Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Police in Fact and Fiction

In the December 9, 2014 online edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES, David Brooks’ op-ed column entitled “The Cop Mind” was published. It is well worth reading. Brooks was a police reporter early in his career. He is not an apologist for police brutality. But he offers valuable insights into the mindset of policemen and what they face in the real world. Interesting facts and statistics are offered as well.

In my novel, THE BAD WIFE, 4th in the Kim Reynolds mystery series, Lt. Mike Gardner, a police detective, is an important character, as he is in the previous novels: THE INFERNO COLLECTION, THE DROWNING POOL and THE TRUTH SLEUTH.

In THE BAD WIFE, Mike makes a serious error in judgment early in the novel and it costs him dearly. The blunder threatens both his life and career. There are, in fact, a number of policemen presented as characters in this series. Some are inspired partly by real life people, others are completely fictional. Some are better at doing their jobs than others.

In DEATH LEGACY, the police are positively represented and help rather than hinder
Michelle Hallam’s investigation into the possible murder of a CIA agent. Is the character of officer Douglas Maclaren something of an idealization of how we want to think of police detectives? Possibly--or maybe not.

The fact of the matter is that real life policemen are people capable of making serious errors in judgment. Human beings are imperfect. This is true of the best of us as well as the worst. For police to be presented realistically in fiction, they too demonstrate flaws in character.


Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

18 comments:

  1. An insightful blog, Jacquie. We live in changing times and, at times, dangerous times. Where would we be without good, trustworthy cops?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betty,

      We do need trustworthy police. I agree with you.

      Delete
  2. Interesting blog, Jacquie. I think sometimes we forget that policemen have to make split-second decisions, which can have dire consequences in some instances. I'd make a lousy policeman, personally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Alice,

      It's not a job I could do either. I admire those who do it well.

      Delete
  3. Too often people forget, a police officer is not a superhero, but a person just like them. As such, they are equally apt to make mistakes. This is not to excuse bad behavior on the part of a few. But actions should be judged on the basis of the dangers they face daily and as consequence of having to make snap decisions most of us don't confront.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post. I wasn't aware David Brooks once worked as a police reporter. I'm constantly surprised at the unexpected bios of folks you think you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Mike,

      Brooks mentions the fact that he worked as a police reporter early in his journalism career in today's column in The NY Times.

      Delete
  5. Great post, Jacqueline, and so true. The vast, vast majority of police are doing the work, I'm sure, because they are helpful people and want the rest of us to be safe from criminals. I totally appreciate every one of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jan,

      I quite agree with you. The news tends to emphasize and sensationalize the bad rather than the good that police do.

      Delete
  6. I agree, Jacqueline.
    I want to read and write about characters I can relate to. Having flaws, making mistakes and occasionally exercising poor judgment makes them realistic and believable.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, Pat,

    As writers, we want our characters to be sympathetic, but they need not be perfect paragons of virtue for readers to empathize.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Pertinent idea for a blog, Jacquie. Like you, I've usually portrayed police as vulnerable, highly imperfect characters. In my mystery Stolen Honey, I planned to make a cop my perpetrator, but got half way through the book and his character portrayal, and discovered he couldn't have killed anyone! And so had to find another red herring.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, Nancy,

    That's so interesting! Sometimes characters take over a book and we just have to go with the flow. I guess we need to be flexible.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jeanine, for stopping by and commenting.

      Delete
  11. Police are humans--your telling line. Subject to failure or doing great works, depending on circumstances. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Susan,

      The role of the police in society is complex, no doubt about it.

      Delete