Police Procedurals 3 – Investigative Techniques

RCMP Sgt. Patrice Poitevin likes some television police shows − Law and Order Special Victims Unit − for example. But he especially like to help writers get things straight.
It is important to describe the right procedures in order to create believable stories, he says, and it is the intersection between science and “the human factor” that gives writers the opportunity to build suspense. “The Science factor is accurate, the problem is with the human factor, pressure from bosses or the public to find the culprit.”
And by the way nothing moves as fast as it does on television. “To get tax records you need a warrant, a production order etc. You can’t get it automatically. Warrants that took one page years ago now take fifty pages.”
If an officer happens on a crime in commission, the suspect can be secured and the police can get a warrant to search the place. “You can seize what is in plain sight” but not search drawers etc. without a warrant.
Police chases make good TV but are not that common, he said at the AD Astra Conference in Toronto in April. Strict rules govern the police’s treatment of suspects. Suspects have a right to a lawyer and must be treated fairly. Violating a person’s rights can result in evidence being thrown out at trial as fruit of the poisoned tree. During interrogations, interviewers try first to build rapport with their suspect. All interrogations are videotaped.

Police Procedurals 2, Weapons, Cop Talk

Police Procedurals −2 Weapons,  Cop Talk and Five Inch Heels

From the Police Procedural panel at Ad Astra Sci-Fi and Fantasy Conference in Toronto last week, here are more of RCMP Sgt. Pat Poitevin’s tips.


  • Make sure you choose the right ones. Ask the force you are dealing with. The RCMP uses Smith and Wesson, another force might have Glocks. Find out.

Cop Talk

  • A good way to build reality into your characters is to have your cops make jokes. Sgt. Poitevin says cops have a wicked, twisted sense of humour. They use colourful language to blow off steam from the distressing scenes they have witnessed. They make jokes to handle stress. One way to make your story real is to have your characters get in some sarcastic humour.


  • Investigators dress in appropriate business attire. They are professionals.And no, female investigators do not wear five inch heels to run after a suspect. Men will be in suits, women in suits or other business-casual clothes.