Ride-Along Research

So here’s the awesome thing about being an author: you can do all this random stuff in the name of “research” and nobody really questions you (like sit on a stranger’s motorcycle  – “Is it all right if I just see what this feels like…don’t worry, it’s for this book I’m writing.”). Although ARTICLE 5 is done – all 4 bazillion rounds of edits are in and pages are printed – the second book is currently in revisions, and I’m writing the third. Which basically means that I’m in a constant state of researchization.*

Without giving too much away, I’ll tell you that within the ARTICLE 5 series there are two main factions at odds with one another: the Federal Bureau of Reformation, which is implementing a set of Moral Statutes with lethal consequences, and a body of resistance, fighting against them. There were some necessary things I needed to learn for both sides – things about guns, for instance, and weapons in general. I wanted to learn what it was like for someone to dedicate their life to another’s safety, regardless the personal consequences, and what it felt like to be charged with the enormous burden of enforcing rules, because these are themes come up for all of my characters, regardless the side they’ve chosen. So I contacted the local police department, and asked if I could do a ride-along.

I have to admit, this was way out of my comfort zone. In my career as a social worker, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the other side, sometimes with people who have had their fair share of run-ins with law enforcement (I have a huge soft spot for these folks). It’s not that I don’t respect the work of those in law enforcement (and the military) – to the contrary, I very strongly support what they do to keep me safe – it’s just that my experience has been elsewhere. So yeah. Big learning curve.

I was set up on a Saturday night, starting at 6:00PM and going well past my bedtime (a little after 1:00AM), with Officer Hernandez, who as it turns out is not just a cool guy, but an incredibly professional and compassionate individual. We started with briefing – where all the officers get the lowdown on what’s happening that night – and then we were off. From 7:00 on, it was pretty much call after call.

And it. Was. Awesome. Easily one of the top five most exciting and memorable nights of my life.

I won’t go into all the details, but here are some of the highlights.

  1. I am shown how to access a shotgun in the patrol car in case the s*&# hits the fan. I nearly vomit on myself.
  2. I ask approximately fifty bazillion questions on shooting, driving, defensive tactics, and the art of handcuffing. Officer Hernandez graciously answers all my “what if” scenarios without once rolling his eyes.
  3. I get completely overwhelmed by the radio communication, sirens, and computer updates which are coming through continuously.
  4. We go on calls for everything from domestic violence, to breaking and entering, to trespassing.
  5. Officer Hernandez, during a ‘routine’ traffic stop, removes both a gun AND a machete from someone’s car. (I, for some bizarre reason, find the machete much more disturbing.)
  6. I get to explore the inside of a holding cell (not so different from any other Saturday night, really).
  7. I get to meet a police dog, who can not only track and bite, but sniff out cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. He is unbelievably sweet and cuddly.
  8. I get to feel what it’s like to drive 120mph down surface streets with “lights and sirens” on the way to a vehicle burglary – in progress. I also experience what it’s like not to breathe for 5 minutes straight.
  9. I learn that Officer Hernandez does not believe in vampires, werewolves, or zombies, but IF he did, he would stake them, shoot them, or hit them with his patrol car, respectively.
  10. I listen in awe to how a person comes to accept that he is putting himself at risk for another’s safety – often a complete stranger’s safety – every night, and yet does not consider himself heroic.

I am so grateful to Officer Hernandez for all his help with the book, and for opening my eyes to a little of what police officers encounter on a daily (nightly) basis. He’s added a layer of authenticity on the ARTICLE 5 series that I hope I can make shine through! 

 Have you done anything fun for research lately?

*Researchization: noun. A state of utter confusion, whereby one realizes they know nothing about anything and must immediately rectify that by any means possible.

PS. Next week I’m out and about again! Catch me at the Confessions of a Bookaholic, where I’ll be talking about MY SCARIEST MEMORY EVER and GIVING AWAY AN ADVANCE COPY OF ARTICLE 5! All month they’re running contests, so you want to get there asap and enter to win some awesome stuff!

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