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By now everyone is or should be familiar with the term “leaking.” After all, we see it in the news nearly every day. It’s as if not a single soul in this country can manage to keep a secret no matter how vital it is to not let certain information reach the ears of well, anyone who shouldn’t hear it. But, it’s not a new thing, nor is it limited to the politician-media pipeline.

For example, Edward Snowden and Bradley/Chelsea Manning.

Then there are the law enforcement officers who leak information, for whatever motivation that floats their personal boats. Such as Deep throat, the alias of Mark Felt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent and Associate Director who provided information to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. The information Felt passed along to the reporters led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Over the years, Felt was a constant, non-corkable dripper of inside information.

And, there are those officers who leak information to the bad guys, and they usually do so for cash or other types of rewards. These thugs in uniform have little regard for the safety of their fellow officers. Here’s a perfect example. One from my own files.

I was in charge of a narcotics operation that involved a longterm surveillance op team, a boatload of specialized spying equipment, a couple of really good undercover officers, and a gaggle of confidential informants. We’d “wired” a couple of officers who’d gone “inside” to purchase cocaine and guns. Then, after months of hard, tedious work, I wrote and had a magistrate sign the search warrant. I was a cautious detective who trusted no one, outside of my immediate circle, with secret information. I was not fond of leakers. So, not wanting any details to find their way out, I waited until the last minute to assemble the raid team.

Once the team was in the briefing room I handed out layouts of the building and surrounding grounds. The positions of lookouts were also noted. I explained the situation, the dangers associated (these guys were heavily armed), and then doled out assignments, including the address on the search warrant.

Next, to make certain that all was still okay, I called the informant who was in the house at the time. He acknowledged that the drugs were inside the residence as well as the key players named on the warrant. Not wanting him there when we arrived (I didn’t want him to get hurt) I told him to excuse himself and leave. He was an excellent informant who knew how to play the game, so I wasn’t worried that he’d blow the deal..

At the briefing, I gave specific instructions—time to hit the doors, who would travel with whom and in which vehicles, and, since this was a nighttime “no-knock” warrant, I wanted absolute silence until the man on the door yelled, “Police. Search Warrant!”

Due to the danger level and area to be covered, the assembled team was fairly large. We needed to secure a perimeter to catch anyone fleeing the scene should they somehow make it past the entry team. There were also lookouts, runners (the guys on the street who sold the cocaine to “customers”) and, well, anyone else who decided to rabbit.

We were all ready to go and someone said one of the perimeter guys slipped out to use the restroom but hadn’t returned. One officer short on the perimeter was no big deal so we left him. There was no time to waste once the plan was in motion.

We left the department and met at a staging area to allow all the vehicles to catch up. We didn’t want a twenty-police-vehicle parade traveling in one direction because that’s a sure sign that’s something’s going down.

Once everyone was in place we headed to the target’s neighborhood. It was dark, late, and quiet. We approached the home, surrounded it, and the “GO” signal was given. The next sounds heard where that of the entry team’s explosive breach of the front door and the raking and braking of windows.

Then nothing.

The place was as empty as a California creek in the summertime. No people and no drugs.

The occupants had left in a hurry, though. An old monster movie was playing on the living room TV, tall cans of cold beer inside individual paper bags sat on a cigarette-burned coffee table, and a pot of red beans and rice was in full-on scorch mode on a hot electric stove eye.

They’d cleared out within a matter of twenty minutes or so. From a house full of drug dealers and a couple of women, to zero.

Tipped off.

The officer who left the briefing room to use the restroom.

Couldn’t have been anyone else.

After a bit of questioning he finally admitted to alerting the drug dealers. He also told me he’d been an informant for a couple of major players in the city. They’d paid him well, he said. Needed the money to pay bills. Spent his paychecks on liquor, women, and gambling and didn’t want his wife to know.

He was fired but not prosecuted.

He died a few months later after suffering a massive heart attack.

We’re lucky that the dealers hadn’t decided to ambush us or you may have seen my name on someone’s Friday’s Heroes page.

 

The list is long. You know the the one. The list of laws we don’t like and don’t want to follow. They anger us. They seem foolish and often unfair. But is it okay to cherry-pick which rules we obey and which we don’t, simply because they’re not our cup of tea?

Seriously, which laws should we thumb our noses at and go about our business doing as we please—laws, police, courts, judges, and society be damned? Which laws are okay to shun as if they don’t exist? And, what are the consequences (excluding arrest and incarceration) should someone blatantly decide to disobey?

Snitchin’ Could Be Deadly!

Please allow me to slip back in time a bit to help put this situation into perspective. I was in charge of major narcotics investigations and one particular crack cocaine dealer seemed elude arrest no matter how hard I tried to nab him. So I organized an elaborate undercover operation complete with high-tech surveillance and monitoring equipment, phone taps, undercover drug buys from his residence, etc. A lot of time and effort and money went into the investigation. Finally, the day came when I had everything in order and I had a search warrant in hand. It was time to assemble a raid team and bring the guy down.

I called in an entry team and conducted a pre-search briefing—who would go where, when, do what, etc. I knew there were several known bad guys inside so I warned everyone about the danger involved and I made certain everyone on the team was wearing full protective gear. Then, just as we were about to head to our vehicles for the procession to the target home I noticed one of our team members was missing. I called him on the phone and he said he’d forgotten he had a quick errand he needed to attend to. Thought he’d be back before we were ready to go but time slipped away. He told me he’d meet us halfway there.

My heart sank. He’d left the meeting before I’d told anyone where we were going. The names of the suspects. Nothing. I always kept those details close to my chest, and for very good reason, and that reason was quite possibly coming to the surface. Somehow he knew where we were going without hearing it from me.

I again told everyone to use caution. There suspects were heavily armed and, well, it was going to be dangerous, and the sinking feeling in my gut made things seem even worse.

We rolled out, parked down the street from the target house, and that’s when I saw our missing team member walking toward us from my right. I asked where he’d come from and he told me he’d followed us but elected to park in a different spot.

As we talked I smelled alcohol on his breath. He confessed that he’d been drinking and didn’t think he was in any sort of condition to assist with a raid. I agreed and ordered him to leave the area but to be available after we were done. I had a few things we needed to discuss. First things first, though. *He’d consumed beer so he wouldn’t be allowed to join us.

Our boozed-up team member departed and we proceeded to the house.

Needless to say, the bad guys were waiting for us. They knew we were coming and they were ready for a fight. Fortunately, they realized they were outgunned and their numbers were far short of ours. We’d come in deep, as they say.

They fired a few rounds at us as they ran away into several directions. We caught a couple of the runners but they were clean—no weapons and no drugs. In fact, there was not a single speck of cocaine inside the residence. The place was cleaner than a hospital operating room before surgery.

Long story short, our partner gave the drug dealers advance notice that were on the way. I still don’t believe he knew where we were heading that night, but I later learned that he was paid by this gang to keep them informed. Therefore, when he saw the size and scope of what was about to take place he hurried out to warn his “employer” that the police just might be preparing to kick in their door.

This is serious. Many officers have been murdered in ambush situations over the course of the past couple of years. A bit of advance warning sets up the officers for a blindsided, deadly attack. And, to have someone turn against the police and to issue an advance warning that they might be on the way is, well, nothing short of extremely dangerous, irresponsible, inexcusable, and … criminal.

How would that official feel if someone were to die because of their belief that a law shouldn’t be followed because they don’t like it? Would it bother them if a suspect gunned down an officer as he approached a building or person during the course of their sworn duty?

What should happen to government employees who warn potential criminals and/or violent gang members and drug dealers and human smugglers that police may be on the way? What should happen to the official if an officer is hurt or killed because of that warning?

I know the feeling I had that night, knowing someone in an official capacity tipped off the bad guys and placed our entire team in harm’s way. It was not good. Luckily, we remained safe and sound (scary for a while when the rounds started coming our way) and we eventually busted the group of drug dealers.

The snitching officer was relieved of his police powers soon afterward (that’s a polite way of saying he was fired).

Anyway, this type of situation (different players and scenario, but the same danger level, or higher) is playing out right now in Oakland, Ca., where the mayor there just issued a public warning that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could be conducting a raid in the area.

I get it. She doesn’t like the fact that federal agents are doing their jobs in the city where she works as mayor. However, as I offered above, announcing the arrival of police who’re conducting surprise raids makes the situation extremely dangerous/life-threatening for those agents/officers. This mayor is playing with real fire. Obviously, she feels nothing about the lives of the federal agents. Or, she hasn’t realized the consequences of her actions. Or … she just doesn’t care.

Again, I get it. Some people don’t like some laws and they’d prefer that police weren’t around (well, only when it’s convenient). Unfortunately, we are a country of laws and the police are in place to enforce those laws. Anyone outside of those parameters is breaking the law, including Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland. The mayor also contacted businesses in the area to remind them that a new California state law “prohibits business owners from assisting ICE agents in immigration enforcement and bars federal agents from accessing employee-only areas.”

Again, no matter the reason, this practice makes it extremely dangerous for law enforcement officers. They’re humans. They have families. They’re out there to protect us. They’re doing their jobs. They want to live, too, just like the rest of us.

You don’t like the law, don’t want ICE in your area … fine. Don’t help them. But do not place those agents in harm’s way merely to prove your point. Instead, let the agents fend for themselves and stay out of their way.

Like Ducks in a Shooting Gallery

Perhaps the Oakland mayor doesn’t care if she lives to see tomorrow. But I’m sure that each and every day those federal agents are more than happy to safely return home to their families. Sadly, they’ll have to do the best they can because not only do they have to worry about the daily dangers associated with the job, now they have people like the Oakland mayor who doesn’t seem to mind that she’s setting up these agents like ducks in a shooting gallery.

Again, you don’t like a law, change it, but don’t risk the lives of hard-working men and women simply because a rule rubs you the wrong way. Believe me, police officers don’t care if a law disappears from the books. It’s one less they’d have to worry over. And, they’d certainly prefer to not conduct dangerous raids where they could be injured or killed.

So please, Mayor Schaaf, consider the consequences of snitching when doing so could cost someone their life. And, by the way, your action was illegal …

Informants: Gotta love-em

It was an extremely difficult and odd case, busting a woman whose brother had snitched on her to protect his own skin. Yep, threw his own flesh and blood under the bus the second the cuffs touched his wrists.

It started when I’d decided to do a little cold-calling, like an old-time door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. Picking the names of a few suspected drug dealers, I paid each of them a visit at their homes. The idea was to knock on the door, tell them my name and that I was a police detective (most already knew), and then ask if I, and my partners, could search their home, looking for drugs and illegal weapons.

You would not believe the number of idiots who say, “Yes, Officer. You may search my home because I’m a fine upstanding citizen and there are absolutely no drugs here. Honest.”

Anyway, I knocked on this guy’s door (let’s call him … ummm … Dumb Jimmy) and offered him my little speech about the drug problem in his neighborhood and that I’d like to search his house, with his permission, of course. I even told him that I suspected him of selling illegal narcotics.

Guess what? Yep … His narrow lips split into a wide grin. Then he said, “Come on in!”

He was unbelievably enthusiastic with the invitation, sounding like a TV game show announcer. “Come on in, Detective Lofland. You have the chance to win two ounces of the finest cocaine money can buy. And … an exciting trip to court! Yes, you and your fellow detectives could win an all expense paid trip to circuit court, where you’ll enjoy the company of some of the best thieves, murderers, and whores in the business! All this and more, IF the search is good.”

So Dumb Jimmy opens the door and waves us inside. The place was extremely neat and very clean. Sparsely furnished. He’d gone for IKEA chic, all blonde wood and solid colors of burlap-type upholstery. A few Ansel Adams prints dotted the walls. The room was open to the kitchen and a small but adequate dining area. The table there was dark walnut, topped with quite a bit of camera equipment. Nothing cheap, either.

Dumb Jimmy’s girlfriend sat on the couch with her feet planted on a glass-topped coffee table, watching TV. Never batted an eyelash in our direction. I understood. The People’s Court had that effect on most viewers—a must see.

I guess she’d forgotten, or didn’t care about the big bag of pot and the large bong sitting not two feet from her blue Converse tennis shoes. I turned to Dumb Jimmy and I kid you not, his first words were, “That’s hers.”

I spun him around to slip the jewelry on his wrists and that’s when he really started spilling his guts. Anything to get out of the mess he’d suddenly found himself in. I found myself wanting to make a deal with his girlfriend. I’d let her go if she’d find me some duct tape for her boyfriend’s mouth. He simply wouldn’t shut up.

“My sister’s got some heroin,” he said. “Acid, too. And probably some pot, mushrooms, and meth.”

“Is that all?” I said. What a dirtbag, rolling over his own sister. I’d meant it as a rhetorical question, but DJ (Dumb Jimmy) hadn’t taken it that way.

“Well, she’s usually got a bunch of Oxy or Percocet …” He scrunched his nose tightly until it looked like a tiny accordion, a gesture that caused his eyes to squint. His nose looked like a tiny accordion and I thought he was going to sneeze, but after a couple seconds passed I realized he was thinking, hard. He was actually trying to come up with even more things his sister had done wrong.

Suddenly, his eyes opened, wide. “Hey, what about Botox? That’s illegal, right? I mean, she shouldn’t be giving those shots to people, should she? Does it at home. Shoots ’em up right there in the living room. She steals the stuff from the doctor she works for. That’s where she gets the pills, too. Got a few of his script pads, too. Keeps them in her room with—“

I stopped him, pulling the Miranda card from my badge case. “I need to read something to you,” I said. “And you need to listen carefully. Then, if you still want to talk to me about your sister, you can.”

DJ nodded his head vigorously. “I want to help. And you’ll help me, right?”

His girlfriend shook her head from side to side, slowly. “What a dumbass,” she said.

I heard one of my partners agree with her. “Not him,” she said. “Me, for staying with that wimp.”

I spent the next several hours listening to DJ ramble on about his sister’s illegal activities, deciding that he was probably being pretty darn truthful. If so, we had a much bigger fish to fry. The prosecutor agreed and a deal was made. If all went as planned, we’d raid the sister’s house, arrest her, and DJ would testify against her in court in exchange for having all his charges dismissed.

Of course, the second the sister opened her front door and saw the search warrant in my hand, she immediately said, “My brother’s holding a lot of cocaine …”