Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Some Cops’ Takes On “True Crime” Fiction


I spent an afternoon with a room full of smart, incredibly dedicated police detectives this past week.  It was amazing.  I was giving a workshop on using language forensics in interrogation and review.  The amount of thought coming from the questions alone was a refreshing delight. 

Never one to pass up an opportunity to pick outstanding brains, I grabbed at the chance to chit-chat with some of the guys after the class.  They were kind enough to indulge me.

I’ve always been fascinated by how much “true crime” fiction and drama gets away with.  I mean, television becomes ridiculous in condensing for an hour show.  I already know how absurd “instant” DNA results are to professionals.  It takes months… if you’re lucky.  I know that the fiction I’ve read is riddled with shortcuts that would not only never happen—they would sometimes be firing offenses or get the criminal off scott free.

So I asked the guys about their pet peeves.  I wish a few women had been there, but it was just me and the boys.  Here are the biggest bitches, in no particular order:

1. Cop gets shot, then proceeds to chase the bad guy while clutching his bleeding arm.  Umm… nope.  Blood loss, even from a graze, would have him out cold pretty fast.  Not to mention… gun shots tend to sting a bit.

2.  Revisiting a crime scene for evidence not only doesn’t happen… it can’t.  Once the tape is taken down, anything left behind is NOT admissible as evidence.  That’s why scenes are kept live for so long.

3.  Cops who act like, talk like, or think like lawyers.  Cops know procedure inside and out, but they don’t try the cases on the job.  They get the collar, and let the lawyers prosecute.

4.  Cross-departmental contact happens on television, but not in real life… at least not often.  Gumshoes don’t sit around slurping coffee while the medical examiner has his or her arm buried in the dead dude.  Also? Gross!

5.  Unfortunately, almost ALL romances between cops and victims, cops and other cops, and cops and suspects just would not happen without people getting fired, people getting prosecuted, or criminals getting away with the crime. 

Which means the willing suspension of disbelief is going to need to pick its battles!  If you are writing a romance, let that be your bend in the rules.  Because if they pile up, you have committed the crime of crappy writing—that’s a 475, buster!

(It’s not… I have no idea what a 475 is… and I’m not looking it up.  But I just KNOW somebody will.)

Happy writing, catz n kittenz, and thanks again to the guys!! 

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