by R.T. Lawton
When you're working the streets, it helps to have a certain mind set. Perhaps one of the best ways to explain this matter of the mind is to use a portion of Wikipedia's definition of Psy-Ops: "Various techniques are used...to influence a target audience's...belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning or behavior. It is used to...reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator's objectives... Target audiences can be...organizations, groups and individuals."
Whereas psy-ops is generally a technique employed by the military in order to out maneuver the enemy, law enforcement and undercover agents also find it useful on a smaller scale. Here's a couple of examples which fit the definition, one for fun and games and the other as self-protection.
We knew where a smack house was operating in Kansas City, but at the time we didn't have any informants who could go into that particular house and make a heroin buy to give us probable cause for a search warrant. But then, the dealers in that house weren't aware we had that problem. So, for fun and games, we designed a little play action, knowing full well that the opposition kept a lookout at their front window to watch the street, plus they located their stash of several ounces close to their bathroom toilet for a quick flush should The Man suddenly appear at their place of business.
One nice summer day, to play with their minds, we had a car with two agents suddenly come screeching up to the curb in front of their house. The two jumped out of the car, loudly slammed the vehicle doors and ran towards the front door (covering a lot of distance from side to side) while screaming FEDERAL AGENTS. It was said later, that the dealer's toilet got a good workout before the two agents inexplicably turned around, quietly walked back to their vehicle and drove off. Then we waited a week.
The next time, the car had four agents decked out in bright blue raid jackets come screeching up to the curb. Loud door slams again. Screaming, the agents ran as far as the edge of the front porch before turning and walking back to their vehicle. Once again, the toilet saw lots of action. After that, we gave them two weeks to calm down.
The third time, we used two cars of agents in raid jackets. And, every time after that, we escalated the appearance of an actual raid by sending more cars, more agents, even having some of the vehicles jump the curb to imply this time was serious. We also varied the times and intervals to keep them off balance.
Eventually, the dealers realized we were playing with them and that much of their illicit profits were literally going down the drain.They gradually became more confident and lackadaisical, even quit flushing their bags of smack when we showed up. We gladly allowed them these little victories of finally beating us.
Then, one day we got an informant into the house for a buy. Shortly afterwards,. we descended upon that house with a search warrant, several cars, a multitude of agents and a sledge hammer for the door. This time we didn't walk away. One agent held the screen door open, the hammer man took it down and the first two-man team went all the way through to the bathroom. To keep the flusher from hitting the handle, they had to body check him into the bath tub. Ouch. Meanwhile, the rest of the teams secured the house and those within it. We got the heroin for evidence in court and had fun playing with their minds while working up to it. Our version of Psy-Ops.
It also helps when you're figuring out your role for undercover.
The majority of times I went under for a buy, I took advantage of the general public's perception of those bad-ass bikers riding Harleys. Even if dealers didn't personally know a biker, they had probably seen some old B-movie depicting bikers as scary dudes who carried guns. And, since I was going to always carry a gun while undercover, I went with the biker image. One, most dealers were careful how they treated me, and two, if anyone happened to see the handgun in my waistband, they were more apt to accept it as part of the image. In short, I was manipulating an individual's reasoning and behavior.
To further the military concept of "false colors," four of us on a task force went so far as to create our own motorcycle gang, colors and all. That way, when the undercover agent went in to make a buy, his surveillance (the rest of the gang) normally stationed outside, instead went in with him. There were no problems with rip-offs under these circumstances, there were several law enforcement witness to the buy details when it came court time, and the dealers assumed it was a natural situation for the whole gang to be in their living room during a purchase. Yep, if he did it right, a guy could have a good time outsmarting criminals, even bikers in other gangs.
Next time, a more dire set of circumstances where even one-man psy-ops could mean survival.