I found this great resource and asked Lee Lofland for permission to repost. And he said yes! If you’re a crime writer and aren’t following him you’re missing out. He has a fascinating blog filled with all kinds of information to help your stories ring true. Like my friend, Garry Rodgers, Lee Lofland also consults for crime writers. You can’t go wrong with either of these fine gentlemen. So before I continue here are links to both of their blogs, since I have yet to create my blogroll.
Garry Rodgers, veteran mounted police/coroner/firearms expert, can be found here.
Lee Lofland, veteran homicide detective/undercover officer/K9 handler/deputy sheriff, can be found here.
Both have bestselling books. Links to their author pages: Garry’s here and Lee’s here. These law enforcement officers can write, too! (you’ll see why I didn’t use the term ‘cop’ later) Lee Lofland also runs the Writer’s Police Academy. This year Karin Slaughter is the guest of honor. My favorite author AND a day filled with crime. It just doesn’t get any better than that! As an added bonus, Sisters In Crime is offering a nice discount to first time attendees. Last year this event sold out in six hours, so If you want to go you’ll have to move fast. Click on the event name or go here to register. If I don’t make it in I’ll be sulking for weeks, possibly months.
Lee compiled a dictionary of terms police officers use. You know, that jargon most people don’t understand? Well, now it’s all in one place. Now, you too can use these terms in your stories so your detective can sound like the real deal. Crime readers are smart. You can’t fake the dialogue and get away with it. Learn the correct terms as if you lived the part and your reader will believe almost anything you tell them. At the very least they’ll be willing to suspend belief all the way to ‘The End’.
Part I is longer than the rest because I wanted to give you a good sampling. Lee’s definitions are not only informative and interesting but he gives examples for the more complicated terms. Definitely worth the read, which is why I’m so excited to share this with you.
A Crime Writer’s Dictionary
Has your protagonist ever been at a loss for the right words? Do her fans believe what she’s saying? Here are a few terms that might help when she’s out and about in Fiction Land.
Writers often find themselves searching for just the right police terminology or phrase. Unfortunately, the answers to their questions aren’t always available at a glance. You know the questions I’m talking about—Are kidnapping and abduction one in the same? And what the heck is a bucket head? Yeah, those kind of questions. Well, here’s a mini dictionary that might be of some use.
Abandonment: Knowingly giving up one’s right to property without further intending to reclaim or gain possession. Abandoned property can be searched by police officers without a search warrant. Most states deem it illegal to abandon motor vehicles, and the owner may be summoned to civil court to answer charges, pay fines, or to receive notice of vehicle impoundment and disposal.
Abduction: The criminal act of taking someone away by force, depriving that person of liberty or freedom. A person who has been kidnapped against their will has been abducted. This definition does not apply to a law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties.
*FYI writers – Local police agencies can and do investigate kidnapping/abduction cases. I’ve worked and solved several. The FBI does NOT have to be called for abduction cases.
Abscond: To covertly leave the jurisdiction of the court or hide to avoid prosecution or arrest. A suspect who “jumps bail” or hides from police, while knowing a warrant has been issued for her arrest, has absconded from justice. Film director/producer Roman Polanski absconded to France before he could be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a minor.
AMBER Alert: The AMBER alert was created in Dallas, Texas, as a legacy to nine year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. An AMBER alert is issued when law-enforcement officials determine a child has been abducted. Immediately after verification of the kidnapping, officials contact broadcasters and state-transportation officials, who in turn relay descriptions of the child and their abductor to radio, television, electronic road signs, and other highly visible sites.
Armed Robbery: Robbery is the act of taking, or seizing, someone’s property by using force, fear, or intimidation. Using a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, to carry out the same robbery constitutes an armed robbery. You have NOT been robbed when someone breaks into your home while you’re away and steals your TV.
By the way, the photo above was taken just last week during a bank robbery in Virginia. It was the second such robbery within a period of a couple of weeks. Both robberies were carried out by men wearing hoodies. In this case, and many, many others, I don’t think the wearing of the hoodie was intended as a fashion statement.
FYI – I recently saw “Breaking News” headline that read something like, “TOM PETTY ROBBED.” Well, I expected to read about a methed-up troll pointing a rusty knife at the rocker and then making off with his fortune. Instead, the story was about some loser who waited until no was looking and then stole five of Petty’s guitars from a deserted sound stage. Huge difference. This was not a robbery. Instead, it was larceny of property. There was no threat and no intimidation and no weapon of any kind. There wasn’t even anyone around to receive a dirty look from the thief.
A**hole: Police slang for suspect or perpetrator. (You fill in the blanks. Hint: the first letters of Sinking Ship will work nicely. The same works for the next entry as well).
A**wipe: Police slang for suspect or perpetrator.
B & E: Break and enter (see Break and Enter).
Bad Check: A check that has been drawn upon an account of insufficient funds, or on an account that has been closed. A person who writes and utters (cashes) a bad check is considered to have committed larceny, or the theft of cash money. Most states consider bad-check writing to be a misdemeanor; however, some states consider the offense to be a felony if the check is written for more than a specific amount set by law, such as a minimum amount of $200. Suspects who are arrested for writing and passing bad checks are usually released on their own recognizance, with their signed promise to appear in court for trial.
Badge Bunny: Nickname given by police officers to females who prefer to date only police officers and firemen. Many of these badge bunnies actively pursue recent police academy graduates to the point of actually stalking the officers. Some have even committed minor offenses and made false police complaints to be near the officers they desire. Many police academies mention badge bunnies near the end of the officer’s academy training to prepare them for the possible situation.
Biological Weapon: Agents used to threaten or destroy human life, e.g. anthrax, smallpox, E. coli, etc.
Picking up bacteria from agar plate. The brownish-red material is the agar. The grayish-yellow coloring at the top of the agar is E.coli bacteria. When incubated, the number of bacteria can double every twenty minutes. Yes, I took this photo, and I must say that it’s a bit intimidating to be in a room where scientists are hard at work with this stuff. And yes, those are the hands of my adorable, but deadly, wife. I sleep with one eye open…
Bitch: 1) Complain. 2) Typically, physically weak and passive prisoners controlled by other dominant inmates. The “bitch” is normally forced into performing sexual favors for controlling inmates. The submissive inmates are often forced into servitude for the duration of their sentences.
Bitch Slap: Any open-handed strike to the face. The term is often used to describe a humiliating defeat. “It was embarrassing for John to be bitch-slapped by Larry, a man half his size.”
Blow: Slang for cocaine.
Blow Away: To kill someone by shooting.
BOLO: Be On The Lookout. “Officers issued a BOLO at 0400 hours for the suspect of an armed robbery.” BOLO has replaced the use of APB (All Points Bulletin) in nearly all areas of the country.
Break and Enter: These are the words used to describe the essential elements of a burglary in the night time. The actual breaking need only be a slight action, such as opening an unlocked window or pushing open a door that is already ajar. In some states, merely crossing the plane of an open window or door (in the night time) is all that’s needed to constitute a break. The intent to commit a felony in conjunction with the breaking must be present to constitute Breaking and Entering.
Bucket Head: Term used to describe a motorcycle officer, because of the helmets they’re required to wear when riding.
Bust: 1) To place someone under arrest. 2) To conduct a police raid, especially a drug raid.
Can: A prison or jail. “When does Riley get out of the can?”
Capias: The process of seizing a person and/or their property for the purpose of answering a particular charge in a court of law. A judge can issue a Capias, also known as a Warrant for Failure to Appear, for anyone who has been summoned to court but does not appear. A Capias is normally issued by the court for suspects in criminal matters who fail to appear for their hearings and for witnesses who do not show up for their scheduled court appearances. A Capias is a criminal warrant, and the subject must be processed in the same way as any other criminal—he or she arrested, fingerprinted, and photographed. It is not unusual for a judge to dismiss the charge of Failure to Appear once the person is actually brought to the courtroom and successfully completes his or her testimony.
Cooking The Books: Fixing police reports to make certain high-crime areas appear safer. Also, a person who alters any type of records or documents is often said to be “cooking the books.”
Cop: 1) To steal something. “Susan copped two necklaces while the clerk was on the telephone.” 2) Slang for a police officer. Many police officers take offense to the term being used by the general public. Instead, those officers prefer to be addressed as police officers.
Cop a Plea: To plead guilty to a lesser included offense to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
County Mounties: Slang for sheriff’s deputies.
Crooked Zebra: A referee who has been bribed to fix the outcome of a sporting event.
Crop Dusting: Passing gas (flatulence) while walking through a crowd of people.
Deck: A packet of narcotics.
Dirt Bag: An old-school police nickname for a criminal suspect. “Cuff that dirt bag, Officer Jenkins. He’s wanted for murder.”
Do: To kill someone. “When are you gonna do that dirtbag, Sammy?”
DOA: Dead on arrival.
Drop: To take a drug by mouth; orally. “Cindy dropped a hit of acid three hours ago. She’s really tripping hard.”
EC: Emergency Contact
EDP: Emotionally Disturbed Person
Eight Ball: 1/8th ounce of cocaine/meth/crack (3.5 grams).
Eighth Amendment: Prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bails and fines.
Embezzlement: Fraudulent appropriation of property or funds to one’s own use. It is a larceny.
En Banc: A matter that’s considered by the full court, such as all judges of an appellate court rather than only one or two.
Entrapment: Defense which excuses a defendant from criminal activity because that illegal activity was a result of government persuasion/trickery.
Erroist: Someone who repeatedly makes mistakes. A true dumbass.
ERT: Evidence Eradication Team (Fire and EMS personnel when they arrive on the scene of, well, anything).
Exclusionary Rule: Prohibits the introduction of evidence acquired by improper or illegal police action (improper search and seizure, etc.).
Extradition: The surrender by one state to another of an accused or convicted person. A state governor has the right to demand the return of a person/suspect as long as probable cause of a crime exists.
Eye Socket Stabilization: Nickname for the self defense tactic where the victim uses their fingers to gouge the eyes of an attacker. Very effective.