By John J. Baeza
December 3, 2019 - When I retired as a detective from the New York Police Department, I moved to Florida and decided to join a local sheriff’s office to work as a deputy. I needed to make some money and it was the only job for which I was qualified. I was accepted and took the job.
From the start I wanted to be the ultimate Libertarian cop. I was not going to arrest anyone for drugs or victimless crimes and I was going to try my best to make as many quality arrests as possible. For a good part of those 3 years I was able to do my thing. I tried to fade into the background. I never brought up the fact that I was retired NYPD, though my colleagues probably knew from the constant stationhouse gossip. I tried to make myself invisible to my supervisors and only interacted with them when I had to do so. In this sheriff’s office we only held roll call once every two weeks. Sometimes I didn’t see my supervisor for two weeks at a time; and that was great for me. I worked without a partner and basically had no one breathing down my neck. So yes, I was able to do my thing.
If I came across some drug user who had drugs on him (or her), I would have him dump the drugs into a ditch and ask him for help by looking at my clipboard of wanted dangerous felons. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But I got my fair share of arrests in this manner. Those same people who had helped me would come back to me on their own to try to ID other dangerous felons. I was also determined to investigate every call I received as if I was still a detective. I interviewed everyone I arrested. Oftentimes I would get confessions.
During my 12 hour tour I would be assigned all kinds of calls. Sometimes it was as minor as someone complaining about someone else’s water hose spraying their yard. When I arrived at a domestic violence scene I would ask a lot of questions and look at a lot of evidence. It turns out that my domestic violence arrests were 50-50. Half were men and half were women. I made mostly felony arrests of crimes with victims. The rest of my arrests were misdemeanor crimes against persons and felony warrants. At every crime scene where I needed to dust for fingerprints, as soon as I was done dusting the areas I thought were the most important I would then ask the victim where they wanted me to dust. I would always get this incredulous look from them. They would often ask me why I wanted their opinion. I told them they paid my salary and if they were not satisfied in some way with the locations I dusted they had every right to ask me to dust for prints elsewhere. No one ever took me up on it but they saw I was serious.
The 6 PM to 6 AM tour would get very slow at about 1 AM; so I would make up a wanted/warrant list at the start of each tour - only felonies and absolutely no drug or drug related crimes or any victimless crimes. Since the warrant detectives worked 9 AM-5 PM they rarely caught any of their targets. So my hunt began at 1 AM. Inevitably I would arrest 2-3 of those on my list. I started arresting so many wanted persons the warrant squad would have the booking department hand me a list of people they really wanted. If they met my criteria I would get them.
Everything seemed to be going well. I was second in arrests in my district (behind the DWI guy). I made rock solid cases. I was the only deputy who used photo arrays for my cases where identification was in question. In fact, although I didn’t know it, I used a photo array that led to charges against the former sheriff. I was really starting to think that I could survive like this by keeping a low profile.
One night I was called into the Lieutenant’s office. I had no idea why. I had a good reputation and kept to myself. When I asked the Lieutenant what he needed he said he wanted to talk to me about the amount of tickets (speeding and other moving infractions) I had been giving out. I told him I had never given out a ticket but gave plenty of warnings (warnings were not logged in and went into the trash). He asked me why I hadn’t given out any tickets. I told him I was an arrest guy. Quality arrests were my specialty. He said that was no answer. I told him there were several members of my squad and one of them specialized in giving out speeding tickets. I didn’t tell him that whenever I saw that deputy set up in a hide-away to give out speeding tickets I would drive ahead of him to a spot where he couldn’t see me. Then I would put on all of my flashing lights to alert oncoming traffic. That deputy would complain about his lack of speeding tickets but he never caught on to my warning tactic. I then told the Lieutenant that I didn’t even know how to fill out a ticket properly. In fact in my 20 year career I had never written a speeding ticket. He didn’t care about all of my arrests and my quality of work. He wanted revenue. He immediately changed my shift to the day tour and assigned a sergeant to watch over me. I didn’t stay long after that. I never wrote a ticket. I never made a drug arrest. I honorably resigned.
So much for being a Libertarian cop.