Mistakes That Make Us Cringe

This is my first report on the PSWA Conference. This is from the panel with police officers and a prosecuting attorney and it was about what really bothered them that was wrong with what happened on TV and in movies and books.

Procedural problems like using lights and sirens when going to the scene of an ongoing crime, like a bank robbery. Not knowing the difference between the police and sheriff's departments, parole and probation. The fact that lieutenants don't go to the crime scene or do the leg work, they take care of the paperwork and procedure.

Not portraying Crime Stoppers correctly. CSI people do not walk all over the crime scene or go into the evidence room. Ties with short sleeved shirts. Police continuing to question after the attorney gets there--once the attorney arrives, questioning is over. Female cops with long flowing hair and no bullet-proof vest.

Lack of research by the author especially with the use of guns: a magazine is put into the gun, not a clip, .38 has no safety. No one in police work has an empty chamber in his/her gun.

Every state has different laws--but constitutional law is always the same. A non-officer gathering evidence is against the law like what happens on The Mentalist.

In the '70s and '80s, cops didn't wear bullet-proof vests. Have to be half psycho to be undercover, no one knows what you're doing or where you're going, often the other cops don't even know who you are.

Most of the people on the panel said they lost interest when the book was wrong.

An author needs to use the correct jargon for the area. Big difference between the words used, on East Coast cops make a collar, West Coast cops make an arrest. Number codes are different within jurisdictions too.

Because suspects talk different depending upon the time period, don't use too many slang words.

One of the funniest comments was when a cop was asked if he used his flashlight to check out an indoor crime scene at night. The answer was, "No, I turn on the lights."
How many times have we watched the CSI team on TV doing their entire crime scene investigation using only flashlights?

What I learned most from this panel was to make sure to check out anything that I wasn't sure about and never ever depend upon TV or movies for your research.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Comments

Zetta Brown said…
Thanks, Marilyn!

A lot of good tips for a short post ;-)

I'm no expert but I can't tell how many times watching CSI or some other show where I'm thinking: "Oh, please! No WAY!" Doesn't mean to say that I don'tlike the shows, but it's obvious that A LOT of creative license is being taken.
lastnerve said…
ha ha ha ..... it only makes sense to turn on the lights. Loved the post. I am so glad you posted it. I plan on writing one day and these sort of things come in handy

Val
lastnerve2000@gmail.com
Ginger Simpson said…
Marilyn,
I'm currently switching tracks to a mystery-type novel and found this very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

I've always wondered why the folks on CSI don't flip on the lights. Perhaps the dimness creates more suspense. It actually gives me eye strain. *lol*

ginger
Good post, Marilyn. In my first Greg McKenzie mystery I had a homicide sergeant working a case, then I learned the sergeants were shift supervisors. I still use the same guy but now only call him a homicide detective. Nobody seems to have noticed he's no longer a sergeant.
Through the years I've made a lot of mistakes, I always tell people it's my police department and I can do it any way I want.

Marilyn
Maryann Miller said…
Thanks so much for posting this, Marilyn. Good info.

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