Sunday, March 17, 2013

Playing Cops and Robbers

LUCY BURDETTE: When I first met my stepson, he was going through a phase of police adoration. Most days, he wore a miniature police uniform with his name sewn over the pocket. He carried a pretend radio with him everywhere and talked to his pretend police officer colleagues. He was four and it was all very cute.

My husband thinks I'm going through a similar phase, only I'm, ahem,  quite a few years older. Maybe it's not quite so adorable? All he can do is shake his head.

You probably read last Wednesday that I'm attending the Key West Citizens Police Academy, which I find fascinating. Having published ten mysteries in the last ten years, you'd think I knew this stuff, right? 


Of course, I interviewed experts when I wrote myself into a corner, asking questions like "Would a golf tournament continue if a dead body was found on the course?" 

Or I'd call my friend Steve Torrence, the community liaison officer for KWPD, and get a general idea of what real cops would do in certain situations.  

But all in all, I fell into the camp of if you don't know something about police procedure, make it up.

 But now I'm obsessed with the details.

In our citizens academy, we had a session led by Chief Donie Lee about the particular challenges of "protecting Paradise"--the large homeless population, the enormous influx of tourists (3 million visitors a year!), the wild and crazy events like Fantasyfest and Spring Break and New Year's Eve on Duval Street.  

We learned to do traffic stops and DUI investigations. (Yes, that's me with the fake pink gun.) When we came upon the aftermath of a terrible accident early Friday morning, I was able to explain to John what the officers were measuring and why.

In another session, we donned purple gloves and looked for clues in a crime scene that two of the department detectives had set up for us. On Friday, I took one of the detectives to lunch and got what I hope will be a great idea for my plot-in-progress, based on what she called her "white whale." In this case, the one that got away was the brazen theft of a gold bar that had been discovered in a wreck.  You can see the video of the theft from the Mel Fisher Museum right here.

And best of all, I had a ride-along with Officer Ryan, including several traffic stops and a trip to the jail with a very drunk woman, under the auspices of the Marchman act.

I don't think I'd make it as a real police officer though. I don't like dangerous situations. And I'm not great at confronting people. And I like to be in bed by ten:).

But it's still fun to imagine...

Do you have a career you'd like to try out if you had the chance?


  1. I love searching for things, exploring, especially the desert. Always thought geology or anthropology/paleontology might have suited me. Of course I would have had to stay in school and do homework.

    Lucy: Went through a similar thing a few years ago. The local citizen/cop classes, shooting guns, hanging out on Lee's blog. When I brought home an unspent bullet from the floor of a shooting range, my wife suggested I'd had enough. I always listen to my wife.

  2. I'm always curious about the details of people's jobs. I think that's one reason I like writing so much--I get to imagine people doing all kinds of interesting things.

    Like Jack, I went through an archeology/geology/paleontology phase, and I really wanted to study gorillas in Africa. Now, not so much:-)

    My dream ride-along job now? I'd like to shadow a set designer for films for a week or two. I'd probably get a plot out of it, too.

  3. Good for you Jack--your wife is probably always right:)

    That's interesting that you both had the same idea about geology. I had the strangest dream last night in which I had to get a job, but couldn't think of anything that I either wanted to do or that would earn money.

    Then I woke up and thought, phew, lucky for me I already have the best job in the world--writer!

  4. My major in college, waaaay back in 1969, was Police Science. I really wanted to become a detective. Of course that couldn't happen then. Women were held to a far different standard at the time, and were discouraged in large and small ways from even aspiring to such ambitions. (Example: physical requirements, the same as men; educational requirement, minimum of a Master's degree, while men only needed a high school diploma/GED/two years of military service.)

    Archeology always sounds so much more romantic than I'm sure it really is. But the idea of delving into ancient cultures has always been very appealing. And then there's fashion design. Which I could have actually done. And way better than some of the crazies on Project Runway, that's for sure.

  5. Love the topic! Especially since I just found out I made it into my small city's Citizen's Police Academy starting April 3. Lucy/Roberta, your experience sounds awesome. I'm hoping mine will be, as well.

    Hey, Debs, a couple of us asked if you have a British police source to ask about procedural differences between here and there. Do you? What have you discovered?

  6. Oh, that sounds so terrific!

    Karen, I SO with you! (as always...) about the PR stuff. That's be great..and we'd be a terrific team.

    WHat I'd like to Be in a Broadway musical. But I like the police thing, too..except for the silly hats and the scary part.

  7. You guys can have the fashion job, I have no talent in that dept!

    Hank, keep in mind, that the detectives don't have to wear hats!

  8. Interesting, Lucy Burdette, thank you. I had not been aware of the existence of this sort of "police academy" -- sounds like something I'd like to try someday.

    As for what career I'd like to try out? Writing. It's what, all through childhood, I thought I'd be doing as an adult -- well, at least when I wasn't up in an ivory tower in Academe teaching the glories of archaeology. I dropped both dreams along the way, but, never fear, I am one happy little librarian (book cataloguer).

  9. Oh, and, just for the record -- Karen in Ohio wrote: "Archeology always sounds so much more romantic than I'm sure it really is." Long days, hot sun, sitting / kneeling / crouching on the ground, scraping scraping scraping away at the dirt layer by layer by layer ... Trust me, it's one of the less comfortable, less glamorous jobs out there ... physically. And, depending on where the dig is, you could end up being on the look-out for scorpions, snakes, or black-widow spiders. Or bandits. Or ...

    Psychologically, though, it's got all the excitement of treasure-hunting, and until the "treasure" is unearthed, if ever, (real archaeologists search for the treasure of knowledge!), you do get into a kind of "zen" zone.

    More to the point, though, is the job market. Academia isn't exactly hanging out welcome signs; there's always salvage archaeology, but states aren't exactly out there with their welcome wagons, either. I took one look at that situation and realized that, once the diss. was done, I would be wise to head off down another path, with regret for the passing of a dream but with some hope for a future with a living wage.--Mario R.

  10. What a great time you are having, Lucy! You look cute in the hat.

    When I was little I dreamed of being a fashion model. Tap dancer. Then a torch singer. But really I'd love to have had a career behind the scenes on Broadway. I love live theater more than almost anything in the world.

  11. The only test I ever flunked in college, and I mean really flunked, with an F, was in my favorite subject and intended major, archaeology. I took it as a sign. Walked out of class. Left school. Returned a few years later but never studied archaeology again. I've had three professions since then and will be retired off disability leave by my employer on July 1st. I would like to be an archaeologist. Or write something with an archaeological setting.

    Lucy & Debs, hope you received the wild maine blueberry and tart lemon meringue pie recipes. It was the middle of the night before I could get them out to you. Sorry.

  12. Yeah. Archaeology sound good when I was young...except for the critters and dead things & icky stuff. I wanted the history of it. So maybe research? I was very young & went to a talk about architecture on career day. I was the only girl there & told that it was too strenuous for girls what with having to actually go to the sites and all. Never mind that I was a farm girl who tossed around bales of hay, bags of feed, etc. :)
    But my REAL one is/was/will always be writing. And, as my daughter said about acting, you can be ANYTHING or ANYONE!! I've had a teensy bit of success with short story and poetry contests. But not making a living success.


  13. So interesting, all of you interested in archeology. We have Dana Cameron visiting next week, who did work in that field. So she'll be able also to tell us what it was like.

    JJM, so happy you found a career you love!

    Reine, yes got the recipes. can't wait to try!

    Pen, hope you keep at it if you love it--not too many of us fall in the "making a living" category, and very few were overnight sensations.

  14. My brother-in-law, a former police officer, has told me that I would have been a great detective. I've had jobs that required research and I just get carried way with it. As far back as I can remember, I've been devising informal research projects for myself, and no detail is too small or inignificant for me; I love trivia!

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