I’m sure most of you have heard of Writers’ Police Academy, the four day conference offering an exciting and heart-pounding interactive and educational hands-on experience designed to enhance a writers understanding of all aspects of law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and forensics. If you’re writing anything with a cop in it, I highly recommend the experience.

Day One

The first session is all about Drones! The expert had six or seven drones, 3D glasses so you could see from the perspective of the drone, and in-depth information on types, uses and hands-on demonstration! Registration fee justified!

At the opening ceremony, the Oneida Tribal Police blessed the WPA – the campus and conference hotel are located on tribal lands. There are dancers, and then I’m one of 10 people chosen to wear a gun belt. It comes complete with an orange gun (a solid plastic training gun) and blue taser (again, solid plastic). My assignment—wear it ALL day Friday. Things I learned:

  • The belt is heavy. It adds about 20 pounds around your waist. Add the Kevlar vest (which they want their officers to wear 24/7) and I was lugging around an extra 35 pounds. It makes it hard to run!
  • You’re told to take it the gun belt off when you go to the bathroom, but there’s a problem. Where do you put it? Place it on the floor? Yuck. On the back of the public toilet. Yuckier. If you hang it on the back of the door, it’s apt to get stolen. It’s happened. Tami Hoag solved the problem by pulling it up over her boobs. Brilliant! Maybe that’s why she’s a NYT bestselling author.
  • It’s hard to draw the gun and/or taser. But then, just wearing it was enough to scare some people. Take the stoner smoking within 5 feet of the hotel door. He saw the belt and his demeanor changed. He stepped away trying to gauge 25 feet. He glanced warily over his shoulder at me a number of times, and then seemed truly scared with my “police” dog (a 13-year old, 14 pound, black, miniature poodle) trailed out the door behind me. Freeze! Smoke police!

Day Two

This is a full day of classes. Six sessions a day, with some special assignments. These were hands-on trainings where you shoot real guns, drive real cars, search real buildings, and blow off real doors. I was assigned to “Handgun Live Fire” and I want to go back to try “Building Search/Room Clearing,” “Pursuit Immobilization Technique (PIT),” “Wait Explosive Entry.” “Defense and Arrest Tactics.” FYI, this is where you learn to handcuff people, but I’ve already done that. At a Rocky Mountain Chapter or Mystery Writers of America workshop I handcuffed RMFW’s own Jedeane Macdonald. Only one problem, the handcuff keys were missing. No problem! We just took a field trip to the closest Fire Station and had them cut off.

Regular sessions included things like “Incognito, Exploring the Undercover Experience” (with a real undercover cop who busted drug dealers in New York City), “Blood Spatter” (with a real dummy that spatters blood when he’s struck in the head), “Arson Investigation” (where they actually teach you how to start a fire with three different accelerants), “Federal Law Enforcement,” “Prison Gangs,” “Dogs, Dogs, Dogs,” and the list goes on. Too much to do in one year. Too much to do in two years.

Day Three

I was assigned to “Shoot, Don’t Shoot.” This was a special setting with a simulator that presented various scenarios the cops might encounter. I went first, with a partner, and we were called to a building with an intruder. We had no idea what we’d encounter, then a guy came out of the front door shooting. I fired three shots. My partner emptied his gun. Neither of us got shot. 15 rounds were fired, and only one shot connected, bringing the bad guy down—mine!

Other scenarios included a domestic dispute, an attack on an electrical transfer station, a attempted mugging in Central Park, an encounter when off-duty… Here’s what I learned:

  •  Shoot until the danger is neutralized.
  •  Shoot if there is eminent danger to you or others.
  • If you empty your gun when it’s not necessary, you may find you’re out of ammo and still facing danger.
  • I want one of these simulators!!


Tami Hoag ran the live auction, and there was one item of note. Dr. Katherine Ramsland, an expert on serial killers and author of CONFESSION OF A SERIAL KILLER: THE UNTOLD STORY OF DENNIS RADER, offered a “personalized (to the winner) drawing, done by and signed by Rader, of one of his crime scenes.” Most people know this man as the BTK killer, an acronym he gave himself which stands for “Bind, Torture, and Kill.” No doubt the sketch will be a collector’s item. And, he fancies himself a poet, so it might even come with prose. Yet… It drew a final bid of over $800. Writers are a strange lot! Now, I’m fascinated by serial killers, and I’ve studied a lot of them, but I can’t imagine having something with such negative energy in my home. I actually went out to see if I could find an example on line and couldn’t actually bring myself to cut and paste one here. They’re just too creepy. Interested, here’s a link.

Day Four

I was ready to come home, and yet I attended the debriefing. Lee Lofland, the writer and ex-cop who put WPA together, led a rousing Q&A session with all of the guest presenters that had attendees rolling in the aisle.

WPA Cost: $395 registration; $20 t-shirt; $55 banquet; $500 (approximate) hotel bill; $30 in extra meals; $600 travel (approximate)

Value: Priceless

Chris Goff on Blogger
Chris Goff

A member of RMFW since 1988, Chris Goff is an award-winning author of six novels based on environmental themes and two international thrillers. Her most recent book, RED SKY, (Crooked Lane Books, June 2017) is set in Ukraine and Asia, where Agent Raisa Jordan tests the boundaries of diplomacy as she races to prevent the start of a new Cold War. Catherine Coulter had this to say: “Breathtaking suspense, do not miss Red Sky.” Goff’s series debut, DARK WATERS, was dubbed “a sure bet for fans of international thrillers” by Booklist, and nominated for the 2016 Colorado Book Award and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. For more about Chris, visit her webpage and blog.

9 thoughts on “FREEZE! SMOKE POLICE!

  1. I know what you mean about not being able to do everything. I’ve been 5 times and learned new stuff every time. Lee Lofland puts on an excellent conference. (Did anyone ask what time the pool closed, or how long the shuttle bus ride was?)

  2. I had a blast (pun intended!), too and hope to go back. I worked it in with a half-driving vacation and that helped with making the cost a little easier. Also, new Sisters in Crime members get a HUGE discount, way more than the cost of an annual membership, so if someone wants to go next year, they might consider joining the group and getting the discount. Book early – it sells out! My favorite was the Shoot/Don’t Shoot, but the long gun live fire was a close second. It was great to see you there.

  3. Great to see you, too. So glad you “won” the Rogue Women Writers basket in the auction. Hope you enjoy the reads. The Sisters in Crime discount is great. I think you can only use it once, but since this was my first time, I got to apply it. Made a huge difference in the cost.

    Another great thing — you get a t-shirt for the academy with WRITER in huge letters across the back, sort of like “Castle.”

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