Researching British Police Procedure for Crime Novels

I'm often asked how I research my crime novels and in particular the police procedure and crime scene investigation side of things. I'm not married to a police officer or a former police officer (although I am married to a former fire-fighter) so I don't have inside knowledge except when it comes to fires, burnt bodies and serious road and other incidents which fire fighters attend, and they can all be incorporated into a crime novel, which indeed I have done.

So where do I get the police procedural information from and how can writers obtain this kind of information?

When I first created the enigmatic, flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton I approached Hampshire Police (the county in which my novels are set) and asked if I could visit the police station and talk to some police officers in CID and in what was then the Vice Squad. Hampshire Police were brilliant. They let me visit them twice even though I wasn't then published. That gave me some basic background which I have since built on and now I know many police officers and those in civilian jobs attached to the police service.

The police websites, both the regional and national ones, are also a very good source of information for writers and there is considerable information on the Crown Prosecution Services website. 

It's also worth following the police on Twitter. There are many official feeds from the various police units as well as from individual police officers.

Every year I run a one day event called CSI Portsmouth where I bring crime authors, police and crime experts together to  debate crime fiction and crime fact. This year it is being held on Saturday 8 November and is a good opportunity to meet police and crime experts and ask them questions.

There are also blogs run by serving police officers and ex- coppers, some of whom run courses for writers. A search on the Internet can help you find these.

Of course the novels cannot truly reflect real police procedure because if they did they would end up reading like a police manual and bore everyone to tears.  So the basics are then spiced up and tweaked by my imagination.

The biggest problem is that the police service in the UK is continually being re-organised by the government which means that no sooner do I mention a department than its name changes or it merges with another.  It is not possible to be a hundred percent correct on this and as my DI Horton crime novels currently take place over a short period of time i.e. 18 months at present, and they are set around a fictional date, which in my head is 2009 (although this is never mentioned) the names of the police departments I mention were correct at that time.
I'm grateful to Hampshire Police for their help and patience and for being so generous in giving their time. 

Shroud of Evil, the eleventh in the DI Andy Horton series, is published in April 2014.

 "Procedural fans who haven’t already read Rowson should be encouraged to do so in the strongest possible terms." Booklist

Detective Inspector Horton of Portsmouth CID is assigned the case of a missing person: Jasper Kenton, a private investigator. When Kenton’s car turns up, and a shocking discovery is made, Horton finds himself embroiled in an investigation that has major personal ramifications, and one in which he has no choice but to withhold vital information. As he struggles to crack the case, he knows it is only a question of time before someone discovers he’s kept silent, and when that’s revealed, his part in hindering a major investigation will end his career . . .

Pauline Rowson has been hailed as "redefining the genre of the police drama” by setting it against the atmospheric backdrop of the ever changing sea. Her cops are tough yet fallible.

The DI Andy Horton series of crime novels has everything: compelling crimes, complex past history, a tough work environment, romantic entanglements and political intrigue played out against the dramatic and powerfully evocative British marine landscape of Portsmouth and the Solent.

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