehaving delinquent, her whole persona changed. It was almost as if she became someone else. It was amazing!

Police tools and equipment: Here we learned more about what officers carry and wear. A gun, at least two extra magazines, one to two pairs of cuffs, a flashlight, a baton, a taser, spray, a radio… and the list goes on!

Police tools and equipment. Thank goodness the guns
are fakes, especially since you see one writer
aiming the replica toward some other writer's face!
Police car simulator: My roomie actually drove the police car simulator. I watched another writer drive one for a few minutes… and get wrecked quite a few times as well (not stopping at intersections).

Going undercover to solve your crime: Fantastic presentation given by a former NYPD undercover cop. We saw an interesting video of a bust, also, with officers exiting from three buses simultaneously. I also learned I might need to visit a spy store and check out some gear.

Crime scene investigation: I didn’t get the bugs and smell the first day so I thought I’d try again. No such luck: I got a little bit of the smell and only a few bugs. But I did learn a lot about dead bodies and heard some very chilling stories.

Women’s personal safety & self protection: Ending the workshops with this instructor, a self-professed mean woman (though really she’s not… if you’re behaving) was great. We fight dirty and to survive… and the average fight lasts 3 minutes! We learned a few hands on techniques for fending off attackers, and we learned some tips for preventing attacks.

Evening banquet: Author Christopher Reich spoke, and I learned that his first advance was a whopping $700,000 and that his daughter rides horses… and he confirmed that wonderful piece of writing advice, attributing Mark Twain: apply pants to chair.

Here’s a photo of my academy friends, authors Nina Mansfield and Lauren Carr.

Nina Mansfield, Lauren Carr, and yours truly

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