FutureLearn. This fabulous website offers loads of courses from respected providers on all sorts of subjects. I'm doing the course primarily for fun, because I'm a bit of an armchair detective, but also because I thought it might provide useful background for short stories.
As writers, we are told that we must get our facts right or readers will be quick off the mark to correct us, and nowhere is this idea stronger than in crime writing. Writing Magazine has a regular column called 'Excuse me officer [sic]' through which people can ask a real-life copper questions relating to police procedure. But how much do average readers know? How many inaccuracies would they spot?
My police training (ahem) has been done entirely through TV. I'm pretty sure that if it came to it I could wield an ALS to find fluid-based evidence and decipher a splatter pattern; but after only few hours on my FutureLearn course, I can already see that much of what I thought I knew is wrong. I thought that if the forensic evidence was there, then we had 'im bang to rights, gov'nor, but no: the course material quotes an analysis of cases, such that where wrongful convictions were subsequently proven 23% of them had relied on forensic science. 'It is common for crime dramas to portray forensic
science as being completely accurate and reliable, but often the
techniques they show owe more to science fiction than they do science
Which leads me to wonder whether writers need to be quite so pernickety in their research. If we're already being led up the garden path, does it really matter if we get the caution wording slightly wrong, or detain someone for questioning in a manner not compliant with PACE? In fiction, isn't the story the most important element?