Wednesday, 10 February 2021

How to research police procedures and crime scene investigation


Dead Passage an Inspector Andy Horton crime novel by Pauline RowsonI'm often asked how I research my crime novels and in particular the police procedure and crime scene investigation side of things in my contemporary set DI Andy Horton novels. I'm not married to a police officer or a former police officer so I didn't start off with any inside knowledge. I am, however, married to a retired fire fighter so when it comes to fires, burnt bodies and serious traffic and other incidents which fire fighters attend, I have a wealth of information to draw on which can be incorporated into a crime novel. Indeed I have done so.

THE SUFFOCATING SEA (DI Andy Horton #3) begins with a body on a burning boat and Horton almost gets fried alive in a locked vestry while investigating a crime. In BLOOD ON THE SAND (DI Andy Horton #5) there is a fire in a house where Horton is with a possible suspect (and a cat) and in DEATH SURGE (DI Andy Horton #10) and FATAL CATCH (DI Andy Horton #12) victims are found after a fire, the first in one of the tunnels in the ancient fortifications around Portsmouth Island and the second in a house by Fareham Quay. But to get back to police procedure.

When I first created the enigmatic, flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton in TIDE OF DEATH 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 called 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. I'm grateful to Hampshire Police and forensic experts for their help and patience and for being so generous in giving me their time.


 

 

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

Police and government websites

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

Social Media

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 and ex police officers. There are also feeds from those involved in forensic science and other aspects of the law with links to some highly informative blogs written by these individuals. Linked In can also connect you with professionals. A search on the Internet or Twitter can help you find police officer blogs and articles.

Books and reference sources

Then there are some very handy guides available to buy from bookshops, on line or to borrow from your local library. The Crime Writer's Casebook is one, written by former UK detective Stuart Gibbon now a consultant and author along with his second book Being a Detective. Another well thumbed book I consult is again named The Crime Writer's Handbook by Douglas Wynn subtitled 65 ways to kill your victim in print!

Events, courses and the Crime Readers Association

I have also run events CSI Portsmouth, CSI Southampton, CSI Winchester, CSI Basingstoke where I have brought together crime authors, police and crime experts to debate crime fiction and crime fact. By doing this I have met many forensic experts who provide me with a wealth of information. Nothing is planned at present on this front but if a new event is organized it will be posted here on my website.

There are also courses for writers run by serving police officers and ex-coppers. The Crime Writers' Association, of which I am a member, have a very useful website called the Crime Readers Association for crime fiction fans along with useful blogs, articles and information for budding crime writers.

You can also find courses and talks on police and forensic services via Twitter.

Crime and police advisers for writers

Stuart Gibbon is one former detective who provides advice/talks and courses @gibconsultancy.  Another is Graham Bartlett @gbpoliceadvisor There is also
@ConsultingCops All of these and information about their services and talks can be found on Twitter.

Consulting Cops for Writers

Consulting Cops for Writers  has an expanded database of experts who have worked in the field and they are able to match the writer's enquiry to the relevant expert and supply them with the information they need to authenticate their project. You can check out their team of experts on their website and sign up for their regular newsletter.

My crime 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. The basics are then spiced up and tweaked by my imagination.

One of the problems with writing contemporary crime novels though is that the police service in the UK is continually being re-organized 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 but they were correct at the time of writing.

There are advantages in writing an historical crime novel, as in my 1950 set mysterie featuring Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alun Ryga, who is sent to the coast to investigate baffling coastal crimes in DEATH IN THE COVE and DEATH IN THE HARBOUR. In an historical crime novel I don't have to wrestle with the fact that the names of the police departments change. In addition, the red tape that today surrounds serving police officers today was then practically non existent. The challenge though is to get the procedure for that period correct and to incorporate that and the way of thinking and investigating into the novel to ensure it is an entertaining and intriguing read. I hope I have done so.


A Deadly Wake, a DI Andy Horton novel by Pauline RowsonA DEADLY WAKE (DI Andy Horton 15)  available in paperback, as an ebook, on Amazon Kindle and Kobo

As DI Andy Horton follows the trail of a man found dead in a log cabin on the Isle of Wight, he uncovers some startling revelations into his own mother’s past and the truth behind her disappearance over thirty years ago.

Published in paperback, ebook, on Amazon Kindle and Kobo order on line and from all booksellers



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