Life Is What Happens While We’re Making Other Plans

by Kassandra Lamb

Hubs and I went to his 50th high school reunion this last Friday.

Wow, just wow!

Back in high school, we didn’t really get that we would someday be 50 years old, much less 50 years out of high school.

Hubs' high school

Hubs’ high school

The reunion committee had a rather cool idea. They passed out black and white pics of people’s faces out of the yearbook as everyone registered. Your task was to find the person in the picture and give them their photo.

My husband has a good memory. He was pretty sure he knew who the woman was in his picture, but try as we might we couldn’t find her. She was a pretty dark-eyed blonde, with a thin face.

Tour of the school -- inner courtyard

Tour of the school — inner courtyard

The exercise brought home to us how generic old people look. Most had added a few pounds, some quite a few pounds. Most had gray or white hair. And if they didn’t, it was with the help of hair dye, so hair color was now irrelevant.

We walked around that big room full of old people and stared at name tags until our eyes crossed. We finally concluded that the woman whose picture he’d drawn had opted not to attend the reunion.

Then the mostly overweight, gray-haired cheerleaders and majorettes took over the dance floor and twirled their batons to the old school fight song.

And there was another thin-faced, blonde woman (not the one in hubs’ picture) who had won the genetics lottery for aging. She was still thin, still full of pep, and with no varicose veins spoiling her shapely legs.

dixie-hollins-reunion-cropped

Oh, her face had her fair share of wrinkles when she turned our way, mostly crow’s feet around her sparkling eyes and smile lines around her mouth. “Look at Kerry Ann!” rippled through the auditorium. But everyone seemed happy for her.

It was obvious her well-preserved self was not the product of plastic surgery or anorexic-type dieting. She’d just gotten lucky regarding her gene pool. And perhaps her positive attitude toward life had helped.

But even though she seemed to have more energy than those around her, she didn’t seem to have any more spirit.

And that was the other thing that struck me about this crowd of aging people. They were full of joie de vivre. They were happy.

Of course, some of that happiness had to do with the party atmosphere and the cash bar. But I was reminded of how inaccurate the myth of aging is – the one about how old people are grumpy and discontent.

Most aren’t.

Their lives hadn’t always gone in the direction they’d expected. Some had married young and divorced almost as young, only to remarry the loves of their lives. While others had stayed divorced, or had divorced multiple times.

Others had married their high school sweethearts and were still married 48 years later! Indeed, there were quite a few long-term marriages in the crowd.

Many had gone into predictable professions–like my husband, the French linguist, who was greeted more than once as Mr. Frenchie. And the guy from the automobile mechanics vocational program who now owned his own dealership that he was about to pass on to his son.

(meme made with imgflip --

meme made with imgflip

Still others had become something entirely different than anticipated.

I met one particularly interesting woman who had planned to marry and raise children. That hadn’t quite worked out so she’d devoted her life to her profession and her nieces and nephews. She seemed pretty content with the whole thing.

Indeed, I didn’t detect any of the angst that had been just beneath the surface for some of the people who’d been at my own 30th reunion (the last one I attended before we left Maryland). And there was a lot less of the posturing I remembered from that reunion.

No one seemed to care anymore about what others thought of their success or lack thereof. We were just a bunch of old people who’d gotten together to reminisce and have a good time.

I concluded that, by the time we’ve reached our sixties, we’ve come to grips with our dreams. Either life has turned out as we planned or we’ve adjusted the plan. Sometimes life has actually taken some interesting twists and turns for which we’re downright grateful.

Indeed, life is sometimes what happens while we’re making other plans. And that isn’t always a bad thing.

How about you? Have you had times when life took you in some unexpected direction that turned out better than anticipated?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

When Does a Stressor Become a Stressor? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

I am in editing hell the process of polishing a manuscript, so I thought I’d re-run a post that was a hit a few years ago.

It seemed appropriate to go with a post on stress!  From May, 2013:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the main factors in how stressed we feel is our own interpretation of the events in our lives. With a few exceptions, a stressor isn’t a stressor until we view it that way.

This is why something can be soooo stressful to one person and someone else thinks they’re nuts for worrying about it. The interpretation of a stressor is unique to each individual, influenced by personality and past experiences.

This used to be one of my husband’s biggest stressors:

airplane flying overhead

(photo by Dylan Ashe, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When we were first married, he was a basketcase whenever we had to fly somewhere. We had to get to the airport extra early, so he could have a couple drinks in the airport bar to brace himself. But once we were on the plane, he wouldn’t drink. This was back in the days when alcohol on the plane was free (Yes, folks, once upon a time, airlines not only fed you for free, they would get you liquored up as well. No extra charge!)

So not only did I think the man was crazy, I was pissed that he was buying overpriced drinks in the airport and then not drinking the free stuff on the plane. One day, I confronted him about this and he explained that he couldn’t drink on the plane because he had to be able to concentrate.

“Concentrate on what?” I asked.

“On willing the plane to stay in the air,” he answered.

At that point, I truly thought I’d married a madman.

I later found out, as a psychology grad student, that this wasn’t an unusual fantasy on the part of folks afraid of flying. It’s their way of taking control of a situation where they feel out of control. (As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, control is often a big factor in stress.)

Fortunately, my husband finally figured out what was going on with his fear of flying. I won’t go into details since it’s not my story to tell. Suffice it to say that he’d had some bad experiences with people being in charge who were quite incompetent. So having someone else in control of his safety made him very nervous.

view from airplane window seat

(photo by Peretz Partensky, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I, on the other hand, am one of those people who will run you over to get to a window seat. Then I squeal, “Look at the cute little cars and houses down there. It looks like a Christmas garden” as the plane is taking off. (My husband wears earplugs on planes; I can’t imagine why.)

My attitude is that since I can’t control whether or not the plane stays in the air, I might as well not worry about it and just relax and enjoy the ride.

Now, let’s talk about job stress. My husband handles it very well. Why? Because he doesn’t mind having bosses. He’s an easy-going guy (has to be to put up with me!) and he’s okay with someone telling him what to do as long as they’re not an idiot. And if his boss is an idiot (he’s had a few of them through the years), he just figures out how to work around the idiocy and moves on.

I, however, have no patience whatsoever for idiot bosses, and it seems like I have had way more than my share of them. Of course, the fact that my definition of an idiot boss is any boss who doesn’t leave me completely alone to do my job without any interference could be part of the problem.

Yes, I am cussedly independent! So much so that by the time I was 30, I’d decided that the only way I could function in the world of work was to be self-employed. I went into private practice as a mental health counselor.

coffee mug with "The Boss"

(photo by ThisIsRobsLife, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

It was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I totally loved my job! There were plenty of other stressors involved in being self-employed, but they all paled by comparison to how I had felt when I was being micro-managed by others. So I was a happy camper!

Fast forward 13 years and I was starting to burn out on listening to other people’s descriptions of their stressful lives. I had done a little bit of teaching here and there and had really loved the interaction with students. So I decided to apply for part-time teaching positions at the colleges in my area. My goal was to teach half-time and cut my practice back to half-time so it wouldn’t be so stressful.

After papering the Baltimore-Washington area with my resume, I finally got a call from the psychology department at Towson University. I  liked the department chair and the whole atmosphere in the department, and I was reassured that there would be an ongoing need for my services as long as I did a good job.

Imagine my shock when halfway into the first semester I started having anxiety attacks any time I crossed paths with my department chair. Did I mention I liked him? I really did, so why was I so nervous around him? By the end of the semester, I was actually considering quitting teaching, even though I loved everything else about it.

To cut to the chase, I finally figured out that having a boss again, even one I liked, was pushing my control buttons. I wasn’t completely in charge of my own destiny anymore, as I had been for years. Indeed, when you teach college part-time your employment is completely at the whim of your department chair. He or she can choose not to hire you back the following semester and there is absolutely no recourse, because you are a contractual employee. This was the source of my anxiety, and no amount of lecturing myself about how everybody at Towson liked me and said I was doing a good job seemed to help.

After much thought, I hit on a solution, a way to reframe the situation to myself. I reminded myself that there were roughly fifty colleges within commuting distance of my home, and I should think of myself as a self-employed contractor, who was offering my expertise to these schools on a contractual basis. If I didn’t like the set-up at one school or they didn’t hire me back, I would just take my expertise elsewhere.

It worked! I felt so much better. I was able to relax and really enjoy teaching. I taught at Towson for 9 years, until my husband and I both retired and we moved to Florida. It turned out to be my favorite job ever!

Now if you’re thinking, “How silly. All you changed is how you thought about the situation,” you are exactly right. Except about the ‘silly’ part.

That’s the whole point. How we think and feel about a stressor very much affects how much it stresses us!

Back to my husband and his fear of flying for a moment. His fears dissipated dramatically when we started using a certain airline that had two things going for it. One, the crews are trained to be super friendly; the pilot stands at the door and greets the passengers as they board. Two, a friend of ours is a pilot for this particular airline and we know he’s a competent guy.

When my husband felt that those in charge of keeping the plane in the air were real people, friendly and competent like his friend, he was able to relax. Over time, his fear of flying completely disappeared. Today, he prefers flying over driving, whenever possible.

How about you? Any stressors come to mind that might not be so stressful if you were able to shift your interpretation of them?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

6 Answers Fiction Writers Have for the Grammar Police

by Kassandra Lamb

made at imgflip.com

One of the frustrations of being a fiction writer is the occasional need to defend ourselves when accosted by the Grammar Police.

Now, that’s not to say that we don’t sometimes become the Grammar Police ourselves. Most of us have had a lot of training in the use of language, including proper grammar. So we grind our teeth when we see flat-out errors (apostrophes in places they don’t belong is one of my pet peeves).

But often our own grammatical “mistakes” really aren’t mistakes at all.

Certainly we writers do sometimes make boo-boos in our writing. Anytime one is feverishly typing — trying to get the words down before the muse snatches them away again — there is bound to be an occasional “your” slipping in where we meant “you’re.” (That’s why it’s so important for writers to get fresh eyes to proofread their final work.)

But many of the things the Grammar Police see as horrific errors are more examples of literary license and/or the evolution of language.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

1.  Sentence fragments are okay in fiction. Honest! They are. For emphasis. They should be used sparingly, but it really is okay to leave out the subject, or even the subject and the verb, or some other component of a grammatically-correct sentence, when writing fiction.

2.  Dialogue is about how people really talk, not what is grammatically correct.

Nothing will bring out the grammar police reaction in me faster than someone using “that” to refer to a person.

made at imgflip.com

made at imgflip.com

~ She’s the one that came to the door.

No, no, no! 

~ She’s the one who came to the door.

However, if you put quotes around that first sentence, indicating that it’s dialogue, it is now okay. Because that’s how people talk today, in America at least.

Likewise, “a couple of days ago” is grammatically correct. But when speaking, someone is more likely to say, “A couple days ago.”

3.  Dropping some “correct” words for the sake of flow.  Flow is important in fiction. The smoother the flow of words, the more the reader forgets that s/he is reading and becomes immersed in the story.

One of the things writers are advised to do is read the story out loud. When you see how easily (or not) the words flow off the tongue, you have a better sense of how easily they will flow through the reader’s mind.

For example, when a dependent clause acts as a modifier of a noun, it technically should begin with “that.” But often times, the “that” can be dropped and the sentence still means the same thing, but it flows a bit smoother.

~  It was the blanket that the toddler always carried around with her.

~  It was the blanket the toddler always carried around with her.

4.  Mixing verb tenses. Fiction is most often written in past tense.

~  She walked to the bench and picked up the book.

We read that as something that is happening in the present in the story. So if a writer needs to talk about something that happened in the character’s past–even a few minutes before–the past perfect tense is required.

~  It was the book she had dropped in a puddle earlier.

This is fine if it’s just a sentence or two, but if we’re writing whole paragraphs in the past perfect tense, all the “hads” start to get awkward. And especially if the verb going with the had is “to have.”

~  She had had enough.

That looks really, really weird. So again, in the interest of flow and helping the reader forget s/he is reading, the “hads” are often dropped in the middle of the paragraph and we revert to simple past tense. Or the “had” may be replaced with a contraction.

What had he been thinking? The case was poison from the get go. His partner warned him. She’d pointed out that they didn’t need the money that badly. But he’d gone ahead and told the client yes. And now they were paying the price.

If you don’t think that’s smoother, here’s the technically correct version:

What had he been thinking? The case had been poison from the get go. His partner had warned him. She had pointed out that they hadn’t needed the money that badly. But he had gone ahead and had told the client yes. And now they were paying the price.

Which brings us to…

5.  Contractions are okay in narration. When I was in school, contractions were only okay in dialogue. In narration, they were a no-no.

But today, writers are trying to pull the reader into the point-of-view character’s perspective as much as possible. So contractions are not only helpful for flow, but they make the reader feel more like s/he is inside the POV character’s head, experiencing what they are thinking, observing, doing, etc. right along with them.

6.  Language evolves.  Like it or not, this is reality.

If you don’t believe me, try asking for directions using Chaucer’s English and see what happens.

Blake's Canterbury Pilgrims

William Blake’s The Canterbury Pilgrims, 1808 (public domain)

Did you notice in the 2nd paragraph in number 5 above, I refer to a single POV character, and then say: experiencing what they are thinking, observing, doing, etc. right along with them?

Maybe you did, but I’m betting you didn’t. Because it is becoming more and more acceptable to use “they” as the pronoun for a singular person whose gender is unknown.

Such changes in language usually start in speech. Then, as the new usage becomes more acceptable, it eventually becomes the norm in written language as well.

What about you? What grammar mistakes make you grind your teeth? How do you feel about language evolving?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

4 More Things To Do (or Learn) by the Time You’re 64

by Kassandra Lamb

Sunday I turned 64 — the age that the Beatles made famous… “Will you still need me, will you still…”

Two years ago, I posted about 15 Things We Should Do (Or Learn) by the Time We’re 62. I re-ran that post recently. Now I am adding four more things to that list.

1. Learn to make life easier by letting others help.

I’m a cussedly independent person, but at the same time, nothing makes me feel better than helping out a friend. That dichotomy in my personality always reminds me of one of my grandmother’s sayings (I’m pretty sure she coined it because of me):

Tis more blessed to give than to receive, but it’s dang hard to give when no one is willing to receive.

If people volunteer to help make your life easier, make them happy. Let them!

2. Make a bucket list of places you want to see and check off at least two of them a year (more if you’re able).

One of the saddest things about my mother’s death was that she never saw Alaska. Not because Alaska is the be all and end all of travel destinations (although it is very interesting and absolutely gorgeous).

What made it so sad was that she really wanted to see it, and never did.

Great Wall of China (public domain)

Great Wall of China (public domain)

After she died, my stepfather started traveling like crazy (he and my mom traveled; it’s just they didn’t realize there was an expiration date).

For a few years there, he went on at least four or five trips a year. Short trips and long ones. He’s seen the Great Wall of China and the penguins on Antarctica. (Seriously, he has.)

There will come a day when travel is too hard, and therefore not fun anymore. So don’t put off that bucket list!

3. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, or at least tolerate well, and then do it regularly.

For me this is Zumba and brisk dog walks. Nothing does more for our health than exercise. And it energizes us.

Come on, Mom, let's pick up that pace!

Come on, Mom. What are you waiting for?

Insomnia is a common problem as we age, and on days when I didn’t sleep well the night before, I’m very tempted to skip exercising. Instead, I tell myself I will “go easy on it.”

This helps convince me to put in the Zumba DVD or get out the dog’s leash. Sometimes I do “go easy,” but other times I get into the rhythm of dancing or walking and forget I’m supposed to be going slower.

Afterwards, I almost always feel better (not to mention self-righteous 😉 )

4. Embrace aging.

You might as well, because fighting it does no good. If you try to fight it, you will just spend your last few decades on this planet fluctuating between denial and frustration.

Aging sucks. The list of things we can still readily do is shrinking and the list of things that are a distant memory grows longer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy life and squeeze every ounce of delight out of the days, weeks, months, years we have left.

One great thing about getting older — everyday is Saturday. You get to choose what you want to do on any given day…

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately. I wrote another Marcia Banks and Buddy book. 😀  And today is it’s official release day!!  Woot!

How about you?  What’s on your bucket list?

Last day at $1.99 ~ ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

book cover

Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on: AMAZON US   AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO     NOOK

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

COPS AND WRITERS

by Kassandra Lamb

Two weeks ago, I attended the most amazing conference of my life, The Writer’s Police Academy. And that’s saying something since I’ve been to a lot of conferences through the years.

Mock "unknown assailant on campus" scenario

Mock “unknown assailant on campus” scenario

Real cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, lawyers and private investigators taught us how to Write it Right in our mysteries and thrillers. Sister mp author, Vinnie Hansen, also attended and she told us about her favorite takeaways last week.

Today, I’d like to share some of the many surprises I discovered during this eye-opening conference.

 

FIRE 101: Did you know that smoke burns? I didn’t.

It is full of particles of unburned fuel, which then will ignite when the fire gets hot enough. But even the vapors in it are solid fuel converted to gas, and they also burn. Burning smoke on the ceiling is called “rollover.”

building on fire

See the fire coming out of the TOP of the front window. That’s rollover from smoke burning near the ceiling. (Photo by Eric Hensley, CC-BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

Which burns faster, older buildings or newer, tighter buildings?

The answer is newer buildings. Older buildings (the instructor called them ”legacy” buildings), while draftier, were built of more solid materials. And older furniture was made of wood, cotton and wool.

Today, some construction materials and many components of furniture are plastic, i.e., petroleum products, i.e., OIL. They ignite sooner, burn faster and give off more toxic fumes.

A fire in a modern house will be “fully developed” in about 10 minutes. In a legacy house, it may take 20-25 minutes.

SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT: This involved video scenarios where participants (with fake guns) got to play cops (us) and bad guys (in the videos).

A police officer has to determine whether to use potential lethal force (they are shooting to “stop the threat,” not to kill, but their gun is a lethal weapon) based on 3 criteria:

● Does the suspect have a weapon?
● Do they have the means to deliver harm with that weapon?
● Do they intend to use that weapon?

The officer often has to make that assessment in less than a second.

Example 1: The person pulls a knife but they are fifty feet away. The officer has time to try to defuse the situation: “Police! Don’t move! Drop your weapon! Sir, put the knife down.”

But if the person is 20 feet away and running toward the officer (or someone else) with a knife in their hand, they are an immediate threat and the officer needs to shoot.

Example 2: The person has a gun, pointed down. “Police! Put your weapon on the ground!” But if they start to raise the gun, the officer doesn’t need to wait until it’s aimed at him/her. By then, it will be too late.

I came away from that workshop with a whole new respect for how stressful and dangerous police work is.

It is now lunch time of the first day and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

After lunch, I started with retired police detective/now writer Robin Burcell’s workshop…

THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE TALK:  “Perp” is East Coast; on the West Coast, they’re called “suspects.” And the FBI uses “subject,” or “unsub” if they don’t know the suspect’s identity.

Unlike on TV and in movies, female detectives do not wear skirts and high heels! (Except maybe in court.) And cops don’t point their guns toward the ceiling (not unless there’s a bad guy up there) nor do they rack a bullet into the chamber just before engaging.

They carry their guns “locked and loaded” (already racked and safety off) at all times, and when they pull them out, the finger is beside the trigger until time to fire. And they point them straight ahead, in the direction they will most likely need to shoot.

10 COMMON MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE ABOUT THE LAW:  Leslie Budewitz, lawyer and author, shared many interesting tidbits about how the law really works, including the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but my fave takeaway was that Miranda rights are not automatically read to someone when they are arrested.

Two things have to be in place for Miranda to be necessary — the person must be in custody AND interrogation must be happening. So if a “perp” (I’m East Coast 🙂 ) is arrested (in custody) and is on the way to the station, and s/he makes a spontaneous, incriminating statement (NOT during interrogation), it can be used even if no Miranda warning has been given yet. Likewise, if someone is questioned and they haven’t been arrested yet, no Miranda is needed to use whatever they say.

participants wearing service belts and weilding pistols

Pistol-packin’ Mamas ~ #2016WPA

End of Day 1, we thought…

We went back to the hotel, exhausted but happy, but that evening we were treated to more demos in the parking lot after dinner. And several volunteers got to wear real (and very heavy) police belts and learned how to wield a baton, and when to use it vs. your pistol.

Day 2…

PTSD: I almost didn’t go to this one because I am an expert myself on PTSD, but this workshop was about what it looks like in police officers.

It was awesome!! The presenter was a former police officer, who developed PTSD, and is now a therapist working with officers with this disorder.

And he has a service dog for his PTSD! (The man made the mistake of giving me his card; I am so going to pick his brain via email.)

I came away from that workshop with a great story idea for Book 10 in my Kate Huntington series!

FORCE ON FORCE ROOM CLEARING:

This one wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but it was still quite awesome. It involved more scenarios, and we got to shoot guns loaded with tiny paint pellets. Again, a whole new respect for how hard it is to judge how much force to use and when to use it.

But the biggest takeaway from this workshop was the presenter Randy Clifton’s comments about the recent controversial police shootings. He said he didn’t blame the officers (unless there seemed to be blatant racism involved). He blames the departments for insufficient training with real-life scenarios that replicate the stress levels of on-the-street confrontations.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me. #2016WPA

He made the excellent point that when the adrenaline is flowing, the rational brain shuts down, and one reverts to old learned patterns (this is psychologically sound). If those old learned patterns aren’t superceded by deeply ingrained new patterns during training, the officer is likely to make the wrong decision.

He demonstrated this via a scenario in which police have raided a house where a known felon is staying. The police have cleared the rest of the house, while yelling repeatedly that they are the police. The guy comes out of his bedroom with his hands in the air, but a gun in one hand. The young police recruit Randy used in this scenario yelled, “Sir, put the gun down. Sir, drop your weapon.”

Randy stopped the scenario and asked us how many of us would shoot. Only 2 out of 12 responded yes (I was a no). Then he demonstrated how quickly someone can lower a gun from that “hands up” position and shoot the officer, while said officer is so politely telling him to drop the gun.

His point: our old patterns tell us that hands up means the guy is surrendering, but why then does he have a gun in his hand? He knows the cops are all over his house. If he was truly surrendering, he would have left the gun in the bedroom.

After this little lecture, all 12 of us voted unanimously to shoot.

Two last takeaways from the last two workshops:
DEFENSE TACTICS: Did you know that if you splay your fingers out at the end of your arm, it is almost impossible for someone to force you to bend your arm? Try it!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION: OR HOW TO BE A DICK FOR FUN AND PROFIT: Do you know who the most accurate TV/movie private investigator is? (I’ll answer below in the comments section after some of you have made your best guess.)

Now, you may be thinking that I’ve “gone over to the side of the cops” regarding unnecessary police shootings.

Some of our amazing faculty!

Some of our amazing and very generous faculty!

No way! First, I don’t think it’s them against us. Another takeaway from this conference was how generous many police officers are. Every presenter gave out his/her email address and encouraged us to inundate them with questions. I believe the vast majority of officers are truly trying to “protect and serve.”

But many of them need better training, and PTSD needs to be identified and treated much more quickly in officers, because this disorder undetected can lead to more confrontations with the public, and bad decision-making due to lack of sleep (because of nightmares) and higher stress levels.

I still am pursuing investigating and improving these things in my own community, but I am so glad I went to this conference before my scheduled meetings with my sheriff and police chief. I now have a much better understanding of what their departments are up against!

Also, if you are planning to do the same in your own community, I found out that the place to start is with your local police department’s Public Information Officer.

Back to WPA. I’ve decided I will have to go again next year, since I never got to the Ballistics or Blood Spatter classes. 😀

So who do you think is the most accurate TV/movie P.I.? Have you gone to any professional conferences that were as good as this one?

By the way, one of the stories I was able to make more accurate, thanks to this conference, is now available for preorder. (I’ll bet you can figure out what I used when you read the story.)

$1.99 thru its release date of 9/5/16

ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

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Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on:   AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO    NOOK

And Book #1, TO KILL A LABRADOR, is ON SALE for just $0.99 thru 9/3/16!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

Vinnie Hansen and I attended a rather unusual conference last week. It’s called the Writers’ Police Academy. Law enforcement and EMS faculty (among others) taught us how to get it right when we have cops, courtrooms and/or blood in our novels.

Which happens a lot when one writes murder mysteries.

I’ll be sharing some of my best moments from the conference next week but today Vinnie’s here to tell us about her experience.

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

by Vinnie Hansen

Attending the Writers’ Police Academy gave me a wealth of cop and EMS info. I offer these 10 nuggets:

  • A person will bleed out in three to five minutes.
  • If you’re bleeding out, I can improvise a tourniquet with a two-inch wide band of material and something to twist it up good.
  • In hand-to-hand combat, the rule is flesh to bone and bone to flesh

Read more…

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

15 Things We Should Do (or Learn) by the Time We’re 62 (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve been at a writer’s conference all weekend, so no time to write  a blog post. It was an incredible and very different kind of conference, and I’ll tell you all about it next week, but right now I’m resting up.

So I thought I’d offer up this older post that was quite popular. I wrote it around my birthday two years ago and I’m planning to do an updated version in a few weeks.

15 Things We Should Do (or Learn) by the Time We’re 62

This was inspired by a Huffington Post blog post my daughter-in-law shared on Facebook recently, called 30 Things That Will (Probably) Happen in Your 30’s. I highly recommend it.

So having just turned 62, I thought I would share the things I think are most important to do in life. I figured 62 things would be a little much, so here are 15:

woman's bare legs with bikini on pier next to her

photo by Gisele Porcaro from Brasília Brasil CC-BY 2.0

1. Go skinny-dipping, at least once.

Do it again if you enjoy it.

2. Buy something expensive that you don’t need but you really want.

Enjoy it without guilt!

3. Enjoy sex! (Enough said.)

4. Love passionately at least once in your life, even if you get your heart broken!

5. Learn not to listen to negative people or those who put you down–ignore them, walk away, tell them to f**k off, if you must. Do not hit them; they are not worth going to jail for.

6. Hang on through the bad times; they will pass. Savor the good times; they will pass.

7. Hug your children and tell them you love them every day; if you don’t have your own, hug somebody else’s kids at least once a month (with their permission so you don’t get arrested).

As a matter of fact, hug the adults in your life as often as possible. Hugs are the vitamin C of the heart.

Couple hugging on a beach

photo by Mark Sebastian CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

8. Acknowledge that you are angry at your parents for some of the things they did or did not do when you were a kid. Get some therapy about that, or at the very least, yell at an empty chair pretending it is your mom or dad (or both) sitting there.

9. Don’t talk to them about it unless you really think it will make your relationship better in the here and now. DO talk to them about it if you DO think it will make things better.

Then, work on forgiving them. They did the best they could with the parenting skills they learned from their parents. You will probably do better, but your kids will be angry with you for something different.

10. Take care of your body; indeed strive to love it. It’s the only one you’ll get. So do the best you can with what you’ve got and then don’t worry about how you look.

Artist painting in watercolors

A watercolor painter in Italy (photo by Dongio, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

11. Find a career doing something that will make you glad to get out of bed in the morning; if your job doesn’t do that for you, pursue your passion through an avocation.

Life is too short to not spend at least some of it doing something that thrills you!

woman's hands, knitting

photo by Johntex, CC-BY-2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

12. Along those lines, be creative! Paint pictures, write stories or poetry, carve duck decoys, knit scarves for people who won’t wear them–you don’t have to be great at what you’re creating, but there is something about being creative that feeds our souls.

13. Learn not to say anything if you don’t like the person your son or daughter is dating. After the break-up, stifle your own anger and be a good listener/counselor (this will become your role more and more with semi-grown and grown children).

If they marry the person you don’t like, definitely keep your mouth shut! If they marry a good person, tell your daughter/son-in-law how glad you are that they’re part of your family. Repeat some variation of this message at least once a year. (Are ya listenin’, Gina? 😀 )

friends holding hands

photo by Mathias Klang from Göteborg Sweden CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia

14. Cherish your friends. At the end of the day, you will count them amongst your greatest treasures.

15. Laugh with them often, for laughter is a healing balm for the heart.

Anything you think should be added to the list?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series. And she now has a new cozy mystery series out, the Marcia Banks and Buddy Mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

What We’ve Been Reading Lately ~ #BookReviews

Time for another round of book reviews from some of our misterio press authors. Most writers don’t get to read nearly as much as they’d like to, because so much time is taken up with their writing. So when we discover a really good book, it’s an extra special treat!

book coverKirsten Weiss ~ The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Supermodel Lulu Landry takes a swan dive off her balcony. Is it suicide or murder? Down-on-his-luck PI Cormoran Strike has been hired to find out.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, this first-in-the-series mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowlings, is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long while. The characters are engaging and beautifully drawn – especially Cormoran and his new, temporary secretary, Robin, who has (quite realistic) fantasies of becoming a PI herself.

Cormoran’s lost part of one leg to Afghanistan and has just broken up with his larger-than-life girlfriend of over a decade. Plus, he’s got another albatross around his neck – the PI is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star. In the hands of a lesser writer, these could all have just been intriguing details, but Galbraith/Rowlings weaves them into a compelling picture of a three-dimensional tough guy.

The twists and turns in the mystery itself are worthy of Agatha Christie. Readers will need to draw a flowchart to figure this one out. I didn’t bother though; I was having too much fun enjoying the ride. Fortunately, the next two books in the series – The Silkworm and Career of Evil – are already available to fulfill my need for more of these can’t-put-down characters.

I did find the book depressing on one score. JK Rowlings initially pubished The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith” to see if she coukd “make it” under another name.

She couldn’t.

It wasn’t until it was leaked that JK Rowlings was Robert Galbraith that sales for The Cuckoo’s Calling took off. And the fact that such a well written, fun, and engaging mystery languished says something about the state of today’s publishing industry.

On the other hand, as a mystery writer, I love, love, love to see such a wonderful book out in the world. So if you love a good, twisty mystery, you might want to check out The Cuckoo’s Calling.

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Shannon Esposito ~ Four Seasons of Reno Hart by Stephen Campbell

book coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a new character in the mystery genre, but this book of short stories has done it. Reno Hart is one strong heroine! I love that she doesn’t need to use violence to crack cases, but instead uses her brains and creativity.

I do worry about how she’s dealing with her grief over losing her husband & if she’s shut off her emotions (See! I’m actually worried about this character! lol!)

Anyway, if you’re a fan of the mystery genre, you won’t be disappointed in these well-plotted, well-executed bite-sized stories that capture Florida in all her glory and corruption. Highly recommend & can’t wait for a full length Reno Hart novel! Five fingerprints!

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Kassandra Lamb ~ Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit by Marcia Meara

book coverI try to read indie as much as possible these days, to support my fellow authors. Sadly, some of these books aren’t very good, but now and again, I discover a real gem.

Such is the case with Marcia Meara’s Wake-Robin Ridge series. Book 1 is one of the most unusual novels I have read in a long time. It was a little hard to categorize. Is it a redemption story, or a mystery, or a romance? All of the above. There’s a healthy serving of each of these, plus some interesting and believable paranormal seasoning.

It probably fits best into the romantic suspense genre, because there is definitely a budding romance between Sarah Gray, who has relocated to North Carolina to try her hand at writing, and her handsome but haunted neighbor, MacKenzie Cole.

The book tells the stories of two women who both lived in the same cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge, 50 years apart–Ruthie in the 1960’s and Sarah in 2011. There are so many intriguing elements in this book. Just when you think you have it pegged, some new twist comes along.

The two women’s stories come crashing together in a mind-boggling way, and Mac and Sarah work together to solve the mysteries of Ruthie’s life and death, and to put to rest more than one ghost from the past.

book coverI purchased this book as part of a boxed set of two books. Book 2, A Boy Named Rabbit, also defies genre boundaries. It is one part mystery and one part family saga.

A young boy, who’s only human contact has been his grandparents, finds himself alone in the North Carolina hills after his grampa goes for supplies and doesn’t return and his sick grandmother dies. His gran’s last instructions to him are to go and find the Good People. Scared and lonely, ten-year-old Rabbit sets out to keep his promise to her, living off the land as his grampa taught him.

Mac and Sarah have settled into a comfortable routine on Wake-Robin Ridge as they await the birth of their child, but their well-ordered world is turned upside down when Rabbit stumbles into their lives. And their quest to find his kin resurrects a decade old mystery and attracts the attention of the one person his grandparents never wanted Rabbit to meet.

Both of these stories are great and well worth the investment of time and money. I’m knocking off a half fingerprint each because the story arc in Book 2 is a little off kilter in places, and the author sometimes is a bit heavy-handed with the descriptions of characters’ emotions–more so in Book 1, which is forgivable since this was the first book she wrote.

I am really looking forward to Book 3, Harbinger, which is already loaded on my Kindle.

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Vinnie Hansen ~ The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

book coverI often discover new authors via writing and mystery conferences. When I attended Left Coast Crime in Portland last year, I met Allen Eskens, whose book The Life We Bury was nominated as a best first mystery novel. It became my favorite book of 2015, the book I recommended to everyone, the way William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace had been the year before.

These two favorite books share Minnesota settings and young male protagonists with handicapped younger brothers. In both books, the need to shelter the younger brother provides motivation and pivotal tension. The two books are told in first person and center around a crime committed decades ago. However, the narrator of Ordinary Grace places us back in that time when he was young and death unfolded around him.

Most of the action in The Life We Bury unravels in modern times, with the main character unearthing the past. Joe Talbert, a college student, is given an assignment for an English class, and. . . .

I have two nits to pick with The Life We Bury. I don’t like the title, and I saw the last major plot twist coming from a mile away. The latter allowed me to feel like a smarty pants, so I’m still giving it 5 fingerprints. I’d give it a little plus if I could.

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How about you? What good mysteries have you read recently.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

7 Things White People Can Do – Follow-Up

by Kassandra Lamb

I almost rested on my laurels after last week’s post. After all, I had done my part. I’d helped spread the word about how black people are harassed so often by bad cops that it’s “just part of life” for them. And I came up with some constructive things that people could do in their communities.

Shaquille O'Neal (public domain)

Shaquille O’Neal (public domain)

 

Plus, I know that my city has some great cops!

Remember the story about the police officer going on a call about kids playing basketball “noisily,” and instead of breaking up the game, the officer joined them? And then he brought Shaq O’Neal over to play with them and inspire them.

That happened in my town. Check it out:

 

I’d almost convinced myself that I didn’t need to do anything more then count my blessings that I live in a great town.

Then God stepped in – in a not so mysterious way this time. Indeed, He knocked me over the head!

At church on Sunday, I found out that my rector, along with a bunch of other religious leaders in town–Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic–had organized an Interfaith Service for Racial Peace and Unity and it was happening Monday morning!

And the city police chief and the county sheriff were going to be there. So I had no excuse now to slack off.

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Sheriff Sadie Darnell addressing the congregation. Yes she is a petite woman, but don’t let her size or gender fool you! (Police Chief Tony Jones to the left; our rector, Rev. Louanne Loch on the right)

It was a beautiful prayer service and Chief Jones and Sheriff Darnell’s remarks were short but inspiring. They echoed my thoughts that we have a great community, but went on to say that we needed to be an example to the country.

I was a bit nervous, but I screwed up my courage and approached each of them after the service and asked for an appointment.

Police Chief Tony Jones

Police Chief Tony Jones, talking to some of my fellow parishioners

I am now in possession of their cards, with their email addresses and phone numbers and I will call and make those appointments.

But I decided on the way home to also send them an email, before those appointments, explaining a bit about what I want to discuss with them. After all, they are very busy people.

Below is the message I’m going to send to each of them. Feel free to copy/paste and modify for use in your own community.

 

Dear (Sheriff Darnell/Chief Jones),

Thank you again for attending our Racial Peace and Unity Service. I am proud to be a resident of a city and county that has such fine police and sheriff’s departments.

And as a concerned citizen I am anxious to make sure that concrete efforts to avoid unnecessary violence in our city and county are being actively pursued. That is why I asked to meet with you personally, and I have set up an appointment on (time and date of appointment).

I know that you supervise some excellent (police officers/sheriff’s deputies). But I suspect that some “bad apples” do manage to slip through the screening process.

In our meeting, I would like to discuss what is being done in your department to identify and deal with overly aggressive officers, before an inappropriate shooting occurs? Is there a mechanism in place to bring such officers to the attention of their supervisors and to make sure they receive additional training and, if called for, anger management counseling? Is there a way to remove them from the force if they continue to be overly aggressive and before they shoot someone they shouldn’t?

If there are not yet programs in place to deal with overly aggressive officers, I have some concrete suggestions to offer.

I feel strongly that we need to be proactive regarding the unwarranted shootings by police and of police in recent times. Innocent citizens need to be protected and, equally important, our good officers do not deserve to have targets painted on their uniforms due to the actions of a few bad ones.

I look forward to meeting with you on (date of appointment).

Sincerely,

Kassandra Lamb

I’ll keep you all posted on how the meetings go. Best of luck in your own communities!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

7 Things White People Can Do – Because Enough Is Enough!

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve thought of a dozen different ways to start this post. They all seemed either inadequate, or too much about me, or too controversial.

So I’m just going to say it:

It’s not okay that bad cops are harassing and killing people just because of the color of their skin, and it’s not okay that anyone is shooting at police officers just because of the uniform they wear.

Furthermore, it is not okay that anyone has to be anxious every time they or their loved ones leave their homes, afraid some police officer will misinterpret their actions as threatening, or some bully cop will try to find an excuse to harass or even kill them.

Ironically, what brought on this rant from me wasn’t the latest shooting of a blatantly innocent man, lying on his back with his empty hands high in the air. I started writing this post before that happened, because of a newsletter I received from a young lawyer named Rachel, from whom I took a webinar a few years back.

Until last week, I didn’t know much about her personally, hadn’t really given any thought to what race she was. I just knew that she gave good legal and business advice.

Last week, her newsletter deviated from its normal format to tell a story of something that happened to her last May. I’m going to summarize the event but I suggest hopping over to her blog and reading the whole story (click here). It will give you a much better idea of what black people all too often encounter in interactions with certain police officers.

Rachel was on her way home from work one day, when she entered the EZ Pass booth at a toll plaza, slowing her car appropriately but not stopping, because that’s not required if you have an EZ Pass.

Then a man in a uniform stepped between the booths and in front of her car. She stopped.

The setting sun was in her eyes so she couldn’t see clearly, but she thought he was motioning her through, so once he had stepped out of the way, she eased her foot off the brake and let her car start rolling forward.

The officer made another, wilder gesture that again she couldn’t make out, and again she thought he was waving her through. At that point he started screaming at her, in language that was “the epitome of disrespectful.”

EZ Pass lanes on highway

Since when does driving slowly through an EZ-Pass lane justify lethal force. Oh wait, she was DWB — driving while black!  (photo by Otto Yamamoto from NY, NY, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

He told her he could’ve shot her for threatening his life (rolling slowly through a toll booth after an officer has stepped out of the way is threatening his life?) And other police have “killed people for similar actions.”

Her attempts to explain about the sun in her eyes and misunderstanding his gestures were met with more screaming and threats – to take away her car, to arrest her. She kept her cool, even though she was royally pissed inside (as I would certainly be), and eventually he let her go on her way.

She had a colleague in the car with her. I can’t help but wonder if she might have been arrested, if there hadn’t been a witness present.

But for me the most revealing part of her story is that she didn’t tell anyone but her husband on the day that this occurred, because:

Encounters like this are so commonplace in black communities that it’s not really news. You just accept this as part of your life. I’ve accepted it as part of my life. (rodgerscollective.com, © 2016)

When I read that, I actually sucked in my breath. It’s part of life?

And I couldn’t help wondering how many times my black friends have experienced something like this, and didn’t bother to share it with me or their other friends, because it’s “just part of life.”

This is not OK!

Now back to last week’s shooting in Miami. Apparently, the police officer involved now claims he was not shooting at the black man lying on the ground. He was shooting at the 26-year-old, non-verbal, autistic man next to him and missed. Because he thought the autistic man had a weapon.

Meanwhile, on the cell phone video recorded by a bystander, you can hear the black man yelling “It’s a toy truck. He’s got a toy truck.”

What doesn’t jive about this cop’s story is the fact that both men were then handcuffed.

And Mr. Kinsey, who had been patted down and had no weapon and who had repeatedly identified himself as a behavioral therapist working for a nearby group home,  was left on the sidewalk, handcuffed and bleeding in the hot Miami sun, until paramedics arrived.

If he was the supposed victim of this non-crime, why was he treated that way? I seriously doubt they would have treated a white man that way.

And is it OKAY that the officer was shooting at an unarmed autistic man? And he just happened to be a poor shot?

As the grandmother of an autistic boy who is still fairly nonverbal at age 8, this scares the crap out of me! My grandson would be incapable of following a police officer’s orders because he wouldn’t understand what was going on

But all the noise and negative energy would overwhelm him and he might very well go into a meltdown. And if he’s still nonverbal as an adult…

What would a cop do if instead of dropping the toy truck, he started screaming at the top of his lungs because he was overwhelmed and scared? In today’s culture, that cop might very well shoot my grandson because he wasn’t following orders and he seemed to be a threat.

I understand that cops need to be cautious, that they are putting their lives on the line, and often have to make snap decisions (and I think they should be paid much, much more than they are). But under these circumstances, while I can certainly understand drawing their weapon and approaching with care, I can’t understand why they didn’t try to get close enough to see what the guy was actually holding before they started shooting!

I’m convinced that nothing is going to turn the tide with this shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later culture until WHITE PEOPLE start doing something about it.

We say “Oh my! That’s terrible.” And then forget about it until the next time.

We need to do more than that! First, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our black friends and neighbors and imagine what it’s like to be a little nervous every time you leave the house, to feel your throat close with fear if a cop pulls you over while driving.

And to fear for your loved ones’ lives every time they are out in the world (and now those of us with autistic loved ones will be feeling that fear too!)

Secondly, we need to pressure our local governments and police departments to make changes, before the next person dies! Here are some things we can actually DO that will make a difference:

1. Encourage and support black people who have experiences like Rachel’s to report them to that officer’s superiors.

And by this I don’t mean, saying “Hey, you should report that.”

I suspect most blacks are wary of reporting such events. They don’t really want to draw attention to themselves, and maybe become more of a target. Not an unrealistic fear considering the tendency for some police departments to close racks and protect their own.

So offer to go with your friend, in person, and be their witness (and respect their wishes if they choose not to report it). Once there, use your privilege (sad but true, you may get further than your black friend might) to insist on talking to the highest ranking person available at the police department. Follow up with a letter to that person summarizing the meeting and send a copy of that letter to the mayor of your city, the county executive of your county, and/or the governor of your state.

2. Write to or go visit your local police department’s chief of police or sheriff and ask what measures are in place to identify and deal with overly-aggressive officers or deputies.

It’s really not that hard to identify them BEFORE they’ve shot someone. I have heard from good cops that the easiest way to do this is to look at how often, when this officer arrests people, the other charges are accompanied by a resisting arrest charge.

Frequent resisting arrest charges can mean this officer tends to use verbally aggressive tactics and/or excessive physical force.

3. Follow up with these law enforcement authorities suggesting implementation of mandatory anger management counseling and additional training in deescalation tactics for officers who are accused of using excessive force or who have filed a higher than average number of resisting arrest charges.

And if these officers do not change their ways, insist that they be removed from the police force. Better that we have too few cops on the streets, than we have even a few cops who are hurting, harassing and killing innocent people – and giving all cops a bad name, which paints a target on the backs of their uniforms!!

4. If you get stonewalled, and most definitely if you are threatened because of your efforts to bring about these changes, go to the local press and tell them your story.

Going public makes it very hard for the bad cops and those who might be trying to cover up for them to retaliate. (Note: I am not anti-cop; just anti bad cops. To paraphrase a cliché from the 1960s, some of my closest friends are police or former officers.)

If you’re a white person and wondering at this point, why you need to do these things, here’s why. Sadly, those authorities are more likely to take you seriously and those who might retaliate against a black complainant will think twice before doing so when their white friends are standing by them.

And yes, folks, it is that serious! People are getting shot out there. Everyday people like you and me, who are driving home from work or escorting their autistic charge back to his group home. And good cops are getting killed because of the actions of the bad ones.

5. Pressure your local and state governments to provide better funding for police departments so they can implement these programs and can also attract more high-quality officers.

6. Keep the pressure on until the bad cops have been weeded out and the good cops can once again feel like they are part of the community they serve, not its enemy.

7. And finally, stop expecting black people to not get angry and talk back when they are being harassed by a cop. It may not be the smartest thing for them to do, but it is certainly a natural reaction. Wouldn’t you be pissed if you were minding your own business, and suddenly a police officer is yelling in your ear and threatening to shoot you?
Please, take action to make these changes happen! Enough people have died senselessly. Enough families have been shattered.

Enough is enough!

(I do suggest you click on Rachel’s blog and read her entire story of the event. It will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.)

Do I Look Like a Threat?

Can you think of anything else that we – black and white people, all people – can do in our communities to change them to the safe places they should be?

(Note: Please keep the conversation civil and constructive. Any blatantly bigoted or obnoxious rants will be deleted as will any vitriol against all police officers.)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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