Feds:
Arlington Police Department, March 1984 and Valley Police Department, February 1986 and November 1990
“Hello. We’re from the Government. We’re here to help…”

A lot of lip service is given by the various Federal Law Enforcement Agencies about cooperation. They’ve always told us about how they are there to help, and assist local law enforcement. That’s what they say, but in reality, what the Feds consider cooperation is most often a one way street. The locals provide the Feds with volumes of information, while the Feds provide no information in return. This perception is so pervasive that even the television cop shows have picked it up, and have dedicated whole episodes to the dysfunctional relationships between Local and Federal Law Enforcement. During my career, I found that if there was a need to include any of the Federal Agencies, I would pass the matter to the State Patrol, and let them work with the Feds at their level.

In the 1980’s, with the exception of the US Marshall’s Service, the Federal Agencies recruited their agents straight out of college. They ran them through their specific training programs, and then put them to work. Unlike most local law enforcement, which typically requires their people to work on patrol before being promoted to an investigation position, the Feds don’t have a mechanism for their people to gain the “street smarts” that comes from a year or more working patrol activities. That’s just my observation, and I’m sure someone from the Bureau is prepared to challenge that opinion.

In dealing with individual agents, they always appeared to be courteous, well educated, well trained people. However, maybe due to a lack of street smarts, downright arrogance, or both; the conduct of Federal Agents always left me wondering about what was really going on in their bureaucratic little heads. I provide you here, with three examples.

Arlington PD, March 1984:

During the night time hours, one of the pneumatic transfer machines in the drive through lanes at the local bank was vandalized. Damages were cosmetic and assessed at about $200. Security of the bank was not breached, and no money was stolen. This was a misdemeanor case of Criminal Mischief. Evidence was collected and photographs were taken. We had an idea as to who committed the damage, but we did not have enough to make an immediate arrest.

The following morning, I received a telephone call from a Special Agent from the FBI. (I have no idea how the matter was brought to their attention, but here they are.) I provided the agent with a synopsis similar to what was provided in the above paragraph, to which the Agent replied, “That’s very interesting. Would you like us to take the case?”

I believe my reply was something to the effect of, “You’ve got to be kidding me..!”

I asked why the Bureau was interested in this particular misdemeanor case of criminal mischief in a small town in Nebraska, but could not get a definitive answer other than the FBI was always interested in matters involving financial institutions. Perhaps it was a very slow day at the FBI. I thanked the Special Agent for the Bureau’s interest, but assured him that I believed we had it covered.

About four or five weeks later, we received four separate, individual complaints of a person identifying himself as a Federal Criminal Investigator for the Social Security Administration coming to the homes of recently widowed, elderly women, telling them that they were in danger of having their Social Security Benefits taken away unless they purchased an expensive insurance plan. Two more complaints were received later during the week.

As part of the investigation, I consulted with the Social Security Administration, who told me they don’t have Criminal Investigators, and suggested I contact the FBI. It seemed to me that what we had was a person, impersonating a Federal Law Enforcement Officer attempting to extort monies from their victims by fraudulent means.

I did indeed call the FBI, briefed them on the matter, and was bluntly told, “It’s not our problem.”

On asking why this was the case, I was simply told that it was not within their jurisdiction, and it was strictly a local matter. I argued that impersonating a Federal Agent is a violation of Federal Law, as was extortion and fraud. I still got the same reply, “It’s not our problem.”

By the way, while we never made an arrest for the Criminal Mischief, we did make an arrest of the man contacting the widows. Without federal charges, we could only cite him for the infraction of Door to Door Sales Without a Permit.

Valley PD, February 1986:

While running radar along US Highway 275 in Valley, I observed a White Dodge Four Door with two male occupants parked in the lot of a local service station across the highway. From time to time, the car would pull into the lot of the liquor store next door, then back to the service station. Sometimes they would pull up to a nearby pay phone. This was suspicious, but not illegal.

I was contacted by dispatch, and requested to call the owner of the service station at his home by telephone. I went to the office to make the phone call. I was told that his 17 year old employee had noticed the people in the White Dodge, and thought they might be getting ready to rob the gas station. I told him that I had also observed these people, and that I would continue to keep an eye on them.

I went back out on the street and drove into the service station with the pretext of making a purchase. When I pulled in, the white Dodge immediately pulled out, and entered the lot of the liquor store. I was able to get a closer look at the two individuals. The driver was wearing a white shirt and a tie. The other was dressed like a working cowboy in denims, cowboy hat. This was certainly the odd couple, and I was also beginning to believe that either the gas station or the liquor store was going to be held up. I moved back, but maintained a position where I could continue to watch.

The White Dodge continued to move from the parking lot of the liquor store to the gas station every so often as I continued to observe.

At about 10:00 PM, the kid working the gas station was about to close the business for the evening. As he turned out the lighted sign, the White Dodge at the liquor store suddenly lit up, and pulled out of the liquor store lot, squealing its tires as it sped out of that lot, and entering the gas station lot! I figured the robbery’s going down, so I hit the gas and quickly pulled into the gas station. The kid working there must have thought the same thing, because I could see, even before I pulled into the lot, he was literally diving behind the counter to take cover!

I pulled the patrol car across the path of the Dodge, bailed out of the patrol car, and drew down on the cowboy just as he was getting out of the passenger side of the Dodge. “DON’T SHOOT! DON’T SHOOT! FEDERAL AGENTS!” he shouted.

I ordered both subjects to keep their hands where I could see them, and ordered the cowboy to very slowly produce some credentials. He produced a badge and a photo ID card, which allowed everyone to breathe easy again. “Alright, so what are you guys doing?” I ask.

The agent in the white shirt and tie says, “We have a suspect getting on the Greyhound Bus at Cheyenne on his way to Omaha where we plan to arrest him. We wanted to put one of our people on the bus before the arrest went down…”

“Ok…” I say, “But what are you doing here?”

“We were told this gas station was the Greyhound Depot in your town…” Agent, White Shirt says.

I explain, “Gentlemen, Greyhound changed its routes back during the mid 1970’s or so. This hasn’t been a Greyhound Stop since that time. As a matter of fact, I’ve not recalled seeing a Greyhound Bus pass through town since I’ve worked her!”

“Now let’s take a look at what I saw from my point of view…” I went on, “I’m on patrol, and observe an oddly paired team of the Marlboro Man, and an unknown Business Man, spooking around, back and forth between this gas station and the liquor store. It looked so suspicious, even the Kid here called his Boss! It wasn’t a question of if there was going to be a hold up, but a question of which store was going to be robbed, the gas station or the liquor store? Now, putting your selves in my shoes, what do you think was going through my mind, and how should I have reacted?”

“Yeah… I guess that looked pretty suspicious when you think about it…” says the cowboy.

“Why didn’t you talk to us about it before hand?” I asked.

“We determined that you didn’t have a need to know,” came the reply from Agent, White Shirt.

I responded, “Didn't have a need to know…. Well if we did have the need to know, we could have told you the Greyhound hasn’t gone through here since God knows when, and even if it had, if we had the need to know, we could have stayed out of your way while you pretended to look like criminals. Do you realize that you damn near got yourselves SHOT?!

A copy of my report was provided to the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI Office at Omaha. We never received a reply or comment.

Valley PD: November 1990

I was working the 11:00 to 7:00, A-Shift on a Friday Night. It was early during the shift, and there was quite a bit of activity in and out of the drinking establishments in the downtown business district.

As I look over the scene, I see the usual crowd of late night, local gentry consisting of good ‘ol boys, swing shift factory workers, members of the late night bowling league, shit kickers, party animals, their assorted girl friends and one very odd duck who looks as out of place as a beer can at high tea for the Queen!


1975 Movie- Blazing Saddles: Deputy Jim explains the
nature of their constituents to Sheriff Bart.

This person who is standing out so prominently is wearing a pastel yellow pull over sweater, a pressed white shirt, a nice tie, dress pants, and well shined Italian style shoes. Even at a distance, he appears to be wearing an expensive wrist watch on one arm, and a gold men’s bracelet on the other. He’s peeking in through the windows of the tavern on the east side of the street, then walking south to the pay phone a block away, then back to peek in the window of the tavern. One did not have to be an expert of observation to come to the conclusion that this guy was not part of the local crowd.

I watched him go to the phone, back to the tavern, then start to the phone again when I decided to have a closer look at the dude. I drove around the block, then down the alley so I would be coming out of the alley about the same time he arrived at the pay phone. I pulled into view just as he was picking up the handset to the phone…

You could see his shoulders drop in disappointment as he looked over at me, ten feet away. I held up my index finger, and motioned him over to my patrol car. “Are you lost?” I asked.

“Ah, no… I’m Special Agent ‘So and So’ from the FBI.” He pulled out his credentials, and handed them to me.

“Wow! That’s a really shiny badge!! Very nice!” I exclaim, “You’re standing out like a sore thumb, so I have to ask the obvious question; What are you doing?”

Agent Dude says, “There’s a guy we have under investigation who’s in that bar. I’ve been sent to watch him.”

“Oh! You mean the bar owner, Joe Blow!” I reply.

“Yeah… How would you know that?” asks Agent Dude.

I explain, “It’s been in the newspapers for the past several months. I don’t think there’s anyone in Douglas County who doesn’t know Joe Blow is under Federal Investigation.

“Yeah… Right…” says Dude looking toward the ground.

“Look,” I say, “Maybe it’s part of your investigation where you want Joe Blow to know you’re watching him. If that’s your aim, then you’re doing a great job. On the other hand, if you’re supposed to be stealthy and covert, your cover was blown before I even came on duty. Everyone in town knows you don’t belong here. Take a look over there!” I pointed to a crowd of four or five individuals about a block away, watching and pointing at us.

“If you need to watch this guy under cover, put on some blue jeans, a t-shirt, maybe some old cowboy boots or ratty tennis shoes and a ball cap. If you did that, you could probably go inside the tavern and sit down right at the bar and easily take a close look at Joe Blow all night long.”

Agent Dude walked back to the pay phone, made his phone call. Walked back to his patrol car, and left town.

Conclusion:

In all fairness, the FBI and other Federal Law Enforcement Agencies perform a difficult, yet necessary job which most local agencies could never possibly coordinate. Even the large metropolitan agencies could not do the job that the Feds do overall.

I’ll leave it to you how well their level of service and cooperation was with Local Law Enforcement back in the 1980’s.


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