In our area of upstate New York, county sheriffs’ offices, local police departments, and our state police work tirelessly to protect our citizens. They also do a whole lot more.

Last fall, our sheriff’s department opened to the public, for the first time, a comprehensive, eight-week course about their programs and services. To participate, interested citizens had to complete a simple application form and were required to pass a background check. I was delighted to be among those chosen.

Each session lasted about three hours, and then we were treated to lunch and a Q&A. One week, after touring the jail and observing inmates as they attended classes to help them, once released, take their places as productive members of society, we ate exactly what the inmates ate! Another beautiful, sunny, autumn day, we stood outside to observe officers working with the German Shepherds that comprise the K-9 crew.

But that wasn’t all. We also learned about the drug task force; how officers to issue warrants and make arrests; handle domestic violence, hostage, and terrorist situations; do criminal investigations; work in tandem with other law enforcement agencies; and provide a myriad of broad-based community outreach programs to families, schools, and senior citizens.

I gained a huge amount of knowledge that helped make Ed DeCleryk’s criminal investigation in Murder in the Museum: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery more authentic, but I also had specific questions that were not addressed in class.

The sheriff, deputy, one of his undersheriffs and I met for almost two hours a couple weeks after the course ended to address those questions, much to my pleasure and satisfaction. To a person, I found these folks professional, approachable and warm.

It was for me, in the final stages of writing my mystery, an invaluable experience.   The women and men who work at our sheriff’s department, as well as those from other state and local law enforcement agencies, commit to serving their communities and sacrificing their own lives to protect the citizens they serve.

Our communities offer many resources to those of us who write mysteries, among them criminal justice agencies, medical personnel, historical societies, district attorneys, and prosecutors. For our readers, having access to these professionals and organizations helps add a level of authenticity to our stories.

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