Last week, I learned how to ruin fingerprints, dispose of a body, and escape from a police dog. Just kidding! I really spent the week with about 200 other writers learning all about crime scenes from police officers, deputies, EMS and retired cops. It was an amazing time.
This is my second year attending the Writers Police Academy (WPA) and still I didn’t make it to every class I wanted. But the ones I did tend were chock full of information.
One of my favorite classes was fingerprinting. I learned leaving a good fingerprint isn’t as easy as it sounds and just quickly a good print can be ruined by using the wrong technique to lift it. As you can see, I was very good at leaving the prints (these are intentionally smudged). I even managed to lift them with a modicum of air bubbles. But wow, it takes a bit of practice to get it right. But once you do, then the real work begins. Unlike in the movies, a computer doesn’t find a match in fingerprints. It merely creates a list of possible matches. The human eye actually makes the match. Wild, right?!
Another class that offered hands-on training was Blood Stains/Patterning and Presumptive Testing.
I know, that’s a mouthful. What was fascinating though, was that Hollywood gets it way wrong. When a character shines a blue light and says, “We’ve got semen,” they’re making a big guess. It’s not possible to identify that without more testing.
In fact, a blood stain, has to be identified not just with the naked eye (because other things can look like human blood) but also with further testing.
That class was so popular, I had to sit in the very back row. A hardship for me, because I’m easily distract….ooh, what’s that? 🙂 Seriously, though, even with scribbling notes furiously, I couldn’t get all the information down. I plan to retake that workshop next year, to pick up what I missed this time.
The next day I attended an Under Water Dive Recovery training. About twenty of us went to the local YMCA pool and met with scuba divers who have actually pulled bodies from the water. Their techniques were amazing and their stories, fascinating. If you ever attend WPA, this is one workshop worth attending (especially if your stories are set near bodies of water.)
Let’s see, I also went to jail…as part of the tour group. 😉
An active jail, it was both interesting and intimidating. Our guide was a Lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Office and very patient with us, as my group asked a multitude of questions. What I learned most from that experience is that I can never break the law. I was claustrophobic in there, and I KNEW I was leaving within two hours of my arrival. I was Scared Straight and I’d never been bravely crooked.
Another workshop I attended was on the differences between Sheriffs and Police Officers. It was a highly informative class taught by a police chief who’d once worked for a sheriff’s office. This man knew his stuff. He also kept the class entertained.
Did I mention that Kathy Reichs, creator of the BONES series (now on television), was a guest speaker? So was the uber-fabulous Lisa Gardner!
Sisters In Crime was one of the big sponsors of WPA and, I’m so grateful to have learned about it through them. The workshops were fast-paced, brilliant and exciting.
The best surprise of all came during the raffle. As a fund-raiser, WPA accepts donations to be raffled off during the Saturday night banquet. Here’s the basket I won. I chose it because I noticed there were two badges and I have two children. I thought they’d like them. I also thought Frickas and Frackus might like the rat for the Halloween party they’re planning to throw next month. But after I’d won, and was showing off the plastic rodent, my WPA roommate noticed something.
“Look at the bottom,” she said.
I flipped it over and realized, I could not give the rat to my children. Sounds mean, right? Well here’s what my roommate saw.
WPA was an enormous success. From the discussions I heard on Sunday morning, nearly everyone intends to return next year. And honestly, I’ll be watching the WPA website for the day registration opens. I intend to secure my spot again.
Have a great week, y’all.
Oh! And stop by tomorrow. I’ve provided the link for my book cover reveal! Come one, come all and see SPIRITED’s cover!