Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Men of Mystery

We just returned from Southern California where I attended the Men of Mystery Conference, and my wife and I spent time with our kids and grandchildren. The conference is one of my favorites: 50 male mystery authors and approximately 400 mystery fans for an enjoyable day of schmoozing, signing and meeting new people. Each of the authors gave a one minute pitch, and we heard keynotes addresses from William Kent Krueger and Lawrence Block. In Kent’s speech he told how he had never read mysteries but became hooked as a writer because of the simple framework (something happens, investigation follows, it’s solved) that is broad enough to allow anything you want to put in a novel. To writers his advice was, “If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it right.” Another comment he made: “Stories help us endure the chaos.” One of Lawrence Block’s quips I enjoyed related to writing being more than imagination: “With a fertile imagination you can produce no end of useless ideas.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Police Ride Along

After being in a citizens’ police academy, I had a chance to do a ride along with a police officer. During the four hours it was pretty calm. The main incidents were dealing with a drunk person who needed to be taken to the hospital and later the detox center and giving a ticket for a vicious dog that had bit a boy. While driving through a trailer park, the young children came out to ask for stickers that the police officer carried. At that age the kids like the police. Much of the job is checking neighborhoods and writing reports. Probably like being a right fielder in baseball—boring times with a few moments of sheer panic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SWAT Role Playing

This morning I participated in a SWAT role playing scenario. I was a hostage in a church overrun by a radical environmental group. Hostages were taken to two parts of the church. Along with two other hostages, I was held in an interior children’s room in the huge church. The SWAT team located us, shone a light into the room through a window and negotiated with the hostage taker on a cell phone. Since the cell phone reception wasn’t that good, they delivered a landline via a robot, and one of the hostages picked it up and brought it into the room for further negotiations. Later, coffee was delivered outside the room. I went to pick it up and escaped, running screaming down the hall to where a SWAT member frisked me and cuffed me. I was then questioned about what was going on in the room. Once it was determined that I wasn’t one of the hostage takers, I was released.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Citizens' Police Academy Finale

For the final session of the citizens’ police academy, we learned about the communication center. Callers can be located when they call 911 from land lines or cell phones. The one problem is voice over IP (VoIP). If someone moves and doesn’t change the physical address in the VoIP account there is no way to find the new location when 911 is called. As an example if someone moves from Denver to San Francisco without changing the address, a 911 call will be picked up in Denver and not San Francisco. When a 911 call comes in from a cell phone, a signal can be sent back to the cell phone to triangulate its location if the cell phone is on and the battery is operational. One of the problems with cell phones is that the communication gets many false 911 calls when the call is accidently activated from a pocket or purse. The dispatcher has to listen carefully to determine if this is an accidental call or has been placed by someone who doesn’t want a perpetrator to know that a call has been placed.