Long Beach (Calif.) PD's Det. Sgt. James Bisetti describes his 20 years policing gangs as "the ultimate in police work."
Earlier this month, Bisetti retired as a full-time gang cop to spend more time with his family. Bisetti, 55, reflects back on an accomplished career with the department, as he steps into a civilian consulting role with the Long Beach PD.
Chief Jim McDonnell recognized Bisetti at an agency gathering, presenting him with a certificate; his fellow officers presented an award depicting the breeching tools he knows all too well from the many warrants he's served.
Over the course of his 20 years as a gang cop, Bisetti was involved or led teams that served around 1,000 warrants.
"It's been more than just what I do," Bisetti said. "It's been who I am. It's been a passion."
Most recently, Bisetti led a covert Gang Intelligence Team that gathered intelligence for the department's Gang Enforcement Section, a unit where he spent much of his career leading fellow officers and serving warrants at properties primarily for suspects, guns, and drugs.
When Bisetti says being a gang cop is the ultimate in police work, he means no offense to other officers.
"It's the ultimate because gang members and their guns are the ultimate danger or threat to a free and safe society," Bisetti tells POLICE Magazine. "There's no greater crime to me than gang members who indiscriminately fire rounds in a city. Those rounds can hit, injure and kill so many innocent people."
Bisetti graduated from the police academy in 1980, and worked as a patrol officer until he joined a special enforcement detail concentrating on petty theft and sex crimes. He eventually joined the detective squad, worked as a homicide detective and returned as a patrol supervisor in 1989 when he promoted to sergeant.
With the crack-house epidemic cresting, in 1990, the department formed a gang task force of patrol officers and recruited Bisetti.
Bisetti lost a good friend in fellow gang cop Officer Daryle Black, who was ambushed by a gang member while riding in an unmarked car. Black's killer was later sentenced to death during his second trial.
"I did work alongside him many times, and I thought he was one of the most sincere and honest people I ever knew," Bisetti remembers. "He had a simple outlook on life and loved this job probably more then most do. He wanted to learn and improve and he was just generally a great guy, quiet, simple, sincere."
In his years as a gang cop, Bisetti witnessed few gang members in Long Beach, which is primarily a Crip-gang city, successfully leave gang life.
He remembers attending the funeral of a gang member who had the tattoo, "Hated by many, loved by a few, but respected by all." Many of the gangsters he encountered were similarly deluded.
"It's just not true," Bisetti said. "I've seen a lot thugs in a casket. Somebody didn't respect them. They think this way, and have this mentality. They find out the hard way."