Tips and case studies for creative policing

After the recent report of officers deciding to send a ransom note for confiscated dope to the grower, who turned up with a payment which bought him a trip to jail, we decided to share a few additional examples of “creative policing”. If you’ve got some to add, e-mail us the details to:

The drug checkpoint

In an effort to nail mobile drug runners, at least one agency has used a technique involving the creation of a fake drug checkpoint. The approach is simple and the results can be outstanding. Here’s how you do it: Post a road sign along a road where a U-turn is illegal that alerts drivers to expect a “Drug Checkpoint Ahead.” Then covertly position squads in a location where they can see drivers who, after seeing the sign, decide to change course by making an abrupt—and illegal—U-turn. Once they commit the traffic violation, you’ve got your chance to make contact and find out what inspired the sudden reversal of course. Was it the drug checkpoint sign?

The DNA collector

In this day of increasingly high-tech CSI capabilities—and the popular TV shows that go with them—everyone knows that law enforcement has the ability to analyze just about anything. With that can come some useful suspect paranoia. Consider using science and a little subtle acting to leverage that.

Here’s an example: When you’re dealing with a suspect who’s claiming innocence but you’re pretty convinced he’s involved in a crime, offer him a can of pop, a glass of water, a cup of coffee, or whatever. After he’s taken a sip grab the container, holding it as though you’ve got a valuable piece of glass in your hand, and pass it off to another officer who should promptly leave the room. Then mention to the suspect that the officer who just left is “really good with DNA” and how you think it’s a good thing you’ve got some from the crime scene that you can compare to elements that were just left on the container. This way, you can tell the suspect, you can get to the bottom of things quickly and get him out of the interview room and back to his life without wasting more of his time.

Now, sit quietly for a little while and let the suspect put two and two together. Once he’s been allowed to sweat for a few minutes, remind him of the benefits of being cooperative in your investigation. If he’s guilty and he thinks that “DNA-expert” officer is going to come back in a few minutes with proof that he was at the scene, thus making his pleas of innocence useless, you might get the stonewalling to stop and the confessing to begin.

Getting IDs

Here’s one from an interview with a Midwest chief: "If I'm talking to someone and I get the feeling he's given me a false name and he's feeding me bad information, I'll play along like I believe everything he's telling me,” he says. “I'll nod my head like I have no doubt that what he's telling me is the truth. I'll even be sure to repeatedly call him by the name he gave me.

"Then I'll tell him that by departmental policy I need to briefly run his name through the computer to see if any warrants come up and if he's clear, he'll be on his way. The bad guy is thinking, 'Hey, he really thinks I'm John Smith. He'll run John Smith's name, no warrants will come up and I'm outta here.'

"Then I tell him that departmental policy also dictates that I need to have him sitting in the rear of my patrol car behind the cage while I run the check and that I need to pat him down before he gets in. Again, the guy's thinking, 'I'm outta here soon,' so he grants consent and complies without a problem.

"Once I've got him in the unit I tell him that I don't believe that he's John Smith and if he doesn't tell me who he really is, I'm going to have to run a fingerprint check. 'The problem with that,' I tell him, 'is that it could take 4-5 days to get the results back.' I haven't told him he's going to spend that 4-5 days in jail but he's assuming that's where he's headed. He doesn't want to sit in the pen for a week just to have a fingerprint check run. Instead, he'd rather tell me who he really is so he can move on."

So how do you write this in your report?

"I just write what happened. The suspect gave me a false name. I asked him to have a seat in the rear of my squad and after some discussion, he decided to tell me who he really was."

And one of the best ones ever…

As reported in a California newspaper:

"Police in Pennsylvania interrogated a suspect by placing a kitchen colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a copy machine. A piece of paper with the words, 'He's lying,' was placed on the copier.

After the suspect responded to each question, the officers would press the 'copy' button, and the words, 'He's lying,' would print out. The suspect figured the 'lie detector' had the goods on him, so he confessed."

Do you have some creative policing techniques you want to share? If so, e-mail them us at:

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