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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ride-Alongs for Writers

Bryan Fields has joined us today to tell us all about doing a police ride-along. You know, for research. (You know you want to do this.) Take it away, Bryan...

If there’s any chance at all the story you're writing will involve a police officer at some point, and you aren't yourself a cop, do your story a favor: sign up for a few ride-alongs. Even a high fantasy tale can benefit; your towns do have city guards, right?

If you've never heard of ride-alongs, they are exactly what they sound like: You go out with a police officer for part of their shift, usually around four hours, and what happens, happens. Sometimes you get a lot of coffee, scenery, and conversation; sometimes you spend half the day staring at the walls of the station while your officer fills out the mountain of paperwork that goes with each arrest. Sometimes, there’s a lot of screaming and crying.

I've done six ride-alongs with five different departments, mostly while I was getting my Criminal Justice degree and serving as a volunteer Victim Advocate. The procedure for all of them was essentially the same: call the non-emergency line for the department you're interested in and find out when the patrol division can work you in. Expect a background check (you did get that warrant taken care of, right?) and a stack of disclaimers to sign.

The department will likely ask you to dress at least business casual. Don't wear red. That’s not a Star Trek reference; it’s because red clothes can cause problems for people who have just been in traumatic situations. If you're going at the beginning of a shift, try to show up half an hour or so early. Chances are you'll get to sit in on the patrol briefing and be introduced to the other officers on the shift. Once you meet your officer, do exactly as they say until the ride is over.

Yes, you can get shot doing one of these. You are assuming the risk, however small it might be. One of my officers took his seatbelt off every time we turned in to certain apartment complexes. “If they start shooting at the car, jump out the door and roll away. Try to hide with your head between the front wheels of two cars-that way you have an engine block on both sides to soak up the bullets.” Charming notion ten minutes into the first hour.

Cops have a strange sense of humor, and they love telling war stories. Especially ones involving bugs. Bugs covering the floor, bugs on the food in the refrigerator, roaches falling out of the ceiling, coming out of a welfare check covered in scabies-every cop I rode with had at least two or three stories about bugs. Fabulous resource for terrifying/horrifying your readers.

The most active ride I did was 6-10pm on a Friday in Denver’s District 2. This was a two-officer car, so I spent most of it locked in the back seat. We hadn't even finished the shift briefing when we got called to respond to a pursuit.

The back seat didn't have shoulder restraints, just a lap belt and nothing to hang on to. The chase only lasted four minutes, but it seemed far longer. Excitement? Yes! Also terror, since we were tearing through a residential area. I was also feeling some intense anger at the person who was running, because of the danger they posed to everyone on the streets and in the chase.

The suspects finally pulled over and surrendered. End result: two arrests, no injuries or property damage, and a big bag of soap chips taken into evidence. Ivory soap won't get you high, but it was being sold as crack, which is just as illegal. Who knows? If they'd sold the soap to the wrong person, their night might have ended very badly indeed.

It took an hour to process the evidence and transport it to the lockup facility in downtown Denver. Back in service, we did three noise warnings at different parties, warned a prostitute away from a hotel, and stopped at a Greek place for dinner. The owner didn't charge us, because cops eat free at his place. I told him I was a civilian and insisted he let me pay for my food.

That small gesture made a big difference in the rest of the night. Both officers opened up, telling all manner of anecdotes about the hotels, pawnshops, and apartment buildings we came across. We broke up two more parties, wrote a bunch of speeding tickets, and chased the same prostitute away from a convenience store.

Our last call was for a domestic, resulting in the arrest of a combative gentleman who'd been smoking crack. Transporting him was the only time I got to ride in the front of the cruiser.

Back at the station, my last half-hour was spent listening to more stories while my officers did their arrest paperwork. Another officer arrived to do his booking papers as well. He looked at me and said, “Who’s this guy?”

My driver said, “He’s our ride-along. He’s OK.”

Her partner nodded. “Good ride.”

The new officer nodded. “Alright then.” He introduced himself and said, “Ask for me if you ever want to do an eight to midnight. We'll have some real fun.”

I never took him up on it, but I bet some great stories would have come out of it.

Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend

A lot of guys claim to have hot girlfriends. David Fraser has one who actually breathes fire.

Rose Drake is a Dragoness in Human form, come to Earth for three years to soak up the local energy and increase her chances of having happy, healthy, baby hatchlings when she goes home. In exchange for his time and energy, David’s body and love life both undergo extreme makeovers. It sounds like the deal of a lifetime.

Fate doesn’t let David and Rose off so easily. A friend of theirs is murdered, their homeowner’s association starts harassing them, and they have to complete a quest for an Elven sage in order to stop a genocidal Unicorn from turning Earth into a radioactive wasteland.

After all, when you’re dating a Dragon, you’re already a hero. It says so in the fine print.

About Bryan Fields:

By day, I’m a mild-mannered IT tech; by night, a writer who spends too much time in online games. I grew up reading classical authors such as Verne, Burroughs, Wells, Haggard, and Lovecraft, often in conjunction with large doses of Monty Python, Wild Wild West, and Hee-Haw. My current influences include Doctor Who, Girl Genius, and An Idiot Abroad.

I began writing professionally as a member of the content design team for the MMORPG Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted. My first published short stories appeared in the anthologies The Mystical Cat and Gears and Levers III in 2012.

I live in Denver with my wife Noelle and daughter Alissa. The three of us can often be found prowling around Istaria, Wizard City, and the wilds of Azeroth. I also make occasional side jaunts to scavenge bits of ancient technology in the radioactive ruins of the Grand Canyon Province.

Where can we buy a copy of your book?

from Muse It Up Publishing

from Amazon

And if someone wants to contact you, what are your links? 



Bryan is giving away one copy of his book (in the format of the winner's choosing). Make sure to enter below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Huntress said...

Excellent title! Checking it out now...well, not now, but pretty quick.

A ride-along. Hm. I wonder if eleven years as a corrections officer suffices. Probably.

The public thinks what they see on TV and the movies is how it is on the streets or prison. Not so. One of the closest movies to come close to reality is The Green Mile. It shows the "games" everyone plays, the mask we all have to wear, officers and inmates alike.

D.G. Hudson said...

Sounds interesting to ride along with a police officer. Why was I thinking it was on a motorcycle? Just my assumption. . . but I did consider this when writing my novelette based in Vancouver about an underground ring of . . .

Nice to meet you, Bryan! Good luck!

mshatch said...

A ride-along - now that's something I'd like to do! Great post and boy, is that a fun premise.

Kathleen Nichols said...

Sounds like you like to keep busy. I love dragons and this book sounds like it could be a hilarious and fun read!

Kathleen Nichols said...

Years ago I was actually signed up for a community program that had civilians doing ride alongs with cops. I don't remember the reason but I ended up having to opt out and I've regreted never having done it. Would I do - yes in a heart and I'd love every minute of it!!!

Bryan said...

Thank you all for the kind comments! Please don't forget to register for the giveaway. This little copy is bouncing around, looking forward to going to a new home with someone. :-)

Cheryl said...

Wow! Your ride sounds like a real adventure!

Good book!

Lynn Reynolds said...

I think it might be interesting to go on a ride along but you have to wonder if the people saw you in the car and wonder what you did wrong. But if the driver was super hot than there is no way I would say no.


Gary Watkins said...

Nice description, Bryan. I can see where it would be a helpful, even inspirational experience. I've never done a ride along, but I have worked in an ER. That was an informational experience, too. Good luck with Fire Breathing Girlfriend. When's the sequel coming out?

Bryan said...

ERs are a world all their own - sounds like a good subject for an informational article, though. ;-) The sequel, 'The Land Beyond All Dreams' should be out around June.

Heather said...

I married an ex cop, and even went into loss prevention, and had to do won for my Associates degree in CJ. I loved it and would love to do another one.

Liz A. said...

Congratulations, Heather. You won the copy of Bryan's book!

Bryan said...

Congratulations Heather!