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November 30, 2012
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Thane Gallagher Patrolling the Border
with Thane Gallagher

Throwing another agency under the bus

When we turn on our own, the most common outcome is a fracture in the thin blue line

Police work can be ugly, dirty, uncomfortable, and downright dangerous. No more so than for the guys in uniform, rattling around in a marked patrol vehicle, day after day, dealing with whatever society has to throw their way with little or no warning.

Doing the job means you have to suffer all of society’s criticisms, too. The general public has something to say about every single aspect of a law enforcement operation, right down to how you cross your Ts and dot your Is.

During the last two decades or thereabouts — concurrent with the birth of Smartphones that record video and coupled with a 24-hour news cycle — the public has come to feel an obligation to be incessantly critical.

We normally break out our mental umbrella and persevere despite the often-blistering criticism, the subsequent dwindling support from politicians and/or our own respective management corps and sometimes, even from each other.

Breaking the Thin Blue Line
But it cuts a uniquely sharp path when the Sheriff and/or Chief of Police from another agency publicly decries and criticizes the actions of other law enforcement officers and does so to members of the press, who are well known for inaccurate and biased reporting.

Case in point: The Chief of Police of the Calexico PD offered several ridiculous statements about the recent vehicle pursuit and subsequent shooting involving Border Patrol Agents in the vicinity of the Calexico Port of Entry, in late August of this year.

Border Patrol Agents had attempted to pull over a vehicle loaded with illegal immigrants and the driver failed to yield, engaging the agents in a pursuit and to top it off, he had then attempted to run one of the agents over when he attempted to lay down spikes. The agents involved, including the one that the smuggler tried to turn into a hood ornament, discharged their weapons in defense of their lives. 

The Chief was not amused and aired his distaste.

Hey Chief, it’s not like we didn’t just have one of our own murdered in just that fashion in Yuma a few years back. Were newspapers simply not circulated in Calexico then? How does a Chief of Police issue such irresponsible remarks?

The Chief was quick to publicly vilify the agents and their tactics, never mind the fact that a full administrative review and imminent criminal investigation into the actions of the suspect, had yet to be completed.

One statement in particular bears closer consideration:

“We can’t have our citizens endangered just because of people that are minimal law violators.”

This is Me, Thane, Talking
Alien Smuggling is a Felony and Improper Entry into the United States is a Misdemeanor, per the United States Code. Which part of either of these crimes is to be considered “minimal?”

Is the Misdemeanor of Improper Entry what that Chief was referring to? Are we all to now believe that misdemeanor crimes and those criminals that commit them are now considered “minimal?”

I suppose then, that calls and/or investigations into DUIs, domestic violence, assault — all of which can be charged as Misdemeanors — are considered ‘minimal’ and therefore, any actions taken to arrest suspects connected with these cases aren’t worth Calexico PD’s time?

It would also follow that every single action taken by the Calexico PD to arrest suspects who have committed these crimes, puts the public at risk and is therefore, dangerous. It appears that their Chief just issued a decree that frees up Calexico PD to exclusively investigate only Felony crimes.

I’m sure the general populace in that city is now breathing a sigh of relief, especially those drunk behind the wheel.

Of course, the driver of the smuggling vehicle was subsequently charged with several felonies to include assaulting a federal officer by attempting to run him down with a vehicle and alien smuggling. 

Another statement flies off of the page:

“The danger had already passed.”

Am I missing something? Does that Chief honestly believe that such a fraudulent principal exists when speaking of this most recent incident? What about when the vehicle misses one officer and aims at another? Does that mean that the officer who was passed up cannot bring deadly force to bear, because the danger is “past” him/her?

Does that mean that if you’re shot at and the suspect misses, you can’t shoot back?

In my opinion, thinking like that will only get officers killed, instills hesitancy in his own rank and file and it won’t protect any member of the public.

Rendering Judgment
In March 2011, officers of the Calexico PD were involved in the pursuit of a vehicle that the California Highway Patrol had been looking for, in connection with a carjacking. The vehicle in question had been stolen, but for the victims, they were uninjured and the “danger had passed.”

Why, then, be involved in a pursuit that could have potentially crashed, burned, and killed innocent people? The vehicle was headed into Mexico and yet those police officers continued to be involved, despite the Chief’s wisdom that if anyone is going back across the border, you should back off because “Once you get to that certain point, you have to realize that you lost.”

I’d be curious to know just how far his officers are to carry that whole “we lost” sentiment and whether or not any written guidance exists reference when to apply it.

I suspect that despite any reasons for the article, that the Chief just doesn’t like the U.S. Border Patrol. There’s no law against that, but how quiet do you think he’d be if the leader of any other agency was publicly vilifying his officers?

Funny, I didn’t hear the Chief of the Border Patrol criticizing the officer’s of the Calexico PD, who were involved in the fatal officer-involved shooting a few months ago. That’s because it never happened, nor would it, due to a strict adherence to professional standards.

I have a suggestion for anyone that feels the need to publicly vilify another agency’s personnel: unless you’re in the driver’s seat with the officer/agent in question and unless you’re standing right next to them when they take action, why not wait for a full investigation before rendering judgment?

Why not give fellow LEOs the benefit of the doubt?

Better yet, get back into a patrol car with the people you’re vilifying and work a shift and see what’s happening from their point of view.

Because trust me, “minimal law violators” have been responsible for injuring, maiming, and murdering hundreds of our brothers and sisters over the years, from every agency in the U.S., and only for them, has “the danger passed.”

Until then, irresponsible and ill-educated criticism from a leader should be better left for a face to face with the leader of the agency you have an issue with, not the local news outlet.

Or do I have it all wrong? 


About the author

Thane Gallagher is a senior law enforcement officer who has worked in various patrol assignments throughout his career, from this nation’s rugged back country locales, to pavement laden urban highways. In addition to his enforcement duties, he’s also a certified EMT and Field Training Officer. As an FTO, Gallagher (along with his partner) developed a more modern tactical approach and training model to teach newer personnel how to conduct highway interdiction operations. For three years, Gallagher was assigned as a Task Force Officer within a gang/narcotics unit. As a Task Force Officer and in addition to the usual investigative caseload, he was often consulted by other federal and local agencies for guidance and investigative support on a wide variety of immigration, identity theft, and document fraud issues. He’s currently assigned to highway narcotics interdiction, within a special operations group. Concurrent with this assignment, Gallagher also helps train officers from various local agencies to conduct this specialized operation, by combining the application of industry standard field tactics with the analysis of behavioral indicators in the motoring public. 

Gallagher served four years on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard, while assigned to patrol various locales from the Bering Sea on one of the service’s largest high endurance cutters, to the Channel Islands off of Southern California on small patrol boats. Gallagher not only specialized in search and rescue operations, but he became a certified Maritime Law Enforcement Officer (Boarding Officer) early in his military career, which is where he first whet his appetite for enforcing the law. Gallagher participated in and/or led as the primary officer, hundreds of boardings throughout his Coast Guard career, making arrests for everything from boating under the influence, to narcotics smuggling on the high seas, to poaching and/or unauthorized fishing in protected waters, to felons in possession of firearms.





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