Like drugs? An ex-narcotics agent reveals the secrets to staying one step ahead of the law
By Neel Shah
During his eight-year stint as a cop inTexas—two of them as head of narcotics for the Gladewater Police Department—Barry Cooper made over 800 drug-related arrests, impounded more than 50 vehicles, and seized at least $500,000 in cash and assets. He worked with everyone from the DEA to the FBI to border patrol, earning a reputation as the “best narcotics officer in the state, and perhaps the country,” according to a former colleague. So what did Cooper, now married with four kids, learn from his experience?
“The war on drugs is an utterly losing proposition,” he tells Radar. “We caused more harm breaking up families to put non-violent drug offenders in jail than the drugs ever did. And for what? To eradicate 1/10th of a percent of drugs on the street.”
Cooper’s epiphany stems in part from a few legal skirmishes of his own—he’s been arrested five times (all non-drug-related offenses), though convicted only once, of a misdemeanor verbal assault charge. Plenty of cops lose faith in the system, but Cooper’s 180 was so complete, he’s now helping people to subvert it. Never Get Busted Again, in stores this September (or available now through his website), is a DVD compendium of advice for potheads looking to avoid the po-po, breezily narrated by the man formerly tasked with putting them behind bars. “I really just felt guilty about what I had done with my life,” says Cooper. “This was the least I could do.”
Because potheads have notoriously short attention spans, we asked Cooper to boil down his DVD into easy-to-read bullet points. Safe toking.
TRAVELING WITH MARIJUANA
- The best advice I can give you is this: Never carry more marijuana than you can eat. If the police turn on the red and blues, just eat it. It’s not illegal to smell like pot—it’s just illegal to possess it.
- Don’t think that by hiding pot in coffee grounds, or masking the scent with Bounce fabric softener or vanilla extract, you’re gonna be okay. Police dogs are trained to cut through these scents. Petroleum and cayenne pepper don’t work either—a dog may jerk back after smelling it, but humans will recognize the reaction.
- If you are going to travel with marijuana, place it in a non-contamined container right before you leave. The drug odor won’t have time to permeate through the plastic. If you are handling pot at your house, wear latex gloves or wash your hands—marijuana dust can reside on your fingers, and dogs can smell it. You’d be surprised at how many people get busted when dogs start sniffing around car door handles.
- Hiding your drugs in food is also a wise move. The mixed smells will throw off a dog.
- If you just have a joint on you and you get pulled over, put it in a straw, and throw the straw in a fast-food bag. Alternately, reach under the dashboard and place it in one of the numerous nooks and crannies you find. Don’t attempt to throw it out the window—it’s too obvious, and they’ll always find the joint.
- If you are driving with large quantities of narcotics, do so in the rain. Cops hate pulling people over when it’s wet out. Traveling during rush hour and other times of heavy traffic is also a good tactic.
- If you are driving in an area where police officers frequently use dogs, a smart play is to spray your car tires with the “deer scents” and fox urine used by hunters. Often, dogs will get so excited over the smell of a hunt they’ll forget they’re looking for drugs.
- Don’t put marijuana in a gas cap, in an external tank, or anywhere else on the exterior of your vehicle. Dogs will smell it immediately.
- Alternately, travel with a cat. They make a good distraction for canines used in a search.
- A great place to stash pot in your car is toward the interior of the vehicle, tucked into a roof panel. The dog is less likely to detect the scent up high.
- If you want to be extra safe, cook up a batch of cookies or brownies. You rarely, if ever, see arrests made on pot-laden baked goods.
- Don’t hide marijuana with other drugs. If cops find the pot, that’s one thing; getting caught with more serious drugs, though, is a much tougher legal battle to fight.
- DO NOT put any of the following on your vehicle, they’re red flags: D.A.R.E. stickers, Jesus Fish, your Kappa Sig frat sticker, or Vietnam vet stickers. Also, don’t drive a Corvette—cops will pull you over just ’cause. (Ed: According to Mr. Cooper, if you’re driving in Texas, try not to be black or Hispanic, either. Racial profiling abounds.)
- DO NOT scratch your head, light a cigarette, or turn your palms up. All are telltale signs you are nervous and hiding something.
- Know your rights. It’s important to remember the distinction between “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” As stand-alone items, rolling papers, clear baggies, and bongs (as long as there is no resin in them) aren’t sufficient grounds for an officer to search your car. A cop can only conduct a search based on one of the following: he sees or smells a controlled substance, an informant tells him drugs are in the car, or a dog is alerted to the presence of narcotics.
- You have the right to remain silent. Use that. Never answer questions if they are damaging.
- Never admit to having smoked pot just because a cop threatens you with a blood test. The only time you are obligated to consent to a test is if you are served with a search warrant, as is often the case if you are involved in a traffic accident involving serious bodily harm.
- If you have just a little bit of marijuana on you, and it’s decently well-hidden in your car, consent to a search. More often than not, the cop will do a cursory search and be on his way. Claiming your constitutional right against illegal search and seizure is fantastic in theory, but not so much in practice.