Why plainclothes detectives are better than uniformed police officers

Editorial Article by Jim Lantern, Lantern Timeglass Journal, Monday morning 11 July 2016

Of about 30 years of employment, three professions spanning about 10 years each, my third profession included managing a small motel at the crossroads of Kellogg – old Highway 54, and Broadway – old Highway 81, on the edge of downtown Wichita, Kansas. The place I managed was slightly more expensive with most of the rooms being like kitchenettes with refrigerators and microwave ovens, rented nightly or for weekly rates. I lived there in one of those, rent free – as part of my weekly salary pay.

During 1993, I had a problem with local criminals obtaining motel rooms for illegal activities – mainly trafficking and use of illegal drugs, moving stolen guns and merchandise, and prostitution. I was familiar with the usual suspects and had refused to rent rooms to them. Therefore, at a nearby convenience store, they would encounter travelers from out-of-town who had stopped there for gas and snacks. The local criminals convinced some of the travelers to obtain motel rooms for them, in return for drugs or money or time with a prostitute. So I’d rent a room usually to a male traveler from out-of-town. Then an hour later the room, key, and receipt would be in the possession of the local criminals, and the guest I’d rented the room to would vanish.

When I reported the problem to police, the uniformed officers who arrived to investigate then made threats against me. They refused to believe my report – how the criminals were obtaining the rooms. The cops believed I’m knowingly renting rooms to known criminals. They threatened to arrest me and charge me as if I were engaged in organized crime. They refused to remove the local criminals then in possession of the rooms, keys, and receipts. So caught in the middle, on one side I was threatened by the criminals, and on the other side I was threatened by the cops. It appeared to be a no-win situation.

Even the 911 operators would not cooperate when I’d call for help – to request an officer be sent for whatever reason. One time it was a prostitute out front harassing drivers of cars going by. The 911 operator actually told me that the woman in question has a legal right to be on the public sidewalk in front of the motel, and that I have no proof she is doing anything illegal. That’s the kind of stupidity, willful blindness, and lack of common sense I was up against nearly every day and night there. Further, I was threatened with arrest if I were to do anything to interfere with that woman’s right to be out there.

The most bizarre situation involved a retired couple driving an RV across the country and participating at bowling tournaments. They arrived, paid in advance for Friday night through Monday morning. I also rented a room for a week to a local man going through a divorce. A coworker at a construction job would pick him up each morning about 6:00am, and they worked weekends at the construction site. Saturday morning, he came into the office and told me he had just been robbed at gunpoint when he opened the door – thought his coworker had knocked when he arrived to pick him up. Instead it was a black male with a big smile and a big gun, took all of his cash but let him keep his wallet and ID.

Then the black male did a surprising thing. He walked from the door of that man’s room a few doors down to the door of the room rented to the elderly couple from out of town, used a key to go in. I called the room, got no answer. I looked outside to see their RV was gone. I called police. It took an hour for them to get there, and by then the victim had to go to work or be fired and was picked up by his coworker. So the first cop was very angry that the victim didn’t wait, and then in anger he departed. The second cop refused to knock on the door of the room rented to the now missing elderly couple to confront the black male seen going in there. I could not go in because the occupant had used the inside security latch. I authorized the third officer to break the door down, but he refused, saying he can’t do that out of concern of being held responsible for damages. I assured him I would not send a bill for a new door, frame, and lock to the PD or city. He still refused. I offered to break the door open with a sludge hammer, if he would back me up. He refused. Further, he then threatened to arrest me for breaking and entering illegally if I were to do that. All officers departed, having took no action whatsoever.

An hour later, the black male calmly left the room, patted his gun tucked into the front of his belt, and laughed at me. Right then, I was even more shocked to see a black stretch limousine pull up on the side street by the east entrance to the front parking lot, a uniformed driver get out, open the rear right passenger door for the black male who got in and departed. The license tag of the limousine was covered by mud, but the rest of the vehicle was polished clean.

Out of concern for the possible fate of the missing elderly couple, I called the Kansas Highway Patrol. The officer I talked to was shocked by my story, agreed concern for the missing couple, and condemned the behavior of the police officers. I did have the license tag number of the RV and detailed description of it and the elderly couple – and the credit card used to pay for the room. The search went beyond Kansas with the help of the Highway Patrol in other states. The RV and elderly couple were never found. They had sold their house upon retirement, bought the RV, and then hit the road. Bowling tournaments just a side interest while traveling. Next stop: The Twilight Zone.

Somehow, a local bank robber acquired a key to one of the rooms – probably given to him by a local criminal who had stayed there in the past. I was usually good about changing locks for any missing keys, but that one on the backside (north side) hadn’t been rented in over a month, and had no history of previous problems with guests. I happened to notice a man in a suit watching that room from by the trash dumpster in the alley. I guessed correctly him to be an FBI special agent. I carefully approached him and identified myself. I gave him a key to the room so he and another agent could go in there and capture the bank robber. They had followed a trail of red die and money dropped on the ground between the nearby bank branch and the motel room. They saw him look outside and he fit the description given by the bank tellers. He surrendered without incident. The gun he had was fake or a toy. In a bizarre twist to the story, he was a retired college professor, who was then teaching local criminals how to rob banks and other businesses. The example he intended to set that day for his students to follow did not go as planned.

I had the opportunity to visit with the FBI special agent at great length. I told him about my problem with how local criminals were obtaining rooms, and local uniformed police officers blaming me for it. We started meeting at nearby restaurants for lunch and to talk, and to some extent became friends. I’ll refer to him as Chuck.

Meantime, a remark by Newt Gingrich at a Rotary Club meeting angered me and caused me to change my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. I found the Kansas Democrats to be in a useless state of anarchy, which I could not tolerate. Then Chuck convinced me to change my political affiliation to unaffiliated and to become registered as an Independent voter, like he is – and he said like most federal agents are. During that same time, while managing the motel, on-the-side in my free time I began writing a science fiction novel. Chuck and I were both devout fans of the TV series The X-Files, about FBI agents investigating strange phenomena and space aliens. My novel is about a retired FBI agent who became a private investigator specializing in missing person cases – as a cover while looking for Earth humans who have alien souls – reincarnated present day from an ancient expedition to Earth, and helping to reunite them to use their knowledge to help build Earth’s first star ship at a secret location – which they would use to return home. Chuck became my adviser for the character who was an FBI agent. The novel was finally published as a paperback in May 2003, but did not do well. Sales were better as an ebook starting in May 2004, through June 2006, enough to pay for a new personal desktop home computer. I found out I was being ripped off by the publisher and sales outlets, so I terminated publication and ordered it pulled. It is now free to read here at WordPress under the Free Novel tab at the top of this site for the Lantern Timeglass Journal.

Chuck advised me to no longer call 911, except for any fires or medical emergencies. He gave me a special number to call when rooms fell into the hands of local criminals. It was the number to the somewhat new Drug Interdiction Unit of the WPD – at that time two teams of two plain clothes detectives each – one for days and one for nights. I had the most contact with the night team, who I’ll refer to as Beverly and James.

They would usually arrive within 10 minutes to an hour at most unless on another call. They used the “knock and talk” method to get suspects to open their motel room doors. In plain clothes and driving an old unmarked car, the suspects thought them to be potential customers until they showed their police IDs. Every time I called them, they caught local criminals and some from out-of-town. They recovered stolen guns, illegal drugs, and drug money. Not involving uniformed cops, they had a deal with a judge to make deals with suspects for immediately sending them to diversion and rehabilitation programs instead of arresting them and sending them to jail. That option was mainly for the nonviolent offenders who did not have guns. A few did get arrested and taken to jail. Most of the suspects were issued a no trespassing order – that if they were ever to set foot on the motel property again then they would be arrested, so that helped to put an end to the prostitution problem and other kinds of repeat offenders. Within a month my problem with how local criminals were getting rooms there came to an end. The use of the Drug Interdiction Unit detectives proved to be 100% successful.

It is sad to report that about the same time my physical health abruptly failed and I qualified to get Social Security Disability benefits for the rest of my life, Beverly abruptly and unexpectedly died from cancer. Also, at that same time, came the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack, which caused James to leave the WPD to work at Homeland Security.

My confidence in FBI agents and plainclothes police detectives remains very high, with a great deal of respect, while my opinion of uniformed police officers is now lower than it has ever been before.

It’s not so much that I’m opposed to people who use illegal drugs or other illegal substances for whatever reasons. I can sympathize with them, especially regarding pain relief rather than to just get high on whatever. Even so, I’m strongly opposed to the major problem drugs like cocaine and meth. If marijuana gets legalized for medical use then I don’t have a problem with that – but I’ll never use it – I never smoked anything because of a life long history of bronchial asthma. I quit drinking alcoholic beverages when I began to get bleeding stomach ulcers. I never used any illegal drugs or engaged in abuse of prescription drugs. I am opposed to dealers of illegal drugs, except for the low amount of exchanges within small circles of friends who are not engaging in it as a business. I believe only criminals engaging in major sales should be sent to jail or prison, or even executed, or perhaps deported from the United States with loss of citizenship. I believe all users should be sent to rehabilitation programs rather than to jail or prison. It’s more of a health issue than a crime issue. Even so, I’m most opposed to associated fringe crimes – such as someone needing money to buy illegal drugs engaging in crimes to acquire the money – burglary, robbery, theft, and some of those with damage to property, violence and murder. If some drugs are to be legalized for medical reasons, then they should be handled the same way as prescription drugs.

An “informant” is a person who is a criminal who gives information to police about other criminals and their illegal activities. A “source” is a good citizen who gives information to police about suspected criminals and illegal activities. Of those two, some are “confidential” – not identified, and some are “paid” – sums of money other than as a reward. As a “confidential source” I gave information to law enforcement about suspected illegal drugs trafficking and related fringe crimes. Each time I gave such information to plainclothes detectives it was handled well and got good results. Each time I gave information to uniformed cops I was immediately betrayed – as if they were all like dumb viscous dogs biting the hand that feeds them – they told the suspects who “snitched” on them – resulting in my life being put in grave danger. Uniformed cops can’t be trusted. Some of them are corrupt and on friendly terms with the bad guys they should be protecting good citizens from – and are therefore just as bad as the criminals. One cop I told about a new neighbor selling crystal meth turned out to be a personal friend of that man. The cop took my legally owned shotgun kept in my home strictly for self defense, and then told the suspect that I’d been disarmed – so if he wants to have revenge on me for reporting him then at least I can’t shoot him when he enters my home to harm or kill me. Instead, he laughed it off, and simply advised me to find another place to live – far from him. So I moved. By the way, it was a police detective who advised me to buy a simple shotgun strictly for home defense.

Some of the bad cops are only bad as far as the “drug war” is concerned – otherwise good cops for all other kinds of crimes. They are members of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, wanting to legalize ALL illegal drugs for any purpose, not just marijuana for health and medical reasons or otherwise pain relief. The problem is they are protecting the criminals who they believe would make legitimate businessmen when the drugs are legalized. Fact is, even if those drugs are ever legalized, those people will never be allowed to make and sell them. It will instead be contracted to already established major drug manufacturing companies by the federal and state governments – to also make money from fees, licenses, and taxes on such drugs.

More money needs to be spent on diversion and rehabilitation programs, rather than burdening tax payers with the cost of warehousing criminals in jails and prisons. I favor the death penalty, but I’d prefer the idea of banishment – to kick some kinds of criminals out of the country – take away their citizenship and deport them. Then, if they ever return, execute them. Perhaps banish them to an island, from which escape is not possible, comparable to the idea presented in the movie titled Escape from New York.

There are two kinds of security – visible and unseen. Both kinds are needed. Uniformed cops in marked cars and visible security cameras are needed to help with crime deterrence – crime prevention. Plainclothes detectives in unmarked cars and hidden security cameras are needed to help catch criminals. Uniformed cops need to get the same kind of education, training, experience, and common sense that plainclothes detectives already have, in order to do their jobs as effectively as plainclothes detectives do their jobs.

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