When I used to think of Police Officers, honestly, I usually thought one of two things:
- “Oh shit, am I driving too fast?”
- “This is a great character in this (book, movie, etc.)”
That’s it. Kind of sad, right?
Very few things in my life have actually felt life-changing. (I’m not talking about meeting and marrying my husband, or the birth of my children, those are a given.) But honestly, the Writer’s Police Academy is one of them.
Sunday I returned home from my 2nd Writer’s Police Academy (WPA). For those of you who don’t know, or may have forgotten, my dream is to get published some day.
The WPA is a writing conference for writers who want to make their books more believable, readable, and realistic in regard to anything regarding law enforcement or other first responders.
When I attended for the first time last year, the respect I felt for law enforcement changed from that of a ‘normal’ law abiding citizen to one of great respect, and a kinship to the men and women who wear a badge.
We learned how to load and handle a gun, how to look at a real crime scene, undercover work, arson, SWAT, blood spatter, pursuit immobilization techniques (in a real car!), etc. That was all really cool.
However there were things that I didn’t expect to learn:
- For example, how my heart would pound so fast that I felt sick when faced with a ‘shoot, don’t shoot’ scenario. We had to decide, for example as a suspect’s hand came up, was he holding a cell phone or a gun?
- Or how my back ached, and I got caught in doorways when I volunteered to wear the duty belt for a day, and it wasn’t even as heavy as a real one. (And how the hell are you actually supposed to go to the bathroom with that thing on?)
- How someone reacts when a suspect ran at us armed with a knife from 20 feet away. Know how long that takes for the bad guy to reach you? About two seconds. Know how long it takes a WPA attendee to release their gun from their holster? About five seconds.
There has been a lot of bad press about the police, and I do not want to debate that here, I just want to give you my impressions. Every shift, the officers are out there, protecting us, not knowing what the day might bring. The majority of the officers are folks who really care for the people they protect, and believe me, they do not want to harm someone.
The biggest thing we attendees probably brought home with us is this: Just like you and me, a Police Officer simply wants to go home at night.
So what happened at the WPA this year?
Thursday afternoon, I attended the Kooky Cop Carnival. The conference hadn’t officially started, but we were provided with some entertainment. We had a chance to try on different equipment, pull a dummy to safety, even take fun mug shots:
The real deal started Thursday evening with opening ceremonies. Our hosts, the Oneida Nation opened the conference with a blessing and entertainment by tribal dancers.
Then over the next days, until Sunday at noon we participated in such cool classes. There were some that were held for everyone at once:
- Writing for Television
- Interview and Interrogation
- Officer Down!
And there were break out classes for small groups. This year, I attended:
- Blood Spatter (not splatter!)
- Death Scene Investigation
- Defense and Arrest Tactics
- Fake vs Genuine Suicide Notes
- Talking to Serial Killers
- CSI: From First Responder to Evidence Collection
- SWAT Explosive Entry
- Long Gun: Live Fire with an AR-15
It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to those classes, there were about 40 to choose from. Time is limited though, and I wanted to take the ones that were most helpful to my current work in progress.
Finally, an unexpected bonus of the WPA for shy, introverted me was all the great people I met. The writing community is really generous and open, and it was great to feel a part of that. Whether published or not, everyone was there to learn, and we were all equals.
As Saturday night rolled around, we had a banquet, silent and live Auctions, raffle items, and a fantastic Guest Speaker, Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire book series on which the TV show is based. He was funny, warm, and inspiring to all of us there that night. If you haven’t read his books, you should!
As I sat at my table, trying to soak in every last morsel of the conference, I felt melancholy, mostly because I had made the decision that I should take a year off from WPA. As I am not yet published, attending can get expensive when you add up everything involved. Fortunately, the WPA fairy was watching over me that night, and I learned that I won the free tuition package to next year’s conference in the raffle. Phew!
Thank you to Lee Lofland (founder of WPA), and all the law enforcement, NWTC Faculty, speakers, volunteers, K-9s, police horses, and anyone else I missed.
WPA 2018, I can’t wait to return!