Three things I learned from Barry Cooper: 1. If you’re going to carry pot in your car, also bring your cat to freak out the drug dogs. 2. It takes balls to go on Fox News and talk about drug reform. 3. The word “marijuana” sounds a lot more interesting with a Southern accident.
Barry Cooper spent eight years of his life as a cop, busting people for drug possession and teaching other cops to do the same. Now he teaches stoners how to avoid arrest with his Never Get Busted Again DVDs. He’s unabashedly self-promotional, but his true story gives us a fascinating look inside the cloistered world of drug enforcement and shows that, just because you spend years of your life on one side of a battle, it’s never too late to change your mind.
You’re responsible for hundreds of arrests. Who were you were busting?
Go to your local grocery store and watch all the people. Those are who I busted. Ordinary, normal, everyday citizens. My typical arrest was a marijuana smoker driving down the road.
How did you bust them?
One technique I invented and taught other officers was to place a yard dog at the exit of a bus and say that if any person carried drugs off the bus, the dog would bark. Of course, the dog was not trained to detect drugs, but this made passengers leave their drugs on the bus.
I would then instruct them to remove their luggage from the overhead rack and place it in their seat before exiting, so the dog could take a sniff. With five cops and myself standing around, drug couriers would leave the drug suitcases on the top shelf. I would then search the bags left on the top shelf and find drugs in every one.
I made over 100 seizures this way. I never had to use a real drug dog and I never had to interview anyone to find their stash.
Now, looking back, how do you feel about all those busts?
I still get teary-eyed when thinking of the 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter crying as I escorted their mother and father away to jail during a marijuana search warrant. I orphaned those children. I caused much more trauma and harm on that family then marijuana could ever have caused them.
I am proud that I overwhelmed my field, but sad I ruined those lives. I should have researched the facts for myself and not listened solely to my teachers. I am sad about that.
Later in your career, you taught other cops how to be better busters. What were those students like?
They were not the brightest crayons in the box. Even as a cop, I noticed the ignorance levels of other officers. The pay is so little, the more intelligent ones leave once they figure out how to make a living doing something else. I’m not picking on them, but it’s true – they just aren’t that bright.
You got in trouble for busting some high-profile people (the mayor’s son, a city councilman). Is there an unspoken rule about certain people being off-limits?
There used to be. Now those people seem to be trophies for cops. The old standard was to protect the businessmen and politicians in the community. Now, these people are targets of law enforcement. My goodness, we put Martha Stewart in jail!
Now that no person is safe from arrest, more awareness is being brought to the problems with our criminal justice system. When it was just the black people getting arrested, nothing was said. Now that white America is watching their sons and daughters go to prison, the issue is being raised across the country.
So are you for legalization of all drugs or just pot?
I am totally against prohibition. It does not work. If a person wants to use meth until every tooth rots in their head, they should have the right to be miserable. If that person ever crosses the line and harms another, then arrest them for the assault, or rape or murder. We already have laws in place to protect us without unjustified drug laws.
Now you’re producing the Never Get Busted Again DVDs, helping people to avoid getting busted themselves. Is this a “fuck you” to the system that ousted you?
It is standing up and doing the right thing more than anything. My mother used to tell me, “It doesn’t matter if 5,000 people are wrong and against you, stand up and be heard.” This is very simple to do but rarely seen in today’s time. If standing up for what is right means I have to say “fuck you” to the system, then so be it. It would be unpatriotic to do anything else.
My work is also a political stance against the war on drugs. It is clear the courts are doing nothing to protect us from unreasonable arrests and searches, so I am teaching Americans how to subvert their efforts and stay out of jail.
I’m running for Congress, by the way.
You can find out more about Barry Cooper at nevergetbusted.com.