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Writers’ Police Academy 2014: Days 2 & 3

Originally posted June 11, 2014.

Now that we’ve made it to days 2 & 3 of the Writers’ Police Academy, the real fun begins! The day begins with an orientation and announcements, given by Lee Lofland, the mastermind behind the Writers’ Police Academy. This is especially helpful for those people who didn’t make it to the hotel on Thursday night.

Shortly after there is a demonstration of some kind. Last year the bomb squad brought the bomb robot and equipment to show everyone. It was pretty cool!

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There is a little time after the demonstrations for you to run to the restrooms and hit the vending machines before your first workshop begins.

The workshops are broken up into 4 sessions:

  • 9:15-10:30
  • 10:45-12:00
  • 1:00-2:15
  • 2:30-3:45

You also get an hour for lunch and an hour special session with a special speaker. Last year we were fortunate to hear Kathy Reichs and the previous year was Marcia Clark!

Most of the attendees are writers, so the workshops are geared towards writing. But Lee and the presenters offer a little something for everyone.

Below is a list of just some of the classes that are being offered this year:

  • Fingerprinting and the AFIS System
  • Murder Typology: Varieties of Multiple Murder
  • Crime Scene Processing/Evidence Packaging
  • Suspicious Fire Deaths
  • Underwater Evidence Recovery

You can read more about the classes and see the full list at

My favorite class, the shallow grave burial site, unfortunately, is not being offered this year. I know, pretty morbid, but also pretty awesome for a mystery writer. This was the very first class I took at the academy. It was also the year it rained and rained and rained. It was terrible weather, but that just added to the spookiness of the class.

We all gathered at the gazebo to go over some information and meet each other before making our way to the crime scene. I was glad to learn that others hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning either, because a little birdie had told us the smell of the “dead body” was pretty foul. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, the rain and cooler weather disguised the smell, so it wasn’t bad at all.

It was touch and go for a while as to whether the class was even going to take place since it was raining so hard, but the class voted to go through with it. Of course, the authors didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to dig a shallow grave for a dead body!


We walked across the street and into the woods behind the college towards the crime scene. It was a rough and soggy walk, but we were all too excited to care that we were soaked to the bone. Up in the distance, we caught the first glimpse of the crime scene tent. And finally the dead body. The victim was Annie, the mannequin. Someone had killed her and tried to bury her, but only got so far into the process before leaving the scene.

The crime scene had evidence and clues scattered around for everyone to determine who might have dug this shallow grave. See the receipt in the left-hand corner? That receipt showed where the killer had bought the shovel to dig the grave!

After we had time to examine the body and crime scene, we had the opportunity to dig our own shallow grave. Even though it was still pouring, we all waited our turn and attempted to dig our own shallow grave. I think the writers of Supernatural were spot on when they said, “Supernatural makes grave digging look so easy.” Shoot! It is tough digging a grave! And that is exactly what the instructor was teaching us. The reason there are so many shallow graves is that it is tough and physically demanding to dig a grave, let alone a deep grave. Hmm. File that away in my memory file for my next mystery novel. I loved that workshop!

Writers' Police Academy

The other workshop that I loved, jail cell search, is also not being held this year. It is a shame, because it was a fun workshop. We got to go into a real jail cell and search for hidden contraband. It was amazing to see where the inmates hid their stashes, shivs, and other interesting items. There were two cells, and we were divided up into teams to search. Our team found everything but one item. It was a picture frame made out of gum wrappers. I can’t remember exactly why it was illegal, but it might have been sharp enough to cut someone.

As you can see, my favorite workshops are the hands-on workshops. I also took part in a building search, where I used a police shield to lead my team into an empty building, and fingerprinting and footwear impressions, where we took actual fingerprints and shoe impressions. Really fun workshops!

So after the 2 days of workshops, you have the option of attending the dinner banquet, which always features an amazing well-known author. This year it is Michael Connelly. Pretty awesome! Then on Sunday, all of the instructors offer a question and answer session where you can ask pretty much anything you want.

So that is the Writers’ Police Academy! I hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful event.

If you do decide this is something you want to attend next year, keep an eye on Lee Lofland’s website. He posts information about when you can sign up. My suggestion is to do it the day the event goes live. This year, it sold out in one day!!!