But of all of the subjects I have researched for books, my favorites have been law enforcement agencies and officers. I love writing cop heroes and heroines. I'll admit it. There's something really heroic about a man or woman who's willing to risk his or her life in the service of others. I used one of those heroes in my most recent book, FINALLY A MOTHER, an April release from Love Inspired, which received a 4.5 star rating from Romantic Times. This story is about a social worker at a home for teen moms who must face her past mistakes when the son she placed for a adoption shows up on her doorstep in the custody of a handsome but judgmental police officer.
Because I have other stories with police characters that I am dying to tell, I jumped at the chance to enroll in the Lakes Area (Michigan) Citizens Police Academy, an eleven-week course covering various areas of law enforcement.
I have loved having the opportunity to do ride-alongs with three different officers from two different police departments. As I learned during my days as a newspaper reporter, there's nothing like interviewing individuals in their real environments as they do their jobs and live their lives. I asked so many questions that the officers surely wanted to toss me out of their patrol cars, so I appreciated their patience.
The classes have been fascinating, from the presentation by Sgt. Dan Ketvirtis, of the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad and his robot, Lucky (both pictured at right) to a canine unit and the medical examiner's office. I took so many notes that one of the officers asked me if I was writing a paper. Er...something like that.
And some of that research went beyond the classroom or even a tour. It was a blast firing both a Glock and a Sig Sauer for the first time at the police department gun range. I wouldn't say I'm an Annie Oakley - my instructors wouldn't say that either - but I can use that experience and the descriptions of those sounds and sights and smells as I write my stories.
And it never hurt that I had the change to take photos of several real-life heroes for my research files. I appreciate the way these officers indulged my photo requests. Here Officer Jon Jacobs, of the Milford Police Department, shows off his crime scene investigation equipment.
All of the research in the world won't help if I don't have a good story to tell, but I believe that good research allows me to bring a taste of reality and a higher level of accuracy to my fictional world. And just maybe this will help me to write better books for my readers. That, after all, is the goal.