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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Hiding in Plain Sight

A person doesn't have to fit a known stereotype to be a criminal.

May 12, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Sometimes cops assume things are kosher when they're not, and vice versa. But as a profession, we generally do well by short-hand stereotypes.

Still, we can become too dependent on the obvious. Criminals count on as much. Some of the most prolific burglars and robbers in history would go out of their way to camouflage themselves as members of good standing. Decked out in business attire and carrying attaché cases - today, it'd no doubt be a notebook - they'd work their way into their building of preference and ply their trades. By mixing in, they were able to escape detection for years; some were never caught.

I've often wondered how many bad guys I missed through the years because I was fixated on looking for hypes wearing long-sleeved Pendleton shirts in summer. The first time I really considered the prospect was many years ago - and I wasn't even on duty at the time.

I was in Las Vegas playing blackjack and financing another wing to the MGM Grand when I found myself seated next to a middle-aged woman. She announced herself as an attendee to a Redken convention taking place next door. Everything about her makeup and attire suggested that she acquitted herself well in that capacity, and as she was prone to laugh whether she won or lost, she seemed nice enough. Definitely not the kind of person I'd normally be giving a second glance at when it came to the prospects of criminal endeavor.

But after a few minutes I found myself staring at her wrist. It wasn't the insanely expensive Luccien Piccard wristwatch that fixated my attention, but what I saw occupying the skin below and around it.

Needle marks.

The woman had more tracks than Union Pacific.

I couldn't believe it. While I don't imagine drug abuse to be wholly uncommon in the beauty industry, she was the best dressed hype I ever saw.

But it also got me thinking. What with all the billions of dollars of narcotics being brought into this country annually, we seem to catch the small fry tweakers more often than not.

Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum - the people so conspicuously on our radar that they somehow get lost in the shuffle.

Shortly after I transferred to Industry Station, I heard about a deputy whose physical appearance and manner suggested nothing so much as a textbook pedophile. Whenever some crime broadcast involving a pervert was read in briefing, all heads would swivel toward this particular deputy and he'd get razzed with "where were you?" inquiries. Throughout, he'd smile good-naturedly and nod his head in affected guilt to the bemusement of all.

The thing is, it turns out the guy really was a pervert.

When he was finally arrested for molesting children, investigators found in his locker journals of his crimes written on department crime report paper: He'd been chronicling his offenses at the very time that he'd been getting kidded about committing such crimes.

Later, a few of the guys admitted that they'd ultimately never taken seriously the possibility that the guy might really be a pedophile because he was a deputy sheriff. The fact that he was seemingly one of them trumped all.

There'll always be disputes about racial profiling and stereotypes. Sometimes the stereotypes are true. But my point is that if you become too dependent on the stereotypes, you may find yourself as apt to miss out on obvious offenders as you are the less conspicuous examples.

Sometimes, it takes something else to confirm your suspicions. In the case of the Redken riffler, I considered the possibility that maybe she just had an unconventional manner of treating her diabetes.

But then she split sixes against a 10.

And to do that, she had to be stoned.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Deadman @ 5/13/2011 2:11 PM

Two comments,1).I dressed like the street people and let them hang themselves in my presence,it worked good,plenty of arrests,suits can be just as stupid.2).My partner didn't show up one night,i asked where was he,reply,arrested for raping his daughter.There was a fix in for 1 yr medium security and released on shock parole,between police,defense,prosecutor and judge.Every news organization in state was at parole hearing,judge was up for re-election,jack-off got 10 years,not enough.

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