Posts Tagged ‘murder crime scene witing’

Answers to Reader’s Questions: Getting it “right” when writing police procedural crime fiction

August 7, 2016

Not long ago, I spoke to a group in San Diego and made an ongoing offer to field email questions from participants regarding police issues as they relate to their writing. I recently received my first question. What follows is a slightly edited version of our email exchange.

 

Q-Thank you for speaking at the Partners in Crime meeting a couple of months ago. I enjoyed your presentation, and so appreciate your willingness to help us writers get it right when writing about police.

I’m hoping you can answer a question for me. I have a character who has been on the job less than a year, is (with her cop partner) first on the scene of a murder, and it turns out she was best friends with the granddaughter of the woman who lives in the house. The victim was her best friend’s uncle.

She doesn’t realize at first that she knows the family. Then when she does, she keeps thinking she’ll tell her partner, but doesn’t want to until she talks to her old (estranged) friend. Then after she sees the friend, she realizes she doesn’t know as much as she thought she did, or the friend is lying to her, and she makes up her mind to tell her partner.

 

As she’s about to do so, he goes off on how he hates people who can’t keep secrets.

Finally she makes a list of pros and cons to help her decide what to do.

Here’s the question: What kind of trouble could she potentially be in for not saying she knew a member of the victim’s family? (the murder investigation is ongoing)

 

A-As stated, your character’s situation doesn’t sound too tenuous. But I need to know the role she and her partner play in the investigation. If they’re patrol officers who are dispatched to the murder scene, their main and perhaps sole functions are to secure the scene for homicide investigators and perhaps do some witness canvassing. If they’re investigators, then there needs to be a clear explanation of why an officer with so little experience would be placed in that position. If your character obtains some information through her previous friendships then fails to disclose to her superiors, that could be cause for serious discipline up to and including termination. That may be more trouble than you want to deal with, but it could also be the source of a lot of conflict that could propel the plot in interesting ways. I guess what I’m saying is, I need to know more to fully answer the question but I’m happy to engage in ongoing discussion if you’d find that helpful.

 

Q-My character and her partner were first on the scene at the murder. They secured the scene, and she was allowed to do a first interview of the mother of the victim, as well as one of the sisters of the victim. My character (Regan) was friends with a granddaughter/niece when they were both in 8th grade. They’ve been estranged since junior year of high school. Regan doesn’t tell her partner (or anyone) that she realizes she knows the family, was friends with Beth. Regan contacts Beth, talks to her about why they’re not still close, then tries to question her re the murder victim.

 

A-That all sounds reasonable. I’d add some little explanation about why she did the initial interview. Something like her partner wanted to give her the experience. If that’s the case, he could monitor the interview which would ratchet up the conflict a bit when she tells him of the deception by omission 

 

Q=As I’ve written it, Nick dresses her down, tells her she could lose her job, etc., but in the end, he says she just needs to let the detectives on the case know what she knows, and not to withhold information in the future.

The thing they don’t know yet is Beth is the killer.
While I didn’t include this in the email exchange. There wouldn’t be much point in including this episode unless her friend did turn out to be the killer. The sole exception that I can think of is if it were necessary for some deep character development for the young officer.