I learned a valuable lesson years ago while investigating a bank robbery. I found out that correctional institutions are filled with viable intelligence about criminal activities. My partner, mentor, and teacher – Detective Sergeant Dick Henault – was becoming very frustrated because the “Brass” was turning up the heat on an investigation of ours that had stalled, and the leads were going nowhere. We had one significant lead left and that was the bank teller’s description of one of the robber’s noses – “It was all over his face” it was hideous looking the bank teller kept saying to us.
Then as luck would have it, we were having coffee with an Institutional Parole Officer (I.P.O.) where we were discussing another case we were working on. We happened to mention the bank robbery and the clue we still were working on, the “Nose”. He said he would ask around and let us know if he found out anything. Within a couple of days, we received a phone call from the I.P.O. He had a name and mug shots, prison name was “Knucklehead” (not the real prison name).
When we saw the mug shots we knew what the bank teller meant by her description of the robber’s nose: “It was all over his face”. My partner and I had never seen a nose like this one; it truly was all over his face. I guess it had been broken many, many times from being in fights. We were soon to find out that this guy was a very violent person.
The I.P.O. told us when he queried some of his prison’s cooperating individuals to see if they knew of anyone with a strange nose it didn’t take very long before they identified our suspect. To make a long story short, the suspect was arrested and convicted of armed bank robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
I have shared this story so that other criminal justice and intelligence agencies appreciate the correctional community as a valuable resource for gathering and sharing intelligence. It has been well established that radicalization of inmates takes place everyday in prisons across the world. One of the first was Richard Reed, a.k.a. “The Shoe Bomber”.
Those inmates who are doing the radicalization are not doing it in a vacuum. They are being kept up-to-date and are very familiar and aware with what is happening in the “Free World” on a continuous basis. They have to interact with their individual terrorist groups:
- To conduct background checks on new recruits.
- To get current information that they can use to recruit new members.
- To get information to their groups about when the new recruits are being
- To receive information from the “Free World” telling the new recruits where to report upon release.
Correctional personnel can be valuable in gathering intelligence and sharing that intelligence with other criminal justice and intelligence agencies by:
- Discovering recruiting techniques.
- Sharing the identities of (suspected and confirmed) new recruits.
- Sharing identities of those inmates who were approached but didn’t buy into the radicalization so that they can be questioned as to what methods and techniques were used to recruit them.
- Identifying characteristics that the terrorist recruiters were looking for prior to approaching a person to be a new recruit.
- Informing criminal justice and intelligence agencies of release dates of those inmates doing the recruiting and those who have been recruited.
- Sharing names (and other information contained in the inmates’ “official” visitors lists) of those inmates doing the recruiting as well as confirmed and suspected new recruits.
- Sharing video of visitors who visit recruiters and recruits.
- Sharing audio recordings from visits and telephone conversations.
To be successful against these terrorist groups, agencies must learn to work more closely than ever before. These terrorist groups are waging a war with no guidelines or boundaries; therefore, we must use all the assets we have at our disposal.