Equal Opportunity Jack Boots

FS cop

The former governor of New Mexico and his Taos ski area resort jet-setter friends are outraged at Forest Service cops. “People here are 100 percent pissed off,” said former NM Governor and “avid skier” Gary Johnson. What’s upset Taos’ upper crust is a Forest Service “saturation patrol” of the ski area, much of which occupies federal land. The patrol, involving four flak-jacketed and armed FS officers, plus their drug-sniffing canine colleague, didn’t find much — “possession amounts of marijuana to cracked windshields.”

In the good old days, the Forest Service limited its heavy-handed tactics to hippies, e.g., the Rainbow Family. Nice to see the FS no longer discriminates.

26 thoughts on “Equal Opportunity Jack Boots”

  1. I assume the FS must have some reason to patrol a ski area with armed and armored officers. There must have been reports of people enjoying themselves on public land.

  2. Somehow I knew it would come to this. When they started all this back in the early ’70s, I was concerned, and I see now my concern was justified. Always have a few who love to wear a gun and play cops and robbers. Sad to see. I bet their underwear is no longer green…maybe black? Not what the USFS is supposed to be.

  3. Armed FS officers are also a common sight during morel mushroom picking season, where it seems like anyone with long hair and/or brown skin is guilty until proven innocent (or at least provides proof that they have cut their mushrooms in half). If only the Forest Service LEO’s were as aggressive looking for violations at timber sales, gas wells, grazing allotments, etc.

    • Yeah, that is JUST WHAT WE NEED! Forest Service LEO’s inspecting slash treatments, utilization and waterbars *smirk*. What about having LEO’s investigate eco-folks masquerading as Forest Service employees, entering closed areas, looking for litigation fodder. Yes, I saw that happen on one of my projects, and I rejoiced in hearing that I locked them into the closure area and they didn’t get out until the loggers finished work for the evening. *SMIRK*

  4. As Joe Friday used to say – ‘Just the facts Ma’am, just the facts’.

    I find it very interesting that the naysayers above neglected to point out that this was a “drug sweep” and “Poague has said the sweep came after Forest Service officers had received reports of DWI offenses and alleged sales of Molly, a drug similar to Ecstasy, in the area surrounding the resort.”

    Then there is this from the GAO: “In 1996, there were 3,481 offenses involving serious misdemeanors and felonies such as assaults, grand theft, and murder, and 118,596 petty offenses such as careless driving, discharging a firearm, use of firecrackers, alcohol violations, and permit violations.”
    From page 4 of the GAO’s 1998 report on the Law Enforcement Activities of the USFS at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GAOREPORTS-T-RCED-98-201/pdf/GAOREPORTS-T-RCED-98-201.pdf

    Campgrounds can be dangerous places on hot summer nights. Then there are the pot growers and poachers as well as bears and cougars and other wild animals that require them to carry firearms to protect themselves and the public.

    The selective reporting here isn’t surprising.

  5. This wasn’t a “drug sweep”, it was a general parking lot search without probable cause. The Supreme Court (in Caballes) allowed drug-sniffing dogs in the context of legitimate traffic stops, but suspicionless dog sniffs in parking lots or on sidewalks are not authorized by Caballes, and the Court has found random drug checkpoints unconstitutional.

    Pot growers, poachers, bears and cougars are rarely found in ski area parking lots, so those issues are irrelevant.

  6. I am greatly disappointed by some of the comments above and think that the authors should reconsider their words and come to realize that their words are irresponsible and shameful.

    What part of “the sweep came after Forest Service officers had received reports of DWI offenses and alleged sales of Molly” don’t you understand (see Andy’s OP first link)? Receiving reports = suspicion. What is random about a direct “drug sweep” (see Andy’s OP first link) intervention taken in direct response to specific informants who correctly reported on a current tenuous situation? If informants don’t provide probable cause then, by the logic of some above, it’s not probable cause when a neighbor reports that he hears what sounds like someone beating his wife. I’ll let one of you inform “Neighborhood Watch” that their activities are illegal.

    Can you imagine what a mess the USFS would have been in if they hadn’t responded to the direct reports? Kinda like calling 911 to report a burglar had just smashed in your car window in front of your house and the 911 operator had said ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you when we get off of break if we remember’. The callers who reported these parking lot problems deserve at least as much respect as the former governor or others who felt that their parade was being rained on without considering that they were raining on other people’s parades. Sorry, but this sounds like a bunch of spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum.

    Re: “Pot growers, poachers, bears and cougars are rarely found in ski area parking lots, so those issues are irrelevant.”
    –> So what percent risk of an officer loosing their life is acceptable and relevant to you? Is 1% acceptable? How about 0.1% or 0.01%? Better yet, what percent risk of never coming home to your spouse and children would you be willing to take as a law enforcement officer? It’s a game of odds. To survive until retirement law officers, their superiors and the citizens that they work for all must do everything possible to reduce the odds. The post game analyses made above by non-professionals might be appropriate for a football or baseball game but they have no place in the life and death game of law enforcement. Is a law enforcement officer supposed to go into a parking lot without a weapon where troubles have been reported? By the rules of law of some, a law enforcement officer is supposed to leave their weapon in the car/truck until they need it. What’s next, is the officer supposed to call Guy and see if it’s ok for the officer to go back to his truck and get his weapon if he can walk there after a DUI has just rammed him? Has anyone here looked down the barrel of a gun in a perfectly innocent setting in mid daylight? Does anyone here have 100% reliable ESP? Has anyone here looked at any law enforcement vehicle dash cam videos especially when drugs and alcohol are involved? Heavy handed is just fine by me. They’d find out that the odds of heavy handedness would be reduced significantly if they did what the officers told them, said yes sir and no sir and kept their hands in plain sight. And guess what if they weren’t hanging around where illegal activities were going on, the odds of heavy handedness would be zero. My father explained all of that to me before I was 10 years old.

    I just don’t understand the misplaced/twisted sense of right and wrong here. I just don’t understand why some here don’t consider the odds of a law enforcement officer or others being killed or seriously harmed if they don’t have their weapon handy at all times. I just don’t understand why anyone but a perpetrator would declare that illegal activities should be protected more than the life of a person who is willing to lay down his or her life to save them and innocent bystanders from the consequences of their illegal actions. What part of being impaired by alcohol and or other drugs and the associated destructive activities and tendency to escalate don’t people understand? Why is anyone surprised that the people carrying out illegal activities were upset about being caught? Even more important, why does anyone here care about the protestations of people caught carrying out clearly defined illegal activities?

  7. I’m sure that the Taos Ski Area SWAT raid had nothing to do with this memo:

    From: Lucero, Aban -FS
    Sent: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 9:56 AM
    To: FS-pdl r3 lei captains; Orona, Martin -FS; Dobson, Aaron W -FS
    Cc: Poague, Robin -FS
    Subject: FY 13 Officer Statistics

    Good morning Captains, please see attached FY 13 Officer Statistics Report generated
    this morning. Please take a look at the numbers and share with your LEOs. You know
    better than I do if there is reason for concern. You know what LEOs were on details,
    light duty, had recruits and so forth. Again, please address any issues you
    see. Understand, Director Ferrell has clearly indicated his expectations of LEOs issuing a
    minimum of 100 VNs per year
    , and as you can see we have approximately 70% of LEOs
    (excluding BZ) who fall below that number. I know for FY 13 we hired new LEOs, had
    LEOs doing collateral duties as FTOs, LEOs on light duty and other circumstances.

    For FY 14, I expect these numbers to increase substantially……If anyone has any
    questions, please feel free to call me……Thank you……ABAN

    Aban Lucero
    Regional Patrol Commander
    Law Enforcement & Investigations
    USFS Southwestern Region
    Albuquerque, NM 87102
    Office (505) 842-3362

    • Andy

      Why is this comment pertinent? The facts are that illegal activities were perpetrated. Are you saying that it is ok for illegal activities to be unilaterally ignored by law enforcement officers? I know that our prez contends that it is ok for him to ignore laws but I doubt that even he would contend that each law officer and each of us citizens has the right to unilaterally decide what laws are ok to ignore. Are you an anarchist? Or do you just like to use straw men to obfuscate and distract from your unsubstantiated innuendos?

      Now to this latest comment of yours:

      How come you ignored this qualifying statement: “You know better than I do if there is reason for concern. You know what LEOs were on details, light duty, had recruits and so forth. Again, please address any issues you see”. Instead, you focus entirely on “For FY 14, I expect these numbers to increase substantially” and then again ignore this second qualifying statement “……If anyone has any questions, please feel free to call me”.

      This is no different than in any business where performance is measured against goals and where goals are part of a negotiation process between all of the people involved and the facts that they can bring to the table. When the annual review comes up then, once again, the parties discuss the facts and they become part of the basis for determining the coming year’s goals. Goals are set high and there is no expectation that more than 10% will approach hitting all of their goals.

      What substantiation do you have of any USFS employees being dismissed for failing to meet only 70% of their goals as justification for your innuendo? Remember we are talking about fed employees.

      • Gil:

        Unless I missed it, I think Andy was pointing out the need to “meet a quota” as a possible reason for the presence of armed “foresters” with dope-sniffing police dogs patrolling the sidewalks of a popular ski resort. Maybe a focused attempt to get a better social balance of citations between growers and users; kind of like a prostitutes and johns type of approach so it doesn’t look like a racial, sexual, or financial standing kind of operation. That would be way (way) different than “performance goals” that “any business” would use.

        • Bob

          I clearly understood what he was getting at. What I am getting at is the law is the law. Change it or live by it or expect to get bit by it. Anarchy doesn’t work very well at all and it doesn’t exist for very long http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.commonsensegovernment.com%2F%2Fpix%2Ftytler.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.commonsensegovernment.com%2Farticle-03-14-09.html&h=321&w=360&tbnid=tR5ef0QdQWzvEM%3A&zoom=1&docid=_wJFLJ-B50fD6M&ei=el02U7EWqa_ZBf76gIAH&tbm=isch&ved=0CFsQhBwwAg&iact=rc&dur=8037&page=1&start=0&ndsp=21

          Bob, my obvious ire in the rest of this is not directed at you but to those who believe in 2nd guessing law enforcement officers while ignoring inconvenient facts and not even being willing to wait for the professional incident review. That includes lawyers who convict without a jury or judge.

          Re: “Maybe a focused attempt to get a better social balance … kind of like a prostitutes and johns type of approach”
          –> I don’t see much social balance when the prostitutes get hauled in and the John’s get off scott free. If someone wants legal prostitution, then they should move to Holland or go march on the White House for legal prostitution or quit complaining when they get roughed up a little when they offer resistance to arrest.
          –> What’s wrong with the social balance that comes from either 1) obeying the law or 2) turning to civil disobedience? I may disagree with others as to what constitutes a civil society but I have been willing to lay my life on the line to defend a civil society and everyone’s right to peaceful protest when the laws have been enacted by duly elected representatives. If they aren’t duly elected then it’s a whole different ball game.
          –> What is good about a law that some people can get away with and others can’t? It only adds to confusion and resentment between opposing sides and encourages even more people to disobey the law. The more others disobey the law, the more inclined I become to protect myself from the resulting anarchy by resorting to a concealed carry license. I don’t want that burden but if push comes to shove, I will take it on.
          –> Why are alcohol DUI’s more deadly than our current losses on the battlefield? Because people can get away with it. Enforce the law and take away a person’s drivers license for a year for the 1st offense, 10 years for the second and lifetime for the third and if any DUI contributes to the loss of life then hang them naked in public without a hood over their head and watch the DUI offenses drop like a rock.
          —– http://www.madd.org/blog/2012/december/2011-State-data.html
          —– 31% of all traffic accident deaths in the US in 2010 and 2011 were Drunk Driving related (10,136 in 2010 and 9,878 in 2011). We’ve come along way from the 17,602 alcohol related traffic deaths in 2006 http://www.rachelelliott.org/Drunk_Driving_Statistics.html but can anyone look me straight in the eyes and say that the lives unwillingly lost to drunken drivers is a fair trade off for ‘just one more round’?
          —– http://icasualties.org/
          —– Total US casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of 2001 ~ 6,800 all who willingly and knowingly risked their lives to keep our country free and civil.
          –> Please don’t tell me that the statistics in the following link are acceptable and that USFS law enforcement officers don’t need guns to protect themselves from humans under the influence in parking lots. http://www.odmp.org/agency/3949-united-states-department-of-agriculture-forest-service-law-enforcement-and-investigations-us-government Please don’t tell me that you know for a fact that none of those people in that parking lot was in a mental state equivalent to a half cocked trigger who was dissuaded by the four man unit with flack vests, dogs and weapons as used in the drug sweep referred to in the opening post.

          People have to learn that there are serious consequences for taking other people’s freedoms (intentionally or unintentionally due to irresponsible activities) from them in order to increase their own freedom. Across the board: crooked bankers, US Treasury Secretary’s that forget to pay their taxes, pot heads behind the wheel, pimps, drug dealers and even ski resort revelers all have to get the message which is ‘you harm my freedoms because of your unwillingness to obey the law and you will pay an extremely heavy burden’. One final thought, drug dealers and other murderers (not in self defense) should be hung naked in public without a hood over their head on the first offense.

    • I’ll agree with Andy just a tiny bit here. Given that we didn’t even HAVE twig pigs for a long time, as they honestly weren’t necessary….I am bothered by directives that are obviously targeted at self-justifying metrics to impress budget allocators. If there’s nothing to bust people on, then maybe the LEO thing is not that necessary for the Forest Service, except in narrow cases or small areas of the USFS system.
      I can see LEO needs for morel season, or rowdy campgrounds, or a high illegal transit rate, even timber theft (which is a pretty thin reason given there’s so little forestry going on), even ski areas (crowded playgrounds, ya know) — but day to day, I have my doubts that badged and gunned USFS staff are really necessary in the first place.

  8. The whole issue is that the Feds took over local law enforcement when the Congress quit funding counties with adequate PILT dollars. The Fed estate is worthless, according to the US Govt., and the inholding private lands go for thousands of dollars per acre and pay property taxes accordingly. Only there are not enough private acres in many western counties to pay taxes enough to support, now, even a working sheriff’s dept., which should have been the agency policing the ski area on Federal land. The private ski area has a conditional use permit, and only title to the improvements, but the sheriff still has legal jurisdiction over ALL the land in his or her county. Only now, not enough funds to carry out the job. That was a predicted outcome of the vast changes to Federal land management, no more logging, and the predictions have come true. In the stead of a local police and court system, of peers, we now have the National Police, all the various departmental Federal police agencies, forces, replete with SWAT teams (even the US Dept of Education has a SWAT team! ) and military surplus combat kit and armaments. Fortress America includes the USFS land. They have secret secure radio and internet channels, and the People have no idea of what they do or plan on doing. I guess having the indignity of having a dope dog sniffing your butt in a ski area parking lot will be a part of it. I thought the egregious instances of USFS cops writing speeding tickets on US 97 south of Bend, Oregon was a little much. “We were deputized by the county sheriff.” If that is all they have to do, be traffic cops, then why do we have them?

    I rode the train this winter to Seattle. Got on in Salem, off for coffee in Portland for a 45 minute wait, and then non-stop to Seattle. The trip back was far different. In Seattle, there were maybe 75 people waiting to get on the train, which goes to LA and maybe San Diego. There were three plain clothes TSA cops, and out on the platform, another pair of assault rifle toting, full uniformed TSA cops. The unshaven, unkempt plain clothes ones had a yellow lab dog they led up and down the queued passengers, patiently standing line inside the station, waiting to be allowed to go out and board. A tall man stood off to the side silently watching it all, a mic sort of hidden near his mouth and the ubiquitous ear plugs. Same with all the other TSA cops. Full Wally security for a train ride. Just another cost of living in the US now.

    • JTjr

      Good comments

      Americans are just too comfortable and don’t understand that we are no different than Israel. Like Israel we have to be vigilant to minimize the potential damage that others would like to inflict on us in order to destabilize us with fear and turn us on each other.

      As to the dislike of Jack Boots mentioned by others, I suggest that they have no comprehension of what real Jack Boots look like. Anyone want to broaden their education and move to Syria, Ukrainia, Iran and etc. in order to find out what real Jack Boots look like? Anyone want to be a Tartar in Crimea about now?

      As for me, I have no problem with a wonderful dog sniffing me anywhere or anytime. As for me, I have no problem with the USFS or anyone else handing out speeding tickets or patrolling a parking lot. In fact, I appreciate law enforcement officers because they reduce the odds of me or someone close to me being harmed. I am free of fear of or embarrassment by law enforcement officers because I have nothing to hide.

      Anyone who is nice to law enforcement will find that they are wonderful people who need to be dealt with from a non-threatening, compliant manner because of their very singular focus on staying alive while combating illegal activities in an environment where the enemy isn’t wearing a uniform so as to be easily recognized. If they weren’t this way, they wouldn’t be of much value in protecting us.

      • Sorry, Gil, but I don’t like the idea of being sniffed just because I want to go for a plane or train ride. It is something I will never, ever get used to, and resent a world in which such is “necessary.” In fact, when you do the actual math of how much has been spent, how much time is wasted, and how many lives saved — have you ever noticed how all these terror “busts” are actually stings of set-up morons, with Leland Yee being a classic example of a complete idiot….

        • Dave

          Well, we have finally found something that we disagree on.

          You can “resent a world in which such is “necessary”” as much as you want to but I don’t find resentment to be a constructive use of my time as it only makes life less enjoyable. Accept things as they are or work peacefully to change them but please don’t think that wishful thinking, resentment or sticking your head in the sand will make the threats requiring “necessary action” go away.

          As to “when you do the actual math of how much has been spent, how much time is wasted, and how many lives saved”. I don’t believe that anyone has any real idea of how many lives have been saved. Some of us look to Israel and all of the other conflict points and come to the subjective conclusion that it is worth the effort because we have learned in our personal lives that the only way to keep a bully from continually escalating his demands is to stand up to him.

          • Gil,
            One of the things I USED to be proud of was that Americans didn’t need badges with MP5s to guard our voting places. I remember two trips to Washington, DC in which I took time to go to the Capitol after hours and just snoop around looking at the workmanship. The capitol police and the plant staff were fully on board with my adventures, in fact, nobody even hesitated to make it even more interesting.
            How about visiting a nice big dam like Grand Coulee or asking for a tour of a sawmill or railroad yard, or simply being told to “go for it, have fun.”
            Contrast that with today.
            My point was, we have spent billions upon billions on “security” — wasted millions upon millions of hours in extra time herding people like sheep, and it turns out the events thwarted were stopped by seatmates, not “professionals.” We’ve got cameras everywhere, NSA sniffing for whatever looks interesting, SWAT units in every jerkwater town — yet nobody can say hey, we’ve actually prevented XX terrorist incidents by all this.
            As for handling bullies — what about Putin? Oh, Easter Island Kerry is more concerned with global warming……
            I think we gave up too much of our American essence for too little. Sorry, just the way I feel — resentful.

            • Dave

              I grew up in Arlington, Va in the ’50’s and early 60’s, we constantly had search lights scanning the sky at night for enemy attacks. At the end of the summer of ’64, after getting back from working on the Shasta Trinity. I walked home from the bus station in DC in the middle of the night carrying two suitcases so I lived so close that I can certainly relate to how things were. Re walking home, I was out of cash and sure wasn’t going to wake my father up in the middle of the night and ask him to come and get me when he had to get up at 6:00 to catch the bus to work in DC. 🙂

              Good times but, ‘time stands still for no man’ as a great man once said.

  9. Take away the money and the People lose local control. Very easy to do. Let someone else do it as the American Way.

  10. The use of drug-sniffing dogs on cars in a parking lot is a search. The rules regarding searches and seizures come primarily from the 4th Amendment and from many many court cases including SCOTUS cases. The rules aren’t rocket science, you can look them up. Professional law enforcement officers (the good ones) are well aware of these rules and abide by them, in part because they don’t want evidence they obtain to be thrown out of court. They understand that “suspicion” is not the same thing as probable cause, and that “reports of DWI offenses and alleged sales of Molly” are very unlikely to pass muster in court.

    It may be gratifying to rant about these things, but probably more productive to crack a book and learn about them. The city/state police and sherrif’s department officers that I encounter understand all this, they’re a pretty progressive group. They understand that constitutional requirements aren’t there to protect the rights of criminals, in fact that analysis is completely backwards. My impression is that those officers understand there are tradeoffs between a free society and a secure society, and they have to walk that line. Meanwhile, armchair law-and-order types who condone exceptions to lawful police procedure, and who dream up exotic punishments for offenders, show both ignorance of the Constitution and contempt for it. Not pointing to anyone here, just sayin’.

    USFS law enforcement people have the same obligations, and need to follow the same rules. Maybe they did in this case, and the newspaper reporting is all wrong. But if they can’t follow the rules, they should probably find another line of work and not tarnish the agency’s image.

    • Guy

      Why have you ignored the currently available facts of March 26 upon which the opening post is based? ( http://newmexico.watchdog.org/20916/answers-promised-in-controversial-forest-service-sweep-at-ski-resort/ ) Why have you used an out of date March 13 report which is significantly contradicted by the later article by the same author which clearly stated that it was a drug sweep. Seems like an apology is in order.

      An earlier comment of yours included: “This wasn’t a “drug sweep”, it was a general parking lot search without probable cause. The Supreme Court (in Caballes) allowed drug-sniffing dogs in the context of legitimate traffic stops, but suspicionless dog sniffs in parking lots or on sidewalks are not authorized by Caballes, and the Court has found random drug checkpoints unconstitutional.” You have conveniently ignored my prior efforts to point out the errors in your words taken from the much earlier report which is your basis for character assassination of both USFS law enforcement officers and myself.

      So, let’s try one more time to see if you are willing to discuss this calmly point by point based on the facts currently available as of March 26 instead of an article thirteen days older. Here are expanded versions of my previous questions that you have chosen to ignore prior to this point.
      a) The article explicitly states that it was a “drug sweep” – Do you expect me to believe that a drug sweep doesn’t require probable cause? Prove me right or wrong with a link to a specific law that says either: ‘a federal drug sweep does/doesn’t require probable cause’.
      b) Why do you also contradict the article when it points out that there were multiple informants and yet you rely on the incorrect report to make your statement that this was “suspicion-less dog sniffs in parking lots or on sidewalks”? Why did you ignore me and start a rant without making sure that you had the latest info?
      c) Hopefully you can now admit that this wasn’t a random drug checkpoint since the article in the opening post makes it clear that it was a direct response to complaints and therefore, by definition, wasn’t random.
      d) Why are you so quick to serve as judge and jury without considering the latest info and before the results of a followup investigation are in? I am willing to accept the results of the followup investigation are you?


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