A former top narcotics officer, credited with over 800 arrests in eight years, is now selling a DVD that shows marijuana users how to avoid arrest when traveling with a stash. Law enforcement officials are outraged.
The opening of Barry Cooper's DVD has that same compelling, grainy quality you find on true-life cop shows: police cars in high-speed pursuit, drug dogs jumping into the backs of pickups, hidden cameras in hotel rooms and cardboard boxes stuffed with cellophane-wrapped marijuana bricks. But one thing is clear: this is real. The people are about to make their debut on local news.
The DVD is called Never Get Busted Again, and these pictures are from Barry Cooper's previous life. That's what gives him his unique credibility. As a narcotics officer in West Texas, Cooper was a law enforcement star. That was partly due to his work ethic: Stopping 30 cars a day on the highways was routine for Cooper and his K-9 companion.
"We would pull over cars that had college bumper stickers, because we knew college kids often partied with marijuana," Cooper says. "We would pull over 'Vietnam Vet' plates, because a lot of our vets developed a habit over there."
"I feel bad about it," he admits. "I would look for Mexicans. I would look for black people. It works."
When Cooper was invited to train other police departments, he made a game of it. After two days of training, Cooper would ride along on a shift with one of their officers. If he didn't make at least one drug bust during that time, the cost of the training was on him. He never paid a dime.
"There is no highway or jurisdiction that I couldn't work an eight-hour shift and put somebody in jail for drugs," Cooper says.
On the Wrong Side of Small-Town Politics
But when Cooper left West Texas and moved to Upshur County in East Texas, things began to turn. First, Cooper arrested the mayor's son for possession of methamphetamines. He then arrested a city councilman for driving with a bag of pot and a gun. Busting long-hairs on the highway was one thing, but the aggressive narcotics officer was not endearing himself to important people in East Texas. After four years, Cooper left law enforcement behind. He then discovered a little of what life is like on the other side of the police baton.
"I used to break into houses at three o'clock in the morning with 10 other men, after throwing a flash grenade through the window," Cooper says. "I would drag Mom and Dad away and send the kids to the department of human services — over a bag of pot — and totally ruin that entire family. I started reaping what I had sown."
Without the cloak of being a police officer and in the middle of a contentious divorce, Cooper was on the wrong side of small-town politics. He was arrested for returning rental movies late and for unlawfully carrying a gun. His ex-brother-in-law, a constable, showed up with an order to remove his two girls. They put up such a fight, the effort was abandoned.
All of the charges against Cooper were eventually reduced or dismissed entirely, but he was angry. So he figured out a way to hit back — and make money doing it.
"In this section," Cooper narrates on the DVD, "you get to see me make actual narcotics arrests, caught from my dash-mounted patrol camera. And you get to see the mistakes others made, so pay close attention."
The cover of Never Get Busted Again has a picture of Cooper smiling in front of a big marijuana leaf. The chapters have titles like "Search and Seizure," "Hiding Your Stash," "Narcotics Profiling" and "Canines," which gives tips on fooling drug-sniffing dogs.
"Remember what you've been taught," Cooper advises on-screen. "The handler just thinks the dog is being interested in food."
Cooper has dozens of tips. For instance, surrounding marijuana with coffee grounds doesn't work, because the dogs can still smell the dope. For those traveling by car, the video recommends taking their pet cat along, because the K-9 won't stop trying to play with the cat, even if it's taken out of the car.
Cooper laces his advice with factoids about the war on pot. He claims 750,000 Americans are arrested every year for possession and that 400,000 of them are under the age of 25.
Anger Among Law Enforcement
Cooper is not alone among current or former law enforcement officers in his opposition to marijuana laws. But his DVD is no laughing matter to many Texas narcotics officers.
"I don't know how he justifies having played one side of the fence and putting people in jail, and now playing the other side and helping them avoid it," says Herschel Tebay, commander of the Tarrant County Organized Crime Narcotics Unit in Fort Worth. "I don't know how he lives with himself and looks in the mirror."
Tebay says Cooper had a good reputation as a narcotics officer, but he resents that Cooper now helps marijuana users and smugglers. Still, there is little he can do about it.
"One of the things about America is that people can do things you don't like," Tebay says. "And Barry is certainly doing something a lot of people don't like. That doesn't make it illegal."
Cooper plans to make a second DVD called Never Get Raided Again. Texas narcotics officers like that project even less. They're worried that if someone uses Cooper's tips on avoiding a raid, a police officer could get hurt.