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 seized."
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

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

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

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

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 observations.
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 this:
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 expertise.

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 example:
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 said.  
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 misplaced.

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 things.

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 possession.

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 count

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

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 solution

"We can't arrest our way out of the problem."  
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