Posts Tagged ‘Serial Killers’

The police service in the UK is renowned for its jargon, abbreviations, acronyms and mnemonics.  Whatever name is given to these odd words, they are used as a way of improving an officer’s recall to remind them of more complex texts.  They are also a way of shortening radio or written communications, saving airtime or space.BPCD 2016 Cover on Amazon

However, such abbreviations could also assist you when formulating your story by using them as a prompt for what should be included or excluded from your text, to make sure it is realistic.  It may provide you with ideas of how to prolong or speed up your fictional investigation.

When it comes to incidents such as a house explosion or a crime scene such as a murder (or mass killings such as a car purposely driven at a crowd), the mnemonic SADCHALETS is often used by the police and could be used as a prompt when writing about such or similar incidents.

In policing situations, it refers to actions carried out by the police officers arriving first at the incident and the information needed to assist others who will be involved later on.  Each letter of the mnemonic relates to a prompting word or words as can be seen below.

  • Survey scene on approach – the responding officer shouldn’t just turn up at a given location, they should take notice of what they experience on approaching the scene.  This requires use of all of the senses, not just sight.  A particular smell may help identify the presence of petrol for instance or a shrill sound may indicate an alarm activated in the vicinity etc.  The flow of a crowd may lead to or away from the scene e.g. most people would run away from a violent offender’s presence but run towards injured or trapped victims in the case of an accident or collision occurring.
  • Assess situation on arrival – the attending officer needs to quickly and accurately determine what has happened and start to gather (even just mentally at this stage) information that will provide the answers to the following steps.
  • Disseminate following details to Control – not only will the police control room want an update from the responding officer but they will need certain information so that they can carry out the tasks either identified from the scene (e.g. and ambulance is required at the scene) or that the controller does in all instances e.g. they have to update all logs created on the force database of calls for service or incident the police are requested or required to attend.  The controller will be responsible for sending additional resources to the incident and for passing relevant information to those officers e.g. they may direct armed officers to attend the scene where a firearm is suspected of being present and they will provide the armed officers any information that will help them carry out their role.
  • Casualties (approx. number) – The sooner the number and type of casualties can be ascertained, the sooner the correct response can be requested of the other emergency services.  Any of them may have already been asked to attend the scene by a member of the public but the correct type and number of (medical/rescue) resources required may not be apparent from this call.
  • Hazards (that are present or potential) – it is vitally important that the first responding officers quickly determine what hazards are or may be present at the scene so that the lives of others can be protected.  If a tanker lorry has toppled over, the officer should be trying to ascertain what if anything it may have been carrying and what dangers the product may pose. It may have held a dangerous chemical that can quickly debilitate anyone approaching it, so an early (and at a distance) assessment is vital.
  • Access (best access routes and rendezvous points) – it may be that the first responding officer reached the scene via the best available route or only route but they must also consider how others, following them, should approach the scene taking into consideration many circumstances such as what hazards are present or possible, what type of vehicle may be following them and is the access suitable for them e.g. a parked car lined street may be problematic for a fire tender.  The officer must also consider the evidence that may be lost or preserved by using a particular route.218 Fact Cover
  • Location (exact including map reference) – not may officers are able to identify map references from a physical location but they may be able to describe it more clearly and accurately than a member of the public, who may use a colloquial name for the location that doesn’t actually feature on a map.  It is possible that a number of calls are made to the police and each one uses a different location for the incident, particularly if it occurs at or near to a multiple junction street or road.
  • Emergency services (present and/or required) – the person making the initial call to the police about the incident may not recognise that a particular emergency service may be required e.g. a car which has overturned and landed on its roof, may easily prompt the need for an ambulance for the injured occupants but having no knowledge of what the fire service can do,  they may not also be requested at the same time to help free trapped occupants from the vehicle.  The attending police officer should be better placed to determine who is and isn’t needed and to recognise those already present e.g. the difference between ambulance staff and a paramedic at the scene.
  • Type of incident (vehicles, buildings etc) – what appears to be a fire at a factory may in fact be a vehicle on fire near to or inside a building, which may require a different response from that initially thought.
  • Safety of all staff at scene – through accurate assessment of the scene, the first arriving officer will be able to identify risks that may affect themselves and others. Through correct and accurate dissemination, they can ensure the safety of others attending the scene e.g. the need to ensure that armed officers attend the scene of an incident before unarmed officers, where weapons may be used against others.

You can use the above mnemonic and examples to assist telling your story by making sure that all of the elements of SADCHALETS has been considered if not written about e.g.

Survey – How many officers do you want to attend the scene in the first instances?  Using the senses, what do you want to describe and have them experience?  What do you want them to miss, that you can bring up later in the story?

Assess – Are your officers going to be competent and manage to assess the scene effectively or not?  What factors will you use to inhibit or improve their assessment?  Prior to their arrival, were they overworked and stressed? On arrival, did they find the scene distressing or traumatic?

Disseminate – Were they able to tell the right person the right information and did the person receiving the information act in the right way or not?  Was everyone in the chain of communication competent?  Did the right people get the information they needed or not? Can you create conflict through wrongful dissemination?

Casualties – How many and what type of casualties do you want in the story?  Will they be hysterical, very subdued, badly or minimally harmed?  Who will be helping or harming them on arrival of the police?

Hazards – Are there any hazards within or around the scene of the incident?  Do you want to complicate matters further by introducing any (additional) hazards and if so what?  Will they affect just those already at the scene or those yet to reach it?  What part will the hazard play in the story and what use will it be in taking it forward?

A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]Access – How would you describe the access route?  Is everyone that needs to, able to reach the scene easily or will they be obstructed by something and if so what and how will they surmount it?  Will problems be created by someone accessing the scene in the wrong way?

Location – What location are you going to use?  Do you need to consult a map for ideas regarding access and hazards etc.?  How will you describe the location to the readers?  How will the location impact upon access and safety?

Emergency Services – Who do you want involved at the start of the incident, who do you want to omit, why and for how long?  By omitting or unnecessarily including one, can you introduce conflict into the story?

Type of Incident – What type of incident do you want to feature in the story and is it a means to get characters involved or revealed or is it a significant actor in the story in itself?  Do you know enough about such chosen incidents or do you need to research them?  Will the type of incident allow you to include the elements above?

Safety – How safe do you want the scene to be?  Do you want to increase the risks and if so, how and why?  Who do you want effected by an unsafe environment and why?  How can you ensure that the environment remains safe and who will be responsible for its safety or otherwise?

Hopefully, you will be able to use some of this article to explore, strengthen and deepen your ideas, narratives, dialogues and stories.  If so, please feel free to share the post with others and if not, please feel free to provide me with your feedback.

Don’t forget that you can acquire much research material and answers to your questions from within any of the three books shown on this page – just click on the image to purchase a copy if you haven’t already got one.

How many times have you come across fictional lead detectives or Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) with no idea where they came from?  It’s almost as if they were born a lead detective or joined the police to automatically become one.

I’m sure that you already know that in the UK,  it isn’t possible and never has been for a person to join the police as a detective, let alone a Senior Investigating Officer.  You’ll no doubt also know that it’s not possible for any old cop to get to those dizzy heights without the right amount and type of experience or training.

Now, if you are reading the nth book in a series, it may be that the SIO’s development and career progression are discussed in earlier book in the series but in all likelihood, there will be no mention of how they got to the pinnacle of their career or what they had to do to become the leader of a complex murder investigation.

The reason that you will come across such instances and maybe even be guilty of doing something similar yourself, is probably because not many authors happen to have a close relationship with a police officer who has years of experience of policing in the UK that they can call upon to answer accurately and reliably, their troubling questions about the police, their policies and procedures.  Maybe no-one has taken the time to explain to you or the writer of the story you are recalling, just what it takes to become an SIO and lead a murder investigation in the UK.

But never fear.  Help is at hand for those of you wanting to learn about what it takes for a police officer to become an SIO and thereby make your lead detective more credible and identify areas where conflict may stem or opportunities arise from.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Police Investigators in the UK will take you through – A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]

  • What exactly a lead investigator and Senior Investigating Officer is
  • How they become one
  • What training they undertake
  • What 38 qualities and expectations they are expected to exhibit
  • You will find 27 specific ideas of how to take your stories forward and/or create conflict in them
  • There are also hyperlinks to 79 websites or documents that you may find useful in building up your understanding of what a Senior Investigating Officer needs to know and apply during a major investigation.

Not only will this book provide you with details of how a police officer can become a Senior Investigating Officer but it can help with plotting your novel and creating twists and conflict along the way.

It’s crammed full of expert knowledge and advice that you can use to captivate your readers with compelling dialogue and narrative.

Just a couple of the five-star reviews state:

I have never felt compelled to write a review before but in this case I felt it only right to do so. I am an ex-police officer in the middle of writing my first crime-related novel and I have to say how invaluable this book has been to me. I thought I was doing well with my descriptions of procedures and command structures but I cannot believe just how much the job has changed since I left.

If I hadn’t bought a copy of this (I also have the authors other titles) I would have made myself look like a rank amateur stuck somewhere in the 90’s. This book has saved me hours upon hours of research and helped me re-think certain parts of my book and for that alone, thank you Mr Robinson.

I only wish these books were available in paperback format. I’d have a copy of them as well. Call me old fashioned, but I like a book I can flick through and mark up where necessary and as much as Kindle comes close to a book experience it doesn’t really work quite as well with this kind of book in my opinion. That said, no other format allows for hyperlinking to other valuable resources so, swings and roundabouts.

All in all, a superb, densely packed no fluff resource that is worth far, far more than what it is being offered at.

Another great book from retired UK Police Inspector, Kevin N. Robinson! Packed full of useful info – really helpful for anyone with an interest in how the UK police force works, especially with regards to those investigating crime. A gem for writers & crime fiction authors. It’s the little details that make a story authentic and it’s great to have a source which collects all the necessary info, such as what an inspector would normally carry with him (would he have a forensic suit? gloves? what weapons? etc) – particularly for those less familiar with British police (who are quite different from the armed US law enforcement officers you see more commonly on TV!)

You’re currently putting your story together and you’ve just described the crime scene. There’s blood present, which is believed to belong to the suspect.  You get your forensic examiners to analyse the blood sample that they think belongs to the suspect.  They tell your fictional detective that they have extracted the suspect’s DNA but that it doesn’t match anyone recorded on the DNA database so without further information, they still have no idea who the suspect may be.

However, based on the latest research findings from  the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit in Belgium, it is now possible to predict the age of a suspect or unidentified body from a sample of their blood, rather than merely extracting DNA from the blood to check against the DNA Database.

Scientists from KU Leuven have developed the test which predicts an individuals’ age on the basis of blood or teeth samples. This test may be particularly useful for the police, as it can help track down criminals or identify human remains.

The aging process is regulated by our DNA and human tissues and organs change as we grow older.

Professor Bram Bekaert from the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit explains: “The behaviour of our organs and tissues depends on which of our genes are activated. As we grow older, some genes are switched on, while others are switched off. This process is partly regulated by methylation, whereby methyl groups are added to our DNA. In specific locations, genes with high methylation levels are deactivated.”

Bekaert and his colleagues were able to predict an individuals’ age on the basis of a set of four age-associated DNA methylation markers. The methylation levels of these markers can be used for highly accurate age predictions. The researchers were able to determine an individuals’ age with a margin of error of 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 years for teeth.  More information can be found at http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/2015/blood-and-teeth-predict-age

The new technique is potentially useful in the context of police investigations because it can help determine the age of criminals or unidentified bodies, which in turn can lead to identification.

Remember this little fact when putting your story together if it is being based on now and the near future.  It’s pretty useless for stories set in the past.

If you want to read more interesting facts, don’t forget to buy yourself a copy of 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police available on Amazon by clicking the title above or on the picture of the cover to the right.218 Fact Cover

Not only will you get 218 facts, you’ll also see 40 story ideas based on those facts in 36 different areas of policing.

Topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • the organisation of the police
  • crime scene attendance, assessment and investigation
  • police intelligence work
  • police interviews
  • custody suite issues
  • the role of the Senior Investigating Officer

Use 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police to make your stories realistic, to provide you with ideas you’d never thought of before and best of all, to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of your readers.

If you think your friends or colleagues would find the book useful, please let them know about it.

A coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed by a local council.  They usually have a legal background and will also be familiar with medical terminology.

Coroners investigate deaths that have been reported to them if it appears that:coronercrest.jpg

  • the death was violent or unnatural
  • the cause of death is unknown, or
  • the person died in prison, police custody or another type of state detention.

The purpose of the investigation is to find out, for the benefit of bereaved people and for official records, who has died, how, when and where.

If an investigation is determined necessary, a pathologist will normally carry out a post-mortem examination of the body.  Where the post-mortem identifies the cause of death, the coroner will send a form to the Registrar of Births and Deaths stating the cause of death.  The coroner must release the body as soon as possible, after which a funeral can be arranged. 

If it was not possible to find out the cause of death from the post-mortem examination or the death is found to be unnatural, the coroner has to hold an inquest. An inquest is a

fact-finding process, held in public court by the coroner in order to establish who died and how, when and where the death occurred.  The inquest will be held as soon as possible and normally within 6 months of the death if at all possible.

If the death occurred in prison or custody or if it resulted from an accident at work, there will usually be a jury at the inquest.

The coroner (or jury where there is one) comes to a conclusion at the end of the inquest.  This includes the legal ‘determination’, which states who died, where, when and how. The coroner or jury also makes ‘findings’ to allow the cause of death to be registered. When recording the cause the coroner or jury may use one of the following terms:

  • accident or misadventure
  • alcohol/drug related
  • industrial disease
  • lawful killing
  • unlawful killing
  • natural causes
  • open
  • road traffic collision
  • stillbirth
  • suicide

The coroner or jury may also make a brief ‘narrative’ conclusion setting out the facts surrounding the death in more detail and explaining the reasons for the decision.

If a person doesn’t agree with the Coroner’s conclusion, they may challenge their decision or conclusion but they should do this as soon as possible as for some challenges there is a three-month limit.

As you can see:

  1. the coroner does not attend a crime scene to collect forensic evidence,
  2. nor do they carry out a post-mortem

so don’t be caught out letting your fictional coroner do any of these things.

The latest Coroner’s statistics can be found HERE

The Coroners’ Society of England and Wale can be found HERE

Keep following this blog to hear about the imminent launch of my latest book, 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police.

One of the key positions in any police Intelligence Cell is that of the analyst.  Their role is vital in any major investigation where they can even be a part of the Senior Investigating Officer’s management team.

The analyst can be a police officer but most forces employ civilian analysts.  Their primary role is to receive information and to convert it into intelligence through analysis.

Seven of the most common tasks they may undertake include:

  • Conducting environmental scanning of the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal and Organisational (PESTELO) issues to provide an overview of the environment as it relates to the commission of the crime or is likely to affect the subsequent investigation;
  • Drawing networks of associates of both a victim and potential or actual suspect;
  • Telephone call analysis, charting specific telephones to assist with identifying associations between telephones and the patterns of calls involved;
  • Analysing local and regional crime and incident patterns to identify similar offences and/or precursor incident;
  • Analysing a series of crimes and identifying common denominators between different, possibly linked crimes;
  • Drawing charts of (possibly) significant events including a suspect/victim’s sequence of events chart and an extended sequence of events specific to a particular suspect;
  • Analysing prison intelligence; communications intelligence; intelligence from surveillance and undercover operations.

Could you use an analyst in your crime fiction?

You can find more information to help your story-writing by following this blog or using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

BPCD Cover

Intelligence Units can play an essential role in any major investigations such as murder or serial rape.  In such instances, they are usually based within the Major Incident Room.  An Intelligence Cell or Unit will not be present in all major investigations but will be included where the investigation is complex.  The Cell may be located with the main investigation team or may be based somewhere else such as at the force headquarters.  This possibility tends to hinder the effectiveness of the Cell.

Regardless of its location, the Cell should have easy access to all the documentation that comes into the Major Incident Room. Where this is not the case, their capability becomes impaired.

Intelligence cells can be directed to undertake a wide range of tasks including the processing of information, providing information to support management decisions or influencing the direction of operations.

The Intelligence Cell should be in a position to provide or obtain for the Senior Investigating Officer, intelligence and analytical products, which will assist in the investigation and the understanding of the enquiry at hand.

Five of the most common tasks undertaken by the Intelligence Cell include:

  • Conduct research on related lines of enquiry such as previous police calls to premises or locations; the use of premises or locations; relevant prison releases; custody records for potential suspects;
  • Search of database of offences using similar MO;
  • Identification of associations between people or scenes, or prior knowledge of people/scenes;
  • Searching of significant data bases based upon parameters set by the SIO for example:
    • Police National Computer (Phoenix application) (PNC)
    • Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency
    • CATCHEM (Child Murder and Abduction Database)
    • Police National Database (PND)
  • Liaise with Force Intelligence Units and the intelligence bureaux of other forces and the National Crime Agency (NCA) etc.

Have you got your Intelligence Cell doing the things they should be doing so that the detectives can get out onto the streets to do what they do best?

You can find more information to help your story-telling by following this blog or using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

BPCD Cover

Intelligence Units are a standard component of any Police Division, Force or Regional Team.  They also play an essential role in any major investigations such as murder or serial rape.  In such instances, they are usually based within the Major Incident Room.

Major Incident Room Intelligence Cells require suitable accommodation, IT, communications and clerical support and must be staffed with appropriately trained personnel, which may include an Intelligence Manager, an Analyst, Researchers and Field Intelligence Officers.  The exact numbers required will vary from one investigation to the other.  The more complex, the greater the overall investigative team, the more intelligence staff will be employed.

Intelligence Manager

The Intelligence Manager is likely to be an Inspector with experience of running an intelligence cell or unit at any of the three levels of complexity.  It is possible but not recommended that they may also be acting as an Informant Controller.

As the manager, they are responsible for the management and supervision of the cell, its staff and liaising directly with the SIO on intelligence and analytical matters.

Analyst

The analyst can be a police officer but most forces employ civilian analysts.  This has both advantages and disadvantages.  A police officer will be experienced in and familiar with many aspects of policing and the requirements of the law and law enforcement.  However, unlike their civilian counterpart, police officers acting as analysts can be too focussed on fact and evidence.  Civilian analysts are more comfortable formulating hypotheses (or guessing) and do not feel constrained by evidential principles.

The analyst’s primary role is to receive information and to convert it into intelligence through analysis.  Think of finding a few jigsaw pieces and coming up with what the complete picture should look like.  This description can sum up what the analyst should be doing.  However, some are not held in such high regard by some Senior Investigating Officers and some other police officers who merely see the analyst as a person that sits at a computer all day and sometimes draws charts or plots things on maps.  This perception is flawed and narrow-minded.  Watch out for a future post listing some of the functions they do perform.

Researcher

The Intelligence Cell is tasked with lots of research that can be conducted from an office rather than from the field and so the researcher is likely to be a constable or civilian employee with research experience.  They will have excellent IT skills and understanding of databases available to them.  The general idea is that researchers pull together information to be analysed by the Analyst.  They can also be tasked with putting together briefing and intelligence packages and products.

Field Intelligence Officers

Field Intelligence Officers (FIOs) are invariably Police Constable rather than detectives and their primary role is to go out and gather information that the researcher or analyst can’t from the comfort and confinement of their offices.  So the obtaining of financial records or statements from banks may be collected by an FIO where they are not available electronically to the researcher.

So, have you managed to get your fictional intelligence cell right or will you now consider using one in your stories?

You can find more information to help your story-telling by following this blog or using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

BPCD Cover

A pathologist may only play a fleeting part in your story or they may well be the main character but if you don’t know enough about how they become one, what their relationship is to a criminal investigation or what they do to assist that investigation, you may well be getting them and your story wrong.

Read on to find what you need to know to get them right in your story.

A pathologist (sometimes referred to as a forensic pathologist) is a medically qualified doctor, registered by the General Medical Council, licensed to practice and educated at post-graduate level in histopathology (the study of the effects of disease on the body) and forensic pathology.

Those suitably qualified apply to be registered with The Home Office Pathology Delivery Board and if successful are designated as “A member of the Home Secretary’s Register of Forensic Pathologists”.

Once registered, they must work within ‘group practices’ comprising at least three forensic pathologists who jointly provide post-mortem services within a defined geographical region. The group practices must provide a forensic post-mortem service 24 hours a day and 365 day a year for their region.   The pathologists don’t work set 9 to 5 hours as the number of cases seen each day varies throughout the country, however the latest protocol agreed with the Home Office limits the working period to 120 hours in any 14 day period.

Many forensic pathologists are self-employed but some are employed, full or part-time in the National Health Service (NHS) or University hospitals.

When the police request a pathologist to attend the scene of a suspicious death, they are ‘briefed’ as to the circumstances of the case by the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) or their representative.   Together with the SIO, crime scene investigators and forensic scientists, they agree a strategy for approaching the body, collecting trace evidence from and around it and ultimately the recovery of the body from the scene.

At the scene, the pathologist will examine the body, noting its disposition, the surroundings in which it lies and the presence of injuries that can be seen without disturbing the body or the scene. Many pathologists also supervise recovery of the body by crime scene investigators and funeral directors.

They carry out the post-mortem in an approved mortuary (usually attached to an NHS hospital).  Their examination is directed towards answering the general and specific questions about the cause of death and providing any other information that may help progress the criminal investigation e.g. where someone clearly dies of a gunshot wound to the head, the contents of the victim’s stomach may help identify the time they last ate and what it was they consumed.  Such information may help narrow down the investigative time parameters and lead to the place where they last ate.

The external examination of the body may take several hours due to its immense significance in a suspicious death post-mortem.   Every organ and body cavity is examined in detail.  Samples of organs and injuries are taken for microscopy and samples of body fluids are retained for toxicology.  Each stage of the examination is documented and photographed.  All significant findings, both positive and negative are recorded. The subsequent report is made available to the SIO, Coroner and defence lawyers.  The pathologist may then have to attend court to give evidence at the trial of the accused.

You can find more information to help your story-telling by following this blog or using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

BPCD Cover

If you know your PIP levels, you’ll know that you’ve got the correct resource investigating a specific crime type. In other words, you’ll not be allocating a Detective Inspector to go out and investigate the theft of someone’s car or a Police Constable to track down a kidnapper.

But What is PIP?
PIP in British Policing relates to the Professionalising Investigation Programme.

What does it do?
It ensures that staff are trained, skilled and accredited to conduct the highest quality investigations in each PIP level.

The PIP structure involves a series of levels:
PIP level 1 – priority and volume crime investigations
PIP level 2 – serious and complex investigations
PIP level 3 – major investigations
PIP level 4 – strategic management of highly complex investigations.

In simple terms, Level 1 investigators tend to be uniformed Police Constables (PCs).

Level 2 investigations are generally carried out by a Detective Constable (DC) who is part of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Level 3 investigations are usually led by at least a Detective Inspector (DI) who may be attached to CID or a specialist unit such as a Major Crimes Unit.

Level 4 investigations require the leadership of a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) who may be any rank from DI to Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS).

As with most things in life, there are always exceptions.  Have you got the correct investigator involved in your fictional crimes?

If you’re wanting to find out more about Senior Investigating Officers  then pick up your copy of A Writer’s Guide to Senior Police Investigators in the UK at Amazon or by clicking on the image below

A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]

To find out what types of crime fit into which levels, make sure you follow or subscribe to this blog or if you can’t wait, you could always seek out the answer in your very own copy of the updated and expanded British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers 2016, which you can acquire by clicking on the link above or the image below.

BPCD 2016 Cover on Amazon

 

Watch any crime drama or read any crime fiction and the chances are that the moment a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) gets the call that there has been a murder, they will be on the scene before you can make a cup of tea.

However, in real life SIOs are told to make sure that they have ready to hand (by the telephone) a fresh ‘daybook’ open at the first page, with a pen ready to record all information, details and decisions immediately right from the initial contact.

They should also have a grab bag prepared and ready for when they receive The Call.

Here are seven things they will have in their “grab bag”:
1. Identification badge and/or ID card (name, rank, and role should be easily recognisable), plus spare ID card for prominent display in the SIO’s own vehicle if it is going to be left at or near a crime scene).
2. A fresh policy book (and spare).
3. Mobile phone and charger (and/or spare battery).
4. List of important contact numbers (e.g. Crime Scene Investigator, pathologist, Family Liaison Officer, etc).
5. Police radio, spare battery and list of channels.
6. Suitable and/or practical clothing (including change of top).
7. Torch/batteries.

Will your lead detective remember to take their seven items and if not, will it add something to your story?

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear what other things they should have in their “grab bag.”

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

There aren’t many opportunities for writers around like this, especially free of charge.

For as little as up to four-hours work per week over a six-week period, taken at your own pace, you could discover just what it is like to IDENTIFY the DEAD.

Starting 7th September 2015, anyone, anywhere in the world can sign up for University of Dundee logothis on-line course delivered by the University of Dundee via the Future Learn Project.

The Forensic Science and Human Identification course run by Helen Meadows will allow you to uncover a grave, examine the remains and reveal the identity of the victim.  You will be taken on a journey through the world of forensic anthropology, unveiling the tools that will allow you to discover the identity of the remains.

The University blurb reads:

In the shadow of Dundee’s Law Hill, a grim discovery demands the attention of forensic experts. Unidentified human remains have been found and the police need to identify the victim to move forward with their investigation.

After a meticulous recovery of the remains, it will be your job to:

  • document and attempt to explain any evidence of trauma;
  • identify the victim through biological profiling;
  • and undertake a facial reconstruction.

Experts from the University of Dundee’s award-winning Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHId) will guide you through the process of human identification.

They will introduce you to the fields of human identification; forensic anthropology and archaeology; craniofacial identification; and the study of the human body.

Evaluate evidence as the case unfolds

Week-by-week, the case will unfold, providing you with more information about the victim. You will be presented with theoretical material and hands-on learning opportunities, to evaluate the case information and use what you have learned, to piece together clues to the victim’s identity.

You will be able to discuss, with educators and others learners, your thoughts on the identity of the deceased, based on your evaluation of the evidence.

Get your own copy of the murder mystery

After you submit your evaluation of the victim’s identity, all will be revealed at the end of the final week. You can continue your journey into the life and death of our victim in your very own e-book copy of a specially written murder mystery by international best-selling crime novelist Val McDermid.

Bear in mind that although this course involves the investigation of the death of a fictional character, some of the content may be distressing to individuals, particularly younger learners. However, this material is representative of that encountered by forensic experts.

To join the course just follow this link: Identifying the dead.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t already got your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers by clicking on the picture below:BPCD Cover

 

 

 

Following the success of the Spring Crime Fiction – Making it Real weekend workshop, the Autumn workshop is now open for booking.

It will help writers of any genre bring their stories to life as they find out how real police investigations work and delegates will pick up hundreds of ideas for their next stories.

The workshop will run from 17th to 18th November 2012 (inclusive) at the Premier Inn, Glasshoughton, Castleford, West Yorkshire.

   

What the weekend is about!

The following are some (but not all) of the topics that time and delegate requirements permitting may be covered over the weekend –

  • The history and the future of the police.
  • How is a police force organised and structured?
  • What does policing look like across the U.K, internationally and who is involved?
  • What are the terms and conditions that an officer must work to and how are they trained?
  • What work do the police focus upon, how and why?
  • What are the main crime types and what do they mean?
  • What are some of the more serious offences investigated by the police and how?
  • How is information turned into intelligence and how is that used?
  • What types of profiling are there and how are they used?
  • What types of offenders are there and what makes them tick?
  • How is a crime scene analysed?
  • What forensic techniques are used and why?
  • What are the rules regarding arresting, detaining, interviewing and charging an offender?

Time will be allowed for delegates’ specific questions and to explore how their plots and characters may be developed or made more realistic.

The exact content of the course will be tailored to meet the needs of the delegates.

There will also be several handouts as well as post workshop support and guidance available to all attendees, which will include over 100 police advice and guidance documents.

Some of the feedback from the delegates on that Spring workshop includes

Barbara  – Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the course.

I wanted a general overview of the police and procedures which I think you covered very well. Even if you don’t use a lot of it in the writing, it is useful background to get an idea of how a whole police station would operate. The stuff on the Major incident teams and crime scenes etc was very useful. I guess writers are also interested in dialogue so discussing interviews etc was also helpful.  I also found the stuff on who certifies death, the role of the coroner etc helpful.  The stuff on serious criminal, like rapists was very good as was the discussion of forensic profilers.  Just skimmed through the CD and it will be an excellent resource for us.

We were quite a demanding audience and you handled the questions very well. I really did enjoy it. A big part as well is the other attendees and I got a lot out of talking to the others in break times.

Caroline  – Thanks for a terrific course and for your individual attention with my plot, really appreciated. A great weekend and I am now energised and armed to complete the book hopefully with my cop facts right.

CJ – I wanted to thank you for a very stimulating and informative weekend. I learnt a lot and especially valued having my specific questions all dealt with. Overall, it was a fun weekend and a great experience and I will recommend it to other crime writers.  I could tell you put a lot into organising everything for us and it paid off big time.

Gareth – I’d like to thanks you so much for an amazing weekend.  I felt so fortunate to meet you and so many wonderful people.  The course was very informative.  The main strength of the course was you.  You were clearly knowledgeable and presented the information in a friendly, easy to understand way, but, above all, your great sense of humour made it so much fun.

Ian – It was a great course thanks,

Jan – It was brilliant.  I’ve done over 20 OU courses and about 13 summer schools – and this has to be up there with the best of them.  I really enjoyed the whole thing.

It was exactly what I needed to convince myself that non-police personnel stand a chance of writing crime – both from the point of view of the information received (and thank you so much for the DVD, it’s excellent) and from being able to meet with published authors and non-published authors in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.  I thought it did exactly what it said on the tin – it explained the structure and routines and left me in a much better position to track down my own information, and to know what level of information I need to include.

It was obvious so much thought had gone into the whole weekend.  I also felt the tone was exactly right.  Serious subjects, but tackled in an intelligent and light-hearted way, which was just the right balance for me.  I’d be back like a shot for further courses

Linda  – Just a quick line to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated this weekend. I think you covered every question I thought I might ask and covered a good many I didn’t even know I needed to ask! You surpassed all my expectations of what might be got out of the sessions, and I think I will be referring back to the information on the DVD for a long time to come.

Lesley – Firstly thanks for the workshop, you obviously did a lot of hard work to produce it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I got a lot from it and learnt things I didn’t know. In fact I have created a new main character for my next book from those who are co-opted onto the enquiry (more later). T he DVD of information is an excellent resource.  Weekends like this are as much about talking to other people during the breaks and in the evening as about the workshop itself and we had plenty of time for that.

Maggie – You often don’t realise what you want to know until you know it and it provokes further questioning! I was open to consuming new knowledge that I could utilise along the way within my writing. I think I gained a new perspective through the course.  At the time I felt that being informed about the different uniforms was not necessary – in hindsight I feel that it was totally in context with the rest of the content once I had done the two days. It helps that you can take notes of thought provoking ideas rather than have to scribble everything that is said down and miss the overall aim/ambience.  During the course it was thought provoking and I am sure many of us have come away with some ideas for plot lines.  All in all I would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering it. Meeting the variety of people that were there was also interesting, some of us will definitely stay in touch and thus we are able to widen our network of contacts/writers/new friends.  10/10!

Paul – I enjoyed the weekend immensely and it was tremendous value for money. The extensive CD alone was worth the workshop fee and it contains everything the crime writer could wish for.  I think you provided a very good ‘walk through’ of what actual happens at the scene of a major crime and the different roles etc.  In conclusion it was an excellent experience

Sheila – I got loads from the course.  Lots of little gems will stay in my mind for further use.  I love anecdotes from people’s working lives, details that you will never get from a manual such as the spitting prisoner in a cage in a van.  The role play on tracing a wanted bod taught me how to think investigation.

Tom – I found the weekend most useful and the content and materials we subsequently received will prove valuable reference sources for crime writing. I got all the factual material I needed – and more. In fact I would suggest you were over-generous in how much info you released.

Wanda – I just want to say how much I enjoyed the weekend, and I certainly learnt a great deal. I am also delighted with the CD. You have been very generous with your knowledge, time and information and I am sure that I will now have a much better idea on how to proceed with my crime novel.

The Costs and Stuff

The cost of the weekend is £160.  Lunch and refreshments each day are included in the price.

Places are limited to ensure each delegate has plenty of individual support.  So to secure your place on the workshop by paying a £50 deposit a.s.a.p.

A number of double rooms are available at the hotel at a promotional rate of £58 for Friday and £63 for Saturday night.

The venue is located adjacent to one of the country’s top tourist attractions – Xscape and Junction 32 Factory Outlet just off the M62 motorway.

English: Xscape in Castleford, West Yorkshire

English: Xscape in Castleford, West Yorkshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please feel free to pass information of this workshop to friends and colleagues and if you have any questions, please just get in touch – the.writer@hotmail.co.uk

BREAKING NEWS

Secure your place NOW on the November 2012 Crime Fiction – Making it Real, weekend workshop designed for writers interested in learning more about the police, their procedures and practices.  There will be time to immerse yourselves in case studies and to bring along your very own questions to be answered.  Check out the Autumn 2012 Workshop page for more details.

For more information, contact me via e-mail at  –

the.writer@hotmail.co.uk

It seemed a long time coming but when it did finally arrive, it flew.

From a personal point of view, the weekend far exceeded my expectations.  To top it all, I met a great bunch of people who were attentive, keen to learn and better still, keen to share their knowledge and help their peers.

What I’m talking about is the very first Crime Fiction – Making it Real weekend workshop, held at the West Yorkshire Police Training and Development Centre.

Delegates came to Wakefield from as far away as Avon and Somerset, Devon, Essex, the big city – London and Northumbria as well as places closer to the venue.

But don’t take my word for how good it was, read some of the feedback received –

Barbara  – Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the course.

I wanted a general overview of the police and procedures which I think you covered very well. Even if you don’t use a lot of it in the writing, it is useful background to get an idea of how a whole police station would operate. The stuff on the Major incident teams and crime scenes etc was very useful. I guess writers are also interested in dialogue so discussing interviews etc was also helpful.  I also found the stuff on who certifies death, the role of the coroner etc helpful.  The stuff on serious criminal, like rapists was very good as was the discussion of forensic profilers.  t skimmed through the CD and it will be an excellent resource for us.

We were quite a demanding audience and you handled the questions very well. I really did enjoy it. A big part as well is the other attendees and I got a lot out of talking to the others in break times.

Caroline  – Thanks for a terrific course and for your individual attention with my plot, really appreciated. A great weekend and I am now energised and armed to complete the book hopefully with my cop facts right.

CJ – I wanted to thank you for a very stimulating and informative weekend. I learnt a lot and especially valued having my specific questions all dealt with. Overall, it was a fun weekend and a great experience and I will recommend it to other crime writers.  I could tell you put a lot into organising everything for us and it paid off big time.

Gareth – I’d like to thanks you so much for an amazing weekend.  I felt so fortunate to meet you and so many wonderful people.  The course was very informative.  The main strength of the course was you.  You were clearly knowledgeable and presented the information in a friendly, easy to understand way, but, above all, your great sense of humour made it so much fun.

Ian – It was a great course thanks,

Jan – It was brilliant.  I’ve done over 20 OU courses and about 13 summer schools – and this has to be up there with the best of them.  I really enjoyed the whole thing.

It was exactly what I needed to convince myself that non-police personnel stand a chance of writing crime – both from the point of view of the information received (and thank you so much for the DVD, it’s excellent) and from being able to meet with published authors and non-published authors in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.  I thought it did exactly what it said on the tin – it explained the structure and routines and left me in a much better position to track down my own information, and to know what level of information I need to include.

It was obvious so much thought had gone into the whole weekend.  I also felt the tone was exactly right.  Serious subjects, but tackled in an intelligent and light-hearted way, which was just the right balance for me.  I’d be back like a shot for further courses

Linda  – Just a quick line to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated this weekend. I think you covered every question I thought I might ask and covered a good many I didn’t even know I needed to ask! You surpassed all my expectations of what might be got out of the sessions, and I think I will be referring back to the information on the DVD for a long time to come.

Lesley – Firstly thanks for the workshop, you obviously did a lot of hard work to produce it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I got a lot from it and learnt things I didn’t know. In fact I have created a new main character for my next book from those who are co-opted onto the enquiry (more later). T he DVD of information is an excellent resource.  Weekends like this are as much about talking to other people during the breaks and in the evening as about the workshop itself and we had plenty of time for that.

Maggie – You often don’t realise what you want to know until you know it and it provokes further questioning! I was open to consuming new knowledge that I could utilise along the way within my writing. I think I gained a new perspective through the course.  At the time I felt that being informed about the different uniforms was not necessary – in hindsight I feel that it was totally in context with the rest of the content once I had done the two days. It helps that you can take notes of thought provoking ideas rather than have to scribble everything that is said down and miss the overall aim/ambience.  During the course it was thought provoking and I am sure many of us have come away with some ideas for plot lines.  All in all I would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering it. Meeting the variety of people that were there was also interesting, some of us will definitely stay in touch and thus we are able to widen our network of contacts/writers/new friends.  10/10!

Paul – I enjoyed the weekend immensely and it was tremendous value for money. The extensive CD alone was worth the workshop fee and it contains everything the crime writer could wish for.  I think you provided a very good ‘walk through’ of what actual happens at the scene of a major crime and the different roles etc.  In conclusion it was an excellent experience

Sheila – I got loads from the course.  Lots of little gems will stay in my mind for further use.  I love anecdotes from people’s working lives, details that you will never get from a manual such as the spitting prisoner in a cage in a van.  The role play on tracing a wanted bod taught me how to think investigation.

Tom – I found the weekend most useful and the content and materials we subsequently received will prove valuable reference sources for crime writing. I got all the factual material I needed – and more. In fact I would suggest you were over-generous in how much info you released.

Wanda – I just want to say how much I enjoyed the weekend, and I certainly learnt a great deal. I am also delighted with the CD. You have been very generous with your knowledge, time and information and I am sure that I will now have a much better idea on how to proceed with my crime novel.

Anyone interested in signing up for the second workshop, drop me a line at the.writer@hotmail.co.uk

For those of you not sure of what you missed, take a look at the original post for the Crime Fiction – Making it Real workshop.

Kent Police Crime Scene

Image by kenjonbro via Flickr

Are you seeking crime writing inspiration, looking for your investigative muse or your policing Mo Jo?

  • Have you ever come up with a story-line only to wonder if it would work the way you would expect it to?
  • Not sure how the police really work?
  • Ever wondered if your killer really can get away scot free?
  • Want to know how a real police investigation works?
  • Having problems with your police procedures?

If you are, look no further. Help is at hand.  With 30 years police experience I can tell you how it really is and just where you can get your plot, twists and turns along with creative ideas to get your novel going or restarted.

Inspiration, ideas, knowledge, guidance and support are what I can offer you so send me your questions, your problems and let’s see what you and I can do.