Nomination For a Hero Badge

One thing I learned as a cop. There are crooks and CROOKS. That means there are people who break the law because they are stupid, drunk, crazy or any combination or variation on the theme that you care to come up with. Then there are CROOKS. These folks are professional. They may be stupid, but they are also feral. Their world view is bent, and crime is their preferred method of doing business. Sometimes the two types run together, Batman had Robin, Butch Cassidy had the Sundance Kid. They might be engaged in the same enterprise, but they are not the same. That distinction is important. Take away the brains of a CROOK team and what remains is a crook. They both need to be taken off the board. Taking out the CROOK may entail bragging rights. Taking out the crook is akin to scrapping dog shit off of a shoe. It has to be done but does not rise to the level of an achievement. Cops know this. The Fucking Bunch of Idiots (FBI), not so much.

An idiot from California, but I repeat myself, decided to target Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh for assassination. He traveled from his home to Washington D.C. According to the FBI, he did meticulous research to gather the necessary equipment and tactics. How do we know? The idiot used his home computer and apparently left digital footprints all over the place. The story at the link.

Did I mention that the FBI didn’t catch him? Nope. The United States Marshal’s Service (USMS) caught him, but only after he snitched himself off to 9-11. Don’t get me wrong this idiot deserves everything he has got coming to him. I’m just trying to put this into a proper context. This is not a law enforcement triumph. This guy is not a CROOK, just a crook.

Sometimes focusing on a crook is a means to an end. I recall the first time AANTF (task force) was formally invited to the adult table (a joint investigation involving DEA, FBI and SAPD) and a wiretap. The target was a marijuana smuggler, based in San Antonio. In support of the wiretap, we chased this idiot all over town. He had had a string of bad luck and couldn’t put a dope deal together to save his life. What he did do was lead us to one of his upstream co-conspirators who could and did put together several deals ultimately resulting in the seizure of about a ton or marijuana.

The only crime the original crook committed, that we witnessed, was when he took the wife and kids to the movies at the multiplex and treated them to two movies for the price of one. We never did make a case on him. He was found dead in Mexico. He had been shot multiple times with a .22, in both ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows. He got the final round behind the ear. I guess that was the Mexican version of “Twenty Questions.”

Our task force office was located in a building that was part of a lumber yard complex that manufactured roof truss systems. Say dope dealer and most people automatically think of Tony Montana of Scarface fame. The reality is most would aspire to reach the level of ne’re do well crooks such as Eddie Coyle The Friends of Eddie Coyle – Rotten Tomatoes or Lefty from Donnie Brasco – Rotten Tomatoes .

Buying dope undercover should be a means to end. The “buy” is to establish an ongoing relationship with the dealer. The aim is define the dimensions of the organization and step up the chain to the supplier. Sounds good in theory. Most low-level dope dealers try to guard the sources. This isn’t out of loyalty. If the undercover officer climbs the distribution ladder the original dealer is no longer needed, and he loses a source of income.

There is another dynamic in play. In the relationship between street level dealer and customer, the dealer has power. Many street level dealers don’t have any dope. They are the ultimate bottom feeders. Their sources don’t trust them and neither does their clientele. But as the middleman the dealer has what both sides want. The client wants dope, the source wants cash. The middleman can facilitate the exchange. Some of these street level dealers become persistent. They pester the undercover to do more and more deals, without any hope of advancing the investigation.

The solution is a buy bust or street take down. In either case the middleman street dealer is arrested. Even within that gambit there is one other variation, reserved for the dumbest most obnoxious street dealer. It is also a source for bragging rights and legend in their own time status for the undercover officer. The crook is invited to do one more transaction. In our case, the crook is instructed, “meet me at the lumber yard…” During one transaction the crook fainted after he was informed, that he had just done a dope deal in a police station. For some reason none of these defendants ever took their case to trial.

I tell this story not for bragging rights but as comic relief. If the FBI were real police that arrest of the California idiot would be in the same category, funny shit that happens at work. Instead, they treat it like a law enforcement achievement.