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Interdiction unit proves to be success until . . .

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When we first started the interdiction unit on the highway, no one really knew exactly just what to do.

I had been in narcotics for about four or five years by that time, but I had never worked a highway interdiction program before. I knew if we were going to keep this program we would have to produce.

There had been quite a bit of protest to the starting of the unit. We even had officers telling me we didn't have a 'drug problem' in the City of Red Oak.

Chief Charles Sullins was, however, willing to give it a chance. He had gone to the council and received approval on a temporary basis.

Now I had an obligation to him to make good on my claims.

We started the unit without any fanfare or ceremonies. My job was to get out on the highway and find as much dope as I could.

I didn't think this would be any big deal, since I had information that stated at least 1,000 pounds of marijuana was being transported up I-35E for each hour of the day. That's 12 tons in Waxahachie math. Surely with that much weed out there I could get lucky.

We didn't want to get involved in any profiling of defendants or suspects, so we came up with a plan. We would initiate an aggressive traffic enforcement program that would include any and all traffic violations.

We stopped every violator we could for everything you could imagine. We did not want to become a 'speed trap' city, and would usually issue written warnings instead of citations for most of the violations.

I discovered the key to success was in the initial interview conducted with the passengers of the car. It seemed I had a knack of roadside interviews. These interviews were what would later provide the necessary building blocks of probable cause needed to search a vehicle. And, man, did we search a large number of vehicles.

I had been working by myself up to this point. It was obvious to me I could be more productive if I had a partner to assist with the search and detaining of the suspects. My first partner was, in fact, my nephew, who was a reserve police officer in another city. He was more than happy to come out when he could, and turned out to be a pretty good narcotics investigator himself later on.

The citizens of Red Oak, led by a faithful few (thanks, Dale H.) all got together and raised enough money for us to buy a narcotics detection dog. We now had a canine, and another officer was added to the unit.

Heck, Dallas P.D. even started showing up and working interdiction with us, because of our initial success on the highway. We developed better relationships with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and some good old boys from DPS Narcotics. We had turned a part time interdiction unit into a full-fledged professional unit in a matter of months.

That's about the time Steve Raney showed up. Somehow he had convinced Chief Sullins to give him a chance as a reserve officer at Red Oak.

There had been objections and complaints about his coming to Red Oak from some of the officers. One had been the arresting officer of Raney years earlier when he was charged with possession of marijuana growing in his back yard.

Raney had somehow managed to get the charge reduced to a misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and was now working on receiving a pardon from Gov. George W. Bush with the assistance of local State Representative Jim Pitts. Raney had convinced all of us he had turned over a new leaf and just wanted to help fight the war on drugs.

I was reluctant to work with him in the beginning. He finally approached me and asked about joining the interdiction team. I had my reservations about him, but I was willing to give him a chance. It seemed everyone else was trying to help this guy, why shouldn't I?

This would prove to be the first fatal error I would commit in my relationship with Steve Raney.

Next week we'll talk about all the problems he brought to my little interdiction unit.

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Nelson Propane

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