Research is possibly my favorite part of the writing process. It delays the hard part—the writing words part—indefinitely. (Note to editor: that is a joke.) But also, I want to get it right, especially when it comes to police work.
We’ve all encountered stories where the police work is glossed over so heavily it’s distracting, like on one of those TV detective squads with a giant, wall-sized computer screen that solves their cases for them—The Crime-O-Matic, I call this—or far-fetched gaps in procedure or plausibility that distract from the plot. Creative license is good, and necessary, but realistic details are essential for fully developed characters, settings, and situations.
That’s what led me to the Columbus Police’s Civilian Ride-Along Program. I’d already Googled my heart out regarding police procedure, and now I just wanted to see how it worked, hear how cops talked to each other. You can’t exactly Google, “What does a squad room smell like?” or “Does the ladies’ room of the police impound lot have toilet paper?” But, I can answer both of those after my experience. (Answers, respectively: pizza and coffee; no.)