Monthly Archives: September 2015

Leadership: Part 1

Despite what you’ve seen in books, TV, and the movies, the role of law enforcement leaders is to lead.

In a vast majority of police fiction, whether on the page or on screens big and small, police leaders are inaccurately portrayed. The tropes usually fall into one of two categories. Either a high ranking police official is shown performing service delivery (patrol work or detective work) or more often, the leader is shown as a blustering hard ass intent upon tearing our hero to shreds with threats to either get the case solved pronto or to back off finding the truth, depending on what kind of unethical behavior he is assigned by the writer.

He. That’s another trope. Almost all these leaders are men.

Before we go any further, let me offer my own mea culpa. I am as guilty as any other writer for perpetuating these myths, especially the blusterer. For instance, my Lieutenant Crawford bedevils more than one investigator with his sarcasm and urgings to “solve the damn case.” So rest assured, I am not casting stones here, for my own sins are prevalent. If anything, that’s all the more reason I want to share some of these inconsistencies with other writers out there.

So what’s the truth about leaders in law enforcement? If you want to write realistic crime fiction, what mistakes should you avoid? What should you include instead? Well, that’s what this series of short entries is about.

First, a caveat. What I am going to describe in these entries are generally true. That’s a dangerous word, of course – generally. It means that, as the popular Internet phrase says, YMMV. Your mileage may vary. The setting you choose to write in may or may not specifically adhere to these guidelines. A little Google research may be in order if you wish to be absolutely factually accurate. But it also means that if you want to deviate for some writerly reason, you have permission to do so. These things are generally true, not universally so.

One thing that is universal is that leaders are people. In a world where the public seems to struggle to understand that cops themselves are also people, it becomes an even greater difficulty to comprehend that the leaders within that population are human as well. As with all people, they have their strengths and weaknesses, their nobility and their failings. Because police work is a human endeavor, it is perfect for the writer to explore. The very nature of the profession makes it rife for any possibilities the writer can imagine. Most of us would be hard pressed to say, “Yeah, that could never happen.”

But this series of short entries will be about what is most likely, and is intended to help you present your police leaders in the most realistic manner possible.

Copyright © 2015 by Frank Zafiro. All rights reserved.

Righting Crime Fiction welcomes Frank Zafiro!

Frank ZafiroI am very pleased to announce that Frank Zafiro will be joining me as a regular contributor here at Righting Crime Fiction. That he is willing to give so selflessly of his precious time in order to assist fellow writers with getting their police procedures right is a testament to his good character. I have worked with Frank on a few projects over the years and I’m honored to have him here.

For those who don’t know him, Frank is a retired police captain and a full time writer. Best known for his River City crime novels, I e-met Frank many years ago through the online mystery community (I believe it was through SMFS) and came to respect him as a police officer and as a writer. For those of you who already know him, I don’t need to tell y’all how informative and invaluable his posts will be.

Frank’s first series of posts will be on the topic of leadership in law enforcement and will begin running this week.

Please join me in welcoming Frank to Righting Crime Fiction…it’ll be a lot of fun!

Firearms Test: Bullets versus Plastic Chair

For the September 2015 segment of Righting Crime Fiction, I’ll be responding to a question asked by Writer Nina Mansfield over on Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Yahoo Group. She asked if it was possible for a handgun fired from ten to fifteen feet away to knock over a “flimsy” plastic chair. My immediate response was going to be to explain how plastic offers little resistance and bullets travel at a very high rate of speed, so the bullets (any bullet) would zip right on through without even budging the chair. I was going to support my opinion with examples of things I’ve experienced and prior tests I’ve done over the years, but then I suddenly remembered I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and writers are supposed to *show* and not *tell*. Thus, I decided I would show her—and everyone else who might benefit from the information—what happens when one shoots a flimsy plastic chair with various firearms.

First thing this morning, I drove out to the local Dollar General store and bought a flimsy plastic chair for $8.00. I then headed to the shooting range with five handguns, a rifle, a shotgun, and a camcorder to put her question and my opinion to the test.

I set the chair out to about fifteen feet and fired one shot from each of the firearms I’d brought, with the exception of my .308 Accuracy International sniper rifle. I met a guy named Charlie who was shooting a .308 Savage precision rifle, and I let him shoot the chair twice with his rifle.

Here is a list of the weapons used, and the order in which they were fired:

  1. Plinkerton .22 caliber single-action revolver
  2. Beretta 92FS 9 mm semi-automatic pistol
  3. Gloc k 22 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol
  4. Ruger GP100 .357 magnum double-action revolver
  5. Uberti 1875 Outlaw .45LC single-shot revolver
  6. Savage .308 bolt-action rifle
  7. Benelli Nova 12-gauge pump-action shotgun

I set the camcorder up on a tripod and it remained trained on the chair during the test shots, so as to record any possible movement of the chair when the bullets struck it. My course of action was as follows: I loaded and fired a shot from the .22 revolver, activated the zoom on the camcorder to get a close-up view of the bullet hole, zoomed out, and then followed the same procedure with all of the other weapons, with the exception of the .308 rifle (as described earlier). In order to increase the odds of knocking the chair over, I aimed at the top of the backrest.

Without further ado, here is the video containing the test results:

As you can see, the bullets zipped right on through the plastic without even causing the chair to flinch. The bullet causing the most damage was the 12-gauge 1oz slug, which is a fearsome round. The football, which has more volume and travels much slower than a bullet, “pushed” the chair over onto its back, as would be expected.

Note about the football: I’d love to be able to say I called Drew Brees over to throw the football at the chair for this experiment, but he was in Arizona trying to win a football game.

I’d like to thank Nina for asking the question, as it gave me a great excuse to head out to the firing range (like I really need one:-) and it was great fun. Check out her bio below and visit her website to find out what she’s been up to.

Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, Swimming Alone, a young adult mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in August 2015. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Nina is a member of, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Dramatists Guild.  Please visit her at

Until next time, write, rewrite, and get it right!

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016), and BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (Amber Quill Press, 2016).

Copyright © 2015 by BJ Bourg. All rights reserved.