Ex-Cop Goes Rogue on the Drug War, Tells Pot Smokers How to Outsmart the Police
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Barry Cooper should know better than anyone that you don’t mess with the police. He was once a cop, and a dirty one at that. But for the past three years, this former narcotics officer has been irritating the hell out of law enforcement, and he’s been steadily raising the stakes, damn the consequences.
It began in 2007, when Cooper gained some notoriety for releasing a self-produced DVD series called Never Get Busted Again. In it, Cooper shows pot smokers ways to outsmart the cops and their drug dogs. He says that if you have marijuana in the car, it’s a good idea to also bring along a cat, since that will distract even a drug dog. Got cops knocking on your door? Cooper says it’s best to lock it shut, and then tell them through a closed window that you won’t let them in without a warrant. The Never Get Busted DVDs have a low-budget charm, especially when Cooper uses footage taken from his own patrol-car camera to illustrate a point. Back then, in the mid ’90s, Cooper had short cropped hair. Cop mustache. He liked to lean into suspects and intimidate them until they did what he wanted. On his DVDs, Cooper will freeze the patrol-car video to point out the ways he got people to confess they were carrying drugs or money. (“Don’t ever touch your face when you are talking to a cop. It’s a sign that you’re lying.”)
Cooper dropped out of college at age 20 to join the police force in the small East Texas town of Gladewater, where he trained his own drug dog and started making big busts on the highway. Cooper was talented enough at seizing drugs that he was eventually hired by the Permian Basin Drug Task Force, a West Texas unit that became notorious for using unscrupulous tactics and was eventually shut down by the FBI in 1998. To Cooper, being on the task force was a great assignment; he learned all the ways to bend the law to rack up arrests and chase down suspects. Cooper was young, and he says the thing he loved most about being a cop was the adrenaline rush. One of his favorite things was to pull people over on the highway and then, just for kicks, incite a chase.
“They taught us at the academy that once we found drugs on someone, we should handcuff them immediately,” he says. “Instead, I would look at the suspect and say, ‘That’s some crack cocaine I found in your pocket. That’s a felony, you’re going to prison for life.’ And I would just turn around and walk to my patrol car to fill out my paperwork, giving the suspect time to run, and they often did. And then the foot chase would be on and the fight would ensue. And that would get my adrenaline fix.”
Some of Cooper’s former colleagues have become notorious. Cooper says one mentor was Barry Washington, who is named in a class-action lawsuit that’s been filed against the city of Tenaha, Texas. He’s accused of stopping dozens of black and Latino motorists, taking their cash and valuables and telling them to keep driving or face arrest. It’s an extreme version of asset seizure, a Texas law which allows police to take property they suspect was acquired illegally without charging anyone for a crime. In Tenaha, the city took more than $3 million in assets, and the DA is accused of giving $10,000 to Washington as a kickback for making the arrests, which is illegal. Cooper says Washington taught him all kinds of tricks to invent probable cause, like how to train a drug dog to false alert, as an excuse to search a vehicle.