Officer’s notebook

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Sgt. Adam Plantinga, Arts ’95, tells crime novelists how to write about cops.

After a few years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Plantinga became a police officer, first in Milwaukee and later in San Francisco. From day one, Plantinga began jotting down notes about the job. What it’s like to be in a high-speed pursuit, to wear the uniform, to interact with people on a crime scene. Then the English and writing-intensive major pulled together the notes into his book, 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, published in October 2014.

Getting the book published took plenty of persistence. Plantinga submitted his book proposal to 90 publishing agents and 90 rejected it. Then he called a few of his favorite crime writers, including novelist Joseph Wambaugh. Wambaugh’s response is highlighted on the book cover: “Every cop should read this book and so should anyone who wants an uncensored peek into the real world of street cops.”

Now crime writers are referencing Plantinga’s tips to portray police officers more accurately. The book provides insider trivia about the job, including what Hollywood gets wrong in portraying cops. “You never kick down a door in one try,” according to Plantinga. It also provides insight into the use of force, a hot-button topic today. “Deep misunderstandings continue to drive a wedge between the cops and the public,” he says.

Plantinga calls the emphasis on social justice learned at Marquette a formative influence on his police work. “If you’re doing it right, social justice is what you’re fighting for as a cop.” — Patrick Leary, editorial intern

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