What's the best way to research a police procedural?

Okay update! I have changed the setting of my w.i.p. from the U.K. to the U.S. Why? Because it's best for the story. And as I'm U.S. born, I feel more comfortable with it. Also taking advice from writers here. By the way: I still would love contributions to this question--as I'm always on the look out for valuable input. So thanks, guys!

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Remember that you're writing for the average reader, not the average cop. Write your book, have fun, and then sweet-talk some officers into giving the first draft a read and giving you feedback on the procedural stuff. Authenticity is valuable, but too much technical data will bore you and your readers to tears. This would also be a good question to approach Stuart MacBride about - he's hanging around here somewhere. Check the bar ;-)
Cool. believe me, it's not going to be too technical. I'm half frightened of it as it is. but I like tht about giving the first draft to a police officer. very good. thanks. and i'll look for Stuart MacBride too! all the best.
Ask you police friend if you can go for a ride-along or a walk-along. It's a good way to get the flavour of the cop on the beat.
I love that! I know he's a working police officer. I shall do that! thanks.
As much crime fiction as you've read, you already have a decent idea how the procedures work, so Grant's advice is sound. The ride-along will add verisimilitude, as will getting someone in the business to give it a read. There are plenty of good books and web resources that describe police procedures, but some of them vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. (You don;t want to have someone going into the 55th Precinct in Chicago, where the cops work out of districts and areas.) Major police forces have web sites and public information officers who can help a lot with that.

The good news is, the research is usually the fun part. Be alert for little things you'll learn when you were looking for something else. They often give ideas for story development.
thanks Dana.
Research is fun actually. Even here in the U.K. all police forces are supposed to be approachable. as one Officer said: with the exception being the Metropolitan Police (Greater London), probably too busy! I will take on board what you said as I have with other replies. thanks so much.
Google has made research a lot easier than it was even five years ago! So, google, google, google. The links you uncover may lead to people you can email and call for additional information. Many individuals will agree to an interview if you ask them nicely (and perhaps acknowlege them when your book is published). And if the research is good, you may not need that much first hand knowledge.

Good luck.

Agree with Pat 100%. I was googling the hell out of recovered memories for a book, and came across a name over and over again as the leading expert in the field. On a lark I emailed her, she emailed back, I called, and she spent 20 minutes on the phone with me, telling me what was possible, wasn't possible, shooting down and refining ideas. Very gracious with her time for someone who can bill herself out at a few hundred bucks an hour.
thank you! good to know. appreciate it.
terrific. thanks for that. and thanks for your good wishes.
I think the best way to research a police procedural is to do exactly what you've done. Speak to a copper. Or, as you're writing to entertain/shock/confound just wing it. I've you've got a TV you probably know as much about police procedural as the police -- even if you don't, only pedants really care to the Nth degree about authenticity. James Ellroy has written some excellent essays on police work in his non-fiction if you want the US version--he's also very astute in capturing their inherent angst and black humour & level of melancholy. People are reading generally for escapism, so you're onto a winner because they really don't want to read about reality. Police work is a job, most of it's mundane and boring like yours or mine--what you're doing, I feel, in Police procedural is riffing on a theme that everyone knows. Essentially, you're like a jazz musician--everyone knows the notes, it's how you play 'em that counts. Good luck. Dante.
thank you so much, Dante. right now I'm immersing myself in just about every police based novel (along with non fiction) I can get. movies and tv help too--as you say. you can certainly pick up stuff from tv, so true! what I did iniitailly, was i was so impatient to get started, I just wrote--and was surprised it sounded believable. i'm continuing the second half with more knowledge though--and then for the second draft i'll edit stuff in and out as needed (procedure, cop stuff, etc). thanks so much for your advice and good wishes.


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