Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lt. D.R. “Duke” Atkins: Crime Scene Christie’s Cop in her Pocket.


You know as writers we need our resources. As a romantic suspense writer, I’ve found myself with lots of questions about police procedures. (Unlike Kathy, I never worked in law enforcement.) So I had questions like: “Is this legal?” (For my book, and not me personally.) “Would my hero cop not just shoot the jerk now?” Important stuff that makes romantic suspense novels read true. And I’ve found it really helps to have a . . . well, a cop in my pocket. I’m not sure Duke likes being in my pocket, but so far he’s never refused to help. (I found he can’t stand it when a woman cries.)

I knew Duke was the man for the job the first time I spoke with him on the phone. I mean, I didn’t know this man, and he was already insulting me and it was funny stuff.

Anyway, I’ve roped Duke into being our guest blogger today. He’s agreed to answer questions about police work. Now, I’ve told him that the only person he can insult here is me, which basically makes me an open target, but he’s promised to behave and not to report any of our comments or questions to the authorities.

So go ahead, pick his brain. (Duke, doesn’t that sound painful?)

My Life with Christie Craig
Or How I became an official police advisor


My name is Lt. D.R. “Duke” Atkins and I work (well, I may have used to work after this gets out) for the Houston Police Department. In police work, I’ve had the opportunity to see human interaction (that’s interACTION) at both its finest and its most depraved. I have seen great acts of compassion and great acts of atrocity, both enacted with equal amounts of zeal.

One of the major things that you think I would have learned is how the decisions you make greatly influence your life. The decision to become a police officer was the best thing I ever did short of marrying my wife, having our son, and knowing God. Then, there have been other decisions. Such as the time I wanted to see what it was like to cut human hair with scissors, you know those little rounded-end ones from elementary school? One big snip from each eyebrow! Did I mention that school pictures were taken 2 days later? That image still looks down on me in my own home today.

One of those other big decisions that I look back on with a bit of trepidation is the day I got a call from a lady named Christie Craig. She was working on story about my Cowboy Action Shooting club, the Texas Historical Shootist Society (THSS) for a state-wide law-enforcement magazine. She wanted to show that police officers had lives outside of law enforcement, kind of like normal folks. (Normal? That’s where she went wrong.)

This little interview/photo session led to a story filled with numerous quotes from then Sergeant “Duke” Atkins. Most of this was because I kept talking when I should have kept me mouth shut. Apparently, I must have said something wrong, because Christie began to spell my name as “Adkins”. This little error thus dashed my chances of being the guy who would be the so-called face of the department who would get to travel around the world while representing the department at events and important stuff. I think this was all because they couldn’t find a sergeant named Adkins in the system. Another opportunity lost.

After a few months, I get another call from Christie. She explained that in addition to writing articles and misspelling people’s names, she also wrote humorous romantic fiction. And she wanted me to talk to her group of writers. I was impressed that anyone wanted my opinion about anything. But romance? She told me that I, along with a few other officers, could bring guns and talk about them. I was as good as there.

Interesting bunch of folks at that meeting—they actually asked some questions about guns. The one question that sticks in my mind was directed to the female detective who worked at another agency, “What did the detective hate to see most when reading a book?” I knew that answer and replied first, “Big words”. Thought I was going to have to shoot my way out past the detective, who didn’t think it was as funny as the rest of the room did as they lay on the floor laughing. Hmm, I don’t get invited over to that agency much anymore.

Now, I’m convinced that every officer in law enforcement failed the psychology test. I think it’s practically a requirement. I mean, you bring in a normal guy, nice guy, and send him out to work in the cesspool of life for 20 years or so and then see what you have caused. He is on his fourth or fifth wife, with three to nine children, not all from the various wives, paying so much in monthly “fines” for making bad life decisions that they nearly have to live in the station locker room. As one officer put it years ago, “every four or five years, I’m just going to walk up to some girl and buy her a house, it’s what I’m doing now and it would save me the marrying and divorce part”. But, heck, if they only take the ones who fail the tests, at the end of those 20 years the department can honestly say, “Hey, that’s not our fault; he was already screwed up when he came in”.

This may have been somewhat the angle that Christie took when she sought me out in the first place. I mean, once my used-to-be-friends find out that I am listed as a “police advisor” in a humorous romantic novel, my goose is cooked. On the plus side, most of them don’t read much anyway; I might slide on this thing yet.

My real problems began when Christie began to call on a semi-regular basis and ask, “You have a minute, I’ve written myself into a corner.” My first inclination was to advise her to go write at a desk or a table and stay away from the darn corners. But feeling sorry for her, I tried to listen. I said, I tried! Where in the world does she dream up this material? I remember in the 60’s a lot of folks experimented with some stuff and they could imagine some pretty similar things as I recall.

She would want to know general procedures for going to a homicide scene, and then what would happen if someone was shot with this kind of gun. That one was easy. “They die.” Then, “Seriously, what if you got hit here?” My answer, “I’d probably shoot the idiot who shot me first, and then I’d die.” But of all Christie’s questions, my all time favorite was, “What kind of gun has a barrel about the same size as a super absorbent tampon?” No lie, she actually asked me that!!

Okay, I’ll admit, we’ve spent some enjoyable hours in discussions. (Some of which I taped for my own protection.) Not that she always explains why she needed such information. However, I have been assured that I will get autographed copies of all her books for my efforts as an official police advisor. Maybe then I can finally get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But if any of you have any questions, barring anything about tampons, I look forward to talking to you.

D. R. “Duke” Atkins


42 comments:

Faye Hughes said...

Great post, Duke and Christie!

My question is this: What would you recommend a writer do if she wanted to get specific information about police procedure in a particular city? Who do we call, in other words, and does it differ from police department to police department?

Thanks!
Faye

Christie Craig said...

Okay,

In defense of Duke's post, I have to tell you that the tampon inquiry was a valid research question. The reason for it will be evident in my book, Divorced, Desperate & Dating which is scheduled for December 2008.

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

I write YA (Young Adult.) What happens to a teenager when he/she is arrested? Where is he/she taken?
Are parents called first or later?
I know there are juvenile detention centers, but is that the first stop or later down the line? What are they like and how long is a kid stuck there? And can random people visit them for, say, the sake of research? Thanks, Duke.

Duke said...

Fay,
Probably the best way to locate an officer that will give you some direction (other than to the airport or the nearest way out of town) is to do basically what Christie did. Keep hunting around until you find a sucker. Any time you see an officer that is not otherwise occupied with their job, walk up to them and start talking to them. You may find a friend.

Duke said...

Nancy,
Juveniles are a special pain. My personal preference is to leave those little heatherns with their parents if it appears that the parents are going to make use of huge doses of appropriate punishment. If it is serious enough to arrest, they will be taken to either your department's juvenile division for processing or to some sort of juvenile detention center. Most of the time when dealing with juveniles, the clock is running as soon as you arrest and it is imperative that you get them to juvenile and processed as soon as possible. Once they are processed then they may transfer to the detention center and could be held for some time depending on what the charges are. Give your police department juvenile division a call and see what you can find out and mention that you would like a short visit and why. Todays kids are under extreme pressures by their peers and a lot of them are good kids that make bad choices or do bad things and can easily ruin the rest of their lives by these choices. They don't think ahead as to future results of their current actions.

Anonymous said...

Situation: A woman has inherited a cabin. Before the will is executed, and the cabin has become her property, she goes to the cabin to look for the deceased person’s cat. The deputy knows she will be moving on – not moving in. (The car is packed rim to roof with all her possessions.)

Question: Having decided the heir is a party of interest in her benefactor’s murder, and suspecting the car may contain shoes that match prints found at the murder scene, and evidence that she conned her benefactor into leaving her his property, can the deputy get a warrant to search the car? Also, is it feasible that a judge would allow the warrant to search the car but not the cabin since it isn’t yet her property?

Thanks a lot,
Sandy

Virginia said...

I have to ask, you didn't answer the question. What kind of a gun has the barrel the size of a super absorbent tampon?

Duke said...

Annoy-a-mous,
You been smoking the same kind of stuff as Christie? Anytime that an officer has a LEGAL arrest, say like a good solid traffic stop, if the driver is arrested then the entire car must be inventoried so that once the driver gets out of jail they can make sure that everything that was in the car at the time of the arrest is still there. Of course if you as an officer were to find some stuff that appeared fruits of a crime, then stop immediately and go get a warrant to do a detailed search for evidence relating to your crime.
A judge may also issue a warrant on the car if the deputy can articulate his belief to the satisfaction of the judge. Judge could allow the warrant to expressly include or exclude the cabin. Deputy could locate the person responsible for the cabin at that particular time and get verbal permission to search. Or possibly search it as abandoned property if there is no owner, just in case there might be someone in there squatting in the abandoned cabin. You ought to be able to work with some of those and get where you are going and get out of the "corner" so to speak.

Duke said...

Virginia,
You may have to ask Christie so that all my advice is consistant. I can't remember if she asked the size before or after those things pop out! You are looking at a large caliber pistol (being a revolver or single action as opposed to an semi-automatic since the semi has more of an oval shape on the front instead of just a barrel sticking out).

Most probably a 44 or 45 for common calibers or go exotic and go for the new S&W 500 Mag, that sucker will do the size for one that has already popped out of the tube. Of course there are the rifles, again fairly large caliber. Shotguns could go on the smaller side since the bore diameter of a 12 gauge is nearly 3/4 of an inch (.735" or so). As you can see, you have a potential for a number of choices.

All of you writers need to get a copy of something like the Shooters Bible or the Guns Annual Digest at a book store. Those will have a listing of almost everything that is currently manufactured and general specifications of each one. Good resource material.

Anonymous said...

Duke,
We - the deputy, the cat, and I - thank you so much for taking the time to get us out of that nasty corner. Now we're off to find a judge who will see things our way...

Thanks again,
Sandy

Faye Hughes said...

Thanks, Duke, for your advice. I followed your suggestion and walked up to a cop a couple of hours ago and started talking to him. He couldn't talk right then but I'm meeting him a little later at the donut shop down the street. He said he could answer all my questions and buy me a krispy krueller.

Faye

Laura Iding said...

Hi Duke,

I just loved your bio, too funny. Here's my question (and no, I'm not smoking anything.) How much trouble would my cop hero get into if he showed up at his colleagues crime scene and proceeded to stick his nose into the investigation? Would he get suspended? Or just a slap on the wrist?

Anonymous said...

Duke,

If an male officer is miles from town and arrests a woman for auto theft, does he have to wait for a female officer to do a pat down, or can he do it?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hey Duke:

What exactly is money laundering and how is most often accomplished?

Thanks for the brain time!

Dawn Temple

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

Thanks for answering, Duke!
Wow, there's a lot to get right.
Maybe my all teen characters will be good citizens so things don't get too complicated! (Except that writers love complications!)
Again, thanks for your help.
Nancy

Stacy S said...

Great interview! I'd like the question about the barrel & tampon size. It's great Christie that you have Duke to ask all those question.

Duke said...

Faye,
Just make sure that you don't wind up as one of the 4 or 5 ex's in this deal. And you might ought to shop around a little, we come in all shapes and sizes, and levels of assistance to those who have written themselves into corners. But then as y'all know, we love to come to the rescue of damsels in distress.

Duke said...

Laura,
Sorry to be so long in getting back to a few of you but I had to go do some "police" stuff. As far as your hero coming on to someone else's scene and nosing around. Making the assumption that your hero and the other dude are both "detectives" I don't think you are really going to get a lot of kickback on it. As long as your hero is making an honest attempt to help or what he finds is extremely revelant to the overall investigation.

I mean if you are on a really screwed up scene (blood, gore, screaming,etc) you really want all the help you can get unless you are just, shall we say "anti-social". In homicide units there can be a LOT of competition and egos involved. If it was some high profile case, that would probably make the primary unit not overly appreciate the hero being there.

If push came to shove, the primary would get a supervisor involved who would "settle" the matter and the hero would be "asked" to butt out by the supervisor more than likely. If the hero is a mere "patrol officer" (you know, kind of like, just a house wife - responsible for everything under the sun and all without any help), the detective would out rank that officer and he alone could make him leave the scene.

For any disipline to come into play (handspanking) they would about have to come to blows in front of the public or something.

Duke said...

Annoy-amus #2,

A cop making an arrest of a female miles from town should have follwed her longer and let her get closer before he lit her up! If it is a minor arrest (traffic only), the officer should do a visual check of the person in the attempt to observe any UNUSUAL swells or curves that do not belong. Stuff that could be the butt of a pistol, handle of a knife, a golf club (you didn't say how tall she is). If nothing appears out of place, then cuff her and place her in the back seat of the patrol car in the cage as you would anyone else. Now on some women, this process of visual examination can take some time. Butt ugly will be in the back seat pretty quick.

On the other hand, as I have told folks on the street in the past, if I have a bleeding victim and a number of witnesses pointing at a woman saying "she shot him and she still has the gun on her", I've been married for 30 years and you ain't got nothing I have never seen before and I'm going to get the gun. In emergency situations, you should not have chosen to be a bad guy/gal/person. There are repercussions for your actions.

Did see a copy of an x-ray one time that was taken of a woman in custody somewhere. Had she been in a bikini you probably would not have been able to see the fairly full sized, short barrel revolver that she had hidden in a natural orifice. (For those with the Shooters Bible, older edition, Colt Python revolver with the 2 1/2" barrel same size as the newer S&W 586 with a short barrel.) It was a stretch shall we say.

Duke said...

Dawn,

Having done a bit of money laundrying in my time, I am surprised that you forgot how it is done. First you do not check all the pockets on your clothes after you have gone to the store. Between the washing machine and the dryer, is generally when you find that you have been money laundrying and you have to lay the bills out flat to dry. Hopefully you did not use too much bleach.

Bad guys have a slight spin on it. Generally they are cursed with having lots and lots of cash money that they can not justify where it originated from. If they had a "business" of some kind (hair parlors are very popular) they simply declare that they are doing a booming business with a lot of folks or have a very small list of clients that want high dollar hair do's.

All you do then is put the illegal (say dope money) in the register so to speak and claim that it was honestly made and put it in the bank. Keep your books straight except the part about not really having any customers and you're good to go. Well until the IRS or a financial fraud unit get to poking around a little bit.

Now most of the area bad guys know what you are doing and do like to visit your store from time to time and make an unscheduled withdrawal at gun point. At times these robberies are not reported to the police due to a hair salon saying they lost $15,000 in a robbery. Now no bad guy on bad guy crime goes unpunished. As they say on the streets, "don't worry about it man, it's just business, I'll take care of it". Your heros will have a bloodly scene to process shortly thereafter and probably without any witnesses that will admit that they saw anything.

Duke said...

Annoy-amous #1,

If you would take that cat and catch your deputy sleeping in his car with the rear window down enough. Especially if you deputy is scared of critters. It is a great source of police amusement.

We found a dead opossum one time and put it in our trunk. About an hour later we were on the scene of a homicide when one of our "buddies" came by to stick his nose in it and see what had happened. I had always told him to lock his patrol car doors but then he was a little slow.

While I lead him inside to see the sights, my "real" buddy put the opossum in the other guys passenger side front seat. My ex-buddy then gets a call from dispatch and he runs out, jumps in his car and drives off. (Of course this was all night shift) We watched as he drove away. Suddenly his brake lights came on kind of hard and the car swerved a bit more than usual. He got on a back channel on the radio and discussed it with us.

Said he saw something light colored on the seat as he passed under the street lights so while he was watching the road, he reached over to feel what it was. Ever grab a opossum by the tail while driving? That will keep you out of corners.

Cory said...

Well, I don't have any real questions for you since I'm not a writer and don't feel like making anything up right now. I've known that writers have their consultants, but I've never really thought about it much before. Thank you for telling us your story Duke!

Duke said...

Cory,

You have heard of some outfits that hire these bit time consultants for really big money? Well this isn't one of them and as Christie will finally realize one day, you get what you pay for.

Lucy said...

When did you decide to be a police officer? How long have you been a police officer? Do you have other family members who are in law enforcement?

Portrayals in books have a lot of them either following in the footsteps of family members or wanting to right a wrong done to a family member. I'm just curious if there's any truth in that.

Thank you. :-)

Duke said...

Lucy,

There is a lot of truth to that statement. I know one officer on our department that is third generation in our department. Know of families that have several brothers that are all police officers. I do know of two female officers that told me that they had a close friend or relative that had been a crime victim that pushed them towards law enforcement.

I just always wanted to be one about as far back as I could remember. Doing the cowboy and robbers thing as a child, cowboys always tried to right the wrongs.

Anyway, I have been on the department for nearly 24 years now. Did night shift patrol for nearly 13 years before making sergeant, then made lieutenant about 5 years ago. In charge of a unit that fixes problems in the neighborhood with all available means at hand. How time flies when you're having fun. And it has been a fun ride. Best job in the world, except for the human agony, blood, gore, smell, and pain part.

My son is on the department and has been on for nearly 6 years now. Looks like he might even get promoted to sergeant by spring time. So I guess that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. Looks like Christie may have a replacement for me waiting in the wings. Of course he is smarter than me so he would have probably just told her no to start with.

Dawn Temple said...

Duke,

I'm actually quite familiar with the first form of laundering. Unfortunately, I pull out more busted ink pens than folding money.

So, what if my bad guy owned a less cash-based business? Say a construction firm? Could laundering be accomplished with bogus invoicing or is that too paperwork intensive?

Thanks!
Dawn

RachaelfromNJ said...

Very interesting!

Duke said...

Dawn,

The whole thing of money laundrying is about being bogus, so yes invoicing for nonexistant jobs would be perfect. That is until you are caught. Most places just do not have the resources to do proactive investigations, they are usually reacting to complaints or what they discover during an active investigation. Be sure and check your pockets prior to wash day and you can cut down on your own version of money laundrying and pen crushing. Do most of your clothes resemble the old tie-dye days? Just wondering with the pens in the wash and all.

Duke

Duke said...

Rachaelfromnj,

Well, Christie told me some of you may leave me some open ended questions and comments but this is pretty open. I took a look at your profile and see you review books among other stuff. Hopefully you are taking a look at Christie's stuff as my consultant bonus is directly tied to the success of her books. I think I am the back up plan for becoming the fall guy in case something goes wrong. Like if Duke would have given me better stuff, the book would have been an astounding success instead of just a monumental success. I am still just astonished that someone would want my opinion on most near anything. When Christie calls, she always tells me that she has written herself into a corner and then start with the questions. In reality, most times she had written ME into the corner to which she gained some sort of perverse pleasure in seeing me try to work my way out. Like some sort of test to see if I was a real cop or just so much noise. If I can give you any other nonrequested information, let me know. I'm from the govenrment and I'm here to help you.

Duke

Christie Craig said...

Hey Guys,

I hope you all enjoyed Duke's posts. He really is a funny guy. However, after his last post I decided I'd better make sure he's not just a lot of noise. I checked and I'm afraid HPD has no record of him, but he is listed as an escaped mental patient.

Okay, just joking, he really is HPD. But like he said, he failed the mandatory psych test.

Thank you so much Duke!!! And thank you everyone for putting up with him.

Crime Scene Christie

Estella said...

Loved Dukes info!

Lily said...

I don't really have any question... I am not a writer and I never plan on being one... though great post!

Nathalie said...

Funny way of getting Duke talking... I was a bit lost at fisrt cuz I never read your books... But I sure ant to give them a try :)

Duke said...

Estella,

Thanks for being kind and gentle with me. Christie assured me that y'all were a great bunch of folks and that I would enjoy the chance to tell you some of the wierder sides of law enforcement. If I can ever do anything for y'all to help your "corners", find Christie and let me know.

Duke

Duke said...

Lily,

Never thought I'd be a Police Advisor either. I have about learned the lesson in Law Enforcement, never say never. Thanks for having me on.

Duke

Duke said...

Nathalie,

Getting me talking is the easy part. Getting me to quit is something else again. I know without reading Christie's book that you will enjoy it. As with any book there will be memorable parts, I know that one of the biggest for me will be the part about Duke being her Police Advisor inside the front cover! I will have to read the rest of it too in order to see how my advice panned out in the scheme of things. Of course they may send me back to the training academy for refresher courses too.

Thanks again to all of you for checking in today. I'm honored.

Duke

Duke said...

Unknown to all of you, there was a contest going on during all of this. Entries were selected from all the persons that posed questions to me during this session. The winner is the person that asked me the most embarrassing question. The grand prize winner gets an expensive as possible trip through the grey bar hotel the next time that I find out that they are in Houston.

And the winner is.....Virgina !!!! For the question about the tampons!!! Depending on how much grief I get out of this in the next few days, you may even get to take this tour with Christie since she brought it up in the first place. PLEASE let me know the next time that you are in town.

Duke

Christie Craig said...

Well, Virginia,

At least we'll be behind bars together. But don't worry, he's threatened to arrest me before and has never carried through with his threat. Although, I admit, I do get nervous when I hear sirens.

Thank you everyone for posting. It's been so much fun. I love to share the crazy people I've met along the way in this writing career. And Duke is surely one of those wonderful whacky people.

If anyone is in Houston, Duke has agreed to do an autographing with me. He'll be speaking about how women can avoid getting into desperate situations the way my heroine's do.

I know he'll have the attendees laughing.

Okay guys, have a great evening. Here's to great Monday.

Crime Scene Christie

MsHellion said...

OMG, I wish I had seen this Saturday! Thanks, Duke--it was really awesome of you to blog--you're hilarious!

Duke said...

mshellion,

That is kinda like fishing, you should have been here yesterday! I did enjoy the experience for the most part plus Christie will owe me like forever.

Duke

Laura Iding said...

Duke,

Thanks for your wonderful wit and great answers to our questions. As a nurse I know EXACTLY where the gun might be found. We just had a patient who ate 14 forks. Not sure why 14 and don't you think spoons would have been better? But no, forks is what showed up on the X-ray. it was quite a picture.

Thanks again,

Laura

Duke said...

Laura,

That's the kind of stuff that we really eat up isn't it? Gives the term "poke a fork in him, he's done" a whole new meaning. The guy just couldn't be happy with a few extra towels from Motel 8 could he? Or I guess his sister had forks listed on her wedding registry or something. "Real" folks just have no idea what goes on in the other world that exist around them.

Drive careful but as a general rule, most police hesitate to write doctors or nurses because you could wake up on the table in front of them some day. Of course there are the traffic guys that would pull their mama out of the back of the ambulance to get her to sign the ticket.

Thanks again for having me around.

Duke