Consultant for writers on crime, police, & court procedures.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I hear that nearly every time a law enforcement officer has to shoot someone in an armed confrontation.  Why couldn't the cop shoot him in the arm or the leg?  Why did he have to kill the guy? they ask.

That the question is even asked shows a misconception of the use of deadly force by the police.  Pulling the trigger is such a grave undertaking that most officers go their entire careers without doing it.  In 36 years on the job, I've done it once--shooting at the tire of an armed robber who ran over one of our officers.  I missed.  Police officers are not trained to "shoot to kill" nor to "shoot to wound."  We shoot to stop the threat, a threat we believe will imminently result in the loss of life or serious bodily injury if not stopped. 
Evidence of an rampaging attack that killed three officers and
 one civilian and wounded three other officers.
There is no place on the body that a gunshot does not have the potential of causing immediate death.  I've seen guys shot in the leg bleed out and die in less than a minute. I recall a South Carolina state trooper who was shot on a traffic stop.  The bullet hit him in

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Read what one of our recent clients had to say about our critiquing service.  We analyzed Danielle's mystery novel for accuracy in police procedures and realistic 'copspeak' as well as performing some light editing.  We wish her the best:

I recently had the pleasure of working with Wesley Harris on my first mystery novel, The Protector, which will be published in 2014. Wes assisted me with proper police procedure and investigation. He made suggestions on how to fix my mistakes. That’s exactly what I needed and wanted! My book is more accurate because of his help. I feel more confident about what my detectives and uniformed officers are doing and saying. Wes explained legal terms often used by law enforcement, so that I used them correctly. I look forward to working with him on my future novels.
--Danielle Davis, first-time novelist


In one of our last posts, we described the difference between 'interview' and 'interrogation.'  That prompted some questions from readers about how the police bring in people for questioning.  "Can a person refuse to go?" one writer asked.  "How much proof or probable cause is needed to bring someone in for questioning?" another one asked.

One of the most quoted lines in the classic movie Casablanca occurs when a police official orders his men to "round up the usual suspects." The unspoken inference is that officers will pull in numerous known and suspected criminals for some intense interrogation that will identify the culprit.

If it was only that easy.

No one, even suspects, can be taken to the station forcibly unless they are under arrest.  An arrest requires “probable cause” to believe a person committed a crime.  The idea that police can take anyone they need to question to their office involuntarily is a fallacy.

Even prisoners under arrest have a right to remain silent. Thus, it’s apparent that witnesses, “persons of interest,” and suspects can’t be compelled to answer questions.

Unlike what you see on TV, suspect are never questioned in the presence of their