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October 18-20, 2013; Bellevue, WA

A Basic Guide to Weapons

Chat with a Cop

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Because the title is so general, I want to give you a clue what this blog is about before I start getting into the background of my stories. My intention is to write about my experiences with anger, about how it is used to supplant fear. Most times people may not even realize what they are doing.

Those of you who know me know how hard headed and stubborn I can be. Funniest part about it, I don’t necessarily think those are negative characteristics. J  I do recognize there is a ‘downside’ to being hard-headed: Some ‘life lessons’ take a bit more work to sink in. For instance, fear. We’ve all felt fear; from the slight tingle of anticipatory fear of walking into a room filled with unknown people, to the full blown panic of watching a verbal altercation transition into a violent encounter.

Most everyone understand fear trips the flight or fight response: 1. Something ‘happens’.  As you identify the event a chemical reaction is taking place in your brain. 2. Blood is pulled from extremities and floods vital organs. In essence, your body is preparing you to stand your ground or run like hell. Of course, there is a third option which is a cop’s worst nightmare. You could freeze in place.

Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) will tell you fear is healthy. It keeps you on your toes and reminds you to think before you act. A lack of fear, well, that could be a failure to read events properly or the individual has absolutely no sense of self preservation. So in truth the only issue with fear is if it overwhelms and becomes crippling.

This past July, I was fortunate enough to teach a class for Romance Writers of America’s National Conference. The class, How Cops Cope: (Cop GMC), had me doing a lot of research, both internal and external, for the various Goals, Motivations and Conflict behind LEOs’ coping skills and mechanisms.  One of the coping mechanisms I talked about was the use of anger.

A therapist once told me anger is what a person uses when they don’t want to feel. It hides fear, doubt, and uncertainty. Intellectually, I understood what was being said but it really didn’t mesh with my life style nor did it apply to me. Of course not, I was a LEO and in full control of all of my emotions – (Pam, you can stop laughing any time now). Anyway, I believed when I was afraid I simply pushed that emotion aside and dealt with the job at hand. The thing is, up until the class in July, I never thought about what I used to supplant my fear. In truth, I wasn’t aware I felt fear.

Okay, okay I’ve stalled enough. No cop likes to talk about fear. Fear is healthy, but too much of it can be crippling. How do you decide to shut down and operate with only the healthy amount of fear? Most LEOs avoid the topic or the thought of fear like it’s last week’s overflowing poopy diaper. Fear is something everyone else experiences, not me. I would shake my head and sigh at the sadly delusional, out of touch with their feelings, uninformed and backward male who would spout such nonsense. Of course, me being much more enlightened, I believed I simply compartmentalized my fear. You know, boxed it up and pushed it aside so it wouldn’t distract me.

Well officially, I can tell you I, too, was one of those sadly delusional, out of touch, uninformed and backward (here’s where we do differ) Females. If you bear with me, I have to give you a little bit of back story - Once I entered the Sexual Predator Unit, I quickly became paranoid about who had any type of one on one contact with my child. When I was home, on injured status from work and unable to drive, I received a call from my son’s school. I was told it was an early out day and there was no school bus service for afternoon kindergarteners. I was asked when I would be picking my son up from school. At the time, my sister, who lived with me, was out of town because, although recovering from surgery, I was well enough to walk to the bus stop to meet my son.

I could not however, walk the seven miles to get to his school.

I vividly remember my reaction – immediately I lost my temper. Well, as I was remembering that long ago incident I had instant clarity of a few things. First my stomach was in knots, for me a sure sign of stress, and I felt as though I had a band tightening around the top part of my chest and throat. I was afraid and not just a little. I was damn near quaking in my boots. I realized, right at that moment as I reflected, I was as terrified for the safety of my son as I was all those years ago when I had received the call.

Here’s the kicker:  When the event was actually happening I hadn’t realized I had any fear. The only thing I remember was being angry.     

Not too long ago I had a conversation with an older LEO (Gabriel). He is long retired and is a true chauvinist. I understand he was raised in a different era and I usually make allowances for his statements. My line in the sand with him is when he makes unsupported assumptions about my various experiences on the job. One such statement was ‘well, if you’d ever been shot at you’d know the first emotion you felt as you tried to get out of harm’s way was fear.’

Well, his statement totally pissed me off. I have in fact been shot at and the anger of that memory (being shot at) fueled my anger at the current situation. Up to that time, I had never lost my temper with this Gabriel. I found it easier to walk away or simply tell him it was time for me to agree to disagree and move on to another topic. This time however, I totally lost my temper and chewed him out. I touched on a lot of things he’d said that ticked me off: His arrogance, chauvinism, and condescension to name a few. What really had me fuming was his statement that I obviously didn’t know what I was talking about, because fear over-ruled all other emotions.

You know those movies where the young, hardheaded rookie has to learn some hard won lessons from the older Butthead Veteran LEO? Well, I hate to admit it, but Gabriel was mostly right. When I was shot at my stomach did first knot up (once the confusion cleared) but I immediately blanketed my fear with anger (my coping mechanism). By getting angry, I had no room for fear. With my fear gone, or at least hidden, I was able to do my job. 

It wasn’t until I finished the class that I realized I had identified yet another of the many coping mechanisms I’ve used throughout my life and career in law enforcement. When I was on the phone with my son’s school my fear for his safety, coupled with my feelings of helplessness, made me even more verbally aggressive and threatening than usual (figure Mama Polar Bear on Steroids). All of these revelations had me looking back to those times when I became angry when I thought I should have been afraid instead. Yeppers, every single time I slid effortlessly from fear to anger and I got the job done.   

I’m not sure when, where or how I developed this particular coping mechanism but I would bet it started somewhere in my childhood.         

Do you have a scene where your LEO is being uncharacteristically aggressive? How can you use that to explain his past? His motivations? His fears? 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and Protective Body Armor


In the story my heroine is called out to a homicide that they suspect is connected to a previous one. She is attacked by a criminal who shoots acid at her that hits her in the chest. She has the vest on which is able to somewhat protect her. My editor wants to know why she is wearing a vest when she answered this call. I looked around online and found some places require uniform officers to wear body armor, though not specific to San Diego. I had a harder time finding anything about detectives. Is it possible a police detective would wear a Kevlar vest or body armor on a call out?

Thank you!

Most Agencies require their Patrol Officer wear protective vests while on patrol, while a few leave it to an officer’s discretion. An officer’s uniform makes them a target – everyone knows who and what they are, which is not always a good thing. Because Investigators and Detectives usually wear ‘street clothing’ they typically have a choice if they want to wear their vest or not.

When I was hired on by the California Highway Patrol, even though it was optional, I always wore my vest. I was my area’s shit magnet. Trust me, if something was going to happen – I was usually at the center of whatever ‘it’ was.  I felt naked without my vest. I learned to follow my 'gut and when I felt the need, I wore my vest. It's always better to have and not need than to need and not have. Because I learned to trust my instincts, I usually had what I needed when I needed it.

When I transitioned to investigations it took me some time to feel comfortable going without it, the vest, when I dealt with the public at large. However, if my ‘gut’ told me to I put my vest on – I did. It’s fairly easy to conceal a vest under civilian clothes.

Depending on the area, Detectives have been known to wear a vest to a call out.  There are lots of circumstances where a LEO may wear their vest but not be required to do so. I personally had issue with those Detectives/Investigators that threw their vest on OVER their clothing - especially if they had time to conceal it underneath. For me that was a huge sign saying: Please aim for my head as I have my torso completely protected. Personally, I didn't get it.

Didn't you say your heroine had been through a lot? Being promoted to Homicide Detective so young, her instincts have to be 'on' and pretty damn accurate. Not to mention her being thrust into a paranormal story. I would think anyone in her circumstances, with even an ounce of intelligence, would start wearing body armor if she wasn't already. From what you told me, you've made your heroine sharp, with an eye for detail. I could totally see her wearing a vest but not advertising it. (Afterall: there would be jokes and teasing about her wearing a vest to a 'simple' call out - But that's fodder for another blog post).

Will that work for you? 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Questions Regarding the San Diego Police Department

Here are questions one of my chapter-mates has graciously allowed me to post here on my blog.

Hi Margaret,

What weapon does the San Diego PD use? Basically, I have my heroine using a Sig Sauer. She is 30 years old - is that too young to make homicide detective?

Keeping in mind that this is a paranormal world, let's say my heroine was attacked. She gets free. Two men are now fighting and she's seen some really freaky stuff.  She shouts, "Freeze!" If they do not respond is it legitimate for her to fire off one round above their heads into a cement wall to try to get them to stop (or is this too much TV? LOL!)? Or does she simply stand there with her gun hoping her order of Freeze will get their attention?

I really appreciate any assistance you can give. These are very tiny points in the story, but my editor is asking questions and I'm trying to make sure I have answers that will satisfy her. Anything you can clarify would be a big help.

Thanks so much,

Patrizia, no problem. Never worry about asking me anything, I do my best to answer all questions.

First off, age of your Homicide Detective. Thirty is not too young for a SDPD Homicide Detective, under the following circumstances:

If she joined the Police Dept. right around her 21st birthday that would give her an easy five years to make Detective, which would put her age around 26 - 27 years old as a non-Homicide Detective.

Your heroine would then have to make a name for herself.  You know, be a Superstar Detective in whatever Division she was in (Narcotics, Gangs, Sex Crimes etc.). She’d need great busts, high profile cases, lots of positive media attention. What I’m talking about are cases that demonstrate great ‘Police Work’ and above average Investigative Skills that would get her noticed by the Brass. That could get her into Homicide early.

Your 30 year old Homicide Detective would be well known and respected, however once in Homicide she would be treated like the newbie she is (especially compared to all the other older, more seasoned Homicide Detectives . . . AKA – Dinosaurs).  ;-) So she would get all the crap cases until she proved she could handle more complex cases.

Types of weapons issued: SDPD issues Ruger P89, Sig 229 or Sig 226, and Smith & Wesson (not sure of the model).  So your Detective could carry the Ruger.

If an officer wants to purchase their own weapon they are authorized to carry Beretta, Smith & Wesson or Glock. The only way for an officer to carry either a .40 cal or a .45 is if they purchase their own weapon. 

Warning shots: For the SDPD, warning shots are completely prohibited.

There are several ways your Detective could handle this situation. She could OC (tear gas) both men to get their attention. Patrol Officers are required to carry OC as a Detective she would have the option of carrying OC.

Not many Detectives carry tazers, but that could be another option, with her tazing the most aggressive of the combatants. That would help her take control of the situation.

My personal favorite attention getter was racking a round into my Reminington 870 pump- action shot-gun. The sound is distinctive and people will stop and stand tall, their eyes wide. Of course, she could use the less lethal version of the Remington 870. It’s basically the same weapon – same attention getting sound, only colored differently, but loaded with rubber bullets.

Let me know if this helps,


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cop Car Question

Can a cop take a picture and scan it onto his phone and send it out to squad cars to see on their vehicle scanners or whatever that might be called? For instance if a child were missing and the police had a photo handed to him, how would he get the photo transferred to the squad cars so they could be on the look-out for the child?


The computer device inside patrol cars is called a Mobile Data Terminal (Cops refer to them as MDTs). Right now, a lot of Departments are transitioning to MCTs (Mobile Communication Terminals). In the MCTs, because the operative word is Communication, officers can access their email through the Terminal. (FYI: Departments can choose to allow their officers to have this access or prevent it.)

So if an officer takes a photo of the photo and emails himself a copy, he could then upload the information, with WC (Watch Commander) approval, to all units.

Of course, depending on the camera and the degradation of the image, it might be better to drive to the station or sub-station and scan in the photo on an actual scanner.

FYI San Diego Police Department has MCTs.

One question, what is the age of your missing child? Age plays an important role in the amount of action the PD will take. I believe the critical age is fourteen. Fourteen and over, Police will want to know if the child is or has run away. Under fourteen, it's treated as a critical missing persons.

Hope that helps


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cop's Families

Cop’s Families

Before I start down this path, I need to emphasize everyone’s experiences are different.

In my previous post I stated how cops tend to be suspicious.  I received a comment that a Cop's suspicious nature must be tough on the Cop’s family. It’s funny, as with anything, reactions can be on either side of the spectrum.

I remember being told when I started my career in law enforcement, that while in uniform, officers (for the most part) were sharp, keen, intuitive and focused. In essence, the type of person you would want to come when you called for help. However, the same individual that was so confident, controlled and focused ‘on-the-job’ could be a train wreck of epic proportions when dealing with their personal life. 

A majority of the officers/agents/law enforcement I worked with made it a point to keep their families out of the loop as far as certain aspects go in regards to the job. What they don't want their family members to know is the terror. The ugliness of the streets and the slime they deal with daily. They want to protect them (their family) from heart wrenching sights and the fact that more often than not there is no HEA. Of course, that could be the reason for so many cop divorces and family estrangements. But that is the fuel for another blog. 

Yes, cops are very suspicious and prone to question those around them, especially those they don’t know or quite yet trust. But when it comes to their families, most LEOs have the biggest blind spot. Some officers actually subscribe to the thought process of  because I love you, I have to trust you. And in order to trust you, I cannot or will not scrutinize everything you do. If I do, I might find something I don’t want to either see or know. 

Now, there are officers at the other end of the spectrum that don’t trust anyone. They watch and wait and prepare to be wronged. As with any other self-fulfilling prophesy, they smile when they can say, "See? I knew I couldn’t thrust him/her."

The people I’ve seen most affected by the suspicion and paranoia of LEOs are their children. I know this, personally, because I am one of those dastardly people who could be considered over-bearing and over-protective where my child is concerned.

When I put in for and started working Sexual Predators, the only person living with me was my mother. Once I started working with a team, I couldn’t help but notice how protective and paranoid all the LEOs with children (working in the unit) were about who and where their children were and who they were with. Each of these Agents/Officers had a very short list of those people they allowed to take care of their children.

It's an unfortunate fact, most children who are sexually abused are victimized by relatives or close family friends. Cops live with that knowledge. Is it any wonder they're suspicious and paranoid?

Within three months of my working Sex Preds, my son entered my life. The first case I pulled was a child pornography case involving a toddler. Can you guess who I saw every time I looked at the photos?

That was a very difficult time for me. Needless to say, I also developed a very short list of who could watch my child.  

Most LEOs have guardian/protector mentalities. We know what can happen and fight to make sure our loved ones don’t become victims. So we become butt heads and invade their privacy, not because we don’t trust them – it’s their friends we have issues with.