How Do Police Handle a Suspect’s Threat of Retaliation?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Bob Cooke, retired special agent in charge, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement:

I was the target of threats on a few occasions, but only a few times did I actually consider the threats of retaliation to be serious. Most crooks believe that law enforcement officers are doing their jobs by investigating them. Cops believe that crooks are doing their jobs by being crooks. Cops are paid to stand their ground and not retreat unless looking for cover. No one would respect the police if we were easily intimidated.

I’ll give you a couple of my cases. Only when the threats were from an outlaw motorcycle club member or other organized crime members did I really consider the threats to be serious enough that I took other precautionary measures. I immediately informed my agency via the chain of command, changed some of my personal habits, and took my fully automatic M-4 rifle everywhere I went. My state agency treated the matter seriously and took steps to ensure my safety and the safety of my family. Included in these measures were the offer of a transfer and a 24-hour security team.

The suspects were put on notice that we were aware of the threats and that we would be investigating them for the threats. In two cases, I was present with other investigating officers during the “notifications.” I let them know that neither my agency nor I would be intimidated. I did not make counter-threats, nor do I entertain making those types of threats to criminals. A professional lawman doesn’t need to resort to that.

When these types of crimes occur, most agencies attempt to provide some sort of shield for their target of the threat. We have great sophisticated methods of investigating these people and their organizations. Besides employing the power of subpoena and electronic surveillance (wiretaps), policing agencies will not allow a public servant to be threatened or intimidated.

I was fortunate with regard to the outcomes. In one case, the suspect offered a mere $10,000 to a three-time loser who was on parole. That parolee knew me from a prior arrest and tipped me off because I had treated him fairly in the past. We arrested the suspect again while he was on bail for selling heroin. The local police brought him before a superior court judge. The judge admonished him in regard to the threat and raised his bail. We went to jury trial, he was convicted, and he died of natural causes while in prison.

My biker case went even better. The idiot who made the threat was told to drop the green light by his club. My agency dug deep into his past and discovered an unreported violent rape of his ex-mother-in-law. He was found guilty of the manufacturing methamphetamine charges and pleaded guilty to the cold rape case. His club found out about the rape case and booted him from the club membership. I don’t know when or if he’ll ever get out of prison. I know he will be watching his back if or when he does. His former biker buddies don’t hold him in high regard.

These are only a couple of examples. We obviously can’t tell you all of them.

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