06 June, 2012

Fiction Friday:Practical Skills for the Mystery Writer

Sad to say, but last night was the final class of my Police Academy before graduation next week.  But what a class it was.  Practical skills night.

We spent the first part of the night with the Police Chief going over the budgeting process and everything it entails, including the acquisition and training of a new K9 unit thanks to a grant from the Blue Buffalo Co. With a force of 43, the annual budget tops $7 million, and that's cut to the bone.  

Police protection is definitely not cheap.Take bulletproof vests for instance.  They cost around $800 each and need to be replaced every four to five years.  That's a $34,400 line item.  And now the dog needs one, too!Now add on weapons, ammo, vehicles and uniforms, not to mention salaries and benefits.  Oh, and overtime.  We had two major storms back to back last year as well as a homicide.  Lots of overtime there.

Next, it was on to the shooting range where we practiced our (nonexistent) gun skills.  After a short gun-safety course, each "cadet" fired a full clip with both a Glock and a M-4 carbine.  I'd used a small handgun before, but never anything like a .40 Glock.  If the instructor hadn't been standing behind me, the recoil would have landed me on my butt. And I discovered that I tend to aim a little low.  I did, however, manage to decimate the target's nose,  And the noise! Even with ear protection, two guns going off simultaneously creates one hell of a racket.

The carbine was both easier to aim with its EOTech sight (a small red dot inside a circle) and had less kickback.  I was able to take out the perp's left ear and gun.  One woman aimed lower, much lower, and her husband looked a little uncomfortable. . .

My group was the second to shoot.  By the time we'd finished, over 200 rounds had been fired inside the 50' indoor shooting range in the Police Dept.'s basement. The smell was overwhelming.  Just glad I didn't get stopped on my way home as our hand and clothes were all covered in GSR. Then again, it might have been the perfect time to pull off the perfect crime.  The smell of cordite is hard to describe, but I know I'll be trying in my next book. Kind of like smoky kitty litter?

Finally it was time to test our fingerprinting skills.  A special scanner is used when someone is arrested and brought in to the station, but in the field, it's still a case of locating, photographing and dusting for prints, as well as collecting DNA from the prints.

I opted to use the "cleaner" magnetic powder. As you can see, I lifted a reasonable print.  The detective leading the class suggested, however, that he preferred to rely on hi-res photographs when possible, as they can be enhanced and do less damaged to the victim's house. That sticky tape you see them use on TV can do real damage to wallpaper and drywall.

After lifting several prints, from different surfaces with different tools, I'm anxious to show off my new talent with a burglary in one of my books!

So, anyone want their house dusted for prints?

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