05 December 2023

Narc Types?

    The current novel on my bedside table involves a cop who possesses superhuman thinking abilities. He never forgets anything. He has a sidekick who stands in awe of his mental agility. The protagonist is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes minus the cocaine and violin. 

    Although I've met many genuinely gifted police officers in my career, I've never met anyone like this. 

    Other books present the cops as corrupt or grossly inept. Some novels portray an officer so weighed down by personal baggage and the burdens she bears that she transforms into a drug-abusing alcoholic, barely a step above the criminals she pursues. 

    Each trope has some basis in fact. For the most part, however, these big issues don't reflect the officers I've seen and dealt with during my time in the courthouse. Their humanity is revealed, not in a single character bombshell, but rather because they sometimes run late, spill coffee, let an f-bomb drop in church, or drop the occasional typo into a report. 

    Anyway, that's my stated reason for the following compilation of typos gleaned from recent police reports. I hope they help you think about subtle ways to reveal character in your writing, better equip you to properly view the humans working as law enforcement professionals, or perhaps bring a smile to your day.

    "He angeled his head away."

    I assume that the arrestee bent his neck and moved his head to one side. But in the spirit of the yuletide season, he might have been adjusting his halo or emphasizing his pure white wings. The alleged offense, however, was not creating peace on earth.

    "The cocaine seized from the arrestee was gold ball sized."

    My assumption was that the packaged drugs collected by the officer were roughly the size of a Titleist. But given the fluctuating nature of narcotic prices, the baggie might have been worth its weight in precious metal.

    "She was found intoxicated in public lace."

    This one might unintentionally be accurate. Alcohol may sometimes lead to bad fashion choices. At least, that's what I've been told.

    "It was seized after passing the Heroine Test." 

    What are the elements of a good heroine test? Mental toughness. An unwillingness to allow her social status to defend who she becomes. A protagonist who is prepared to put her life on hold until the presenting problem resolves. Or perhaps a desire to sleep after consuming jerry-built pharmaceuticals.

    "The arrestee reviled to Officer Jones his name." 

    Another example of a sentence that might unintentionally be true. Not every citizen goes quietly into custody. Sometimes, hard feelings and genuine dislike develop between the opposing parties.

    Finally, in police work, as in fiction writing, the words matter. Consider the following typographical example. 

    During the argument, the arrestee hit his girlfriend.
    During the argument, the arrestee bit his girlfriend.

    The remainder of the report did not make clear whether "bit" was a typo or whether that was the actual physical conduct in which he engaged. It didn't matter for my purposes; the charged offense was the same regardless of the manner and means. However, I drew a very different mental picture of the two defendants. I found myself reacting much more strongly to the carnivore. What's your reaction? Was your image shaped dramatically by the single substitution of a consonant? 

    May all your holiday feasting be non-arrestable. 

    Until necks time. 


  1. >She was found intoxicated in public lace.
    At least they got the L in public!

    I must have channeled you, Mark. I've used two of those in stories. In one case, schoolkids had made a sign for a deputy, "Welcome Heroin." In a Dan Quayle reference, the deputy reflects Hoosiers are a little funny about trailing letter 'E's.

    Necks time… ha!
    And a marry Christmas to you, too.

  2. Mark, you've reminded me of when I was on the Law and Security program committee at the college where I taught. A high ranking officer at the RCMP told me, "We'll teach them how to police, but for Gawd sake, can you teach them how to write a report someone can actually read??" We laughed. He didn't. :)

    1. I will never run out of material. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I'd be afraid to get you started on the ones you've seen.


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