Creating A Law Enforcement Farm Team: A Rozzer Back-Bench

Posted on 5 November 2012 by

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In law enforcement, there are two factions: sworn or non-sworn, and for many things (with the notable exception of crime and intelligence analysis) never the twain shall meet. This is as much about cops as it is about human nature, and I’m not trying to change it.

But I’ve noticed that, in things like arrest warrant backlogs, cyber investigations and other non-traditional applications of law enforcement, the field of response is thinned because of a simple lack of both competence in the ranks and the lack of a secondary team.

While I blog here mainly about cyber and intelligence, David and I primarily spend our time on the job in the arrest warrants side of the house.

The backlog of arrest warrants for everything from speeding tickets to more serious misdemeanors to even violent felonies is staggering – have a look at Houston, TX, where it’s estimated that there are currently 10,088 backlogged felony warrants and 19,748 Class A and Class B misdemeanor warrants – and this doesn’t even discuss the approximately 300,000 Class C misdemeanor warrants that are clogging the systems of Houston-area law enforcement agencies.

It’s the same around the country: Phoenix, AZ has 110,000 misdemeanor warrants outstanding; 22,000 criminal and civil warrants are backlogged at the Sullivan County (TN) Sheriff’s Office; there’s a backlog of 4500 in Montgomery County, PA; Prince George’s County MD has a backlog of 46,000 warrants – so many it wants to start throwing them away (and it wishes it started to do that earlier – last week it had to pay $5.6 million to a man it arrested when it shouldn’t have, because the backlog led to records confusion which led to a warrant not being quashed). A similar backlog was recently highlighted in Bexar County, TX, which has a backlog of more than 12,000 warrants.

This stuff goes on and on.

One of the most commonly applied tactics is a warrant task force, using cops from a group of related agencies, and increasingly people are looking to volunteers.

This gets me back to my original point: we need volunteers because Law Enforcement has no back-bench.

That becomes important, because of what I aver is a trend: law enforcement has begun to look to this seemingly non-existent back-bench to begin to tackle some of these serious issues.

The estimates I gave above for Houston’s warrant problems come from an article in the Houston Chronicle which discusses the fact that the Harris County Sheriff is considering the use of volunteers to help with the backlog by soliciting people from the community to help with data entry of warrant information into a regional warrants database.

In our forthcoming book, Blackhatonomics: An Inside Look at the Economics of Cybercrime which I co-authored with Will Gragido, Daniel J Molina and John Pirc, I write about how this phenomenon applies to cyber investigations:

“In a nutshell, law enforcement has no farm team. There is minimal, and often terrible, cybercrime training available in police academies. Cyber is not considered a “real” crime by many cops, who look at it with an enormously dated concept of hacker kids living in their parents’ basement — a point of view not helped by the hacker collectives such as LulzSec and Anonymous destructively hacking for glory and for publicity and, on arrest, turning out to be almost the prototypical hacker from the 1980s; Revenge of the Nerds, not The Matrix.

“The “no farm team” comment — made by the administrator of a very progressive agency with an outstanding commitment to cyber — refers to the fact that, traditionally, cops were not high-tech people, and the skills required to be an officer don’t typically lend themselves to attracting geeks.

“Even as this author attended a highly rated police academy in 2010, cyber was a four-hour requirement that we were told by the instructor we’d have to “get through.”

“There is no reserve, no extra capacity in waiting, and no culture of training new recruits in the basics of cyber investigation. Until that changes, law enforcement is playing catch-up…”

-From “Blackhatonomics: An Inside Look at the Economics of Cybercrime” (Elsevier, 2013), available December, 2012. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Now today I see something new: I’m part of a group of American cyber-folks visiting Thailand to discuss cyber crime investigation and prosecution, so I keep an eye on the Thai press these days.

And here comes some very cool stuff.

Seems that the Thai police are looking at a backlog of about 4,500 drug trafficking case arrest warrants. Any agency on the planet would have a problem keeping up with this kind of backlog, even for those most serious offenses. And the Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau has been seeking ways to help clear the pile.

Now it seems that one Lieutenant Colonel Utane, deputy superintendent at Provincial Police Region 1’s investigation division, has come up with a very interesting way to get some fresh eyes – and fresh blood- into the mix, while at the same time developing a back-bench, a farm team.

He’s using police cadets to do preliminary investigation and case data and intelligence sifting on the backlogged warrants.

In an article in the Bangkok Post, Utane said of the program and the cadets, “They are learning by dealing with these real cases.”

By giving the cadets the trust to review cases and using them as living learning opportunities, the cadets have been empowered to review case files, use open sources and investigative techniques to provide analysis of likely locations of fugitives, and participate in some specialized pretext tactics to stimulate voluntary surrender.

The Post says that of the 1,300 arrests made btween August and October, 2012, 63 were directly a result of work by Utane’s cadet team.

That’s a pretty darned impressive result, and something we can all learn from.