May 15, 2021

Rainy Day Vehicle CSI, White-Collar Murder, and Writer Outreach to Law Enforcement

This episode would not be possible without the support of the following Patreon Patrons:




This week on the Writer's Detective Bureau, rainy day vehicle CSI, white-collar murder, and writer outreach to law enforcement. I'm Adam Richardson. And this is the Writer's Detective Bureau. (suspenseful music) Welcome to episode number 109 of the Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime-related fiction. And this week I'm answering your questions about how to process a bloody crime scene in


a car when it's raining, who would work a homicide of a white-collar crime suspect, and strategies for writers to engage with cops about their writing. And details about the two new courses I'm launching this summer. But first I need to thank Gold Shield patrons Debra Dunbar from, CC Jameson from, Larry Keeton, Vicki Tharp of, Chris Ann, Larry Darter, Natalie Barrelli, Craig Kingsman of, Lynn


Vitale, Marco Carocari of, Terry Swann, Rob Kerns of, and Mariah Stone of for their support along with my Silver Cufflink and Coffee Club patrons. You can find links to all of the patrons supporting this episode in the show notes at And to learn more about using Patreon to grow your author business or to support this podcast, check out P-A-T-R-E-O-N. (gentle music) Coffee Club


patron and author Leah Cutter of writes, "I have a question for a novel. The victim is dead. The detectives are still trying to establish a timeline. They've just found the victim's car and there's a large dark stain on the driver's seat, probably blood. Do the techs do the investigation with the car there on a residential street or do they haul the car away to a nice warm


dry garage to do their work? This is taking place in Seattle. And yes, it's raining. Has been raining for a few days now. There's nothing in the way of evidence that's going to have remained on the exterior of the car." Great question, Leah. The crime scene investigators would do the internal search inside that nice warm dry garage for a variety of reasons. But before they do that, they


would likely seal the car with tamper-resistant evidence tape before having the tow truck hook it up and haul it off to the city garage. Like any piece of evidence, the investigators need to account for the whereabouts and status of the evidence at all times. So by applying evidence tape to the doors, hood, and trunk, they can definitely show that no one tampered with the vehicle between the recovery


scene and the garage. They'd also likely have an officer follow the tow truck to the garage for the same reason. Beyond the creature comforts of the garage, there are some other reasons for using the garage for the examination of the car. Now, first and foremost is the preservation of evidence. Knowing that they won't have rain or wind or anything like that tampering with whatever is inside the car


is paramount. The other key benefit of using the garage is that they can control the ambient light during the search. If the crime scene investigators are looking for blood, they will likely use something like luminol and an alternate light source, also known as ultraviolet light, to conduct that visual blood search. So, by being able to use a dark garage, they will be able to see the luminol much


better. When I was present for these kinds of searches, we waited for nighttime as not only the mechanics at the garage were done for the day, but once we closed the doors to the garage, it was nearly pitch black inside, making the luminol really glow once the alternate light source was activated. (gentle music) This week's next question comes from Carol Ann Newsome of who writes, "My fictional


urban police department has a dedicated homicide unit. In my work in progress, a man out on bond pending trial for white-collar crime affecting dozens of people is murdered, and it's possible his criminal behavior was the reason. How will this be treated? Will the white-collar detectives be involved in the homicide investigation since they know all the players? If so, how will their involvement be managed? What happens to the


white-collar case now that the accused is dead? Would the murder be assigned to the detectives on the white-collar case? I'm not looking for a particular answer. I just want to know how a large police department will handle this situation and the logistical issues." Thanks for the questions, Carol Ann. I actually answered Carol Ann's questions in the Writer's Detective Facebook group, which if you aren't already a member, you


can join by going to That will take you to the group. So let me add to what I wrote to Carol Ann. For starters, the homicide unit would still be the ones to handle the murder investigation, because that's what they do. But it is very likely that the homicide unit would ask for a briefing from the lead detective in the fraud case. Before that though, the homicide


detectives would probably start by reading the full report of the fraud investigation to get up to speed as quickly as possible and to prepare them for any relevant questions they had for the fraud investigator to address after that briefing. As for what happens to the fraud investigation itself, it would be officially closed. Cases can be closed in a number of ways. The most common way of closing a


case is by arrest. Technically, this case, this white-collar fraud case, was closed when they arrested that suspect and turned it over to the prosecutor. But if they hadn't arrested him before his untimely demise, the case would have been closed by exceptional means. When a case is closed by exceptional means, that usually means that the detectives know who committed the crime but there's no way to actually prosecute that


person now. Either because he's no longer alive, or there is a legal reason that they can't prosecute that person for the crime. Like if the determine the suspect wasn't competent to stand trial, meaning that person had a significant mental issue. The third way an agency can close a case is by turning it over to another jurisdiction. So, if we were to use that familiar example I often give


with the crime that is both a federal crime and a state crime like a bank robbery, if the local agency is investigating the case as a state robbery charge and the FBI is investigating the case as a federal bank robbery crime, when the local agency learns that the US attorney will prosecute the suspect for the federal bank robbery case, they may close their case as turned over to


other jurisdiction, ending the state-level investigation. But barring any of those situations like a cold case, the investigation would remain officially open. So, from a record keeping standpoint, the local agency may classify the case as suspended pending further leads, meaning it's not officially on a detective's open caseload where a detective's supervisor's continually asking for updates on the case from that detective, but it would still remain open and available


for further followup if any new leads come their way. (gentle music) Gold Shield patron and author Rob Kerns of writes, "Hello, sir." Oh, that's way too formal for my taste (laughs). Thanks, Rob. "Hello, sir. First, let me say that you have an awesome redesign of the site. I love the film noir golden age of hard-boiled PI ambience the site has now." Rob's referring to my new revamp


of which happened in the last a week or so, which I'll talk about that in just a second. So Rob goes on to say, "I have a question that relates to something you discussed way back in the earliest episodes of the podcast. Contacting police departments to establish a conversation and rapport for information about story settings. Is it something so simple as finding something like their PR email


and writing a note explaining that I'm a writer who would like to use their city in an upcoming series of novels and would they like to trade emails with a patrol officer or a detective, or hopefully both, to gain a better understanding of the city? I imagine supplying credentials such as links to my books would also go a long way to help calm concerns that I'm actually someone


masquerading as a writer. I'm planning a research trip to the location in the next year to 18 months and I'd really like to have a conversation established that might lead to a sit-down meetup just to say thanks if nothing else. Oh, and before I forget, I am 100% looking forward to your Investigation for Writers class. I would love to have a better understanding of how it's done in


the real world for those times when it wouldn't be right to cheat with magic. Thanks much for everything you do for the writer community." Thank you so much, Rob. The Writer's Detective website has been long overdue for a redesign. And about a week ago, I discovered Podpage which is a drag-and-drop-style website builder, kind of like Wix or Squarespace, that is designed specifically for podcasters. And I was blown


away at all of the automation and support that Podpage offers. So my switch to Podpage is already cutting down about an hour's worth of work for me for each episode I put out. And I'm such a fan of their product that I actually became an affiliate. So if you, whoever's listening, happened to be a podcaster, I highly recommend checking them out by going to P-O-D-P-A-G-E. One of


the awesome features of Podpage is the ability for you guys to record a two-minute audio message when submitting a question for the show. So, if you want to hear your voice on an upcoming episode, you can send in a question by clicking the red and white microphone button when you visit the same old page, As for making a connection with the police agency you want to fictionalize,


I recommend a few tactics. First would be to attend any coffee with a cop events that the agency may have planned. These are commonly held at local coffee shops as a community outreach effort. Now that the pandemic seems to be waning, I'd expect these events to start happening again in the near future. This is a great way to meet cops in a friendly and informal setting. The cops


that go to these events are there specifically to talk to members of the public, and talking to writers are some of the best conversations they'll have, which is much better than having a community member complaining about speeders on their street. Another great way to learn about the department is signing up for a citizen's academy. These are usually six to eight weeks long and attendees usually meet once a


week for essentially show and tell sessions with members of all of the various units within the police department. You'll tour the headquarters, see the crime lab if they have one, talk to detectives, check out the SWAT team's equipment, see the K9 teams do a demo with their dogs, that kind of stuff. And by interacting with members of the police department week after week, you'll have multiple chances to


ask questions. If you don't have that kind of time to commit, you can sign up for a ride-along with one of the patrol officers. Ride-alongs will really give you a feel for what officer's experience out on the street. And when you're riding in patrol car with an officer for several hours, you'll have plenty of time to build rapport and get your questions answered. If going out on patrol


is a little outside of your comfort zone, I would suggest reaching out to the department's PIO, the public information officer. Explain that you're a crime fiction writer and you'd like to connect with a member of the department to ask some questions and see if you can arrange to get a tour of the police department. PIOs primarily deal with news reporters and are responsible for drafting and sending out


official press releases. So, talking with a fiction writer is often a welcome request as it isn't as mundane or contentious a conversation as talking with reporters that are working on a tight deadline. And I would love to hear how you get on with any or all of these attempts at getting your questions answered, Rob. I know it can seem a little outside the comfort zone, especially if you're


an introvert like me. But the worst thing they can say is no. So, I definitely urge you to try. You might be surprised how much you're able to get out of it. And lastly, thank you so much for the interest in the Investigation for Writers class. As I briefly mentioned in the last episode, I actually have two online classes launching this summer. The first class I'm launching in


the next few weeks is a short prerecorded class that covers everything crime fiction writers need to know about firearms. If you've been here in the Bureau for a while now, you may have noticed that I'm not a big gun guy. I mean, at this point in my life, I've actually spent more years of my life carrying a gun than not, but I'm not one of those middle-aged Mutant


Ninja Seals that is all about guns. I mean, I'm not against them. It's just not my thing. So, I'm creating the Crime Fiction Guns course for writers who aren't gun people either. This podcast has a sizable percentage of listeners that live in a part of the world where access to firearms for research isn't either feasible or sometimes even legal. And even here in America, I know how intimidating


it can be to walk into a gun store or a shooting range. If you've never held a gun in your life or if you want to start with the very basics of how firearms work in an explain like I'm five kind of way (laughs), kind of a Reddit-style explain like I'm five, then this is the course for you. No judgment, no politics, no feeling embarrassed. I'm creating a


safe place, literally and figuratively, to learn the basics of how the firearms your characters likely carry actually work and how we in law enforcement use the firearm-related evidence to prove our case. If you're looking for a deep dive into the intricacies of Milliradian versus MOA, this is not the course for you. If you have no idea what I just said there and you just want to learn what


all the numbers mean when someone talks about caliber, or what happens inside the handgun when a slide is racked and a trigger is pulled, then this is the course for you. Honestly, if you are a gun owner or served in the military, this course is going to way too basic. But if you aren't a gun person and just want to make sure you don't screw up the one


paragraph in your story where you're describing a gun being cocked, then head over to to get on the waiting list for the course. And by being on the waiting list or being on the mailing list, you'll get a discount when the course is launched. This course will be a series of prerecorded video lessons that you can work through learning at your own pace and come back to


time after time as a reference source whenever you reach that point in your story where you want to double check that you have things right. Upon completing the Crime Fiction Guns course, you will have a solid working knowledge of how revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, rifles, shotguns, and all of their respective forms of ammunition work, as well as the technically correct terminology, the accepted slang, and also the flat-out wrong


terms for firearms-related nomenclature and parts. As well as insight into how we can prove a specific firearm fired a specific piece of ammunition. Again, to get on the mailing list to learn when the course goes live and to get a discount code as a founding member, go to Okay, so that's the smaller course that is launching in just a few weeks. Oh, and with that discount code,


just so you know, it will be well under $100. 100 US dollars. I'm trying to make it affordable and accessible, especially to those writers where the exchange rates make a lot of these online courses cost prohibitive. Okay. So, the big course that I will be launching late in the summer is Writer's Detective School. I'm really excited about this course. And it's one I've had in the works for


several years now. And I'm going to be upfront about the cost. It will be a bigger ticket course. I haven't nailed down the final pricing quite yet, but I will be offering a good discount for the first launch. So it will pay to be a founding member. So, what is Writer's Detective School? For starters, I'm modeling it after the course that teaches uniform police officers how to become


detectives. Whenever you transition from working patrol to a detective assignment, you're sent to a school to learn how to do that detective job. I've not only attended various iterations of this kind of course, I used to teach these courses to new detectives all over California as well. I use an adult learning model where not only will you learn how an investigation unfolds from the initial 911 call through


the various steps of an investigation all the way to booking the suspect in jail, you will actually work an investigation at the same time. The Writer's Detective School will run in live cohorts. Meaning you and your classmates will work an investigation over the course of six weeks. You'll have prerecorded lessons that cover how detectives work through the various steps of the investigation, but then you'll also have live


Zoom calls with me each week as we role-play our way through your investigation, seeing where the leads uncover take the investigation. Those Zoom calls will also have a question and answer period as well where I will answer your questions about the course material, may be some hints about what to do if you're feeling stuck in your investigation, and of course any other writing-related questions. Once the six weeks


is over, you will continue to have access to the course material and the Zoom call recordings so you can come back to it again and again. Online courses like this routinely offer a, quote unquote, lifetime access. And I've always wondered what these teachers meant by lifetime access. My lifetime or yours? You know, the life of the course? What's the average life span of an online course anyway? I


will tell you what lifetime access means for the Crime Fiction Guns course and the Writer's Detective School. It means that if I get to the point where I am no longer offering that course for sale, then you'll receive a link to download all of that course material. That way you can keep it indefinitely. But I anticipate running these courses for many years to come. So if either of


these courses sound interesting to you and you'd like to not only be the first to know when they launch but also get a founding members discount, the website addresses again are and to join the respective mailing lists. I hope you are as excited about these courses as I am to deliver them to you. Thank you so much for listening this week. This show is powered by


your questions. Send them to me or record them by going to Thanks again for listening. Have a great week, and write well.