Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This is a little part of my job

Americans have a tendency to take a lot of things for granted. Some people even feel they’re owed certain things. When I was a kid I politicked for my own phone with virtually no effect on my father. Instead I heard the “I walked to school in the snow” speech. Now my kids expect to have cell phones and, since I was raised in South Florida I don’t have any leverage with how I walked to school so I caved in and got them their own cell phones.

One of the things I’ve worked on since college is not to take things for granted. It can be easy to accept good fortune and move on but I try to appreciate the things that I have. One of things that I appreciate and realize how lucky I am to have it is my job. Not just the field in which I work, law-enforcement, but my specific job. As a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or as its known here, FDLE, I get to do a variety of things from undercover to dignitary protection. I like getting up most days and not knowing exactly what I’ll be doing during the day. In a way, most days are a mini-adventure which I look forward to.

I spent four years as a U.S. Drug agent and liked the challenge but wanted more variety in my life. I also didn’t want to be transferred. In 1990 I accepted a position with my current employer.

There is no true “state police” in the state of Florida. There is the uniformed highway patrol which deals with motor vehicle related issues. They are known here as “troopers” and they do a fine job. There are other law enforcement agencies with specific duties like the Florida Wildlife Commission which deals with conservation law. The FWC is a kick-ass outfit who work under difficult conditions and do a good job.

My agency is the chief investigative agency and answers to the Governor and cabinet. FDLE investigates narcotics, violet crime, public corruption, economic crime and now is responsible for the state’s domestic security issues. We work closely with other agencies and I particularly like the friends I’ve made in the course of my work. The job also contributes to my writing. From odd characters to comments I hear every day, the job is a life line to creativity. Another thing I don’t take for granted.

Here are a few photos from work. Most are fairly recent and capture the essence of variety that makes my job so enjoyable.

From practice on the range where timing and identification of targets are tested like this

To covering a demonstration at the Port of Palm Beach, I get a good dose of South Florida sun. The demonstrators in this instance were very polite. I agreed with their cause but duty dictated that law enforcement ensure no one interfered with the operations of the port. They were a well-meaning group.

I meet interesting people like Mitt Romney. FDLE protects our Governor and visiting Governors. Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts at the time of this photo.

This was an interesting person at one time. Now he’s a little quiet. Actually he’s made of plastic and resides at the medical examiner’s office.

Sometimes I see unusual things. This is the scene of a gigantic explosion caused by a man working with illegal flash powder. The resulting blast rocked houses miles away, including my own.

Most people think the TV concept of undercover operations is accurate. They believe that police agencies send cops into some criminal organization and forget about them until an arrest is made. That's ridiculous. Here is a quick deal that resulted in an arrest and ATF agents making it look like I was arrested too.

Since my last book concerned bombs I spent a little time with the local Sheriff’s bomb squad and learned I never want to be a bomb tech.
Just a quick tour of the old day job. I don't like people to get the wrong idea about police work. No one is forced to be a cop, most law enforcement agents want to be doing their job. At least that's my experience with cops. Sure police may bitch or talk about it being tough but the attrition rate is low compared to other professions.
What do you think? Could you be a bomb tech? I couldn't.


  1. No interest in being a bomb tech. That shit explodes, man.

    (And I didn't think that particular shade of green went with the red of your face very well. Hot, huh?)

  2. I can't open a jar of applesauce without a hammer, so I doubt I have the fine motor skills necessary for bomb tech work.

    Have you seen Phil Spector at trial, his hands trembling constantly? Perhaps you can recruit him.

  3. I want to be able to transform my hair like that.

    Henry Lee's karma is off since he testified for O.J. Simpson. I see that your judicial system is not happy with his ethics.

    And yes Mark, it was hot.


  4. Seen enough of bombs to try to keep a distance between me and them. My dad was in the Royal Engineers towards the end of the war - eighteen years old and an explosives expert. Funny thing is, that he never could stand loud noises, but the army saw a young man who was about as calm as you could be under pressure, and who had a very cool demeanor when in the presence of explosives.

    Now here's a funny story (and I'll make it quick), when I first came to this country to live it was at the tail end of the IRA bombings that had terrorized the UK for several decades, so I had an idea of what should happen if a bomb threat was received, and knew to look upon any unaccompanied bag or suitcase as a potential threat. I'd been working here for a year, when one day the company I was working for received a bomb threat. I suggested that we should evacuate the building and that the police should be called so that a search by experts could take place. In London we didn't take too many chances with threats like that - better waste a few hours in the parking lot while a hoax was confirmed, rather than end up on the national news.

    I was the only one who decided to work in my car in the parking lot while the local police were summoned, but out of curiosity went back in when two officers arrived - just in time to hear them inform my boss that she should "get everyone to look around to see if there's a bomb."

    With respect I pointed out that the average person wouldn't know a bomb if they looked at it, and asked if they could identify semtex - yes, cheeky, I know. They looked at each other then called in the experts. Needless to say, there was no bomb, but no one teased me for being an over-anxious Brit just off the boat, either.

    And as to the question of keeping cool enough to diffuse an explosive device - heck, I break out in a sweat just watching those scenes in old films where the hero is faced with two wires and a live detonator and he's saying, "Give me more light" or "Can't make out the red wire." Bring on more robots, that's what I say - that's one job lost to machines that I would be happy to see.

  5. Admit it, Born, you like being in law enforcement because you get to wear all those cool outfits.

    I once went to a presentation given by and LAPD Bomb Squad guy in which he talked so loud the building quaked. He later admitted he suffered from hearing loss from all those explosions.

  6. Where's MacGeiver when you need him......?

  7. Is the fanny pack part of the FDLE uniform or just a personal fashion statement?