1. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    Talking to the police?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by r3dfoe, Jun 27, 2012.

    I want to set up an interview to run a miniature interview with local law enforcement. These questions are hypothetical questions along with questions involving an array of topics based on their jobs. I have police and military personnel in my story and I find that a lot of books that do things involving these groups make the sequence of events or the government officials... hard to buy...
    My questions:
    "Is it a good idea?"
    "Do you think the police would be willing to talk to me?"
    "And if I give thanks to the local departments would they allow me to do so in my book?"

    I come from a very small town, surrounded by other small towns. We're not very well known and hard to find on the map so I was thinking that they may be flattered to have their town or departments mentioned but I am not sure.
    Of course, the best thing I can do is try and ask myself but since everyone knows everyone up here I would rather find out if it would be worth my time to make the call. Haha.
     
  2. MickiMahoney
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    MickiMahoney New Member

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    Go for it. I mean, they can only say "no", right? If they do, you can always try to strike up a conversation with one when they're not on duty. If, as you say, "everyone knows everyone", it shouldn't be too hard to find someone who knows a friendly copper who's willing to chat over a hot beverage or two. Be aware though, a small-town policeman is likely to know all about small-town policing and probably not a good deal about working with the FBI or military.

    Failing that, there's all sorts of cop-like forums and blogs where you could try your luck. There are also many books on police procedure, such as David Simon's "Homicide: Life on the Street", (which was very good indeed, but about 20 years out of date now). You can find all sorts of info in former policeman's memoirs too. Some of them can be remarkably indiscreet and a goldmine of info!
     
  3. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It has been my experience that, whenever you ask for input from someone or group of people regarding their careers or duties or general take on those, they are ... not necessarily flattered but they do appreciate your efforts and they will respect you for trying to "get it right".
    Once you get the interviews in the bag, let them know that you would like to add an acknowledgement page to your book thanking them for their input as well as their service to the community. They will let you know immediately if that would be inappropriate or if they would be opposed to it (though I cannot imagine any who would be!)
     
  4. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It has been my experience that, whenever you ask for input from someone or group of people regarding their careers or duties or general take on those, they are ... not necessarily flattered but they do appreciate your efforts and they will respect you for trying to "get it right".
    Once you get the interviews in the bag, let them know that you would like to add an acknowledgement page to your book thanking them for their input as well as their service to the community. They will let you know immediately if that would be inappropriate or if they would be opposed to it (though I cannot imagine any who would be!)
     
  5. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I do not think interviewing law enforcement is a bad idea. The worst thing they could say is no. What I would do before hand is type out a documented letter that states what your intensions are for the interview. Mention that you are a writer doing research on a fiction book and you want to know a "general" idea of the job and what they do. Most of what you maybe looking for can be found online. I would also write in your documented letter that names or description of officers will not be mentioned in the story.

    As long your intensions and appearance (I would dress nice, not too casual) is appropriate you should have no problem. Also I would not recommend bring a video camera or an audio device because it is a liability. Bring a notepad, a pen and that is it. Keep it simple. I have interviewed officers in the past for school projects and college projects.
     
  6. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    Thanks everyone for the good advice. I actually have several family members in the military so I plan on interviewing them separately. But, I had a landlord last year who was a state trooper and I plan on interviewing my friend's dad who is the local town justice. I want to get their emotional thought process down along with their routines. I'll have to check into the police memoirs. AWESOME ADVICE!!! Thanks again everyone :)
     
  7. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Never be shy to interview people or ask questions for your research. Think like a reporter, and go for it.

    But be clear on how you are going to present the questions so the results will be productive. Know specifically what you need to find out. If the information is readily available from secondary sources, use those first, and then use the interview to refine your understanding from a "real life" point of view. If you are working out a specific scene, sketch out the scene to the best of your ability and then run it past your real-life resource as a reality check. This way, they will be able to spot inconsistencies or tell you "I really wouldn't do it that way--I would do this instead."
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I read somewhere some author , a woman who writes mysteries - started by buying a policeman a beer , off duty. She says the relaxed atmosphere of the bar helped develope a more casual conversation and a friendship, so that when she called him up the next time , he says sure.
     
  9. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    That actually sounds like a good idea. I'm not into the bar or club scene but who knows. Maybe I can run into someone off duty and buy them a coffee or something :p

    Thanks :)
     

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