Police Procedure question

I’m stymied by police procedure. I’ve posted a query at Ask-A-Cop, too, but figure you guys are smart and might be able to help.

(If you’re in the pool of people reading this or about to read this for me, you’re about to get some serious spoilers, so skip this post)

I’m writing an urban fantasy novel. I know procedures change depending on district, but since I don’t specify the city we can fudge a bit. Think of a city around the size of Raleigh, N.C.

These are the plot elements that the police would know about.

My main character, Grace, is a prominent and respected trial lawyer.(specializing in women’s issues). On Wednesday, she is jogging and calls in to report gunshots and screams coming from a house.

At the moment, I have three squad cars responding plus an ambulance. One of the officers, Regec, sees Grace, recognizes her and asks if she can shed light on the situation. Reasonable?

When the police approach the house, a man exits and then dies with no visible marks. A rottweiler gets out, from the house, and attacks Grace, biting her.

At the moment, Regec shoots the dog. Reasonable?

Only one other person was in the house, a woman, locked in the attic. The man’s fingerprints were on the gun, not the woman’s.

Would someone official (ambulance or police) take Grace to the hospital, or would she have to get there on her own?

That afternoon, she arrives home and discovers that her house has been broken into. Since she has Regec’s card, she calls her wanting a familiar face. Would Regec be able to respond? (Assuming she’s in the right precinct, of course)

The next day, the police are called to Grace’s office. They are told that, while interviewing a client, the client’s two-year old child got sucked into the ceiling and vanished. (The child had Hobbson’s Syndrome, a condition which Grace had as a child and she is the only person known to have recovered from it.) The client, a hysterical woman, also insists that this happened and blames Grace. There’s no sign of the child, but a giant gaping hole in the acoustical tiles in the ceiling. No visible way out. The client wants them to charge Grace with kidnapping. They don’t.

NEXT — later that afternoon, while lunching with the D.A., Grace gets a phone call and learns that her husband (who had been out of town) had caught an earlier flight and had been home when her home had been broken into. A shoe had been found at the scene, which Grace recognizes as his.

NEXT — That night, the police get a phone call from Grace’s parents that they arrived at her house and that it had been trashed. Thoroughly. She and her daughter are missing.

NEXT — There’s a rash of missing children, all with Hobbson’s Syndrome.

NEXT — In the wee hours of the following morning, the police receive a call about a woman trespassing. The man placing the complaint is a doctor who specializes in children with Hobbson’s Syndrome.

They arrive and the woman is Grace. She’s dirty and bruised. She tells them that she doesn’t know how she got there. She also says that there’s a boy in the woods.

How are the police likely to respond at this point?

They find the boy. He’s about nine years old but barely verbal. Naked, except for a torn shirt, dirty and bruised. He points at the doctor and says, “He stole me.” He is also on the list of missing Hobbson’s Syndrome children.

What would the police do?

What I need is for Blessenger to wind up arrested and Grace given a ride out of there. I can manipulate the scene and add other evidence now or in an earlier scene if that would help. I would LOVE to have Regec on the scene, but I think it isn’t believable — let me know if there’s a way to get her there.

I’m sorry this is so ridiculously long. I couldn’t think of a way to condense it.

Bonus points: How do officers on the scene refer to one another? “Hey Lou?”

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10 Responses

  1. Jeff

    Okay, just a report of shots fired. 3 squad cars OKAY depends on the neighborhood. Bad neighborhood = more early/first responders. Cops responding to shots fired would approach house with weapons drawn or at the ready. Dog gets out and gets shot before getting to Grace — why was she so close to entry scene?

    “Only one other person was in the house, a woman, locked in the attic. The man’s fingerprints were on the gun, not the woman’s.” Not the woman or not the woman’s gun? (I’m not trying to be smug…) Are we writing CSI T.V. type crime lab reports where we get positive IDs and match verifications within hours or are we working with real forensics and forensic labs where this stuff takes days and weeks (and if you’re talking about looking for a positive match on the national database months).

    Ambulance would be called when scene is accessed — you never call ambulance pre-emptively, it may be needed elsewhere. Wounds would be treated on spot by Paramed/EMT. Your priority is your kidnap vic, get her to the hospital to run forensics/rape kit, fluids, statement etc etc etc Call the ‘meat wagon’ for the corpse once you get a release from whomever is going to be the detective in charge.

    Breaking and entering: Regec would advise her to call dispatch. He would also advise her to get out of the house and wait for him to show up before entering to clear the premises. Cops don’t move without a digital recording and paperwork trail too much these days. (Thank you law suits). He may radio ahead to dispath to advise them that he is responding to a possible 10-25 (Breaking and Entering, if you’re using typical 10-code) at street address _______. “Roger that Seargent Rege—wait, we don’t have a 10-25 at ________.” “She’s calling it in now.” Flips lights and sirens switch, slams gas pedal —movin’ on….

    After all events “how are police likely to respond.” Which police? Same district? Same precinct? Same cops? This will make a huge difference. They respond to Grace with the same questions they would give to any potential suspect/tresspasser. Where’s the boy, what does he look like, how do you know he’s there, who are you, what are you doing here etc… she’d be placed in the back of a squad car for further questioning.

    Next they call out K-9 units. Best and most effective way of tracking missing persons. K-9 may be aggressive towards boy. They may/may not mobilize SAR (search and rescue) units, launch helicopter — a lot depends on how big and dramatic you want to make the search scene. It also depends if they can verify that yes, there is a boy missing, yes-he may be out in the woods, yes- his description matches missing persons reports.

    Kid’s accusation: what’s the doctor’s reaction? Remember to these cops that everyone is either a vic or a perp — and until they’re identified as the victim they are most definitely a potential perp. What’s the doc’s reaction and is it enough to rouse suspicion to bring him(her) in for immediate questioning…or will he be questioned and released on the scene.

    Officers on the scene: last names, Smith=Smitty, rank and identifiers for Sergeant, Detective and Lieutenant, first names typically reserved for close-up conversations or privacy of squad car —formality (generally) maintained over radio with last names, badge ids etc.

      1. Jeff

        Yes well, depending on the size of your department you’ve got Missing Persons, Forensics, Homicide, Sex Crimes, SAR and someone from the DAs office in the midst of this.

        Thank goodness you said NOVEL. 😀

  2. -e-

    Wow, I’d love to hear about even the process of DISCUSSING a ride along w/ the NYPD, let alone actually going on one!

  3. Mike

    It depends. What rank is the Regec and what unit is he normally/currently assigned too? If he’s a detective, and or normally/currently assigned to crimes against children/kidnapping/missing children its possible. In which case you can probably just have him be “in the neighborhood” and end up either as a/the senior officer on the scene, or just someone trusted.

    I suspect how cops refer to each other varies based on the crime scene and officers involved.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Regec is a sergeant but she’s not a detective.

      What I’m trying now is to have someone else arrive on the scene first and then have her arrive in the second wave, sent specifically because she’d already dealt with Grace.

  4. fabulousgirl

    Umm, so admittedly I’ve been cranky lately, but …

    an attorney who specializes in women’s issues? What exactly are women’s issues?

    =)