Mexican Military Holds Border Patrol Agent at Gunpoint in the USA: Mexican Military Continues to Escort Drug Smugglers

The Mexican military has escorted drug smugglers into United States territory for years. On occasion, our Border Patrol agents are confronted, on US soil, by the Mexican army. In fact, there have been more than 200 confirmed incursions by the Mexican military into the United States since 1996. The latest case was on Sunday, August 3, 2008.

Border PatrolA Border Patrol agent, working south of Ajo, Arizona, encountered Mexican military personnel who had crossed over into the United States. The agent was held at gunpoint for a period of time, presumably while the smugglers they were protecting moved through the area. Thankfully, back-up officers arrived and the troops withdrew without a gun battle.

Unfortunately, not all US law enforcement encounters with the Mexican army have been as “peaceful.” For example, in January 2007, the Mexican army, in the United States, fired on Texas deputies with a .50 caliber machine gun.

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Meth Lab Dangers: Who Enters First?

I had an interesting call tonight. A woman calls from a residence stating that she thinks her roommate is trying to cook meth. She tells the 911 operator that he is heating acid on the kitchen stove, lots of noxious smoke is in the house, and she and/or someone else inside the residence is having problems breathing. Dispatch sends three units plus the fire department is also responding.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Not so fast.

Think about it. Meth production is a deadly undertaking. Nasty things like phosphene gas are common by-products of methamphetamine production. Police officers walking into that environment can become very dead, very quick. Us beat cops can’t just walk in there…we would likely become victims also.

So, the solution is: the firefighters with their respirators and haz-mat gear go in and get the ‘victims’ out. Well, not really. Remember folks making meth tend to be violent criminals. They like to fight, have guns, and are generally anti-social. Firefighters going into that situation are in danger from the victims.

What is the solution? Pre-planning, flexibility, and a great deal of cooperation between agencies.

Working out the possible responses with the likely responders (PD and FD, for example) ahead of time, is a really smart move. This allows everyone to critically think through possible problems, iron out differences in policies between agencies, and gives everyone a baseline to work from when they get on scene.

What kind of training and equipment do the beat officers and other first responders need when they arrive on scene? Figure out what resources and skills you need…and are reasonably expected to be available…and work up a plan. The world’s best equipped and trained clan-lab team is worthless in the situation I responded to if they are 30 minutes or more away. The people inside will be long dead before they pull on the first leg of their nomex suit.

The DEA and regional drug task forces offer training in clan-lab response. Sending a few selected police officers and fire fighters to these classes can give them the information they need to design a workable response plan.

However, the guys on the ground have to be flexible and willing to cooperate to get the job done.

In my call, the firefighters were willing to work with us and we got the call done as safely as possible under the conditions. Was it perfectly safe? Nope, and that is what we work on for next time.

Stay safe!

Richard is a police officer with a medium sized, central Florida department, and previously worked for a Metro-Atlanta agency.  He has served as a field training officer, court officer, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, watch commander, commander of a field training and evaluation program, and general pain in the butt to management-types looking to cut training hours.

Recognize A Deadly Force Situation: Tasers Are Not Appropriate

Police officers have enjoyed the use of the Taser X26 (and the effective M26 before that) as an excellent intermediate force option that allows the quick incapacitation of an offender while minimize the chance of harm to the suspect and officers involved. Tasers tend to be effective where pain compliance techniques are not.

However, Tasers are not 100% reliable. For the Taser to work properly there has to be a completed circuit with electricity flowing through a wide section of muscle mass. The failure of a Taser to effectively work can happen if only one probe hits the suspect, or the probes land too close together, or there is a faulty battery, or thick clothes do not allow the probes to get close to the skin. I’ve seen Tasers fail to incapacitate in each of these situations. The point is: the X26 is effective but not 100%.

There is an understandable reluctance by police officers to use deadly force. Cops are not evil people and they do not want to harm or kill anyone. So, many times when a police officer faces a situation in which deadly force is the appropriate level of force, the officer may hesitate or seek some other lower level of force, which generally decreases their own safety. While in some respects this is admirable, the fact is the officer must survive and win the encounter, not just for his or her own well being, but for the community as a whole. For if the officer is incapacitated or killed due to their attempt at a lower force option, their killer is now free to harm other innocents…perhaps even with the officers own weapons.

If a police officer encounters a suspect armed with a deadly weapon, the officer’s appropriate response will be deadly force, not a Taser. A suicidal subject armed with a knife or a gun needs to see the business end of your AR, shotgun, or pistol…not the blast doors of a ‘green’ X26 cartridge. If you have appropriate deadly force cover (say your two zone partners are in a position of advantage covering the suspect with .223 rifles), then you might –in certain circumstances– attempt to use a Taser to subdue the suspect. The idea is that your backup can employ deadly force should the Taser attempt go wrong.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of us have Taser cartridges that are good to a maximum of 21′ or 25′. Perhaps 21′ sounds familiar? That distance should be known to all police officers as it relates to the Tueller Drill. The Tueller Drill was developed by Sgt. Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City PD. Sgt. Tueller discovered that an average person could cover 21′ and begin stabbing an officer in 1.5 seconds: the same amount of time an officer could draw his weapon and put a round on the threat. That, of course, does not take into account that a fatal shot is not likely to instantly stop the attack.

So, if you encounter a violent subject armed with an edged weapon AND you have lethal force cover AND you want to try to use a Taser, you better hope it works. If it doesn’t, you will likely have a subject on top of you in less than two seconds. Your partners better be very accurate and very quick. Even then you stand a pretty decent shot at getting hurt.

If the subject has a firearm, you don’t even have 1.5 seconds, as they just have to point and pull the trigger.

So, read your department SOP’s, know your state laws of the use of force, and work out plans with your zone partners before you encounter a deadly force situation in which you may want to try a Taser.

Illegal Immigration Cripples County Criminal Justice Systems Along the U.S. / Mexico Border

County officials along the U.S./Mexico border say the cost of apprehending, arresting and convicting undocumented immigrants is crippling their courts and the region’s entire criminal justice system. In a report released by the U.S. / Mexico Border Counties Coalition (USMBCC), elected county leaders argue they are well past the national debate on immigration reform, and simply want to be reimbursed for the burden illegal immigration places upon their criminal justice systems, to the tune of about $200 million a year.

illegal alien crossing from mexico to the us united states“It’s all about the criminal justice costs associated with criminal aliens,” says Kent Evans, Immediate Past President of the USMBCC and a Dona Ana County (NM) Commissioner. “Any way you look at it, border counties spent more than one billion dollars in less than a decade. That’s a lot of money, money that should have been used to improve schools, roads and public safety in our communities.”

In the study, conducted over a 12-month period by the University of Arizona and San Diego State University, it was revealed that the 24 border counties in Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico are spending a disproportionate amount of local tax dollars to provide law enforcement and criminal justice services to apprehend, transport and convict criminal undocumented immigrants.

“This updated study effectively illustrates that until our borders are secure and our immigration laws are adequately enforced, many states and localities, particularly in border states like Arizona, will continue to incur overwhelming costs to process those illegal immigrants who commit crimes, or who, sadly, die trying to come to the United States,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who secured funding to produce the report.

“This study underscores the unfair and unacceptable fact that border residents continue to pay for our broken immigration policies,” said Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, TX, a 26 1/2 year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol. “The current approach reflects a lack of understanding of border communities.”

The Coalition asked that the federal government cover three major costs associated with undocumented immigrants who commit state felonies and/or multiple misdemeanors by fully funding the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative and county law enforcement and criminal justice services. “We are not asking for a hand out,” said Manny Ruiz, Vice Chairman of the USMBCC and a Santa Cruz County (AZ) Supervisor. When federal lawmakers fail to secure our borders, our local taxpayers should not have to pay for the skyrocketing costs.”

The Coalition is a nonpartisan, consensus-based policy and technical forum founded in 1998 to address challenges facing county governments located on the United States/Mexico Border. For a copy of the 155-page report, visit www.bordercounties.org.

Chasing Speed: Four Part Article on Methamphetamine Users by an Experienced Narcotics Cop

Chasing Speed is a great four part series of articles written by Greg Ferency about methamphetamine and those that abuse it. Ferency is an experienced Terre Haute (IN) cop who has been assigned to the county-wide drug task force. In these articles, he talks about how meth affects a person and what warning signs you should look for that will tip you off.

The series of articles is published free of charge on the Police Writers website. The articles are both informative and interesting to read. While some authors can give you either a good read or good information, Ferency does both. The articles don’t take long to read, and I think they are more than worth the investment of time.

Stay safe!

Meth Tweakers: Officer Safety Training Tips

Methamphetamine is one of the more dangerous drugs on the street. The manufacture of meth in clandestine labs uses acids, ammonias, and a host of other dangerous chemicals. During the process, things like phosphene gas and yellow phosphorus can be produced with deadly results. It is a nasty process.

Officer Safety Tips for Dealing with Meth TweakersAs dangerous as the meth lab operation is, for most police officers the danger from meth comes from dealing with the methamphetamine user. Meth users are responsible for violence toward themselves, family members, friends, strangers, and each other. Headlines such as “Father Beheads 14-Year-Old Son” are, unfortunately, a by-product of meth use.

The abuse of methamphetamine tends to go in a cycle, with the user being most dangerous when they are tweaking. During the “tweaking” phase, the abuser is driven into a severe depression, followed by extreme paranoia and aggression. The tweaker’s behavior is very unpredictable, and the effects of tweaking are intensified by other depressants, such as alcohol.

A tweaker may appear normal at first blush. Their eyes are clear and their speech is concise. However, their eyes are moving at about 10 times faster than normal. Their may be a quiver to their voice. Often the tweaker’s movements will be jerky. The tweaker may be saying weird, delusional, or paranoid things.

If you, a police officer, encounters someone you believe is tweaking, here are a few tips that can help keep you safe:

  • Get backup enroute. If violence erupts, you want your backup officers already on-scene or already enroute.
  • Maintain a reactionary gap. A seven to ten foot gap is a good minimum. This allows you slightly more time to react if the tweaker becomes violent. Almost as important, this does not “crowd” the tweaker. Keep in mind that he is paranoid, and by standing close to him, he feels crowded and his feelings of paranoia are intensified.
  • Slow your rate of speech and lower the pitch of your voice.
  • Slow your movements. Try to avoid any sudden moving.
  • Avoid shining lights in his face. Bright lights can be very frightening to a tweaker. Bright lights can cause a tweaker to spontaneously fight or run.
  • Keep the tweaker talking. If he is talking, he is not listening to the paranoid voices in his head. A silent tweaker often means his paranoia has encroached into reality. You are now part of his paranoid delusions, which could mean violence against you is imminent.

Stay safe!

Richard is a police officer with a medium sized, central Florida department, and previously worked for a Metro-Atlanta agency.  He has served as a field training officer, court officer, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, watch commander, commander of a field training and evaluation program, and general pain in the butt to management-types looking to cut training hours.

Drug Interdiction: Concealment Locations to Watch for When Police Officers Conduct Criminal Interdiction

Police officers engaged in drug interdiction and criminal interdiction are constantly finding new hiding places that criminals use to hide their drugs, weapons, and other contraband.

drug concealment locationHere are a few locations that I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has found in recent years:

  • Contraband hidden in a womans wig.
  • Bags of heroin hidden in teddy bears.
  • Marijuana concealed in the hollowed out boards of wooden pallets.
  • Cocaine masked in the soles of shoes.
  • Marijuana bundles in man-made landscaping stones.
  • Drugs stashed in the manifold of an engine.
  • Drugs concealed in new furniture.
  • Marijuana hidden in metal cans disguised as food products

In addition, I.C.E. has located a lot of drugs being transported inside living people or animals. While you may not be able to see inside a man’s thigh (yes, they have found cocaine surgically implanted there), do pay attention to the unusual transportation of animals. Often, smugglers will implant large quantities of drugs inside snakes, dogs, or other animals, with the intent to kill the animals and retrieve the dope once they arrive at their destination. PETA and I don’t see eye-to-eye on most things, but this type of drug smuggling is clearly cruel.

One of the best hiding spots I.C.E. officers have discovered was a load of marijuana concealed in the floorboard of a trailer hauling two live bears! Definitely not the day to be the junior officer on scene…

Stay safe!

Vehicle Stop Interdictions – Drug Interdiction for Patrol: Excellent Police Training Course from The Backup Training Corporation

Vehicle Stop Interdictions: Drug Interdiction for Patrol is one of more than 40 police training courses offered to law enforcement officers by The Backup Training Corporation. Focusing on highway drug interdiction, the CD-based course covers all of the bases for an officer who is serious about stopping the flow of drugs on the highways and streets of their communities.

The Backup Training CorporationTopics in the course include: indicators of drug couriers, roadside interviews, search and seizure case law, concealment locations and methods, “source” states and frequent overland routes, the use of K-9s, profiling, documentation, and more.

I have taken a variety of drug interdiction/criminal patrol courses in the past, and felt that this one does a good job of conveying a lot of the important information. If you have never taken a class on criminal interdiction you will get a lot out of this program. For the well-versed drug interdiction officer, this course is a solid refresher in most areas, and you may pick up a few new things also.

The course is rich in multimedia content, but a lot of reading will be required. The course is designed to be completed in 8 hours, and can be stopped and started at any time. To receive course completion credit, you do need to complete the course within 90 days of receiving the course.

I have taken several of the police training courses they offer (see prior post), and I have found there are three great reasons to use the training offered by The Backup Training Corporation:

  1. the content is current, informative, and very relevant to a police officer’s duties,
  2. the training course is FREE ($6 shipping/processing fee only), and
  3. you can receive college credit from an accredited college for taking these courses.

Many states also recognize the training, and credit the classes toward the police officer’s in-service requirements.

The college credit (200-level classes) is awarded by North Idaho College, a fully-accredited college*, when you complete certain groupings of police training courses. A total of 17 semester hours is available. If you wish to obtain the college credit (your option–you don’t have to), simply pay a $25 application fee to the college plus $10 per hour of credit. So, for a grand total of $195, you walk away with 17 hours of college credit. Considering a 12-credit hour semester will set you back $1200+ at most institutions, that is a bargain you simply can’t argue with.

Stay safe!

*(Please note that there are a lot of pseudo-accrediting agencies out there. The real agency for the region, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, accredited North Idaho College, along with the University of Washington, the University of Oregon, Utah State University, etc. So the credits do transfer.)

Undercover Drug Operations and Carrying a Gun: Officer Survival Tips

Undercover drug investigators often find themselves dealing with the most violent segments of our society with very little to defend themselves. Often the officer has only a single firearm if things go bad.

Greg Ferency is a police officer with extensive training and experience as a undercover and tactical officer dealing with drug enforcement. Ferency has written an article called “Narcs and Weapons” over at the Police Writers website.

In “Narcs and Weapons,” Ferency discusses several key points on what kind of gun to carry and how to prepare yourself for carrying that gun while undercover doing surveillance or drug buys.

Stay safe!

Hidden Marijuana Grow Operations: Another Place to Check in a Drug Search

concealment locations marijuana growDopers hide their stash in all sorts of silly places. As a police officer engaged in criminal interdiction, you have to look beyond the obvious locations if you plan on making a real impact.

Called a PC Micro Grow Center, this commercially available product disguises a small grow operation inside of a home computer tower. This item includes grow lights and ventilation inside of a PC-style computer case. Currently on sale (Christmas holidays coming up, you know), this tower is selling for $650.00.

concealment locations marijuana growThis price probably puts it beyond what the average doper is willing to pay to cultivate a couple of marijuana plants. However, the same type of item should be able to be constructed for a lot less using a regular PC tower case. So, pay attention when conducting your searches. If there is a computer that isn’t hooked up to a monitor and keyboard, that may be a good place to check.

Stay safe!