I’m a seasoned, okay, salty 26-year veteran of two major California law enforcement agencies. I’ve worked many aspects of the job — corrections, K-9, narcotics, traffic, auto theft, community policing — the list goes on. But, I still work patrol and get enormous satisfaction out of that drive to jail. That being said, I have an issue with something insidious still affecting all of us today.
Recently, I was tasked with yet another stolen vehicle re-port. Just another car we’ll find up on blocks somewhere. The case comments indicated there was suspect info, so I figured I could do a little follow up of my own rather than just handing over the report to a detective. The possible suspect lived in a remote area within my beat and I was going to simply drive around in the hopes of catching him. But I had a funny feeling about the victim and suspect, so I did a little research before starting out.
I contacted the victim — an innocent tweaker — and realized he’d probably just lost his meth-rental. The victim said I should know the suspect because, “All my guys were just here looking for him, all cammo’ed up with machine guns’n shit.” He went on to tell me about a raid on his house the local SWAT team conducted, in search of my lowly car thief. With the new information, I ran the guy through Sheriff’s records and the results were an eye opener.
Unbeknownst to me, my agency and even the local PD, my run-of-the-mill car thief was actually a heavily armed suspect wanted in multiple ATM “smash and grabs,” vehicle thefts and a large gun shop burglary in which 40 guns were stolen. Word on the street is my suspect, his brother and an-other P.O.S. were going to “shoot it out with the cops.”
My point is we need to communicate.
The hand-off; a 5-minute meet could turn into a gold mine of valuable information.
Here we had three different agencies all working the same general area, with only a few select cops knowing the danger lurking. I also get tired of hearing allied agencies on the scan-ner (another invaluable piece of officer safety equipment) put-ting out BOLOs for real-time crimes, and my guys getting the info 20-30 minutes later. How much safer and more effective could we be if we worked more closely together?
Picture this: I cite a guy for 75 in a 55 and later learn he just gutted his wife on the kitchen floor. Or, the guy with the burned out taillight is known for moving a half-pound of white dope at any given time, and I just turned him loose. What about the guy with expired registration that’s molesting his 9-year old niece.
We need to know these things.
We need to share our intel much more than we do. Knowledge is power, the more we share, the “stronger” we all are. We all have buddies at adjoining agencies. Give them your BOLO flyers, booking photos and printouts. Talk to them; communicate with them about “who’s hot and who’s not.” The info you share just might save a cop’s life. You might be able to closeout a good case or catch wind of a critical piece of evidence needed in your case. The crook that’s been so hard to catch might just be signing your ticket book.
After this most recent event, I intend to set up a bi-weekly, or monthly “intel meeting” between our local agencies. I want to include all agencies, including Fish and Game, Forestry LEOs, State Parks and even Fire Department investigators. When it comes to officer safety and catching bad guys, the more the merrier. Let’s not allow poor communication to cost us another officer death or let another butt-head walk.