Photo courtesy of Lou Savelli.
Any gang investigator worth their badge will tell you, "Whether you're in the streets or down a cell block, when it comes to conducting field interviews with gangsters, you'll probably be outnumbered most of the time."
On a busy street corner in your city or town's gang turf, gangsters seldom travel or hang out alone. And the cell block in your prison or jail, besides being home turf for several gangs, will be home to other criminals who just don't like C.O.P.S.!
My definition of the acronym, C.O.P.S., is Corrections, Officers like Probation and Parole, Police and Federal Agents, and Sheriffs.
Gang stops, for the purpose of conducting a field interview, are vital and necessary. While conducting hundreds, if not thousands, of gang stops, I recall that each stop was productive.
Whether I was recovering a weapon, apprehending a wanted gangster, documenting an association between gangsters, interrupting a drive-by shooting or gang fight, recording a gang member at a specific time, place and location, or developing rapport, they were all fruitful.
In order to make your gang stop safer and conduct a more efficient field interview, a cop must follow these F.I.E.L.D. I.N.T.E.R.V.I.E.W. rules:
Fools, only, rush in
Evaluate the situation
Look around and be alert
Distance, Demeanor, Detain
Interview, don't interrogate
Notice the body language
Take mental & written notes
Entertain your audience
Rapport must be developed
Validate your authority
Initiate an action or exit authoritatively
Effect arrest if safe and necessary
Watch what happens after you leave
Let's cover each one separately.
F: Fools, only, rush in
Elvis was right. Rushing in to any situation, regardless of the number of persons, is foolish and unsafe. For every field stop, an immediate assessment should be initiated. Visually scan the subjects of your intended stop and the surrounding area.
Determine how many subjects are involved. Determine how many gang members are present. Consider which gang is involved. Is this gang exceptionally hostile toward cops? Are they at war with another gang? Has this gang recently been involved in a crime that has come to the attention of the cops? Could they believe you're there to make an arrest or take official action?
I: Involve back-up, when necessary and possible
Truly, there's safety in numbers. Gangsters will always size you up and consider the odds of them winning a fight, especially against a cop. If you can delay making a field stop until back up arrives or there are more officers available, do it. Safety is the top priority!
E: Evaluate the situation
Remember, each situation is different. You must evaluate the necessity of the field stop, the safety factors involved (number of subjects, back-up, weapons and surroundings), the potential for violence, the gang's present state of mind, their propensity for violent behavior and your ability to safely and efficiently conduct the stop.
Making a field stop in the middle of a prison yard just after a fight between rival gangs will be risky because the gangsters are pumped up and ready to save face, even if it means attacking a cop. If the stop can't be done safely, don't do it. If your evaluation of the situation warrants a field stop, and you can do so safely, conduct the stop, but adhere to the next few rules.