Writers’ Police Academy Overview

Michigan author, Elizabeth (Betty) Meyette, and I decided to travel and room together at this year’s Writers’ Police Academy. We took the 10:15 a.m. Lake Express Ferry from Muskegon to Milwaukee and arrived at the Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wisconsin around 2:30 p.m. (CDT). Our room wasn’t ready, but the WPA planning committee had a room in the hotel’s conference center set up for the “Kooky Cop Carnival,” which consisted of several “stations” around the room. At one, we had our pictures taken in prison garb with our number.

They finally caught me

At another, the challenge was to get dressed in uniform—pants, a fully loaded duty belt, etc—and then see how fast you could “undress” for a potty break. One station was handcuffing. The second station I participated in was using OC (Oleoresin capsicum) to spray a bad guy without shooting the spray directly in the eyes. (We had pictures of a bad guy and our “weapon” was loaded with water, not OC. I’m a bad shot, and my bad guy got a face full.)

At 4:00 p.m., after going to our room, Betty and I registered and then had dinner. At 6:45, during “Opening Ceremonies,” we were given an overview of what to expect. That was followed by a presentation by representatives from Sirchie, the company that makes most of the equipment used in crime scene investigations. The program wasn’t supposed to last very long, and then everyone was supposed to be able to have a chance at “hands-on” with the equipment, but the presenters were inundated with questions, so it ran much longer than expected. Betty and I bowed out around 10:30. (We’d been up since 5:30 a.m.)

Friday morning we were up early and on the bus and off to the college by 7:30 a.m.. Our first demo was a building fire and rescue.

After that, it was off to classes, 18 to choose from during each session/4 sessions a day. (For some of the classes we had to pre-register and pass background checks). I picked “Back from the Dead.” (More on that another week.) The second session had several repeats of the first 18 selections and some new. I had signed up for “Shoot/don’t shoot.” (More about that another week.) Lunch was followed by more sessions. I sat in on “The Art of Interrogation.” (Very Interesting, and yes, more later.) And finally the 4th session I attended was “Building Your Character, Session 2.” That ended at 4 p.m., and we returned to the hotel. One of the Special Guest Speakers, Carrie Stuart Parks, talked about “Using Art to Solve Crime.” She’s a forensic artist. I missed most of that (needed a short break), but heard the last part and it was fascinating.

After dinner (on our own), a Meet and Mingle cocktail party was followed by a Live Auction (some really great items were auctioned off). Lee Goldberg and his brother Tod were the auctioneers.

Items went from $50 to $500.

I usually have a difficult time getting to sleep at night. Friday night, I was asleep by 11:00 pm.

Up at 6:00 am, breakfast and on the bus by 7:30. Off to a park by the river where they had a mock (though not everyone realized it wasn’t for real) underwater rescue/body retrieval.

River where bodies were supposed to be

Van with all of the underwater equipment, sonar, etc.

That took longer than expected, so we were late getting to the Public Safety buildings and all classes had to start 15 minutes later. I had “Handgun, live fire” for my first session and “Long Gun, live fire” for my second session. I enjoyed (and learned a lot) firing the Glock, but by the time we were ready to fire the AK-15s, my back was aching from standing around, we were all sweating from no air conditioning, the rifle was heavy and awkward for me to handle, my vest didn’t fit right so the butt of the rifle slipped off and the recoil hit my shoulder as well as the vest (and I could go on and on with my whining.) Anyway, I only shot half a magazine and then I gave up.

Here are two pictures of my backside. One on the left is when I’m shooting the handgun. The one of the right is the rifle.

After lunch, I went to the “Martial Art Maneuvers.” That was a great session. We even had one of the officers in the building step in and watch and then participate with the instructor. He gave each of us his business card and said to contact him if we had any questions.

My last session Saturday was with Carrie Parks. She had us draw from pictures of real mug shots. She had the ugliest collection of pictures you could imagine, and at the end of the session, she used an overhead projector and showed the actual pictures and what we “artists” drew. In each case, we could match the picture to the mug shot. (I can’t show mine. Carrie asked us not to since these mug shots are of real criminals.)

Back to the hotel. Change clothes. Down to a cocktail party, then the banquet and a chance to hear Jeffery Deaver talk. That was followed by the drawing of raffle tickets. Betty won a HUGE basket of books and goodies from one of her favorite writers and I had a chance to have my picture taken with one of my favorite authors.

Lee Goldberg: creator of Monk (He wrote the book and several of the TV shows. This is his new book.)

By then it was after 10:00 pm, so we headed up to the room to pack so we would be ready to leave by 9:00 am Sunday morning. Which we did. After breakfast with the group, we headed back to Milwaukee and were on the Lake Express Ferry, crossing Lake Michigan by 12:30 p.m. (CDT). I can’t tell you anything about the trip across the lake since I slept the whole way. My husband met us in Holland, and I said goodbye to Betty. She and I both felt the weekend was well worth the time and money. This was the 10th WPA. I know it takes a lot of work and planning, but Lee Lofland, we’re sure hoping there’s an 11th.

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20 Responses to Writers’ Police Academy Overview

  1. Barbara Vortman says:

    What a great experience. Can’t wait to read about all the things you learned. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for this thorough overview. I’ve considered attending and now more than ever I hope I can get there sooner rather than later.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    Sounds like so much fun crammed into a weekend. I must do this one year. I can’t wait until your future posts about the event! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I attended WPA two years ago and had a blast. I hope to get back again one of these years. Thanks for the recap.

  5. Bonnie Alkema says:

    Oh my gosh, Maris! I was exhausted reading about your experiences. I’m still thinking about getting all the police gear off for a potty break.
    Must be my age.

  6. What a fabulous experience and what a resource for detective/crime Writers. Thanks for letting us share the experience vicariously. I’ll expect to read more as all this information makes its way into your next book.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Patricia, I know I’ll be using information I gained from a couple of the sessions in my next P.J. Benson Mystery. But more than that, it helps me have a sense of what law enforcement personnel go through.

  7. Lucy Kubash says:

    Sounds like a really interesting and informative weekend. Nice you and Betty could go together. I’ll look forward to hearing more about it.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Lucy, it was great traveling and rooming with Betty. I know she was worried about what it was going to be like, so I was glad she had a great time.

  8. Diana Stout says:

    Truly informative!

  9. Monika Becker says:

    Sounds like a great experience. Thanks for sharing it. Would like to hear more about what you learned.

  10. Maris, what a great conference! Thanks so much for telling me about it. I get tired all over again just reading about all we packed into one weekend! I will be blogging about our adventures, too. I had so much fun sharing this time with you.