Thursday, February 08, 2007


One of the characters in my work-in-progress is a Houston police officer. He was a linebacker at a prominent football school, and would have been a first round pick in the pro draft had he not blown out his knee. His life since he was a child has been about football. Without football he has nothing, including the will to even live.

He is recruited instead into the police force. Life he finds, is far from over. His particular talent for taking people down makes him well suited for law enforcement. His reputation grows. Various departments court him. Finally, though, he transfers to narcotics.

And here he thought he would make the biggest splash, but he is sorely disappointed. His biggest collars are dismissed on technicalities. By the time he catches up with another of my characters -- a drug smuggler working for a particularly nasty gang, represented by a lawyer that has never let one of them do so much as a day of community service -- he's ready to exact justice more directly. And he has friends in the force that will back his play.

That's the gist of it. Now, how to implement the details.

My brother lives in Houston, and he happens to have made the recent acquaintance with an HPD officer, who has been part of the force for twenty five years. So I told my brother to ask the officer if he would consent to a Q&A session with me. Last night my brother called me with the man's cell number.

Given that this is about a corrupt cop, I wonder how I should phrase my questions. I'm pretty sure if someone were writing a book about a software developer that wrote a super virus that took down the security grid, I would be more than happy to play along. I guess it just depends on the personality.

So, my good readers, what questions would you ask?

Here are a few I have in mind.

Q. Within the Houston law enforcement organization, what are considered the dream assignments? Does every rookie cop want someday to make Detective, for instance?

Q. What is the chain of command in the force? Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Commissioner? (I might look this up instead of asking)

Q. What assignments are given to officers as punishment for botching an investigation? Guarding the police parking lot for instance.

Q. A sergeant at a precinct can make the job worth doing, or be the reason that one would quit. Without naming names, of course, what frustrations have you experienced in the past with a sergeant? Do any come to mind that did an outstanding job?

Q. How about with assistant district attorneys? Have you ever felt that your collars were being rejected due to shifts in the political wind direction?

Q. In what ways have solid cases that you have made or those made by your fellow officers been dismissed in court? Has corruption ever been suspected as the culprit?

Q. What motivates you to come to work each day? Did you have one idea about your job when you started, but have since adjusted your views?

Q. What is the most gratifying part of your job? Have you ever been thanked by a civilian for a job well done?

Q. The most oft question asked of an officer is probably "Have you ever killed somebody" or "Can you fix this ticket for me" What other questions are typically asked of you? And what are some of your canned answers?

Q. What is some of the street slang that has made it into the police lexicon?


Alan said...

Excellent questions. I wouldn't use the word "culprit" in any context when speaking to him.

Will you be able to tell us those answers or will we have to wait for the book?

Shesawriter said...

I'm totally useless with this, bud. Sorry.

The Zombieslayer said...

His life since he was a child has been about football. Without football he has nothing, including the will to even live.

Isn't that half of Texas? The joke goes that when you meet a Texan, you ask him what position he played (and a Texas lady, which school she cheered for).

Good questions, without being too forward.

I'd like to ask how one keeps from being cynical working in law enforcement. Might get an interesting response if he's game for it.

Scott said...

Alan - I'm not sure if I would post the answers. You'd be surprised how this blog has been found by people I've written about.

Tanya - Now come on! You had to have researched with experts in the course of writing a novel, haven't you?

Zombie - Gad! I hope I'm not being too cliche with this character then. On the other hand, he could be quite believable, since football has very little to do with his role in the story.

Great question by the way. Consider it added to the list.

Kathleen said...

I was about to say the same thing as shesawriter. I'm completely useless with this sort of thing.

The Zombieslayer said...

Scott - One scary thing about writing is you've got to balance cliche and being authentic. Like if a guy says he's from the South and didn't know what grits were, would you believe he's from the South? So, no, I don't think it's cliche.

Toni Anderson said...

Oh my--how exciting. I love interviewing policemen, but then I'm just plain weird :) The questions are good--but when you're talking they are bound to change some so don't worry too much about the wording and just be upfront with him. And make sure you spell his name correctly ;)