A few pointers for taking down dirty politicians
Jacksonville cops are pleasantly competent at
busting themselves. Each year, several cops and civilian employees go bad and get dragged Downtown in chains and dropped, like everyone else, into the criminal justice oubliette.
Sworn officers go down for the classic cop crimes of driving drunk, smacking wives and women, and getting into stupid fights at stupider bars where a firearm might get brandished in a way that can't be ignored. Now and then they get hammered for snacking on dope and cash, on the perps or in evidence, or making watches, jewelry or cash flutter away from the property room. Civilian employees, mostly women, take the hit for making lost and found items stay lost and for tipping their badboy boyfriends about police raids and the identities of undercover officers and confidential informants.
As they say in church, it is meet and right that cops do so. It is not possible, in an organization of more than 3,400 people, that all are law-abiding. What cops don't do, alas, is bust other bureaucrats and elected officials. For this they rely on the FBI Office of Public Corruption.
That's a mistake. The FBI, although capable, has minimal manpower and money compared to local police. Cops are remarkably queasy about busting their municipal confrères for several reasons. First, they don't like the career-limiting heat that occurs when they snoop on government grandees and don't make an arrest. Second, they've become accustomed to being assigned cases (passive) instead of making cases (active).
So how, in a more perfect world, would local cops bust bent bureaucrats and pernicious politicians? Here's how:
Purchasing: When I sold commercial printing, I was never able to do business with the city of Miami because my company refused to send the buyer and his stable of señoritas to Puerto Rico, all expenses paid. To bust such oxygen thieves, you first get the undercover officers to shower, shave, pull out the piercings, and cover up the tatts. The ladies should ditch the bimbo clothes and condom purses. Next, they should get tricked out with suits, briefcases, business cards, plausible websites, expense accounts and happy-face grins. They then should bid on city business, with the help of out-of-state specialists to generate the numbers. Naturally, the cops will lose, at which point, over lunch, they should ask the purchasing agents that time-honored question, "What does it take for me to earn your business?"
Cars, condos, boats and buildings: Snoop around the residences of government officials and run the tags and licenses of vehicles and vessels. Check the ownership of the houses. If the names don't match, bore in and bust. With large contractors that do millions in municipal business, check for ownership of too many boats, cars and condos possibly being enjoyed by city officials. Ditto for skyboxes at Jaguars games.
Roads and bridges: Years ago, as a snoopy young twerp, I ran the plats on the property at both ends of the soon-to-be-constructed Dames Point bridge. I was amused but not surprised to see that this fine Florida dirt was owned by corporations and trusts with vague names registered in vague places like Curaçao, Cayman Brac and everybody's favorite because of the ab-fab mountain views, Lichtenstein. At closings, such paper entities are represented by in-the-flesh attorneys and fixers. Cops should sweat these yoms to cough up their shareholder lists, which may show serendipitous shares for surreptitious city employees or their relatives.
Lawyers: A law degree, like the loaves and fishes, can be the gift that keeps on giving for public officials. (To this day, no one can explain how Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who never practiced a day in his life, is worth multiple millions in real estate and casino points.) To catch these crooks, you pull filings for real estate ventures, casinos, card clubs and racetracks where a public official is known to be of counsel. If legal filings bear the signatures of other law firms, start digging. Now and then, you'll discover an elected official for whom legal practice is all pay, no work.
Elections: In Miami, it was, and continues to be, a tradition for the dead to be resurrected on election day. Just because they're absent in heaven or hell doesn't mean they can't sign absentee ballots. Undercover cops should volunteer for candidates, work long hours and eager-beaver their way through phone banks, rallies and press-the-flesh opportunities. If they're lucky, they may be asked to phony up some votes or collect maximum donations from minimum-wage workers. A quick drive may reveal that the legal residence entitling a candidate to run for district office is a tool shed or dog house. It's astonishing how often this dog-house thing happens.
Profitable nonprofits: Many cities contract with halfway houses that are halfway empty, neighborhood development centers that develop nothing, and doctors, therapists and counselors whose consulting rooms appear to hold more weed whackers than patients. Cops should squeeze these mopes to find out who on the city payroll is processing their paper.
Now and then, police officers need a break from busting dopers, brawlers and drunks. They should move uptown and upmarket to hunt the big game that courses fat, flossy and free,
Through Crime City.