WPA- Days 3 & 4

Saturday morning found us on the buses again at 7:30 a.m. We were told when we arrived at Guilford Technical Community College not to enter the building but to wait outside. As a group we were herded to a grassy knoll overlooking two parking lots which had been blocked off. The ATF officer then arrived in full gear and said he was going to demonstrate what a sharp shooter does. He started talking about the scope on his rifle, but then a car came barreling down the drive next to us with three police cars chasing it, lights and sirens going. The four vehicles raced around the two parking lots, then the suspect’s car stopped and the officers demanded the driver get out. We viewed how they handle a situation of that nature, with the driver finally being cuffed. Then the passenger was told to vacate the car. Instructor Dee Jackson played that role (she really needs to be on the stage), yelling she wasn’t going back to jail and shooting at the officers. Finally she was shot (dead) and the show was over (with everyone taking a bow.)

Before we left the knoll, the K9 officer talked about his dog and showed us some of his obedience work. Interesting point here is they buy all of their dogs from Europe. The reason is: American dogs are bred for their looks, European dogs for their working ability.  Also the dogs are trained in the language of their country of origin, which makes it more difficult for criminals to know what the handler is telling the dog. Often a suspect is more afraid of the dog than of the gun the officer is holding.

At 9:00 a.m. I went to the session on Drug Interdiction. Since I have drug smuggling in my wip (work in progress), I was especially interested in areas where drugs are hidden and how law enforcement finds these locations. Clues might be no luggage, throw away (pre-paid) phones, or loose screws and screwdrivers in the car. It’s the totality of suspicious factors that often leads to discovery. They find drugs under the spare tire, in speakers, in coolers, in false-bottom cans, potato chip bags. Some cars are totally modified, with combinations of rolling down windows and locking car doors necessary to trigger the mechanism that will open the secret compartment with the drugs.

I took a bit of a break after that session and had a cup of coffee and a Crispy Cream doughnut. (Not sure who supplied them, but thanks.) I then joined the session on handcuffing. We were again in the mat room and it was jammed. I’m sorry I missed the first part of the demonstration, but I was able to join in on the “being handcuffed” and “handcuffing others.” I took pictures of others, but forgot to have anyone take a picture of me in handcuffs.

We were treated to lunch that day. I had a quarter of a chicken, baked beans and slaw along with a bottle of water. At 1:00 p.m. I reported to the driving simulator room. I’d thought maybe it would be a simulation of driving a police car, but no, I was to become an ambulance driver.

Trust me, you do not want me to ever drive an ambulance. I didn’t run into any vehicles or over any people (my partner wiped out two women), but I drove so slow and hit the brake so often, the victim would either be dead by the time I arrived at the scene or would have been bounced around so much in the back of the ambulance by the time we arrived at the hospital that s/he’d be in worse condition than before being picked up. We did 4 simulations, each becoming more involved. It was fun, but also exhausting. I have a new respect for ambulance drivers.

At 2:30 p.m. I boarded the bus that took us a short distance to the YMCA pool where I watched an underwater evidence recovery. I needed that information for my third “Crows” book, so seeing how they collect evidence was very helpful. In North Carolina they have lots of creeks, rivers, and lakes with very low visibility, so it was interesting to see how they search underwater when they can’t see where anything is. It was also interesting to hear how they remove bodies. (Underwater body bags allow the water to escape, but evidence remains inside.)

At 4:00 p.m. Marcia Clark spoke about the procedure from when a prosecutor will issue an arrest warrant (and why sometimes they won’t until the officer can provide more evidence) to final sentencing of a criminal. She touched on everything from pre-trial to final arguments. I found her a dynamic speaker.

Back at the hotel, after a quick change, I was downstairs where the book store and the cash bar had opened. They were selling raffle tickets for a variety of baskets, and the silent auction was going on. At 7:00 p.m. the staff began serving dinner. We’d been told there would be a mystery guest and sure enough, Barney Fife showed up. (Well, he did look and sound like Barney.)

“Barney” and me

Lee Child gave his talk, comparing literary fiction (and how long those writers take to get to the core of the story) to genre fiction (where it’s action from the get go). Before the dinner ended, raffle tickets were drawn (I didn’t win anything) and the winners of the silent auction items were announced. After dinner was the book signing, and then (I understand) there was a sing-along with Stacy Allen. I’m afraid I was back up in my room by then.

Sunday morning we were allowed to sleep in and have a leisure breakfast. At 10:00 a.m., we met in one of the hotel conference rooms for a “Debriefing.” The panel consisted of the Sheriff of Greensboro County, police officers, an ATF agent, a literary agent, and an undercover cop. Each gave a little information about himself/herself and what they did, then they proceeded to tell stories about something that happened to them in the line-of-duty that was funny. The best story, I thought, was about the woman who took off her clothes when stopped for a DUI and ran, and then the next time they had to arrest her was for a domestic disturbance. Again she was drunk, but this time she was wearing panties. She’d also covered herself with grease. Every tried to catch a greased pig?

All in all, what a fantastic 4 days. Would I go again? You betcha.

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3 Responses to WPA- Days 3 & 4

  1. Terry Odell says:

    Thanks for these recaps — again, you were doing totally different things than I was a lot of the time, so it’s great to see what I missed. I’m recapping what I did on my blog on Mondays and Thursdays.

    Terry’s Place

  2. Dianna says:

    Thank you Maris, It sounded like fun, the ambulance experience would have been my favorite.

  3. Diane Burton says:

    Maris, that was so interesting. What a wealth of info you amassed. I think my brain would have exploded after the 2nd day, let alone 4. LOL Thanks so much for sharing.