by Lisa Black
The things we thriller writers get up to in the name of research! J.D. Allen is the author of 13 mystery novels and romance novels, and this week she visits Rogue Women Writers to talk about lessons learned while riding along in a patrol car.
1. For all that’s holy, if there are bright blue and red lights flashing and sirens screaming in your rearview, GET OVER.
Here’s the Florida law straight from the manual. I bet yours is very similar:
Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to law enforcement vehicles, fire engines, and other emergency vehicles using sirens or flashing lights. Pull over to the closest edge of the roadway immediately and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Do not block intersections.
On the flip side, I learned that the unit could outrun the sound of its own siren at about 80 mph. As we approached 110 mph I held onto the ‘oh crap’ handle like a big baby.
2. The computer in the unit is just as fast and just connected to the internet as your phone, so that the officer has all the info he needs during a traffic stop before getting out of the unit from looking up your tags.
Lying to the officer is stupid. If your headlight is out and you’ve already had two warnings in as many weeks, don’t tell the officer it just went out. He knows who stopped you and when. And BTW if you’re 20 and in a fancy Cadillac, your daddy can afford a freaking headlight.
We cruised through a partially completed subdivision for a look-see—
pretty ponds, a few mature trees left standing. The open concept living area may be appealing, but the unseen neighbors may not.
A home under construction had the front door ajar. The deputy called for the backup unit but only to practice a blind entry and talk through scenarios with their trainee.
Afterward, we drove one block over to see the neighbors…dilapidated would be a compliment. The particular lot behind the new home had several metal sheds, piles of trash in the yard, and a circle of fifteen toilets next to the single wide. For what? I’m not sure I want to know. These good folks had been visited numerous times in the past for domestic disturbances and drug-related calls, with one shed used for meth production on and off.
4. Lock your shit up.
We chased an opportunistic pair of teens who have a habit of sneaking into a higher-end gated community on foot or piggy-backing a car right through the gate, then walk from house to house. I was astounded at how many people leave their cars unlocked, and with change, phones, computers, and guns inside. That particular night the thugs got away with two handguns, a phone and some cash. We didn’t find them.
5. Why does that designer bag cost so much?
The Michael Kors store at the outlet mall was hit by shoplifters twice that day. In the security tapes it appeared to be two different two-person teams. In the second, a female distracted the salesperson while the male grabbed as many bags as possible from the racks/shelves closest to the door, stuffed wallets into a big pocketbook and grabbed other purses on the way out. Maybe 15 seconds in all, and I did the math in my head: more than three grand in merchandise. A security guard might not be too much of an expense for this shop…but what do I know?
6. Cooking meth in a porta-potty is not a good idea. The aftermath leaves a big black stain on the concrete. I’ll leave it at that.
If you get a chance to do a ride-along with your local law enforcement, I highly recommend it. Just avoid the porta-potty.
Have you spent time getting hands-on experience with law enforcement? What surprised you the most?