Sunday, 7 August 2011

Ranked and Filed: Getting the Police Right! - By Jo Cotterill

I reached the copy edit stage of Sweet Hearts 3: Forget MeNot before I ran into a problem of authenticity.

The scene involved police officers investigating a crime at a garden centre. I’d written that there were plain-clothes detectives alongside the uniformed officers.

The copy-editor had written in the margin: ‘Surely plain-clothed not there?’ I was stumped. I wanted them there – they always turned up in TV dramas, after all. But I wasn’t entirely sure I was correct.

I emailed a friend, who just happens to be a police inspector. I can’t think why I hadn’t asked her before!

She said yes, of course there would be CID there; any crime where the damage was over £5k would involve detectives.

I was delighted (ha! One in the eye for you, copy-editor!) until she pointed out that there wouldn’t actually be an inspector there; the highest-ranking officer was likely to be a Detective Sergeant.

Oh bother! 

So now I had to demote my DI to a DS and my DS to a DC. By the time I’d gone through the manuscript looking for all the acronyms, I could barely remember the letters of my own name.

I highly doubt that the readers of my ‘Sweet Hearts’ series will notice if I’ve got the wrong rank of police officer. But it’s nice to feel that you can be as accurate as possible!

(And the moral of the story is: copy-editors don’t know everything.)

To find out more about Jo Cotterill and the Sweetheart series go to

Jo also blogs at along with thirty other writers of girly fiction.

Read Jo's other Crime central guest Blog Household-weapon-of-mass-destruction

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