I've stood over hundreds of dead people and now I write about it. I'm Dickie Floyd, and you can ask me anything.

Dickie Floyd
Mar 12, 2018

Do you wonder what it's like to be a cop in a major metropolitan area where crime is high and unexpected and premature death the norm? It's no piece of cake, trust me.

The great authors know they need help with their characters and plots, and technical aspects of crime scenes, investigation, interviews and interrogations, and general police procedure. It isn't easy getting it right, and many do not.

As an author, my background allows me to instinctively build strong characters with the correct inner dialogue, emotions, and struggles. I have consulted many other writers to help them get it right too. 

So if you are a writer and have technical questions, or a fan of the genre and just want to know more about the life of a big city cop, you have come to the right AMA. You can ask me anything. 

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What do you do when you hear something fall in the middle of the night while you are in bed?
Mar 18, 2:15AM EDT0
What outdated slang do you use on a regular basis?
Mar 16, 5:28AM EDT0

Interesting question. None that I know of. 

Mar 16, 9:42AM EDT0
How much of your work was computer-based and how much of it is ‘in person’?
Mar 15, 6:52PM EDT0

Hello, Karolina. Great question. We used to say you have to get out there and wear out shoe leather to solve murders. I believe that will always be the case. There's something to be said for technology, and computers and their databases and the advances of science, are extremely beneficial to all investigators. But you still have to talk to people. 

Thanks for dropping in. -- Dickie

Mar 15, 7:42PM EDT1
If you were given unlimited resources, how would you lure the worst of humanity into one stadium at the same time?
Mar 14, 11:15AM EDT0

Well that's certainly an interesing question. Seems a little sci-fi-ish.

I guess maybe a Hunger Games type event, or Lions vs. Christians. Maybe offer free tickets and complimentary narcotics. 

I would prefer a gathering of the best of humanity and offer it as an example to the others. 

Thanks for the question. -- Dickie

Mar 14, 2:04PM EDT0
What is the most physically painful thing you’ve ever experienced?
Mar 14, 10:09AM EDT0

Hi Christian Miranda,

I once ran a half-marathon with broken ribs. I'd say that was at the top of the list. When you read this, you will ask why I would do such a thing. I had trained all year for it and broke ribs three days before the race. I was very upset at the prospect of missing it. I went to the doctor who confirmed I had fractured two ribs. I asked if it would hurt for me to run. Yes, he said, it will hurt like hell. "No, I mean, will it hurt anything, like do more damage, or rupture a lung?" He said no, it won't do any more damage. Then he gave me a rib belt and said that would help. Well, it did make it feel better, wearing the belt, but after about a mile I realized it constricted my breathing. With each mile I loosened it more and by halfway through the race I ditched it. I finished the race without walking once. I was proud of that. I tell people when they ask, one reason I ran the race regardless of the pain was to be an example to my children. I have always believed (and preached) you can do whatever you put your mind to doing regardless of pain or difficulty. Just do it! 

I know that wasn't a good cop story, but it truly was the most painful thing I've experienced. As far as on the job stuff, I've been punched, kicked, and bitten. I was beaten in the head by a large metal flashlight and knocked unconscious (and left with a concussion and equilibrium damage). I ruptured a cervical disc while wrestling with a parolee who didn't want to go back to prison. (That actually became quite painful  a week or so later when the bulging disc began compressing my spinal cord. And it required surgery.) I've been shot at but not hit (more than once), but that doesn't actually hurt, it just increases your pulse significantly and causes you to question your salary.

Thanks for the question. -- Dickie

Mar 14, 1:51PM EDT0
What was the most number of cases you worked on at any given moment during your time as a detective?
Mar 14, 8:20AM EDT0

Hello Petar,

That's a little tough to answer, but I will try: As a homicide detective in Los Angeles it was easy to have a half-a-dozen cases you were working on at any given moment. There would also be a dozen or more "open" cases that you tried to give time to every now and then but weren't actively working day to day. 

Crimes other than homicide stack up higher and quicker. As a station detective (which is a introductory level detective assignment) you would have three times that at any given time. But, those cases (robberies, burglaries, assaults, etc.) are require a fraction of the work that goes into a homicide case. 

I hope that answers your question. Thank you! -- Dickie

Mar 14, 9:25AM EDT0
Have you ever turned down or referred out any cases when you were a private investigator?
Mar 14, 5:32AM EDT0

Hi Anastasijat,

Yes, actually, I do quite often. I no longer work surveillance cases and seldom take an private person cases, such as infidelity and child custody matters. I have a couple of corporate clients and a handful of lawyer clients who keep me busy enough. After all, I still need time to write! 

Thanks for the quesion. -- Dickie

Mar 14, 9:17AM EDT0
What are a few things you’ve learned that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?
Mar 13, 8:30PM EDT0

That's a great question. I might have a little fun with this one; I hope you don't mind:

1) Always stay vertical at the coroner's office

2) Every day above ground is a good day

3) See your doctor regularly as you age, so he will sign your death certificate (otherwise you become a coroner's case.)

4) People suck

5) People are awesome

6) Rarely are people killed when they are home minding their own business and living clean.

7) When it's your turn to go, it's your turn to go. 

8) Crowds are dangerous.

9) Angry crowds are deadly.

10) We all have the same color of blood, and all of it matters.

Thanks for the question. Some of this is a little tongue-in-cheek, but most truly applies. Best wishes! -- Dickie

Mar 13, 10:24PM EDT0
What sort of training does one have to go through to become a PI?
Mar 13, 12:45PM EDT0

Hi, thanks for the question. As I tell others who ask (I get the question a lot), if you don't have a background as a detective in law enforcement, the next best step would be to find a larger PI firm who employs investigators. You will have to bring something to the table--writing skills, good organizational skills, good attitude, and eagerness to learn--because you know nothing about how to do the work. It is not difficult to teach someone with those skills how to do surveillance work, if the person has the right personality traits for it. (Some people have no patience, others can't stay focused.) Once you get in with a firm and they see you have value, you may be able to learn other aspects of investigation. But, simply said, it is not rocket science, you just have to find someone to teach you. There are courses but I have no idea what value they may hold. Also, to be licensed in most states, you have to have experience. You can work under someone's license until you have that experience, so that's another reason to look for a large firm who is hiring. 

Good luck, hope that helps! - Dickie

Mar 13, 4:10PM EDT0

When you have a serial killer case, does the killer leave specific clues each time or does he leave specific clues and add an different element to throw you off track and how do you go about tying all clues together to catch him. 

Mar 12, 8:34PM EDT0

Hi Dana!

I never worked a serial killer case, though I have been privy to many of the investigations thereof for training purposes. Of course, the FBI BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) gather all of that data and would better be suited to answer that question. The cases I am familiar with, no killer purposely left clues and taunted the investigators. That makes for great TV, and I'm sure it has happened, but for the most part, serial killers are driven to kill by phsychological and sexual desires. 

Now, having said all of that, the truth is we who have worked as cops in gang-infested areas have investigated cases where the offenders have killed numerous people. But, since it is gang and drug killing, nobody calls it "serial." Interesting, no? 

As for catching a serial killer, it usually boils down to the killer making a mistake and meanwhile the investigators are putting the cases together. There is always evidence, and hopefully the evidence ID's the suspect so that a real manhunt can take place. That is how the Night Stalker was caught. He was first identified, and then his face was plastered everywhere. 

Thank you so much for joining in, Dana. It was a pleasure to have you here and I enjoyed your question! - Dickie

Last edited @ Mar 12, 8:46PM EDT.
Mar 12, 8:45PM EDT0
What are some of the things that makes your book stand apart from other crime novels?
Mar 12, 7:53PM EDT0

Authenticity. That is what almost every review mentions. It is why Wambaugh was/is so successful. To actually do the job--rather than hang out with cops for a few weeks or ask questions of them--provides experience, emotion, and minute detail that make for tremendous characters. 

I hope you will give it a try and see. Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Ibooks, Smashwords.. it's everywhere. Ebook is on sale for $1.99 at Smashwords. 

Thank you for the great question, Celina. - Dickie

Mar 12, 8:09PM EDT0

How are Crimestopper tips documented and in what form are they passed along to detectives? 

Mar 12, 7:47PM EDT0

I assume you mean the show. Usually if a show highlights a case, its investigators are there during the airing along with a complete staff of the show to field calls and take information.  

Mar 12, 8:03PM EDT0

A tree on the bank of an urban estuary topples after heavy rains and flooding and a clothed skeleton is entangled in the roots.  1.will the coroner collect the bones in a tub of some kind or will they cut the roots from tree and try to keep the skeleton intact and put into a body bag? The spot is only accessible by canoe.  2. Since the crime is decades old and the area was recently flooded, would they bother with crime scene techs or just have the detective and coroner document and collect anything they find?

Mar 12, 7:46PM EDT0

Hi Carol,

That would be tough, but yes, crime scene techs and do whatever you could to remove in a preserved fashion. Your idea to cut the tree and bring it with is a good one. I would say canoe is not a great choice but I'm sure there would be other options. 

Thanks! - Dickie

Mar 12, 8:02PM EDT0
What was your first introduction to the crime genre and which books would you suggest to someone who is new to it?
Mar 12, 5:27PM EDT0

Hi Hazy,

My first introduction to the genre was Mickey Spillane. Those are classic crime noir, and still great reading. I would suggest you read Michael Connelly, Joseph Wambaugh, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, and of course, yours truly, Dickie Floyd

Thank you for dropping in! - Dickie

Mar 12, 6:06PM EDT0
When and where does a homicide detective’s jurisdiction end?
Mar 12, 4:34PM EDT0

Hi Bogdant,

This is complex. But, I will try my best to explain it as it relates to Los Angeles County where I worked. (Other states may differ, but this is the case in California.) In L.A. County there are 88 incorporated cities. Some of those cities (such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Glendale--to name the three largest) have their own police departments and will investigate murders that occur within their city limits. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau will investigate murders throughout the county, to include the 153 unincorporated communities, as well as 42 of those 88 cities that do not have their own police departments. Even some of the smaller cities with their own police departments ask the sheriff's department to investigate their homicide cases as they are not equipped, staffed, and trained to do so. 

Now, as far as "jurisdiction," every full-time peace officer in the state of California has police powers throughout the state. As a homicide detective investigating a murder, I can go anywhere in the county to make an arrest, serve a warrant, interview a witness, etc. When a detective goes out of state, however, he no longer has police powers, and in most cases will solicit the assistance of law enforcement in that state.

You might be wondering about the FBI; everyone does. They do not come in and take over cases. They have no jurisdiction to do so. Smaller agencies may ask for their assistance, and on rare occasion larger agencies might as well. But unless it is a federal crime, they do not get involved unless requested.  

I hope that answers your question. Thank you! - Dickie

Last edited @ Mar 12, 5:10PM EDT.
Mar 12, 5:07PM EDT0
Does the media, or news crews, distort or change what actually happened during the crime?
Mar 12, 3:23PM EDT0

Hi Biljana,

I think most of the time the media try to get it right. I don't think they intentionally distort their reporting of crime. However, they can at times be inaccurate, either because of their sources or maybe they've made assumptions. I've not ever been burned by a reporter and I had several who would call me directly and whom I came to trust. Those relationships--investigators and media--are important both directions.

Thank you for the question. - Dickie

Mar 12, 3:53PM EDT0
How fast can the police find out about a murder that has taken place?
Mar 12, 12:39PM EDT0

Hi Aminah,

I hate to say it, but it just depends. Sometimes it is immediate (if witnessed). Other times a murder might not ever be known to the police. The great majority are in between those two extremes. 

If you would like to give me more detail or direction, I would be glad to provide a better answer. 

Thank you! - Dickie

Mar 12, 12:46PM EDT0
Have you or anyone you know ever made a mistake that cost you the entire case and gave the criminal a chance to escape, if so what was the mistake that was made and if not, what would you have done in that situation?
Mar 12, 12:12PM EDT0

Hi Danijela,

I have often said that any honest investigator can look back at any of their cases and identify a part of it which could have been done better. It is that humility that allows one to improve and be better on the next one.

I don't know of any case that was destroyed because of a mistake, but I will tell you a short story. My partner and I had a case that involved a child thrown from a cliff. A seasoned detective approached us and warned of a mistake he had made on a case where a woman was believed to be thrown from a balcony. In trying to reconstruct that fall using a dummy, he learned that dummies and live humans don't fall the same. Also, you cannot recreate an incident without knowing details such as how much force was used to propel the victim, etc. When he had tried to recreate the "fall" in his case, it was covered by the media. It did not go at all as planned, and he believes it may have cost him the case in court. I think he was being hard on himself because although it may have not worked as he hoped it would, and it may not have played well for the jury, the case was largely circumstantial and would have been difficult to prove with or without a successful recreation of the fall. But, he used that mistake to help us, and because of his advice, we sought out the very best forensic biomechanics scientist we could find and had him recreate the incident through science, physics, and math. 

I hope that answers your question. Thanks for dropping in. - Dickie

Last edited @ Mar 12, 12:32PM EDT.
Mar 12, 12:28PM EDT0
What is the best kind of evidence you can use to find or track down a murder and is there even such thing as the "best” kind of evidence?
Mar 12, 11:55AM EDT0

Hi Pam,

The "best" evidence is that which is irrefutable in a court of law. Though I'm not sure any evidence is not subject to a good challenge by competent counsel. Having said that, I believe DNA evidence is the best thing to happen to justice in our lifetime. Not just for tracking down a killer, but it has been used in many cases to exclude persons of interest and of course it has freed wrongfully convicted men and women. 

The science of DNA is constantly improving and expanding. It is no longer just blood or saliva that are used as sources. DNA can be extracted from hair, skin, and of course any bodily fluids. It can now be used to create an image of how the DNA donor might physically appear. It is difficult to cite a better source of evidence. 

That said, an investigator must protect against cross contamination so that DNA evidence can withstand scrutiny. Most detectives and crime scene investigators learned much from the OJ case, and continue to learn as time goes on. 

There is a database called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) where profiles are stored and samples obtained during the course of an investigation can be compared. This database maintains the DNA profiles of convicted offenders and missing persons, as well as that from unknown profiles collected at crime scenes. The latter may connect crimes as being committed by the same offender before that offender is ever identified. 

Fingerprints and "trace" evidence (hairs, fibers, etc.) are also excellent sources of evidence. Any scientific evidence (the aforementioned DNA, trace evidence, etc., as well as firearms evidence, toolmarks, tire or shoe impressions, handwriting, etc.) is better than eyewitnesses or even confessions. 

All evidence can be flawed, even confessions. There are a number of known cases wherein false confessions have imprisoned the wrong person, later to be proven by DNA even. 

But ultimately, the best evidence is whatever you have, as long as it is properly documented, collected, and preserved.

I hope that answers your question. Thanks for dropping in! - Dickie

Mar 12, 12:20PM EDT0

If you write about a real case, what precautions do you need to take...naming names, dates, times, places, etc.?

Mar 12, 11:29AM EDT0

That's a great question, Ted. I have been wondering about that myself as I intend to write true crime in the very near future, some of my old cases. I will have to research the legalities as well, and I can let you know what I find out. My understanding is that if it is public record, it can be written as long as it remains factual. I will let you know what I find out, my friend. 

Thanks for stopping in! - Dickie

Mar 12, 12:01PM EDT0
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