When people think of drug dealers, they tend to think of the kinds of people they see on crime shows, gang members, bikers, underworld types, but those are not the kinds of people that I ended up arresting for dealing drugs in my career. The very first person I arrested for dealing drugs, I stopped for a simple traffic violation. At about 1 A.M., I stopped a guy for no bicycle headlight. As he rode up onto the sidewalk and dismounted his bicycle, I watched him set a small toolbag down on the ground and then stand up and wait for me. We conducted our bicycle stop and when his ID came back clear, I told him he could go. He hopped back on the bicycle and started to ride away when I called out to him.
“Hey, you forgot your bag.”
He looked at me, blankly. “That’s not mine. I’ve never seen that before in my life.”
I had been a police officer for less than a year, but even I knew that this was a clue. I stopped him again, grabbed the bag, and opened it. Inside was an entire pharmacy. If he had just picked up the bag and rode away, he would have been on his way, instead he went to jail.
Some people ask the police for help when they probably shouldn’t. I was at the police station when a student came up and asked if we were able to access the University Dining Commons which had closed, but the university police have keys to everything. The student was very nervous and near panic that he had left his backpack inside and he said that he couldn’t wait until the morning. Already a little suspicious, another officer and I went to the Dining Commons and found our way inside the office to see if the student’s backpack was there. We found a backpack and opened it up to see if there was something inside that said that the backpack belonged to this particular student. Unfortunately, the only things we found inside were illegal drugs and boxes of baggies. The fact that he also had a list of names led us to believe that the student had been possibly selling illegal drugs.
We returned to the police station, where the student had begun to have second thoughts and was trying to leave, while another officer tried to convince him to stay. I held up his backpack and asked him, “Is this yours?”
He must have assumed because I was asking and the backpack was all zipped up, that he was safe, but as soon as he identified it as his, he was on his way to jail.
Another time, one of my officers, Hans, told me that every shift, before he gets into his patrol car, he walks around it and makes sure that all the lights work and that nothing is broken and that he would think that drug dealers would do the same, to avoid getting pulled over. Instead, he stopped a student who was driving a car with an expired registration. When Hans approached the driver, he saw that the driver had a lock box on the passenger seat and was very nervous. Hans asked for the driver’s license and when the driver opened his wallet to take out his driver license, Hans saw a second driver license in another pocket. He asked for the second driver license, as well. The second license was a fake that made the driver over 21 years old. Hans arrested him for possession of a fake ID.
Once Hans had the driver in the back seat of the patrol car, Hans used the key on the driver’s key chain to open the lock box and discovered this particular student’s pharmacy, including a customer record on a notebook inside. At the time of this arrest, police were allowed to search cell phones incident to arrest, just like other spaces in the car, so Hans opened the driver’s cell phone and began looking at his text messages. And there, having been sent just minutes before, was the perfect message that our dealer had sent to his girlfriend. “We should quit school and do this full time. We are so smart, we will never get caught.” And then he went to jail. I hope he stayed in school because this career track wasn’t going to work for him.
And finally, I was working dayshift, but nightshift was short-staffed, so I had agreed to come in at 3 A.M. At 3:05 A.M., I walked out of the police station and into the parking garage. I happened to see three young men exit one of the stairwells and stop when they saw me, then they looked up into the stairwell. So as they walked away, I went into the stairwell and started climbing. I wanted to see what they had been looking for. Glancing down, I saw that the three young men had been walking slowly away and that at least one of them was using a cell phone. When I neared the roof, I heard a phone ringing above me, and a small group of male voices.
“Why do they keep calling?” one of the voices asked.
I reached the level where three young men were sitting.
“I think they’re trying to warn you that I’m coming,” I said, amused at the shock on their faces.
Sitting beside one of the young men was a large plastic container, perhaps the kind you would find filled with cheesepuffs at Walmart, but this one was filled with marijuana. I arrested the young man for possession of marijuana for sales, which was still a felony at the time of this incident. During later questioning, I asked him why he was selling drugs and he said that he didn’t have enough money to pay for anything other than tuition and books, and so he needed to sell pot to have spending money.
The next day, now that I was working my dayshift, I walked out of the police station and saw my arrestee, clearly out on bail, and a woman walking toward the entrance.
“That’s him,” my arrestee told the woman while pointing at me.
“How can I help you?”
“Are you the officer that arrested my son last night?”
“I am.” Here it comes, I thought.
“I’m sorry, your son is an adult. I can’t give you any non-public information without his approval.”
She turned to her son. “Give him permission to talk to me.”
My arrestee looked defeated. “It’s okay to tell her what happened.”
So I did, including the fact that he had to sell drugs because he didn’t have any spending money.
“You don’t have enough money?” she asked him, obviously rhetorically. “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY? How do you not have enough money? I gave you $200 last week for spending money. What happened to that?”
I didn’t hear his answer, as his mother had released me at that point, assuring me that he would not be selling drugs any more. And that he might never be allowed out of the house again.
There are obviously people who think that selling drugs is the way easy money. I don’t care how smart they think they are, they probably aren’t. And unless they are operating a legal dispensary, they probably won’t make any money in the long run. Attorneys are expensive. Morticians more so.