I am a first time unpublished novelist. I am looking for info on police procedures in the novel I'm currently working on. To try and keep it as short as possible, my protagonist finds out his brother goes missing. They both live in Canada and it is believed that the brother may be in the San Diego, CA area. Would it be advisable/believable for the protagonist to hire a P.I. in the San Diego area or would it be a more advisable/believable procedure to contact the police in California? My plot thus far is that the missing brother has been recruited into a hard core religious cult. I'm thinking that the protagonist, his brother, would go into the cult as part of a rescue operation and pose as a recruit with police support on the outside. This cult also has or could have a stockpile of weaponry. Would the FBI be involved because of the weapons (automatic rifles and whatnot) and is there any way of getting info on how the FBI investigates? Any info would be appreciated. I'm just trying to make it as believable as possible.

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Mark, the police would not get involved unless your protagonist presented them with good reason to believe that a crime had been committed. It is not illegal to disappear or to join a cult. Private investigators make much their living off investigations that do not interest the police, and finding a missing brother would be one such case.

Thanks Albert! I appreciate the comment. Best wishes!



Albert is correct. Missing persons are not high priorities for police unless its a missing child or an Alzheimer's patient. In San Diego, the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Detail would handled those. (I spent nearly 6 years on the SAR Detail.) An adult recruited into a cult would not be a crime, so the police would not be involved. Your protagonist could hire a PI, or even a deprogrammer -- that happens all the time.


If the local police or the feds got involved, it would be over possessions of  illegal weapons. That would require some knowledge of such possession on the part of L/E. The cult in WACO some years ago were selling illegal weapons; that's how the ATF (not FBI) got involved with them.


When dealing with cults, it isn't that easy to just join. Cults prey on certain types of personalities -- people who feel apart from society and want to belong to something, or people who tend to be easily lead by others, especially someone with charisma. There are many studies on cults available for you to read as research. A secretive cult probably would not trust someone who just walked in off the street and said they wanted to join. Recruitment is often similar to the way intelligent agents recruit spies.


BTW, I still live in San Diego, so if you need any info about the city, I can help you.

Thanks, Martin! That is very helpful and useful info.

Hi Mark,

This does not relate specifically to your question but may be of use to you and others who use this site. Adam Plantinga, a 13-year patrolman, has a book out called "400 Things Cops Know," that's a great reference for keeping things accurate. Published by QuillDriverBooks.com

Thank you so much Richard! I'm sure it will be interesting and invaluable.

I second what Richard said; Plantinga's book is wonderful. 

For procedures, check out Lee Lofland's POLICE PROCEDURE AND INVESTIGATION. Lots of good procedural stuff there to lend an air or verisimilitude.

I also agree with those who noted this is more of a PI job. There are several books on basic PI procedures, including one in the "Idiot's Guide" series.

Hi Dana. Thanks for the help! The P.I. book sounds like a keeper.

I recently wrote a blog post on books I find helpful in my writing, including some on police procedures. You can find it here.

Great lookin' list Martin--thanks!

Thanks again, Martin!

Given the current concern over terrorism, Iwould guess the cult would be under the surveillance of Homeland Security.


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