Law Enforcement Resources
Never embellish your expertise.  As time
goes by, your expertise will grow.  When
it comes to the numbers of arrests
you've made, or the numbers of search
and seizure warrants you've obtained,
keep those numbers accurate.  As the
numbers grow, everybody understands
that the numbers are estimates, so it's
always better to under estimate.
"I have completed eight (8) hours of drug
recognition training in the police
academy.  I have assisted in three (3)
arrests for distribution of cocaine where I
made the initial observation of the
distribution activity.  I have assisted in
the execution of two (2) search and
seizure warrants by members of the
Drug Enforcement Unit wherein CDS was
The example I used is a bit simplified.  
The experienced drug dealer doesn't
normally carry a large amount of CDS.  
When he's approached by the buyer, he
probably won't have any drugs on his
person.  He'll have the drugs in a "stash"
which he has hidden nearby.  Once paid,
he'll retrieve only the amount purchased
from his stash and pass it on to the
buyer.  In other instances, two dealers
will be working together but physically
apart.  One will handle all the money, and
the other will handle the drugs.  In the
latter circumstance, your observations
are all important.  The way you articulate
those observations will determine
whether or not you get both your dealers
on a distribution charge.

You might be wondering about how
information supplied by informants weigh
in on the probable cause scale.  While
information from an informant can, in and
of itself, be probable cause for an arrest
or obtaining a search and seizure
warrant, give yourself some time to
develop your expertise, before you start
thinking about developing informants.  
Handling informants isn't as simple as
you might think.  Your department
should have a secure process for the
registration of informants to protect the
informant's identity as well as the
preservation of your, and your
department's, integrity.  An informant's
reliability rests on a successful past
record of providing reliable information.  
Informants normally work for money, so
it should be obvious to you how a new
police officer might have difficulties in
developing paid informants.

You ask, "What about information
provided by a person who possesses a
reputation for integrity, or a person who
has no problem in being identified?" It's
still the same as information provided
anonymously, and the information still
requires corroboration...most often by
your subsequent observations.  In some
instances, you could produce the person
before a judge to swear to the reliability
of the information in support of your
application for a search and seizure
warrant, but you'd only pursue that
course if time is a critical factor.

Accountability...this is really important

You're going to make some mistakes as
you develop your CDS expertise;
however, how you handle suspected CDS
that comes into your possession, either
through seizure or by other means, is
one area where you don't want to make
any mistakes.  Your department will have
a process for the submission and
subsequent analysis of suspected CDS.  
Never, never deviate from your
department's established procedure.

You should handle suspected CDS with
the same care that you'd handle money
or any other items of value.  In fact, CDS
requires an even higher level of care and
caution.  For instance, let's say you make
a money seizure in the amount of
$2,627.27.  During the submission
process, you make a counting error in
the amount of two dollars.  This error
won't be that difficult to correct or
explain.  When it comes to drugs,
shortages in drug seizures, no matter
how small, can become a very big deal.  If
we change that two dollar shortage to
two capsules of suspected cocaine, you
can imagine the speculation that will
follow from some people.

The timely submission of CDS is all
important.  When I became a police
officer, nothing short of your physical
incapacitation would delay your response
to the Evidence Control Unit.  While I
exaggerate just a bit, it was a very rigid
requirement to submit any drugs seized
as soon as possible.  

From time to time, you'll read about
police units where suspected CDS is
found in desk drawers or pockets of
clothing hanging in squad rooms or
offices.  When such situations are
revealed, you can rest assured that
particular police department needs to
reevaluate, improve, and enforce its
submission process.  While such
occurrences can be the results of simple
negligence and poor supervision, critics
will argue the drugs are present for the
personal use of the officers, or worse,
that the drugs are used to "plant" on
suspects who are subsequently charged
for possession of the drugs.  When CDS
is handled in such a negligent and
irresponsible manner, it is difficult to
discount the latter speculation.
Example:  You're on patrol when you
receive a call for CDS activity.  Your
dispatcher gives you a complete, and
excellent, physical description, provided
by an anonymous caller, of the suspect
who is supposed to be in possession of
cocaine.  When you arrive at the location,
you immediately observe the suspect
standing alone and appearing exactly as
described.  You arrest the suspect, and
during your search of the suspect you
remove a plastic bag from his pocket
containing thirty-seven (37) gelatin
capsules containing suspected cocaine.  
You write your probable cause stating
exactly the information you received and
the observations you made, and your
suspect is subsequently released without
charges for lack of probable cause.
This time, instead of rushing in and
arresting the suspect, you park your car
around the corner and walk back to a
position where you can observe the
suspect's activity.  In short order, several
people walk up to the suspect.  You
observe the people handing the suspect
money in exchange for small items that
the suspect is removing from a plastic
bag.  While the items are too small to
identify from a distance, you can identify
the bag.  You know, from your expertise,
that suspected cocaine in your area is
transported and distributed in this
manner.  You have now established
probable cause for an arrest by
supporting the original information you
received with your own expert
Where does one begin when discussing
drugs and drug enforcement?  Let's start
with the terminology you'll be using as a
controlled narcotic and non-narcotic
drugs as CDS (Controlled Dangerous

One of your duties as a new police officer
will be the identification and apprehension
of persons involved in the manufacture,
production, and distribution or
possession of drugs classified as CDS.  If
you begin your career in a heavy drug
trafficking environment, it won't take you
long to develop your skills of observation
particularly in the area of CDS

As a new police officer, you'll need to
develop a level of expertise to support
your probable cause for making a CDS
arrest.  Let's say you're about to write a
statement of probable cause for your
very first CDS arrest.  When you list your
expertise, it might read something like
While your expertise will rarely become an
issue at trial, you could find yourself
involved with a high profile defendant
with a high priced attorney who is being
paid to make an issue out of anything
and everything.  If things would get to
the point where you'd be directed to
produce documentation in support of
your stated expertise, your overall
credibility could be damaged if you've
over estimated numbers supporting your

The most important part of your
probable cause will be the description of
your observations prior to making an
arrest, and any information you received
leading you to make your observations.
I am continually amazed how many police
officers, even experienced ones, never
grasp the fact that information supplied
anonymously, no matter how accurate
the information may be, does not, in and
of itself, establish probable cause for you
to make an arrest.  Aside from
information supplied by registered
informants, nearly all the arrests you
make for CDS violations will be based on
your observations.  Let's go back to the
Drugs are dangerous substances

The way you physically handle any type
of CDS is a serious safety issue.  There
are so many variations of drugs being
distributed, and some can be absorbed
through the skin which is why you should
always have a supply of latex gloves
handy.  I wouldn't even mention the
"taste test" except for the fact that
Hollywood still, from to time, shows the
detective tasting the cocaine or heroin to
check its purity.  I don't mean to insult
anyone's intelligence, but it must be
Never taste or inhale any
suspected CDS.

The most serious and probable threat to
your safety will be the "needle stick."  
Baltimore has the dubious distinction of
having the highest proportion of heroin
addicts in the nation, so you can imagine
how many hypodermic needles I
encountered during my career.  We
regularly asked suspects prior to
searching them if they had any needles
promising not to charge them for the
paraphernalia.  It was an easy promise to
make since prosecutors almost never
prosecuted paraphernalia charges.

The hypodermic needle is so dangerous.  
Of all the needles I seized from suspects,
none of those needles were covered.  
Once a needle is used, the protective
cover is discarded, and the addict will
carry that bare needle around with him or
her as long as its in working order.  I
always had to laugh at the needle
exchange programs.  While proponents
of needle exchange programs have their
hearts in the right place, their naive belief
that addicts think about hygiene is

The biggest danger presented by those
repeatedly used and shared needles is
HIV and hepatitis.  While the possibility of
you contracting one or both of these
deceases from a needle stick, in most
cases, is thankfully low, the long regimen
of treatment and follow up testing that
can follow is psychologically stressful.

Drug enforcement is a crazy business

If you become a police officer for a large
metropolitan police department, you're
going to see a lot of drug/CDS activity.  
While CDS use and distribution exists
everywhere, the urban environment is
where you'll most frequently experience
its effects.

As a new police officer, you'll probably
enter your career having all the solutions
to drug use, control, and enforcement
issues...and why shouldn't you,
everybody else does.  Your success, as a
new police officer, will always rest largely
on your ability to keep and open mind.  
When it comes to drug enforcement, the
open mind philosophy is essential,
because you're going to see some crazy

Let's take, for instance, the difference
between possession and distribution.  If
you think possession refers to a relatively
small amount of CDS in a person's
possession, you'd be correct.  If you
think distribution refers to the selling of
CDS, in any amount, you'd also be
correct.  However, depending on where
you find yourself policing, it may not be
that simple.

Let's go back to that fellow you arrested
for selling the caps of cocaine from the
plastic bag.  You seized 37 capsules of
cocaine from the suspect.  From your
observations of the distribution/selling
activity along with the large amount of
CDS, you charge your suspect with
distribution.  However, your District or
States Attorney has decreed that a
seizure of 38 capsules, or less, will be
prosecuted as mere possession.  "Why,"
you ask?  There's just too many CDS
arrests for the prosecutor's office to
prosecute.  By lessening the charge, the
prosecutor can clear that troublesome
drug dealer from the court docket.  Police
officers often laughingly refer to "double
secret probation" when the drug dealer
receives probation while he's already on
probation from an earlier conviction for

The Hand-to-Hand Buy

The hand-to-hand buy occurs when a
police officer buys CDS directly from the
drug dealer.  When the Baltimore States
Attorney's office encouraged the police
department to focus our efforts on the
hand-to-hand buys, prosecutors pointed
out that a felony distribution charge
could be prosecuted more simply and
effectively when a dealer sold directly to a
police officer.

While the prosecutors were correct, they
were also looking for ways to get out
from under their minimum amounts of
drugs which kept moving upward.  
Everything worked fine in the beginning,
but when the district drug unit that I
commanded passed 240 hand-to-hand
buys, I received a call from an Assistant
States Attorney.  "You've got to stop
making hand-to-hand buys," she said.  
"Okay..." I replied, "and what would you
suggest we do instead?"  Pausing for a
moment, she answered, "Well, you could
do more search warrants."  Well...we
did...a lot more search warrants, but
that's another story.

There are just too many solutions to

When you begin your police career,
you're going to have  preconceived
opinions regarding drugs and drug
enforcement.  Your opinions will depend
largely upon where you grew up and who
educated you.  If you think drugs should
be legalized and regulated, give yourself
some time to reevaluate that opinion.  
There are many people -- even intelligent
people -- who believe the legalization of
drugs would eliminate the violence
associated with the drug trade.

You're going to see a lot of human
tragedy associated with drug use and
drug distribution.  As bad as those
instances will be, you'll see even more
tragedy, and violence, as a direct result
of alcohol abuse.  But...alcohol is legal
and regulated...go figure.

When it comes to drugs, everybody has
a solution.  As a police officer, you'll have
the luxury of resting your brain since
you'll have clear direction, in the form of
statutory laws, to tell you what is legal
and illegal.  As you have already
surmised, I find the whole subject of
legalization and regulation pretty boring,
and a huge waste of human energy and
resources, but, that's just my opinion.

Arrest is always the most effective

"We can't arrest our way out of the
 You'll hear this proclamation
often from politicians and academics
when addressing drug use and
distribution.  You'll even see a lot of Top
Cops nodding in agreement.  Of course,
to become a police chief, one must also
be a politician.

You've also got to remember that in
areas where drug use and distribution is
rampant, a huge underground economy
exists.  Entire families, and extended
families, become the recipients of illicit
income from the distribution of drugs.  
Politicians, always mindful of their voting
constituencies, don't want to see their
voters, or the sons, daughters, brothers,
sisters, or grandchildren of their voters
being arrested in any large numbers.

Your power of arrest is the single
indispensable tool which gives meaning
and -- most importantly -- compliance to
any law legislatures see fit to institute for
the protection of society.  If you find
yourself working in a high drug use and
distribution environment, you're going to
experience the endless debate on
non-solutions with arrest being the only
constant solution throughout those
Drugs - CDS
Dangerous Substance
"Never embellish your expertise.  As
time goes by, your expertise will
grow.  When it comes to the
numbers of arrests you've made, or
the numbers of search and seizure
warrants you've obtained, keep those
numbers accurate." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker