Criminal Justice

D.C. Cops Conducting FBI-Like Stings to Arrest People They Predetermine as 'Bad Guys'

|

The Washington Post this week reported on sting operations used by D.C. police officers to target "people they think are likely to commit armed robberies." The controversial tactics have resulted in more than a dozen federal court convictions thus far. 

Cmdr. Melvin Scott, who oversees the operations, defended the practice to the Post, saying, "we have to feel comfortable and confident that these are bad guys, the guys we want. We're not pressing these guys. They are boldly stating their job experience." 

One of the more recent operations led to the arrest of five men preparing to rob a fictional drug dealer created by undercover officers. While waiting for an undercover officer's "contact" to give them the go-ahead, a SWAT team stormed into the room and "dragged the men out by their feet."

A 2012 operation involved an undercover officer recruiting three men to rob a liquor store in Adams Morgan. Police bought two of the men, ages 18 and 19, alcohol and "tried unsuccessfully to get at least one of them into a strip club." The men were eventually arrested on conspiracy to to commit robbery, which has landed them in prison for three to four years.

Michelle Peterson, the attorney for one of the men, highlighted the questionable nature of these operations: 

"Everything that was done to plan this alleged event was done by the police officers," said Michelle Peterson, the attorney for one of the men. In arguing for a lighter sentence, Peterson said the police had "continued to ply this young, impressionable man with alcohol, scantily clad women and offers of obscene amounts of money if he did what they wanted him to do."

These stings, which many people see as unfair entrapment, extend far beyond our nation's capital. Last fall, an autistic teen in California was persuaded to buy pot for an undercover police officer. On one occasion, he exchanged 0.6 grams of marijuana for $20 with the officer. The teen was eventually charged with two felony counts of selling marijuana. (Watch ReasonTV's coverage of the story here.) 

If you find these stories absurd, you're not alone. Two federal judges have recently thrown out cases that involved sting operations put on by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In one of the cases, three suspects had already plead guilty to crimes that would have put them in prison for seven years or more. They had been convinced by undercover officers to assist in robbing an imaginary stash house for drugs with the promise of an enormous payday.

U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real declared the operation unconstitutional, saying, "The government created the fictitious crime from whole cloth." Another judge, Stephen Reinhardt, expressed a similar sentiment in a dissenting opinion on a different case last April: "The government verges too close to tyranny when it sends its agents trolling through bars, tempts people to engage in criminal conduct, and locks them up for unconscionable periods of time when they fall for the scheme."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

31 responses to “D.C. Cops Conducting FBI-Like Stings to Arrest People They Predetermine as 'Bad Guys'

  1. Wait until this expands to include everyone on their ‘potential’ domestic terrorists list, which of course includes everyone in the Tea Party and all libertarians.

  2. Picked up Mrs. Dean at the airport last night. A couple of Prison State notes:

    (1) Outside the arrivals terminal, I counted at least 8 cops. Not TSA rent-a-schlubs. Cops. For, I guess, traffic control. I was waiting to go through a crosswalk. A cop was playing crossing guard standing right in front of my car. When she waved me through, she didn’t move an inch and I had to steer around her. Since I gave her about 6 inches of clearance, I got the Dirty Look, but what was she gonna do?

    (2) MRs. Dean mentioned that while shuffling through the TSA line with the other peasantry, she had a definite flashback to the Jews being “processed” in Schindler’s List.

    That is all. I’m thinking of putting together a Prison States of America flag. Maybe make the stripes gray and run them vertically.

    1. But think of all the dramatic TSA success stories!

      I’m sure there are gonna be some any day now – get that apprehended terrorists count up into the low single digits – like one – which would be their first one…

    2. Orange is the new Red, White and Blue.

    3. You must not have been to the airport recently. It gets waaay worse than that. The shit I’ve seen in the last 2 weeks…..

      1. I almost never fly these days, so no, I haven’t been to the airport recently.

        1. In the last 2 weeks at LAX I’ve seen:
          -Major thoroughfares next to the airport closed for the arrival of Air force one. Not streets that the motorcade was going down, just streets around the airport. During rush hour.

          -Checkpoints at the entrances and exits (that’s right, exits!) where vehicles are searched “at random”.

          -Bomb Sniffing (and most likely drug & currency sniffing) dogs walking around curbside and in the terminals.

          -To take my kid up the observation tower, I had to provide photo ID, which was entered into the computer. If I go up the tower too often, I’m a suspected terrorist.

          1. -Checkpoints at the entrances and exits (that’s right, exits!) where vehicles are searched “at random”.

            Hey, you never know when someone is going to load up on weapons and bomb-making materials at the airport and proceed to terrorize downtown LA. You can never be too safe.

  3. Stop resisting (our attempts to coerce you into committing a felony)!

  4. Look guys, obviously the DC cops have solved all the real crimes. Sow what else do you expect them to do all day?

    1. NOTHING LEFT TO CUT.

    2. Sow what else do you expect them to do all day?

      I see what you did there.

  5. What these judges don’t understand is that D.C. is such a safe, clean, peaceful place, that the police have to invent crimes in order to keep their skills sharp.

    Entrapment? It’s more like good training, which they have to do, in order to protect the public.

  6. No one is addressing the most obvious question here: did the cops make it home safely that night?

    1. They presolve precrimes so other cops can go home safely at night.

    2. Every time I hear a senior LEO say “All we want is for our officers to make it home safely at the end of the day” I want to spit.

      Yo, nimrod – of COURSE we want your officers to make it home safely.

      But if that’s ALL you want it means you don’t want to do the damn job.

      1. I continue to post these sorts of things to all available social media with the caption: “You can be a hero or you can do ________ to go home safely at night. Not both.”

        I absolutely agree that one could engage in risk mitigation AND be a hero. But if risk mitigation involves a level of violence that is not accessible to the average person, you are not doing it right.

  7. So I get it now. If you can’t catch criminals then you make them your self. kind of like the glass repairman who goes around breaking windows. these types of sting operations should be illegal.

  8. Derpority Derport.

    The Derparted.

    The Usual Derpspects.

    I don’t know a whole lot of movies.

  9. I view this as no different than the FBI trolling online to “help” guys build bombs for domestic terrorism: a waste of resources and morally bankrupt.

  10. In a functional Constitutional republic, there would be just as many stings run on cops as by cops.

  11. But if your house is burglarized the cops won’t do shit, because they don’t have the “resources” to investigate. I guess they’re too busy doing this crap. If only that burglar hadn’t slipped through their pre-crime net.

  12. I’m thinking of putting together a Prison States of America flag. Maybe make the stripes gray and run them vertically.

    In the “stars” field, twenty five pairs of manacles.

    1. Or just bleach it white and fly it on the Brooklyn Bridge!

  13. And people laughed at the idea of “pre-cogs” in Minority Report. (Isn’t that title just a wee bit racist, assuming the criminals are minorities?) And what happens when the computers predict a cop is about to commit a crime like killing an unarmed suspect in custody, or spraying the wrong car with bullets or shooting someone’s dog?

    1. Assuming you haven’t seen the movie, the minority report was when one of the pre-cogs had a cognition that didn’t agree with the other two.

      /Aspie mode off

  14. Police bought two of the men, ages 18 and 19, alcohol and “tried unsuccessfully to get at least one of them into a strip club.”

    Providing alcohol to a minor? Nah, nothing to see here.

    The men were eventually arrested on conspiracy to to commit robbery, which has landed them in prison for three to four years

    Do you even get that much for ‘actually’ robbing someone?

    “Everything that was done to plan this alleged event was done by the police officers,” said Michelle Peterson, the attorney for one of the men.

    No shit. So, when will the cops be charged with “conspiracy to commit”? I won’t hold my breath.

    It seems that if the cops can’t catch people who commit actual crime, they’ll just make one up and trick them into committing a fake/nonexistent crime.

    1. Am I to understand that they got people too young to legally consume alcohol drunk and then said, “We should rob a strip club!” Then, these young men got convicted for 3-4 years by saying, “Yeah, it would be awesome to have all that cash!”

  15. This is how this stuff works:

    FBI, et al, pull this crap* on marginal arabs and other assorted muslims.
    They get away with it because, well, arabs and muslims.

    Other alphabet agencies say “works for fake terrorism, lets do it for other fake crimes and get our stats up”.

    Up next:
    The Fed setup were an agent plans a fake crime and recruits culprits from among the dregs* of a particular sub-category (foreign terrorists, armed robbers, drug dealers and soon: DOMESTIC TERRORISTS). The agent provides all the means to commit the fake crime- money, arms, supplies, connections, etc., then blammo: headline grabbing arrest of domestic terror cell by our federal heroes.

    All in a days made-up “work”.

    1. *Dregs: because the “criminals” are always some low-IQ losers with no job, no money and nothing else going for them. And just like there are plenty of those hanging out at hookah bars (muslims) and bad neighborhoods (street criminals) there are probably just as many wannabe on the right that can be talked into just about anything with a few bucks, promises of “helping the cause” and a little attention from some guy they think is cool and believes in them.

  16. This is currently happening to me. And now the set me up to look like a narc for a bust they told me about when the agent was drunk. I didn’t know at the time he was an undercover.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.