"Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy.
And they were each assigned very hazardous duties but I took them all away
from all that and now they work for me."
Okay, so there weren't three little girls, it was just me, at my first CPA class last night. That's CPA as in Civilian Police Academy.
CPA is sponsored and taught by our local Police Department in order to help local citizens better understand -- and work with -- the Police.
Wasn't sure what to expect, but I had a blast. After being "held" in the lobby (all 8'X8' of it) fifteen of us (6 women and 9 men ranging from 20-something to 60-something) were ushered into the patrol briefing room for our first taste of police procedure.
We were greeted by two of our three police commissioners, the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief, and a Captain. On the table in front of each of us was a background check form -- not a sample -- an actual form we had to complete. Followed by a "mug" shot for the photo ID we'll be wearing for the next 12 weeks. And I thought my passport photo was bad! If I'd know, I'd have washed my hair yesterday morning.
The Chief spent the first hour giving us an eye-opening overview of what the Department actually does. You need to understand that I live in (and, more importantly, my mystery is set in) a small, quiet commuter town (think Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls). With a total staff of 43 officers, the Department covers 165 miles of road. In 2011, the force answered 16,000 officer service calls and an additional 18,000 dispatch calls. Last year the town had no homicides, no robberies, 2 rapes, and 22 burglaries. More interesting is the increase in domestic violence (116) and brief of peace (67) incidents, up sharply from six years ago. Domestic violence is up 119%, breach of peace up 570%, due largely to the current economic climate, we were told. DUIs, on the other hand are down 42%.
This is not exactly fascinating stuff from a mystery writer's viewpoint, but the anecdotes we heard were priceless, and stored away for future use. The officers were more than willing to answer any and all questions. And I came with a list!
And the tour? Wow! Maybe I'm naïve, but I'd never actually seen an actual police holding cell (we have 4, all built for munchkins) with their 24-hour recorded video surveillance. We also saw the 50-foot indoor shooting range (which we'll be able to experience live later), the detectives' cubicles - one has a Red Sox score board clock, and the dispatchers at work.
Facts to file away for future books:
- Criminals are dumb. Why else would they repeatedly punch themselves in the face and claim police brutality after being told the videotape is rolling?.
- Our local police department uses both guns (40-gauge Glocks) and tasers. They may take their pistols home, but not the tasers.
- Police departments are phasing out Crown Victoria's in favor of Taurus patrol cars.
- New York City cabbies can no longer purchase used patrol cars for taxis.
- Electronic fingerprinting is used at the Police Department, but not in the field. There, expect an ink pad.
- Women are harder to fingerprint than men due to the size of their fingers and shallower ridges.
Next week: Training procedures.