UpComing Classes

Emerald City Writer's Conference


October 18-20, 2013; Bellevue, WA

A Basic Guide to Weapons

Chat with a Cop

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are Cops More Prone to be Suspicious?

Ana  thank-you  for allowing me to use your question as a blog.

Ana said...

Question: A new member of my veggie CSA is a city cop. Before I knew he was a cop, he questioned and doubted every "promise" we made for his season of veggies. He lied to get more convenient (for him) delivery arrangements. I felt bullied. Now that we've had many weeks of contact, he's mellowed--and paid in full-- and I'm no longer thinking I should tell him to take a hike.

Are cops more prone to be suspicious?

Yes, most cops are extremely suspicious. Remember who they deal with day-to-day. Just like Firemen who run into burning buildings when every other sane person is running out, cops are paid to approach and question people's actions. A cop’s suspiciousness can be fueled by training & experience, gut reaction, visual cues or fear.

 Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) arrest  bad people – both the public and they hold themselves to a higher standard. When questioning a victim of any type of fraud or scam, it’s easy to forget the general public experiences – for the most part – the more positive aspects of society. Where the public sees a golden opportunity a cop is looking for ‘the catch.’ Quietly and amongst themselves police often question how the victim fell for the , obvious to them, scam.  One of the many reasons fueling: The Us vs Them mentality, but that’s the subject of another blog.

If you think people with law enforcement background are suspicious when ‘on the job’ that wary nature is double when they are spending their own hard earned money. The last thing a LEO wants is to be teased for having been ripped off. 

When investing or entering into a business deal most cops investigate the company like they would a criminal organization. What type of group is it? Large or small? New organization? Well Established?  How do they advertise? Word of mouth? Commercial Advertisements? And most importantly what is being promised.

Depending on the answers to the above questions a cop might worry that once he paid he might not receive his product.

The type of cop also factors into how paranoid or suspicious an officer might react. Are they a city cop? Large or small department? Patrol, Narcotics, Homicide or Sex Crimes?

Did you know, narcotics officers from the time they are baby narclings are taught to never ever Never Ever EVER ‘front their money’ (loosely translated: never give up your money until you have product in hand)?  Yes, that phrase was targeted toward narcotics transactions. BUT, in my experience Narcotics officers hate to front their money – for anything.

Homicide cops investigate crimes where people are murdered over a pair of shoes. If a life is worth less than $150.00, what do you think someone would do for several hundred? Several thousand?  

Police are even more suspicious of what they consider something too good to be true. One thing a cop would hate more than just about anything is being labeled a victim.  When a LEO questions and doubts everything said, my guess would be the proposition seems too good to be true.  (Ana in your case I would take that as a compliment about your product and prices.)

So is your LEO a jerk because he’s worried about being ‘taken.’ Is he a maverick type that goes for it, but has lots of contingency plans? Or is he someone unwilling to venture outside his/her comfort zone?

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Have Your Back

In the past a statement of “I have your back” was usually uttered by comrade in arms right before they ran head long into battle. Can’t you just picture two warriors, back to back, surrounded and fighting off a stubborn enemy? Neither hero willing to stop because doing so would mean death to the person who’s back they were covering. Warriors expect to die, hell some even look forward to it during battle. But nothing inspires or encourages a warrior to unbelievable accomplishments like a cause.   

“I have your back” is a declaration of the highest order. It means no matter what happens, what comes down the pipes, I will be there for you.  Today, it is seen as a promise of total, unflinching, unquestioning physical/mental/financial and emotional support.

In my other life as a police officer, that's how most of us interpreted the underlying meaning of that particular phrase. Those words are neither spoken lightly nor are they accepted lightly. Think of it this way: If you were about to go into battle, who would you rather have telling you “I have your back” – John Wayne? Rambo? Or Barney Fife?     

Those four words are among the most powerful words in a Law Enforcement Officer’s (LEO) vocabulary.  Of course the power of the words are directly proportional to the strength and depth of the person’s character who speaks them. In-other words, when someone I trust tells me “I have your back”, my reaction is relief with a dash of pride I would receive such a gesture of total support.

It’s funny how cops doubt most of what they hear except it comes from a person they have anointed/dubbed/certified as trust worthy and true. Anyone who makes it into the close circle of people that a LEO designates as ‘having their back’ is considered completely trustworthy.

I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to explain this. It’s a weird, paradoxical type thingy. Those people who ‘have my back’ would do anything I needed If I went to them for help. However, those people know my personal moral code, so they know helping me would never be anything illegal, immoral or underhanded. The same goes for me ‘backing their play.’
In fact if a ‘friend’ came to me for help and asked me to do something illegal, my first response would be to talk them out of it. If that didn’t work, I would tell them no and remind them they were making me a party to a crime and I might have to turn myself in. The bottom line is anyone trying to get underhanded help is not the person I thought they were and therefore not entitled to my unwavering support.

Okay, here’s the reason for my waxing poetical about cops and their phrases. In early July, I was fortunate enough to present a workshop for Romance Writers of America (RWA) at the National Conference in New York City. My workshop Beyond the Uniform: What Makes Your Cop Tick, was given the last day of the conference at 8:00am. I’m used to having props (digital presentations, visual aids, weapons etc.) when I speak, something in my hands or to refer to. For this presentation it was me, my outline, and a couple of books.

I’m not saying I was exactly what you might call nervous – tense – yes, that is a much better word. Anyway, as I was speaking I ended up off topic and said so out loud to the class. Several of the attendees began prompting me about what I had been talking about before I went off topic. I was amazed at the help I received and thanked the class. One woman in the audience responded, “It's okay Margaret. We’ve got your back.”  

I was completely caught by surprise and could not help but stare at the woman who uttered those words. I hadn’t heard that phrase in so long I had a flash back. Yeppers, right in the middle of teaching I remembered how important those words were and how it made me feel when they were directed towards me. As I stared at this wonderful  woman, I wondered if she had any clue - other than my staring - just how deeply her words touched me and the underlying power behind them. As I studied her face, I could see nothing but sincerity and the conviction of what she said.

The time of my internal review was probably no more than ten seconds, but as with most public speaking, ten seconds seems a whole lot longer when fifty sets of eyes are focused on you. Her words went a long way into helping me feel as though I was chatting with friends. From that point forward, my class flowed effortlessly and I easily settled into my speaking rhythm.  

So, who has your LEO character's back? How hard won was that support?

If you want to twist it, who says they have your LEO's back? Are they telling the truth?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cop Awareness

In the class I just finished teaching we had a lot of discussion on Cops and their body language. We worked on how it is possible to identify a police character simply through demeanor, body movement and attitude. Regardless if they are in uniform or not.

Daily, cops have to deal with people who feel the laws of the land don’t apply to them. My personal favorite: The people who believe they are the only ones who have broken the super secret code and gleaned the correct interpretation of what the spirit of the law was meant to be. And another good one: Everyone else is doing the same thing.

Attitude and confidence are all important, especially when dealing with people who view themselves as being in the ‘right.’ Seriously, could you ever see a cop saying, “Yes Ma’am, you are completely right. I pulled over the wrong car. Thank-you for pointing out my error. I am sorry to have bothered you. Please have a nice day.”

Not going to happen. 

Police officers are supposed to be fair, impartial and completely professional. Nowhere in the job description does it call for an officer to be humble (a definite rarity) or accommodating. Case in point, have you ever watched an argument between a police officer and a civilian? Does the cop argue or does the cop allow the other person to vent and then firmly explain to the civilian their options? For me, it depended if I already had my first cup of coffee.  

Officers are tasked with taking charge of every situation they are called to. So is it really a surprise cops tend to be a smidgen autocratic, judgmental and controlling? If I’m giving you the impression I’m describing a world class butthead, you’re not far off. Decisions, sometimes life or death decisions, have to be made split second. I’ve watched one of three scenarios play out with laid back, go-with-the-flow personality type cops: 1.Their personality hardened somewhat while they wore the uniform; 2. They left the field (by either quitting or moving to a desk position); 3. They were seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.  

A law enforcement officer’s attitude is their first and strongest deterrent against would be detractors and reputation seekers (individuals who want to make a name for themselves by taking out a police officer). Because the cop has a gun every encounter a law enforcement officers has is an armed encounter. Every person a cop talks to has the ability, if they are quick enough, smart enough, strong enough and determined enough, to take away a cop’s weapon.

Police Academies serve several simultaneous purposes. First, it prepares the cadet for life on the streets. During my time at the academy, which doubled as a training facility, veteran officers were encouraged to catch cadets off guard and steal either their baton or handgun. No place was off limits. (Yes, there were several bathroom incidents.) Most academies are five to seven months long. You can bet by the time of graduation cadets were well and truly indoctrinated to the Be Aware of Your Surroundings Regimen.

Welcome to Cop awareness: AKA – paranoia

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt uncomfortable? You look around and try to figure out what is wrong? What is bothering you? As you keep looking you make eye contact with someone who is obviously staring at you.

How did that make you feel? Did you think the person was harmless? Were they staring while trying to place your identity? Or did you feel/think that person wanted to do you harm?

Magnify and intensify that feeling for your cop character. Every day, both in and out of uniform, police officers feel those eyes, watching, staring accessing. The trick is to not completely dismiss the scrutiny, but rather be aware while not letting it wear you down.

That whole concept of ‘never sit with your back to a door’ is real. Don’t get me wrong, you will see people in uniform who do just that. For the most part, most cops won’t sit with their back exposed.  


Because it makes us nervous.

If my back is to the door, I can’t watch who is coming and going. I can’t scan the room looking for threats. I can’t reassure myself everything is okay. I can’t effectively protect myself.

So what about those law enforcement officers that do sit with their back to a door? Why have they done it? What is their reasoning? Are there no other seats? Is there a mirror or window in front of them where they can watch via reflection? Is there another cop, someone they respect and trust, sitting across from them? Or are they a chuckle head who’s own personal safety isn’t paramount to them? Or worse, do they believe their badge is some type of magical shield that will protect them from harm?

How long those Chuckle heads lasts is entirely -- my opinion -- dependent on how lucky that person is because his survival has nothing to do with skill or training. Cops with staying power are the ones who, both in and out of uniform, on-duty and off, protect their personal space (which for an on-duty cop is usually three to six feet all around them) with a fervor only matched by Evangelical Ministers in the middle of a revival. Encroachment on or to that buffer zone can make for a very cranky or distracted cop.   

How can you use that to mold your cop character?  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weapons I'v Carried: Part IIIb

Weapon’s I’ve carried Part IIIb: Shotguns and submachine guns cont.

So you don’t think I’m a Rambett or anything like that, this is the final section of Weapons I’ve carried . . . for now.

During the DOJ Academy we were trained with the Benelli, 12 gauge, auto loading shotgun. It was long, heavy and the recoil was pretty strong. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7U8cjl8HlM ) Of course I was already sold on the Remington 870. I liked the pump-action. With the Benelli, all we had to do was muscle the nozzle on target and keep it there, while simply pulling the trigger.  Well, that and try not to dislocate your shoulder. 

The Remington 870, if jammed, could usually be fixed in the field. I’ve done it myself during an actual combat situation. Range Masters have told me if the Benelli jammed in the field, the only thing it could be used for, until brought in for repair, was as a club. This was one of those situations where it was obvious by the way they taught, even the Range Masters were not enthusiastic about the weapon.    

My training on the Benelli was short and to the point. I learned all the fundamentals but gained no enthusiasm for the weapon. The firearm instructors pointed out, several times if I remember correctly, that carrying the Benelli was completely voluntary. So I paid attention, because hey someday my life might depend on me being able to operate the Benelli.  But I was relegating it (the Benelli) to the bottom of all my contingency plans.

Now our training on the H&K MP5 (http://www.hk-usa.com/military_products/mp5_general.asp) was more involved and required a lot more hands on. This meant fun, fun, fun and more fun. The MP5 is a submachine gun, it fires 9mm rounds. The safety or select fire has two to four selections. Safe, single shot, two round bursts, and fully automatic. 

During the DOJ Academy we shot the MP5 quite often. The targets we were required to shoot at were one third the side of normal targets. We were told if we were sent to Assault Weapon School we would have to qualify on the smaller targets.

We were taught to hold and control the MP5 by holding the forearm (which encases the barrel) with our non-dominate hand and the pistol grip with our dominate one.  When we started, our elbows and arms were up and parallel to the ground. We would twist our arms down to our side while pulling the weapon stock into the pocket of our shoulder. This twist pull motion helped to maintain control while firing.

Our MP5s had slings. Because both the MP5 and HK53 were considered secondary weapons, if at any time there was a need to ditch the assault weapon, I could drop it and it would swing to my side as I drew my primary service weapon (My Glock 26, 40mm semi auto).  Thank goodness for the lefties that came before me. Someone figured a way to make the tangled belts into a viable sling for southpaws.  In fact when I ‘let it hang’ my assault weapon swung to my right side out of the way when I pulled my primary weapon.    

Toward the end of the DOJ Academy the Head Range Master had us all fill two magazines. He smiled and told us we could go fully auto with the two magazines – to get it out of our systems. Firing fully auto, we all quickly found out how hard it was to control the weapon. Yes, we had been warned, but until I fired on full automatic I didn’t understand why spraying a machine gun was considered a complete waste of ammo.

In order to carry the MP-5 after the DOJ Academy, I had to apply for Assault weapon school with the approval of my supervisor. Let me tell you, that was some serious fun. When we arrived at school first order of business was to qualify expert with our handguns. If anyone failed to do so they were sent packing. No pressure there.

We were not told this was a prerequisite and we came in to training cold – unprepared -- for a preclass qualification. The instructors told us our handguns were our primary weapons and if we could not fire them in an expert manner we didn’t need to be there. Two fellow trainees were sent packing.

At this training class the instructors brought both the MP5 and the HK53 to train on. I was told if I qualified with the HK53 I would be eligible to carry either weapon on-duty. So I took on the HK53.

Next we sat in a classroom and went over the MP5 and the HK 53 (http://www.remtek.com/arms/hk/mil/53/53.htm). We took them apart, learned how to clean them and put them back together.

The MP5 is a submachine machine gun. It fires 9mm (handgun) ammunition. The HK53 is a scaled down rifle that fires .223 (rifle) rounds. Main difference between the MP5 and the 53 was the HK 53 shot that .223 rifle round. This photo will show the difference between 9mm and .223 ammo. (http://www.arizonagunlist.com/gun_reference_material.html)

We went out on the shooting range and shot, and shot and shot. If our weapon was not on safe it was on fully auto, however we had to learn how to fire in two round bursts. Not as simple as it sounds.  The targets we had to shoot were small so our groupings (pattern which develops while shooting at a target)  were expected to be tighter (closer together).  Nothing short of expert shooting would pass the course.

Then we had to do mock into entries buildings. The way we trained the third person through the door during the service of a search warrant held the assault weapon. Simply, put if officers were shot at during an entry it was the third person through the door who usually took the round. By replacing a handgun in that third position with a submachine gun the outcome was more in the officer’s favor.  

During my DOJ Academy training with the MP5, I shot decent enough to know I could pass the training even though my groupings were not as tight as they could be. The HK53 was different, both the sound (about as loud as a shotgun blast) and recoil (only slightly greater than my handgun) were greater when shooting the 53. I’m not sure why, but I held the weapon even tighter because my groupings were fan-freakin-tastic. For that reason, among a few others, I absolutely loved carrying the HK53.

I would have carried the HK53 throughout my entire career, but someone in power decided the 53 needed to be treated as a rifle. This meant long range firing, a new shooting school and finding elevated platforms to shoot from. Translation: a whole lot of precarious climbing. My brain said do it, do it. My body, being the realistic one, said ‘hey – you forty-something-year-old – try it and die.’  

So I went to carrying the MP5. Not my HK53, but I still had lots of fun shooting it and I remained on the entry team as the third person through the door.         

Today a lot of guns and assault weapons have ambidextrous safeties, Making everyone’s life easier.