Feb. 15, 2023

Why Choose to be a Detective -and- Martial Arts in Law Enforcement

This week, we do a deep dive into why your character might want to be a police detective. Plus, I talk about police batons and martial arts in law enforcement. Transcript: writersdetective.com/129

This week, we do a deep dive into why your character might want to be a police detective. Plus, I talk about police batons and martial arts in law enforcement. Transcript: writersdetective.com/129

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Episode 129 - Audio Only

Det. Adam Richardson: [00:00:00] I am Adam Richardson, and this is the Writer's Detective Bureau.

Welcome to episode 129 of the Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction. And this week we're doing a deep dive on why your character might want to be a police detective compared to every other SANE career option out there.

And then I'll also be talking a little. About police batons. But before we get into this week's content, I do have to get a bit personal and sappy for a moment. It is Valentine's, after all. So for starters, I wanna wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day, regardless of your relationship status. I want you to know that I truly appreciate the time we spend together.

I mean, I am the one doing the majority of the talking, but without you, I would be talking to myself. So thank you for being here and for being my Valentine this year. I love that you're a part of our bureau. [00:01:00] Speaking of being alone on Valentine's, many of you know, or at least many of my Writer's Detective School students, and my followers on Instagram know that my wife has spent the majority of the last 10 months taking care of her terminally ill father.

Last week my wife headed back to England to say her final goodbyes, and yesterday Brian, my father-in-law, passed away at home in his sleep at the age of 85. In April of last year, Brian was diagnosed with the absolutely horrendous disease of mesothelioma or asbestosis, as they sometimes call it in the UK.

Brian was born in the late 1930s and his childhood involved air raid shelters and playing in the rubble of his neighborhood, but he grew up to become a welder by trade and built ships for the Royal Navy. He was a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Brian had a quiet and gentle demeanor that often hid his keen and quick dry wit, his grit of growing up [00:02:00] during World War II, and the strength that comes from carrying a welding pack down into the holds of warships every day for 30 years, which I found incredibly impressive given that he was about five foot six and 140 pounds dripping wet, and that man could out eat me and never gain a pound.

When I asked him how he was exposed to asbestos, he said that they sprayed it down in the ship holds, that he was welding together, as fire retardant. He said none of the workers knew how dangerous this stuff was, and they'd even occasionally have snowball fights with it. Brian served Her Majesty's Royal Navy for 30 years and even had a medal from her Majesty, The Queen to show for it.

Not that he ever showed it off because he was humble and good fun, but never wanted to be the center of attention. Many of the men that Brian worked with died from mesothelioma in their forties and fifties. Some of the wives that washed their husband's work clothes died from it too. But no matter how many more years Brian got than his coworkers, it still [00:03:00] seems incredibly unfair for a man as fit as he was to die with so much life left in him.

He was the best father-in-law I could have asked for, and I really enjoyed his company, too. Now to round out this personal bit of stuff with some happier news. I would like to take this opportunity to wish my mom a very happy [REDACTED] birthday and I cannot wait to celebrate it with you in person. I love you. Thank you so much for letting me share.

Now let's get back to your questions.

Our first question this week comes from Crystal Caudill, who writes, so I'm trying to get into my character's reason for why he wants to be a detective and why he stays even when it would be easier to quit and choose a different career path. For those of you who are police officers or detectives, what drew you to this career and why do you keep at it despite all [00:04:00] the bad stuff that comes with it?

I chose to become a detective because I wanted to help people and make a difference. I was passionate about justice and the idea of being able to use my skills and knowledge to solve crimes and bring closure to victims and their families. It's not always easy and there can be a lot of stress and danger involved, but in the end, I feel like I'm making a difference and that my work matters. I stay in the profession because I believe in what I'm doing and I'm committed to making a difference.

While every bit of that answer right there rings true with me 100%. The eerie thing is that came from an AI. I plugged Crystal's question into Open AI's playground beta, and that was its response. Pretty accurate, but also pretty predictable, at least predictable enough for an AI to come up with that as its answer.

The truth is, is that everyone has a different and personal reason for becoming a detective. For [00:05:00] me, I felt it to be my calling that quitting and choosing a different career path, whatever that could be, would never be as fulfilling to me, and I couldn't imagine trading that away for something easier and frankly does not make nearly the same impact in comparison.

I've known since I was probably six years old that I wanted to become a police officer. When I was in my early teens, a very close female friend of mine was raped by an adult, and that was when my little kid idea of becoming a police man turned into a more serious and more adult and mature decision to pursue law enforcement as a career enough so that I did not party or drink alcohol in high school.

Um, lest it ruin my chances. I volunteered as an explorer scout and went on countless ride alongs. I became a reserve officer, which is a volunteer police officer wor, working under direct supervision of a full-time officer when I [00:06:00] was 21. That program no longer exists in California for doing it the way I did it was called the Level two Police Reserve Officer.

Um, so I did that for a few months and then I went to the police academy and became a full-time. Fully sworn police officer at the age of 22. Three and a half years later, I promoted to detective and remained a detective for the next 17 years. I was very lucky to work a variety of assignments, getting to do things that most cops will never get a chance to do, and those kinds of experiences kept me coming back for more.

even if the toll was taken on, um, my work-life balance, um, my then dating life and regularly adding to what is likely a significant bit of PTSD but I would not trade it for the world. A former commander of mine from a detective division I worked in told his own story of being a kid and seeing a street cordoned off with crime scene tape.

A [00:07:00] crowd of looky Lus had formed himself included, of course, when an unmarked police car pulled up to the crime scene tape, a detective in a suit got out. Walked under the tape and toward whatever that crime scene was, and that commander said, I remember desperately wanting to know what was going on, and when I saw that detective pull up and go under the crime scene tape, I knew he knew what was going on.

And in that instant, I knew I wanted to be a detective. Now, I thought that was a pretty interesting take. I can say that being in the know, being able to piece things together to put really bad guys away is addictive. As Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it.

Never care for anything else there. Now that said, there are plenty of officers that become detectives and don't find that to be the right fit. They may prefer the [00:08:00] adrenaline rush of working patrol and feel stifled being stuck in a cubicle or having to wear a suit, or perhaps writing and interviewing people aren't their strongest skillsets.

Sometimes it's the never ending stress of carrying a caseload that never goes away compared to working patrol where you're always onto the next call for service and when you go home, you're off duty and not worrying about Monday's to-do list like a detective does. If it isn't the right fit, they will likely go back to working patrol.

Others will become detectives because it's the expected next rung on the promotional ladder doing the detective thing to pad the resume. Not because detective work is their calling. They may or may not be great detectives, but their tenure in the detective bureau is often short-lived, which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite scenes in the HBO show.

The Wire. In this scene, the lieutenant played by Lance Reddick, is talking to a subordinate that he's discovered is [00:09:00] secretly spying for someone in the upper echelons of the department in exchange for a promotion.

Lt. Cedric Daniels - The Wire (played by Lance Reddick): Couple of weeks from now, you're going to be in some district somewhere with 11 or 12 uniforms looking to you for everything.

And some of 'em are gonna be good police, some of 'em are gonna be young and stupid. A few are gonna be pieces of shit, but all of them will take their cue from you. You show loyalty. They learn loyalty. You show them it's about the work. It'll be about the work. You show them some other kind of game, then that's the game they're playing.

I came on in the Eastern and it was a piece of shit, Lieutenant, hoping to be a captain piece of shit. Sergeants hoping to be lieutenants. Pretty soon we had piece of shit patrolman trying to figure the job for themselves and some of what happens then. Is hard as hell to live down. Comes a day, you're gonna have to decide whether it's about you [00:10:00] or about the work.

Det. Adam Richardson: If it truly is about the work, then it's tough to leave being a detective behind.

Over on my buddy Patrick O'Donnell's Cops and Writers podcast. They had a conversation about police batons and how the PR 24 side handle baton is no longer popular amongst police officers. And it prompted a discussion on Facebook about what the current baton trend is amongst modern officers in whether police ever try other less lethal martial arts weapons.

I should mention here that the PR 24, which I still carry whenever I'm in uniform, is a side handled baton that is based upon the design of the martial arts weapon called a tonfa, T O N F A. , the PR 24 is, you may have guessed it 24 [00:11:00] inches long, and you might recognize it as the baton of choice of TJ Hooker portrayed by William Shatner in the 1980s.

It's simple and effective, but a 24 inch long aluminum or polycarbonate stick with a T handle can be cumbersome to carry around for some being the dinosaur that I am, at least by today's policing standards, I still adhere to Teddy Roosevelt's sage advice. But the newer generation favors the collapsible batons that are far more compact and tuck neatly away on their belts.

Does this mean the more popular collapsible batons like the ASP or my Monadnock brand, which you deploy through centrifugal force to snap the sections into place are superior to my old school PR 24? Sadly, no. Quite the opposite. I personally believe that the trend of officers carrying these compact batons is a matter of checking the box to say they have the required less lethal impact weapon on their person.[00:12:00]

Why are they checking the box? Because in my personal opinion, they rely too heavily on the taser or E C W electronic control weapon to gain compliance with unruly subject. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we should be smacking people with truncheons. Rather, it's the speak softly aspect that has faded away.

The ability to speak to people is something that the next generation really struggles with. A few weeks ago, I was talking to my department's field training coordinator. He mentioned that one of the field training officers was talking to his trainee about his performance, and the trainee could barely hold eye contact.

Apparently, after the interaction ended, the trainee walked outside, got on his phone and texted his FTO, his response to what the FTO had said. He texted his training officer and the F T O apparently popped the station door open and said, get back in here and talk to me. Pointing a taser at someone and expecting them to [00:13:00] comply with whatever terse command you give is not proper policing.

But it's the trend amongst the generation that can barely hold eye contact and would rather text than talk. And the transition to compact collapsible batons that in my experience, tend to collapse at the worst possible moment is a side effect of relying too much on tech and not enough on the simplicity of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

I do wanna say that we are still getting outstanding, hardworking trainees coming into the police force that do have people skills and don't need WhatsApp to have a conversation. But those are becoming the exception, not the rule. As for the question about other martial arts based tools, I do recall some agencies experimenting with nunchucks back in the late eighties, early nineties, but I don't know of any agencies that still have those as a less-lethal option. The problem with many of these tools, [00:14:00] including the PR 24, is the amount of training required to maintain proficiency. We refer to these skills that require constant training as perishable skills, no different than marksmanship with our firearms, but reality is that we do not get the opportunity to train as often as necessary to stay proficient, and we have a lot of perishable skills to stay on top of, including arrest and control techniques,

lethal force options like our handguns, shotguns, rifles, our less lethal force options like the taser, pepper spray, batons, beanbag shotguns, even our emergency vehicle operations like pursuit, driving, skid recovery, collision avoidance, even parallel parking. And these are just the basics we need to train on regularly, not counting the other mandated recurring training like first aid, CPR, AED, legal updates, all that kind of stuff. But the martial arts aspect brings up another important point, [00:15:00] especially if you have created a character that is a black belt badass that trains any chance they get as a private citizen. You can train in martial arts and enter MMA competitions, which if you aren't familiar, MMA stands for Mixed martial arts.

The kind of stuff you see in the UFC Octagon. One of the incredibly popular MMA styles is Brazilian jujitsu. Made popular by the Gracie family's early dominance in ufc. A common submission tactic in jujitsu is a rear naked choke or if you were a fan of W W F or W W E, I'm showing my age there. , uh, you might know it as the sleeper hold.

In law enforcement, it is a lateral carotid hold, which I was trained in the application of for well over 20 years. The move is essentially to apply a headlock where the forearm and bicep create a V-shape around the other person's neck, and when you apply pressure against their neck, by [00:16:00] making that V-shape more acute, we are reducing the amount of oxygenated blood to the person's brain by compressing the carotid artery, causing the person to blackout.

To be clear, the proper application of the move does not put pressure on the airway itself, just the arteries on either side of the neck. Now, as a martial arts student, you can learn and practice this every day with your sparring partners, but as a cop, that move is now illegal to apply unless you are in a situation where lethal force is justified.

This applies to all manner of force options. I must abide by my department's use of force policies as well as the law, when it comes to using force, typically that means using force options that I have been trained in by my department. So even if I'm an expert in the Vulcan mind meld or Darth Vader's force choke, I can't legally use them as a law enforcement officer as they are not approved techniques.

So if you're writing a character that is a martial [00:17:00] arts expert, even if they know everything under the sun, make sure they're still abiding by their use of force policy. Thanks so much for checking out this episode. Special thanks to my Patreon patrons for supporting this episode, especially my Gold Shield patrons, Deborah Dunbar from Deborahdunbar.com.

CC Jameson from CCjameson.com. Larry Darter, Natalie Barelli. Craig Kingsman of Craigkingsman.com. Marco Carocari, marcocarocari.com. Rob Kearns of Knightsfallpress.com. Robert Mendenhall of Robertjmendenhall.com and Kayleigh for their support, along with my silver cuff link and coffee club patrons.

You can find links to all of the patrons supporting this episode in the show notes at writersdetective.com/129. Now remember to send me your questions for an upcoming episode by going to writersdetective.com/podcast. Thanks again for listening. Have a great week and write well.