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  1. #1
    shadowangel is offline Rookie
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    Basic Police questions for my novel please

    Since I was told to forget what I saw on TV as being valid information on police work, I now know less than I thought I might. If y'all would be willing to help out with some information I'd really appreciate it.

    My main character is a female--that's because I'm a female and I understand females better than males. The plan is for her to be a police detective in a fictional suburb of a larger city.

    1. To whom does she report? Would her supervisor be another detctive, a police sargent or other officer?

    2 Would she be most likely to specialize in one sort of crime and be only in that section, or would she most likely rotate into different sections?

    3. If the crime occurs in the city in which she is employed, but she and her partner ( she would have a partner, right?) need to interview someone who lives in another jurisdiction, would they go to see that person, phone him and ask him to come in for questioning, or ask the police department for that other jurisdiction to question him? Or something else?

    4. Where would she be likely to wear her gun? Would she be likely to have a second weapon concealed somewhere else, her lower leg maybe?

    5. I'm guessing that detectives don't have regular hours. They would be on call 24-7 and work long hours to solve whatever cases they are working on?

    6 If she had a lot of people to call, or door to door questioning to see if anyone knew anything about what had happened, would she and her partner do this themselves? If they need help with some of this due to large numbers, who would help them?

    Thanks in advance. This will get me started. I've already written scenes involving these questions, but they can always be rewritten. I didn't know how much I didn't know until I tried writing about it.

    Shadowangel

  2. #2
    sgtpelon's Avatar
    sgtpelon is offline Officer First Class
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    Leave this off.

    I don't know about all of the rest, but there is absolutely no reason what-so-ever for you to put the part in about a concealed second weapon. The only thing that will do is endanger officers on the street. Leave that part out if you please.

  3. #3
    Buzzy's Avatar
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    A lot depends on how big your fictional suburb is.

    A small agency might only have a couple of detectives and in that case they could report to the Chief or Assistant Chief. One might also be a Detective Sergeant and have supervisory responsibility. In larger agencies there would be a Lt. or Captain in charge of investigations.

    In a small agency with only two or three detectives they would all most likely handle whatever came their way but it's always possible that cases would be divided up to whoever had some special training or ability with that type of case. Larger agencies with larger numbers of detectives do divide up into specialties and it's possible to rotate.

    How to handle an interview depends on a lot of stuff. Sometimes you want to talk to them in your office and sometimes at their home. Does the person she's going to interview like the police? How far away do they live, are we going to chat or is she going at it more officially. If I do an away interview there will always be another officer (or detective) with me. If nobody is available I'll ask a detective (or patrol officer) from that jurisdiction to go with me. I have had to ask other agencies in other states to do interviews and get statements for me but if you do that you need to coordinate with the detective who will be doing the interview, send them a copy of the case, brief them on particulars of the case and make sure he or she wants to do it or you'll end up with crap.

    99% of the detectives I know work their 8 hours and go home but they're on call for major (murder, maybe rape, armed robbery maybe). Your fictional detective will of course be in the other 1% and very dedicated to the job.

    Your detective could call on patrol to assist with a crime scene area survey on a major case. Not so much with phone calls in my experience. This would be done as quickly as possible to the crime to ID who was home, what they might have seen or heard, did they know the victim along with any gossip they might have heard about the victim etc. One of your detective's cards would be left on any door where there was no answer.

    Have your detective wear her sidearm on her hip in a off duty style holster. I second the opinion not to broadcast the fact that some cops carry backup pistols.

    Thanks for taking the time to try to make your story real.

  4. #4
    sgtbear111's Avatar
    sgtbear111 is offline retired
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    While building your main character's credentials as an investigator, please understand that "Detective" isn't a direct assignment from a modeling agency, school of journalism, other non law enforcement job or fresh out of the FBI academy. Investigations is a specialty position, in-house on-the-job experience required.

    Your character should have from 4 to 20 years as a patrol officer in that police department. A solid work record, good writing skiils, and making good arrests from self initiated cases. She will be respected by criminals, if they fight, she wins. She is fair, and has a good sense of humor. She does not wear her gender on her sleeve, and never seeks "victim" status. She will seek out training to improve her skills as an investigator. She will have a good record in court. She will be very good at 'reading' people, a people watcher, a skilled interviewer, and has a knack for getting information and networking. She will be a listener, not a talker. She can role-play as necessary. She will be interchangeble with the other officers in her unit, she takes any case assigned when it's her turn in the rotation to get new cases. No special treatment. Each Detective is a generalist, but has those areas that they do best; fingerprints, polygraph, trace evidence, collision reconstruction, computers, interviewing, etc. You pick her strengths. Investigations is a team effort, within the police department and with other agencies. Cooperation, communication, and patience are necessary.

    I worked with several female Detectives, and these were a few of the traits I saw. They happened to be women, real people with families, a known quantity when selected from Patrol for Detective positions.

    Good luck
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  5. #5
    dadyswat's Avatar
    dadyswat is offline Officer First Class
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    You don't say what size of suburb but in the 40-60 officer range she would report to a sergeant or lieutenant, she may a have a speciality but would need to investigate anything from a B&E to being part of a team on a homicide. Sgt Bear does a good job of describing individual qualities.

  6. #6
    jato's Avatar
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    1. To whom does she report? Would her supervisor be another detective, a police sergeant or other officer?

    Detective Sergeant.


    2 Would she be most likely to specialize in one sort of crime and be only in that section, or would she most likely rotate into different sections?

    Large departments tend to specialize. Some areas are property crimes, sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, fraud, bomb/arson, crimes of violence (homicide).


    3. If the crime occurs in the city in which she is employed, but she and her partner (she would have a partner, right?) need to interview someone who lives in another jurisdiction, would they go to see that person, phone him and ask him to come in for questioning, or ask the police department for that other jurisdiction to question him? Or something else?

    Yes, detectives generally have a partner while out in the field. However, they each still have their own caseload. Second part: If it is a victim or a witness, telephone interviews may be okay unless a photo lineup is needed. Suspect interviews may be conducted on the phone as well (it takes the "custody" out of the equation as it relates to Miranda) Generally, the detectives will travel to the location when needed. Interstate travel is usually reserved for serious felonies.


    4. Where would she be likely to wear her gun? Would she be likely to have a second weapon concealed somewhere else, her lower leg maybe?

    Yes, she should be wearing her issued duty firearm, strong side (right handed on the right side, left handed on the left side) belt holster. If she is hard-core, she could also have a backup gun. Most detectives do not wear one, but some do. It could be on her ankle, in her purse, in a pocket, etc.


    5. I'm guessing that detectives don't have regular hours. They would be on call 24-7 and work long hours to solve whatever cases they are working on?

    They have regular hours, usually 8am to 5pm or similar depending if they are on the 8 hour or 10 hour schedule. Large detective units usually rotate on-call status. i.e. two detectives are on-call while the others are not. A large case could take weeks worth of work before it is ready for trial.


    6 If she had a lot of people to call, or door to door questioning to see if anyone knew anything about what had happened, would she and her partner do this themselves? If they need help with some of this due to large numbers, who would help them?

    Other detectives or perhaps patrol officers. It is called "canvassing the area".

  7. #7
    BigDawg's Avatar
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    In my Dept we have 12 Investigators. 10 of them are assigned zones throughout the County. 2 Investigators are specialist; 1 is for Sexual Crimes and myself for Financial Crimes. With the 10 they handle anything that is reported in their zones except the 2 specialties. All Investigators work a nighttime on-call rotation. What that means is during that week no matter what happenes during the night you get called and it becomes your case. If its a murder ALL investigators are called out but the on-call investigator is the lead investigator.

    Hope that helps in some small way. All Depts are different and it depends on size of the Dept.
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  8. #8
    Jks9199 is offline The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Rather than try to answer most of your questions and basically repeat what others have already said -- I'm going to offer another suggestion or two.

    Contact a police department similar to the one you want to write about. See if you can make arrangements to do some ride-alongs, both with patrol and with a detective. At the very least, see if you can interview an actual female detective in an agency similar to your fictional agency. That way -- you'll have some solid research to see how things are done, what detectives are really like (if most of us pulled a lot of what you see on tv... we'd be unemployed, and likely jailed!)

    Also, invest a few months in your local community college's criminal justice program. Take at least a basic introductory class, so that you know what the system is really like. Since you want to write about investigations, I'd also take any general investigations class they offer. At the community college in my area -- you'd be talking 3 classes, over about 6 months, since you can take the basic intro class and the first part of the investigations class at the same time. You'd come out with textbooks that can serve as references, and a much better idea about how to actually investigate a case than a lot of writers have!

  9. #9
    shadowangel is offline Rookie
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    Thank you so much for the information. This fictional suburb is relatively small, and the potential witness she would be going to interview is in a neighboring town.

    I very much appreciate all the information. I won't have her carry an extra weapon, but too late, I read about it in another novel. The idea about taking some criminal justice classes was also very good, something I haven't thought about. And I didn't know police allowed ride alongs due to liability.

    Turns out I won't have to do any corrections yet, but I probably would have if I'd kept going. Thank you all very much. There will probably be more questions later.

    Shadowangel

 

 

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