Showing posts with label Chief of Police. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chief of Police. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cops Gone Bad: Information for Writers with Police Chief Scott Silverii


Fiona - 
Hi Chief, thanks for joining us on ThrillWriting - that's a very nice kilt you're wearing. Can you tell us about the special occasion?
(Great legs, BTW)

Chief Scott Silverii sporting his pink kilt he'll be wearing
at the Warrior Dash to support breast cancer research.

Chief Silverii -
It's great to be back. I love your work - the content is actual police academy quality. 

Sure, My police department - The Thibodaux Police Department is teaming up with author Liliana Hart to raise awareness and money for cancer research. The kilts will be worn by officers and team members participating in the Warrior Dash on Oct 11 in Louisiana - that even includes Liliana Hart.


Fiona -
What a great cause. 

I know that you are very involved with your community and are often seen doing spectacular things to bring awareness and needed funds to worthy causes, I remember your pictures from Breast Cancer Awareness month last year. As a matter of fact, I only know good cops. Really good cops who serve on duty and off. But I also know that's not always the case. Do you mind if we chat about that? Please first tell us about yourself.

Chief Silverii -

Thank you, we are the city's police department after all. Yes, tough topic, but let's talk about it. 

I'm Scott Silverii - I'm from south Louisiana's Cajun Country. I've been in law enforcement over 24 years and currently serve as the Chief of Police in the City of Thibodaux (La). I began my non-fiction writing once I completed my PhD in Anthropology from the University of New Orleans. I self-pub my dissertation - A Darker Shade of Blue and then sold an extended manuscript to Taylor & Francis Group where it was published by CRC Press - Cop Culture: Why Good Cops Go Bad.

Fiona -
Temptation. When one is in a position of authority it is so easy to cross a line. What kinds of roadblocks are inherent in the system that would help to weed out people who might abuse their authority prior to coming onto a police force?

Chief Silverii -
It begins with an in-depth application process that includes a quality background investigation. Too often, agencies accept friend referrals - those usually implode down the road. Education is also key - the officer must be taught the dangers inherently associated with independent positions of authority. Accountability is the base line - without it, everything fails. No room to turn a blind eye, or allow your buddy to slide - paths of least resistance lead to falling for temptation.

Fiona -
Once an officer has taken his oath, as they move deeper into the cop culture, how much do cops overlook the wrongdoings of other cops? It seems to me, if it's not nipped in the bud, you'd have cops gone wild.

Chief Silverii -
It can become a slippery slope. Officers are afforded a wide range of discretionary privileges associated with performing their duties. You can't paint them into a box with policies for every possible encounter. It's difficult for cops to judge other cops on actions attributed to discretion.

Corruption can take many forms and levels from not performing your duties to committing crimes. There is a Code of Silence that is inherent. It's the “us versus them” mentality. This begins in the police academy - cadets learn that the class is punished for the mistakes of one. Therefore, they cover each others butts to save themselves from the discipline - while building brotherhood, it also teaches covering up and the No Rat Rule.

Fiona –
You're writing a novella that takes a fictional look at this, can you tell us about your plot line

Chief Silverii -

I was invited to join you and five other amazing authors in an anthology called Unlucky 7 - each author writes a novella based on a small town murder mystery. My work, Bayou Backslide, looks at the temptations of police work. Even in the face of investigating the ultimate act of victimization - murder. What I find fascinating about writing about police fiction is exploring more about the effect the job has on the officers, than whether or not the officer can do the job. This work will look at how temptation, discretion, autonomy, and misplaced loyalty effect the cop, the agency, and the community.

Fiona -
Very interesting. Okay, let's look at some of those aspects. Just coming home from the Writers' Police Academy, we learned about some of the awful things that cops experience on a daily basis. Over time, they develop an "us against them" mentality. Can you talk about some of the things that impact an officer and the changes that are globally seen by individuals facing the challenge of police work?

Chief Silverii -
WOW - WPA was another amazing event. I'm still on a cloud.

The culture of policing is a powerful influence. If you are familiar with Janis' concept of Groupthink, it's similar in this profession.

Policing depends upon homogeneity or everyone looking, walking and talking the same way in order to be cops- compliant. No room for the Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson characters. Though they make for great movies, they would also make bad reality.

Officers go through transition stages of socialization - or Fitting In.
*Once they enter the academy - they realize that everything they

  thought they knew about the job from watching TV, movies, and
  reading is WRONG.

*They must accept that the only way to succeed the academy is to

  modify their thinking and beliefs to those of the culture.

*In training they must juggle this next life behind the badge that

  requires silence and full commitment - that obviously causes
  trouble at home with spouse, kids, family and friends.

*Finally, the officer is cut loose to work on their own. They are

  vulnerable to the temptations because no one is directly watching
  them over the course of that 12- hour shift.

Fiona -
Over time, how does this effect the "bad cop's" decision making?

Chief Silverii-
Path of least resistance. Complacency becomes the rule. Not making waves is the ethos over “to protect and serve.” - If I work hard, then you look bad. If I make a mistake while making lots of cases, then the sergeant will get the grief - therefore, don't make cases. Mike Roche reminded me of a saying – “Little cases = little problems, big cases = big problems, no cases = no problems.”

So that would be the kind of thing one would expect in any organization.

Let's talk about cops who go over to the dark side. The ones who think they can, and possibly do, get away with some pretty heinous stuff. To charge them would look bad for the sergeant. What kinds of things could a bad cop do that is particular to that cop because of their position?

Chief Silverii-
It's unlimited - From trading sex for a traffic ticket, to taking bribes for providing security, or looking the other way. Even allowing the drunk to drive off because the cop doesn't want to do the paperwork is unacceptable.

Understand, we are talking about a small population of cops fitting this dynamic - most are committed and honorable public servants, but in a club of over 800,000 there's gonna be bad apples.

Fiona -

Can you tell us writers who are writing good cop/bad cop plot lines what might happen once the police find out that a cop has been involved in something pretty big - a murder or drug distribution for example - how do you police the police?

Chief Silverii –
Internal Affairs are the organization's integrity gatekeepers. They operate independently of general police assignments and are often unpopular among the other cops. Old days they were called the Rat Squad. A chief or sheriff also has the option of referring cases to the state police, the state's attorney general, or a federal agency.

Fiona -
The federal agency would depend on the crime. As my last question - what would you like us to know, what would I never guess about this particular topic?

Chief Silverii –
The process of socialization is so powerful that it takes a special (not impossible) person with an established moral / ethical center to avoid the pitfalls. I applaud those individuals. The old guard is retiring or dying off. This new era of technology and accountability is leading us into the next phase of policing. I’m so excited. It's on the horizon. It takes forward thinking, fearless men and woman to stand in the gap and demand a better way. It's time for a Cultural Revolution in policing.

Fiona -
I am grateful to them for their service and grateful to you for sharing and also for letting us see how fab you look in a kilt.

You can reach Chief Silverii at: 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Police Chief: Information for Writers with Chief Scott Silverii

Chief Scott Silverii, PhD
Fiona - 
Today on ThrillWriting, I'm very pleased to introduce you to a friend and fellow writer, Dr. Scott Silverii.
Dr. Silverii serves as the Chief of Police in the southern Louisiana city of Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish. There, he enjoys the honor of public service. His twenty-four plus years in policing provides the experience and vision to believe there is always a way to help others. 16 of those years were spent in policing's special operations groups with thousands of undercover narcotics and SWAT missions.

His passion for public service flourished while growing up in the heart of Cajun Country, leading a life seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, humidity, and crawfish etouffe.

Hi, Chief. Can you start by telling us about how you got involved in writing both your non-fiction and your fiction works?

Chief Silverii -
I began my non-fiction writing once I completed my PhD in Anthropology from the University of New Orleans. I self-published my dissertation - A Darker Shade of Blue, and then sold an extended manuscript to the Taylor & Francis Group where it was published by CRC Press - Cop Culture: Why Good Cops Go Bad Link 

Last year, Lee Lofland invited me to teach at Writers' Police Academy (WPA) and introduced me to the amazing world of writers. I tried my hand at crime fiction as a way to decompress from the years of grad school. I loved the challenge of transitioning from the formal, rigid academy rules and also the narrative police reports - to the descriptive content of mystery fiction. Have you ever heard, "Show. Don't tell?" Ha! - I have, plenty of times.

And that's where I had the pleasure of meeting you and becoming friends. 

(This is a LINK to a ThrillWriting article about the concept of Sheepdogs and Dr. Silverii's doctoral thesis)

Fiona -
One of the things that you talked about in one of the WPA classes was your time doing SWAT duty after Katrina. Do you think that that experience has helped you in your position as Police Chief?

Scott Silverii working a SWAT detail during the aftermath of Katrina

Chief Silverii -
Yes, my 16 years in SWAT taught me more about conflict and crisis resolution than any other experience I've had. The Katrina deployment taught me the value of compassion under extreme conflict. The ability to combine strategic functions measured by compassionate consideration helped shape the vision for leading my agency as their Chief of Police.

Fiona - 
Can you tell us a little bit about the scope of your position? As I keep up with you from day to day, it seems you're stirring a lot of pots.

Chief Silverii - 

Chief Silverii with his son
Definitely - First and most importantly, I'm a dad. All else occupies crevasses between our time together. 

As the city's Chief of Police, I'm solely responsible for every function of the agency. Being a full-service provider includes activities ranging from school crossing guard, animal control, trustee work crews to patrol officers, detectives, academy training to SWAT and narcotics ops. 

Of course, my time participating as a part of those assignments are limited. My primary duties include providing a crystal clear direction for progressing the agency. Included in that is the training, promotion, staffing and all the fun administrative things. 

I also serve as an ambassador for the city and love meeting people in our city. Related to my position, I also serve as a subject matter expert in the analysis and application of data and mapping to increase officer effectiveness in reducing social harms. Working smarter rather than harder. 

I was named as an Executive Fellow for the Police Foundation - that was very exciting.

Fiona - 
Congratulations, Chief, that's wonderful. 

With your PhD in anthropology, do you develop or refine the ongoing training of your dept.?

Chief Silverii
I look at the culture of policing from a bigger perspective. I try to incorporate theoretical principles with practical application. Sometimes that results in revised training. Other times, it's reflected in policy initiatives such as social-norming or employee engagement. 

Cop culture is a tough environment - the dynamics involved in being "socialized" are complex and a mastery of those elements are critical for effecting sustained change.

Fiona - 
Globally rather than specific to you and your department, in speaking with your peers, what are some of the common issues that arise that might create tensions and difficulties in the departments? What about between LE (law enforcement) and the public?

Chief Silverii - 
The position of Chief is to develop, share, and ensure a clear vision of public safety. Unfortunately, not every officer will share that vision. Cops are like anyone else where decisions and consequences are involved. It's vital that they follow policy and approved practices. 

Tension is at the highest when disciplinary action is assigned. Chiefs must find the balance between being friendly with the troops yet not being their friend. That's a huge challenge and often gets blurred. Also, being the one giving promotions, assignments, preferred schedules, etc. a chief will never make everyone happy - it can be a lonely duty, but it's a calling to serve and another to lead.

Fiona - 
One of the questions I traditionally like to ask is: In media and books you've come across characters who do your job. What stereotypes are incorrect? What do you see consistently 
mis-written, what would you like to see done differently in portrayals of Chiefs?

Flashbang and Entrance Formation

Chief Silverii- 
Oh goodness - running the span. 

While I'd like to say that portraying the hapless and the corrupt Chief is incorrect, the truth is - it takes all kinds. I've known both extremes and all in-between. 

By and large, most Chiefs are committed career law men who are often limited in demonstrating their full potential by their political appointments by a mayor, council or city administrator. 

Chiefs are not typically elected, but are appointed by elected officials. It would be rare if they operate autonomously, and that contributes to the national average tenure of a Chief is about 2.3 years in an agency. 

I'm biased of course, but I'd love to see depth written - the way a Chief grieves over the loss of a person in their city. Lots of time in media/books the chief is a fat-cat in a suit focused on their next political move or appointment. The reality is, Chiefs are always focused on their staff and how to improve their working conditions. It doesn't make for sexy TV, but a Chief takes as much pride in their detectives busting a case as they do ordering a new fleet of cars for the officers.

Fiona - 
My other traditional question is about the story behind your favorite scar.

Chief Silverii- 
Favorite scar on me, or that I left on a bad guy?

Fiona - 

Chief Silverii - 


My right palm is filleted from the tip of ring finger to below the wrist. I was the Drug Task Force Commander during an undercover op. The agent gave the bust, and this jacked up drug dealer high on a non-natural product charged at me. After battling one-on-one in an isolated field for everything from his escape to my weapons, officers arrived. End result - he went to the clink and I went to the ER - surgery followed with minimum loss of hand use.

Fiona - 

What am I not asking you, but I should? Is there an aspect of your job that you'd like to expand upon?

Chief Silverii- 
Yes, I'm trying to promote continuing education for officers. I've benefited from advanced degrees and applied them to the job. It's actually so complex, but too many officers get trapped into believing that it's all about arresting people. We cannot arrest ourselves out of the social ills plaguing our country. I'd like to see victim advocacy and alternative methods of handling citizen complaints 
explored rather than tossing everyone in jail.

Fiona - 
Amazon Link 99 cents
I agree whole-heartedly, thank you. You just came out with a short story set in your part of the world. Can you tell us about your project?

Chief Silverii- 
You introduced me to writing the short story for a contest. I wrote, then edited and then cut to meet a super concise word count. I loved the discipline and intensity of the short story. I wanted to create a continuing series of episodes based on the same characters and location. I'm so passionate about Cajun Country and law enforcement, that

I combined the

This series spun from the characters
in my competition short story and has
grown into a multi-part adventure that
I'm continuing to develop with each

It's also a great way to hone my Show/Don't Tell skills. The protagonist - Sheriff James Walker is true blue and committed to protecting the citizens of his parish. What I'm loving is the depth of conflict, crisis and resolution he deals with daily - all the while leading an agency sworn to protect the public. His scars (in & out) make him human and identifiable.
Amazon Link 99 cents

Fiona - 
And reading them will probably be a great learning tool for my fellow crime writers in that you know your
stuff backwards and forwards. We've talked
a bit about police culture, what about
writers' culture are you bridging the two pretty easily?

Chief Silverii - 
The last year has been so rewarding through the relationships I've developed with writers. It's an
honor to consult with so many
who are committed to portraying
the cop life, culture, procedure
and practices with laser accuracy. 
enjoy consulting on selected
projects and manuscripts; it gives
me the opportunity to meet new
people and learn new skills in the
writing craft.

Amazon Link 99 cents
Fiona - 
Thank you so much for spending this time with us. What
are you up to this evening?

Chief Silverii- 
It's time to eat crawfish stew
Fiona - 
Well, enjoy! 

A big thank you to my readers for stopping by. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. They will post asap, but they are moderated so you don't have to wade through spam.

Also, you can connect with Chief Silverii at this LINK

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Is Your Hero a Sheepdog? Character Development for Writers


Captive Mexican Wolf at , New Mexico. Edit to ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is your hero, male or female, a sheepdog? Understanding the theory set forth by Dave Grossman might help you to develop your character and create fun plot twists that your readers would never see coming.

Dave Grossman is a retired Army Lt. Col. now teaching psychology at West Point, and writing. He developed a theory widely embraced by our military and domestic security forces concerning the "sheepdog" mentality.

Video Quick Study (1:40) Dave Grossman speaking on being a sheepdog.
Video Quick Study (2:02) Dave Grossman on being sheepdog and talks about his books. Very interesting to hear how he expresses his convictions. Listen to his tone of voice. This is the tone I have heard -- soft, controlled, respectful -- in the men and women whom I know to be combat-hardened, lethal sheepdogs; it's remarkably consistent.

I first ran across the sheepdog theory at the Writers' Police Academy 2013. I found it interesting that sheepdogs were discussed by both retired Secret Service Agent Mike Roche Blog Link in our class on Mass Killing and again the same day in our SWAT class taught by Dr. Scott Silverii, Chief of Police, Thibodaux, Louisianna.

Dr. Silverii included Grossman's theory in his doctoral dissertation A Darker Shade of Blue which is available on Amazon as a scholarly work, (which I found paradigm shifting). Amazon Link

This information will soon be available in a less academic version January 29th 2014.
Amazon Link

According to Grossman, there are three kinds of people: The sheep, the wolf, and the sheepdog.

Image from Facebook


* Create 98% of society
* Have empathy
* Do not harm others purposefully only accidentally
* Generally follow laws
* Generally non-violent
* Seek security behind the sheepdog
* Will run scared (stampede) with the herd

Image from Facebook

Image trolled from Facebook.
Ideation of a wolf


* 1% of society
* Criminal
* Predatory mental health issues such as sociopaths or psychopaths
* Driven by instinct
* Capacity for violence
* Lack empathy
* Prey on sheep (general society)

The natural predator for the societal wolf is the sheepdog.
Imagine found on Facebook


* 1% of society
* Natural warriors
Image from Facebook
* Protect the herd (society as a whole) from the
* Society likes to hide behind the sheepdog - they
   know they are safe
* Society does not like sheepdogs because the
   sheepdog reminds people that wolves exist.
* Sheepdogs feel marginalized by
   society - they do not feel like they
   fit in.
* Tend to seek out other
   sheepdogs, both for work and for
   personal time, in whose company
   they feel understood and their
   lifestyle affirmed. This was a theme
   that was very  important in Silverii's The Darker Shade of Blue. As the sheepdogs become more
   acculturated and entrenched in their own society, it is harder for them to feel empathy for the masses
   (sheep), to develop lasting relationships, especially healthy marriages, and to interact with the community at
* Driven by instinct
* Capacity for violence
* Maintains empathy, though according to Silverii, this diminishes over time as the sheepdog becomes more
   entrenched/socialized in the norms of their work cultural especially at the level of the Special Operations
   Groups, SOG, such as SWAT and undercover work.

Video Quick Study (3:14)

Usually sheepdog stick together
Image found on Facebook

Both the wolf and the sheepdog kill but the difference is the intent.

Image found on Facebook
Do you believe that your characters will fit neatly into these boxes? Are you writing a wolf, a sheep and a sheepdog scenario? I've contemplated this idea, and I would agree that there are clear cut personality types. As a counselor, I relied on empathy to help my criminal clients develop life skills. Where empathy was lacking, it was a useless waste of time - they were born wolves.

But let's contemplate the idea of grey boundaries. I would call myself a secondary sheepdog. I have been in enough life situations that I know that I don't mind running in to help -- be it a medical or survival emergency or fighting with a criminal hurting someone. BUT I would prefer a true sheepdog  (with trained skills, equipment, and backup) to stand firm. If there's no one else, I'll rise to the challenge. And if it is one of my kids? We are talking a whole other dynamic. Grizzly mama on steroids with a bad case of rabies (yup, that's your warning) will show her fangs. Endangered kids are the go-ballistic hot button for most parents, fictional or not.

So contemplate your character and find their switch.

Image from Facebook

I always find it interesting when I think I understand a character and then circumstances forces them to act "otherwise." Maybe your presumed superhero-of-a-boyfriend goes all scared-sheep on your five-foot tall, hundred-pound heroine, and she ends up having to save the day. A friend of mine's eighteen-year-old daughter, who matches the description for an itty-bitty heroine, watched her boyfriend being attacked by ten frat boys for about a nano-second before she went ape-shit and hospitalized three of them. The other seven ran away. Granted, she is a third degree black belt, but the odds were not in her favor. A non-sheepdog by nature, something internal had to go off so that she would express this side of her warrior personality.

What if your sweet beta male must drop his pacifist stance to save the day and wins the girl right out of the arms of  hunky-dude-turned-sheep? Good! We all liked him better anyway, and then beta-boy and his unattainable heartthrob can live happily ever after.

When your hero/heroine acts uncharacteristically, it will necessarily change the dynamic of your characters' relationship. The larger the threat the larger the shift.What happens to their relationship afterwards? Definite plot twisting capabilities.

The sheepdog theory is a fun one to play around with. Happy writing.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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