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Fred Reed's Cop Columns

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Discouragement Outside Chi-Town
Sometimes the kids get to you. I was riding with the Cook County Sheriff’s anti-gang unit sometime back. We were driving through the hopeless fourth-generation welfare towns that surround Chicago - Markham, Robbins, Ford Heights, what have you. These drab little burgs are almost entirely black, heavily dependent on public assistance of one sort or... Read More
A Voice From The Past
The terrorism racket grows more interesting. What with trials of terrorists in New York for the bombing of the World Trade Center, and now the fellows who were going to blow up Manhattan's subways, things don't look as safe as they might. A sort of terrorism that hasn't yet gotten a lot of attention, but... Read More
Life Among The Boosters
Shoplifters are some of my favorite criminals. Various times over the years I've gone with the Arlington police to pick them up in the big Pentagon City department stores. These are a favorite destination for shoplifters from Washington and PG County. The security forces catch them, but the cops have to take them away. Lots... Read More
A Question Of Who Owns The Streets
As you go through the city on Metro, from Rosslyn to New Carrollton, you come out from underground and begin to pass through suburbia. Here and there you see graffiti spray-painted on walls and abutments. There isn't much of a pattern to it. Some of it suggests a degree of artistic talent. Gangs in Washington... Read More
Life In A Dumpster
I don't guess it was the story of the century, but it caught my attention. I was riding with a friend one night in the satellite suburbs of Chicago. I know that sounds vague. Years back I got to know some cops in The City That Works and we got along. When I'm out that... Read More
Their Ways And Habits
Having watched yet another movie about serial killers, who are actually rare, I figured it might be interesting to take a look at what these loons are really like. So I dragged out my copy of Sexual Homicides, by Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas, of the FBI's old Behavioral Sciences Unit at Quantico. These folk did... Read More
They Do It The Same Way We Do
Manzanillo, Mexico. Last week, wanting a different perspective on the street trades, I spent a day with the Red Cross ambulance service here, Manzanillo being a port city on the West Coast with a population of something over a hundred thousand. If nothing else, it made me appreciate the advantages of money My introduction to... Read More
They're Too Important
Manzanillo, Mexico - Listening to the radio here the other day, I encountered a journalist who has spent the last couple of years investigating the drug racket hereabouts. I had never heard of the guy before and can't vouch for the accuracy of his information. He made some interesting points. For starters, he calculates (how,... Read More
Black Cop, White Cop, Same Story
Sometimes the best thing a columnist can do is to shut up and let people speak for themselves. I get a lot of unhappy mail from cops in PG. The following, a few months old now, is an example. I've removed potentially identifying details and nothing else. "Hello Fred, "Let me start out by saying... Read More
Race, Race, Everything Is Race
I had hoped to spend the summer running columns from my recent trip to Chicago, which gives a picture of big-city policing that Washington can’t. As it happens, however, the growing racial problem, in which cops are declining to risk arresting blacks for fear of being prosecuted, has upset the apple cart. My email on... Read More
But I Prefer "Targets"
Chicago -- When Bill Plahm of the Child Exploitation Unit of the Cook County Sheriff?s Police hands you a photo of a six-month old baby with an adult penis in its mouth, you can develop a dim view of kid porn and pedophilia. They are nasty. For Plahm, who spends his life posing as an... Read More
It Ain't The Caribbean
Suppose that a car full of unwise drunks careens into the Potomac River in the environs of Washington. A car floats for about two minutes, usually, allowing the sober to get out, provided of course that they can swim. Suppose these drunks don't get out. Maybe they like the car. Down they go. Hereabouts, a... Read More
Even When Nothing Happens, Something Does
Even on nights when nothing much happens police-wise, a lot usually does, and it gives you a funny perspective on human nature. Let me run through a recent night?s worth, or as much as will fit. Starting with the guy trying to pull up the ?No Parking? sign at Taco Bell in Rosslyn. It was... Read More
Thoughts Regarding His Extinction
Regarding the imposed demise of Timothy McVeigh, and the gnashing of teeth following said demise, a few thoughts: Much noise ensued from Amnesty International, one of those organizations which consist three-quarters of some good idea, and one-quarter of excessive satisfaction with themselves for espousing the good idea. The execution, said Amnesty, was barbaric, cruel and... Read More
The Virtues Of Hardball
From time to time women ask me what to do about the possibility of sexual assault. While the prevalence of rape is greatly exaggerated by radical feminists, it happens. What can a woman do to avoid it? Common sense is a good beginning, of course. Don't walk on dark streets in questionable neighborhoods, for example.... Read More
Ain't It Fun?
It was after ten on Friday night in Arlington and I was riding with Officer Matt O'Brien and absolutely nothing was happening. Nobody was in the streets. The weather was cold. The criminals, who lack strength of character, were hiding indoors. O'Brien told me that nothing would happen until just before his shift ended, so... Read More
Try It Yourself
If you are unfamiliar with guns, and yet want an idea of why shootings by cops happen, let me suggest a few practical exercises that may shed light on the subject. First (and for a variety of reasons I don't suggest trying this should the occasion arise in real life), have a friend stand in... Read More
Makes Sense To Me
Like other states, Virginia has decided to allow felons in jail DNA testing of old evidence which they say will exculpate them. Not everyone seems happy with the idea. I think these folk are nuts. It is one thing to favor heavy penalties for, say, murder, arson, rape, looting, and burning. It is another thing... Read More
They're Dealing With World-Class Liars
When you read about violent crimes, with remarkable regularity they turn out to have been committed by felons on parole. Wanna know how parole boards can be stupid enough to let dangerous people out to kill someone else? Over and over? All across the country? Here's a hint. There is a book called "Games Criminals... Read More
Are The Media Actualy Trying To Start Riots?
Since the looting and burning in Cincinnati, the mainstream media have mentioned over and over the fifteen black men killed by police in the city in recent years. The implication, never so far as I know buttressed with data, has been that the police were unjustified, that they kill blacks for reasons of racism. The... Read More
Night, Downtown, And Reality
Saturday night in 1-D, riding with Officer Pete Barlow, who after eleven years on the Metropolitan Police has seen most of what there is to see.One-D has a little of everything -- bad projects, upscale stores, small parks that are home to the homeless, regions of offices that lose their population at night. If I... Read More
More Kids On The Edge
Friday night in Arlington, riding with officer S. M. Carrig, a tall white guy I've worked with before. Nothing much was happening. For a while we did little stuff. A call came, a Latino woman and her new boyfriend being hassled by her old boyfriend, who was apparently banging on doors and being generally disagreeable.... Read More
Maybe We Ought To Grow Up
Sez me, you have to be crazy to become a cop these days. There is a great uproar over the discovery that Washington's cops, not realizing that email sent between police cars on computers was being recorded, have said things that were racially offensive. Politicians are pretending to be appalled and shocked. They talk of... Read More
The Street Life
What is the difference between a coral reef and the streets of Washington? Answer: The animal life is stranger in Washington. We were in Chinatown, I and Officer Mike Halstead, who is part of the Asian liaison unit of the MPD. We were walking. The street guy with the motorcycle helmet, a white fellow with... Read More
Advice To Violent Felons
Every few weeks I read that the cops somewhere have shot a felon, or someone acting like one, often in the course of a pursuit, and have been charged by the press with the use of unnecessary force. Maybe. Sometimes it happens. Always it is made to seem to have happened. The cops may perhaps... Read More
More Blood And Guts In High School
Regarding the latest massacre of high-school students by other high-school students, a few thoughts: The immediate response will be that we must outlaw guns. For the anti-gun lobby the rash of shootings in school constitutes manna from heaven, which they will use vigorously. But for those inclined to toward thought, things are not nearly so... Read More
Pretty Good Night In The Suburbs Of washington
It was one of those slow nights in Arlington when nothing but little not-squat stuff happens, so slow and boring that I figured John Ritter must be on duty. John is this Arlington cop who is trying to destroy my career. Nothing happens when he's around. He could make a honeymoon boring. Anyhow, I was... Read More
Little Stuff In DC
I was out in DC with Sergeant Herbert Barnes of the MPD, Friday night a while back, and we got a call about a fight at a big-time hotel. It probably needed straightening out. Off we went. For some time we'd been riding around, righting wrongs and, well, not actually saving princesses, but at least... Read More
What Do People Really Want?
Last week I wrote a column saying that white cops have become so gun shy about being charged with racism, and thereby losing jobs, promotions, and careers, that many of them have stopped enforcing the law when blacks are involved. As part of the column I printed a letter from a cop in PG County... Read More
Cops Begin To Opt Out
Some months ago I wrote that cops in a lot of jurisdictions have decided that the current climate of hostility toward the police has led officers to keep their heads down -- i.e., not to do anything that could result in criticism by the racial lobbies. Because this column also appears on my web site... Read More
Is There One?
What, when you get down to it, do we do about drugs? For decades we have been grinding away at the dope trade, spending hugely, putting appalling numbers of users and dealers in prison, increasing the powers of the federal police. What have we gotten for it? Not much. Your daughters, at age fifteen, unless... Read More
Somebody Shot At Somebody
It was cold Friday night in 1-D. I was riding with Sergeant Herbert Barnes, a large black guy with 28 years with the Metropolitan Police, 15 of them in Anacostia. For a while we chased the radio, which is what cops generally do, responding to minor calls. A cabby at a hotel got into a... Read More
But So What? It Wasn't A Judge's Kid
"Great Falls, Mont., Jan. 11 -- A portly, bearded short-order cook with a quarter-century history of molesting children was arraigned here today for snatching a young boy whose body, prosecutors said, was cut into pieces, cooked into stew and spaghetti sauce and fed to the man's unwitting friends and neighbors." That's from the Washington Post,... Read More
And How Do We Want To Find Out?
By the time this reaches print, the New Years carnage on the roads will be over. If I were slightly more dedicated, I might pass up a really great party and a favorite band to go watch. The flesh is weak, so I won't. You can bet that the ambulance crews are getting ready for... Read More
An Appreciation Of Sorts
Christmas is maybe a time to think about people in the street trades -- ambulance crews, cops, and firemen. Most of us don't much see them, except the police, and that usually when getting a ticket or being told to stop doing something. Fires are rare these days. Usually people are healthy. An ambulance is... Read More
The Warts
Allow me a few thoughts on our adversarial system of criminal justice, and its warts. The problem with the adversarial system is that it is adversarial. In principle the focus in a trial should be on finding the truth. In practice it quickly shifts to winning the trial by any means that will not actually... Read More
Some Days It Doesn't Pay To Get Out Of Bed
The other day I was doing some target shooting at a private range with a cop I know, and we started talking about the very common dislike of cops found throughout society. Which got me to thinking. A few observations: There is a clear difference between the sexes in attitudes toward the police. White women,... Read More
Stay Out Of Its Hands
What passes for a system of criminal justice in this country is positively scary. We've all see the stories in which a guy is on death row, or serving life for rape or murder, and DNA evidence proves that he absolutely didn't do it. It makes you wonder how many other innocents are behind bars.... Read More
The Subject That Never Goes Away
I keep hearing, sometime from blacks, often from whites who heard the stories somewhere but don't know details, of cops racially harassing middle-class black people here in the metro area. I got a rendition of this last night: Respectable black couples in nice clothes in nice cars repeatedly being stopped and checked out for no... Read More
Night In The Suburbs
I couldn't figure it out. The nice-looking Hispanic woman in the apartment had a brother. The guy in the apartment with her wasn't the brother. He may have been the husband. Or maybe he was the boyfriend. Both were nearing thirty, I guessed. Nice people, to the extent you can tell in a confused few... Read More
Odd Night In D.C.
A real-life story of the DC cops. I'm going to keep it vague because a civil suit looks probable. I was in Northwest last week with friends to celebrate a new job one of them had. After dinner for grins we went for a beer at a local girly bar. A buddy of mine, call... Read More
About Like A Day Anywhere Else
South-Central Los Angeles---It's always the same, no matter the city. The night was chilly, traffic light, few people on the street. It was cold enough that not a lot of criminality was underway.. I was riding with officers Sean Malachi, a young (compared to me, anyway) white guy with a nearly shaved head, and Marcus... Read More
Where I Think We're Going, We Ain't Gonna Like
My email from cops around the country is interesting. How good its statistical validity is, I don't know, but it gives a fair picture of what's on people's minds. I'm looking at the fifth forward I've gotten of a recent AP story on the demoralization of the LAPD. The core of the piece is that... Read More
The More It Changes, The More It Doesn't
The relevant question is: What good does it do to keep non-violent users of drugs in prison? Does imprisonment do anything for them? Does it do anything for us? If so, what? At about $20,000 a year per addict, the usual figure for the cost of incarceration, keeping penny-ante druggies in the slam gets expensive.... Read More
Looking Under Rocks On East Colfax
Over ten years have gone by since the first police ride-along I ever did, in the region of East Colfax Avenue in Denver. It was a summer night reeking of pollution. Colfax was the city's Times Square, a plummy underclass asylum where the street life flourished like the inside of a rotting log and you... Read More
The Doom That Came Out Of New York
Adam Stone came from New York, joined the Arlington department eight years ago, and eventually found the love of his life-traffic tickets. Really. Last year he issued 4,000 summonses, yet, making him the Arlington champion. "I just love this job," he says. "Aren't you glad? Anyway, when the Special Operations Section asked whether I'd like... Read More
Bad Night In The Burbs
Last Thursday night I was riding with Officer Bob Barnett of Arlington and nothing much was happening, odd since the weather had turned warm and every degenerate in the county should have been out robbing and killing. We were in a shiny new dark-green unmarked car with the air-conditioning on, talking about nothing in particular.... Read More
Not As Simple As It Would Seem
The other day I went with a buddy to a shooting range in northern Virginia to do some target shooting. The range is set up for target, as distinct from the combat ranges, with pop-up targets, sometimes used to train police. The lanes have trolleys that take paper targets to twenty-five, fifty, or seventy-five feet... Read More
I Wonder Why The Protected Groups All Vote Democratic
The continuing effort to expand laws against hate crimes is not, I think, good for either the police or the country. Let me tell you why. To begin with, the effect is to create political crimes. In the past, if I shot a Vietnamese, or Mormon, or white Christian, or homosexual, the crime would be... Read More
A Wise Old Cop Thinks About Drugs
Chicago--I spent the other night in the city, chatting with a cop, buddy of mine, who has seen as much of the criminal-justice system as any man I know. I don't say he speaks for all policemen, but I think many would agree with him. Some of his comments may be of interest. "There isn't... Read More
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Fred Reed
About Fred Reed

Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.

He has been published in Playboy, Soldier of Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Harper's, National Review, Signal, Air&Space, and suchlike. He has worked as a police writer, technology editor, military specialist, and authority on mercenary soldiers.


Personal Classics
Not What Tom Jefferson Had in Mind
Sounds Like A Low-Ranked American University To Me
Very Long, Will Bore Hell Out Of Most People, But I Felt Like Doing It
It's Not A Job. It's An Adventure.
Cloudy, With Possible Tidal Wave