Monday, December 13, 2010

Nevets on Jurisdiction 101

Over at his blog, suspense author and EMS responder C.N. Nevets offers a handy primer on jurisdiction for crime writers. Excerpts:
You see a lot of cops on TV arguing about jurisdiction. Generally speaking, the set-up is that whatever group of cops the show is following is being squeezed out by someone else, claiming jurisdiction. The whole thing comes across as petty and political, and while's probably some truth to that, there are a few things I've learned about jurisdiction over the years, from my worth in the lab, in the field, and on the ambulance. ...

When our pagers go off, we have four minutes to make it to the station and be rolling. Most of all calls are 911 responses and that means as soon as we're going, it's lights and sirens and high speeds. This is very dangerous, particularly when it's 3am and we were just woken out of our sleep.

So then, as we get close to the town, pretty often, all of a sudden, that town's local ambulance comes on the radio, says they're going in-service and are arriving on-scene. Our presence is no longer required or desired.

This is jurisdictional dispute. They were there first. It's their territory. But they were out of service, so we were dispatched and then took the risks involved in responding.
Read the whole thing. Crime writing is one of the genres I've dabbled in the least, mostly because of all the real-world knowledge needed to suspend readers' disbelief. Few will find themselves thrown by descriptions of purely imaginary monsters or far-future cybernetic modifications, but there are millions of tiny details relating to law enforcement that can trip them up. That's why Nevet's article is so useful: It provides necessary technical knowledge from someone who works in the field and understands the writing craft.

Postscript: Nevets has also written a primer on EMS protocols and jargon. Check it out.

(Picture: CC 2010 by
Alex Holzknecht)


C. N. Nevets said...

Thanks for the link, Loren.

A major light bulb went off for me when I was writing out a bio to accompany a story submission about a year and a half ago. When I started listing the jobs I'd done (including radio comedy, sportscasting, archaeology, forensic anthropology, EMS, information technology, and more), I felt a little spread thin and unfocused.

But then I remembered how much I used to drool at the biographies of authors like Louis L'Amour, which listed an incredible range of job experiences. I used to look at those with envy, thinking, "Now that's a man that's really lived; no wonder he has so many stories to tell."

Suddenly I realized that I could think about my own experiences the same way. It's not that I've been unable to settle long term in a field; it's that I've accumulated a whole lot of experiences. I've really lived, and gotten a lot of stories to tell because of it.

Hmm. Maybe there's a blog post in there. haha

Unknown said...

I love behind-the-scenes procedural stuff. It's probably my second- or third-favorite nonfiction after neuropsychology and intelligence research (depending on how you parse those).

Loren Eaton said...


I understand feeling a bit unfocused professionally. My current bio reads, "In his varied professional career, Loren Eaton has worked as a business manager, entertainment journalist, voter registration drive organizer and farm hand." In other words, not exactly specialized.

Thanks for the post. It's a darn good one.

Loren Eaton said...


Have you read Stiff? I paged through it at the bookstore and thought it looked interesting.

C. N. Nevets said...

Stiff is a fun read. It's a bit self-consciously lurid at times, but that's part of the package. It's accurate, if not entirely representative.