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Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


Pauline Rowson, crime authorI'm often asked how I research my crime novels and in particular the police procedure and crime scene investigation side of things. I'm not married to a police officer or a former police officer (although I am married to a former fire-fighter) so I don't have inside knowledge except when it comes to fires, burnt bodies and serious traffic and other incidents which fire fighters attend, and these can all be incorporated into a crime novel, which indeed I have done.

So where do I get the police procedural information from and how can writers obtain this kind of information? 

Tide of Death - the first DI Andy Horton crime novelWhen I first created the enigmatic, flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton I approached Hampshire Police (the county in which my novels are set) and asked if I could visit the police station and talk to some police officers in CID and in what was then the Vice Squad. Hampshire Police were brilliant. They let me visit them twice even though I wasn't then published. That gave me some basic background which I have since built on and now I know many police officers and those in civilian jobs attached to the police service.

The police websites, both the regional and national ones, are also a very good source of information for writers and there is considerable information on the Crown Prosecution Services website. 

It's also worth following the police on Twitter. There are many official feeds from the various police units as well as from individual police officers.

I have also run an event called CSI Portsmouth  and CSI Southampton where I bring crime authors, police and crime experts together to  debate crime fiction and crime fact. This year CSI Southampton is being held on Saturday 28 October 2017 and along with myself and crime author Elly Griffith there will be a detective inspector from Hampshire police, the head of the crime scene officers and the fingerprint bureau.

There are also blogs run by serving police officers and ex-coppers, some of whom run courses for writers. A search on the Internet can help you find these.  And the Crime Writers' Association of which I am a member  also have a very useful website called the Crime Readers Association for crime fiction fans along with useful blogs, articles and information for budding crime writers.

Of course my crime novels cannot truly reflect real police procedure because if they did they would end up reading like a police manual and bore everyone to tears.  So the basics are then spiced up and tweaked  by my imagination.

One of the problems with writing contemporary crime novels is that the police service in the UK is continually being re-organised by the government which means that no sooner do I mention a department than its name changes or it merges with another.  It is not possible to be a hundred percent correct on this but they were correct at the time of writing.

I'm grateful to Hampshire Police for their help and patience and for being so generous in giving their time.


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This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.


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POSTED BY: PAULINE ROWSON
JUNE 21ST, 2017 @ 6:30:33 BST
 
 


Comments

RE: Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


Hi Pauline, Im in the throes of writing a fantasy/thriller where I need some knowledge of certain basic police procedures. So far Ive only written what I know by watching TV. My son is a police officer but seems reluctant to advise me of anything I want to know. CSI Portsmouth looks to be a good idea and as I only live across the harbour in Gosport I will do my best to try and get there.

Dave Fry (pen name Dave Charles)

COMMENT BY DAVE FRY, NOVEMBER 2ND, 2015 @ 10:26:23 GMT

RE: Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


I think you`ll find the CSI Portsmouth event on Saturday 5 March 2016 very helpful. You`ll also be able to make some contacts with the police there which will be useful. Hope to see you there.

COMMENT BY PAULINE ROWSON, NOVEMBER 2ND, 2015 @ 12:04:30 GMT

RE: Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


Hi Pauline,

You say, "There are also blogs run by serving police officers and ex-coppers, some of whom run courses for writers." Do you know of any yourself - having difficulty finding courses like the one you mention.

Many thanks!

COMMENT BY LAYLA, SEPTEMBER 4TH, 2016 @ 20:52:40 BST

RE: Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


Hi, You could check out the following websites, one is the Crime Writers Association website http://thecwa.co.uk/the-debuts/ where there are articles. Talks and events are also often advertised on there. The other is run by a former detective, Stuart Gibbon who I know is very helpful and runs courses and gives talks http://gibconsultancy.co.uk/crime-writing-consultant/ I hope that helps. Pauline.

COMMENT BY PAULINE ROWSON, SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2016 @ 10:43:09 BST

RE: Researching police procedure and crime scenes for crime novels


Hi, You could check out the following websites, one is the Crime Writers Association website http://thecwa.co.uk/the-debuts/ where there are articles. Talks and events are also often advertised on there. The other is run by a former detective, Stuart Gibbon who I know is very helpful and runs courses and gives talks http://gibconsultancy.co.uk/crime-writing-consultant/ I hope that helps. Pauline.

COMMENT BY PAULINE ROWSON, SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2016 @ 10:44:17 BST
 

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