CA: At the beginning of the book you say several times
that you were really dedicated to the idea of becoming an NY City
Police Officer. Why was it so important to you? And do you still
have the same reasons for being a police officer or have they changed?
RR: I think I held a romantic (and somewhat naïve)
notion as to what a police officer did. Hopefully I've matured a
bit in the job (been at it over thirty years now). I used to crave
the adventure of the work (beside my undercover assignment I served
as a homicide detective, robbery squad detective, narcotics officer
and helicopter pilot, among other things). I also found (even more
so today) that I got a good deal of satisfaction in helping people.
The criminal justice system has evolved to the benefit of the police/prosecutors/defense
attorneys /judges. It is a maze to be avoided by the average citizen.
When I could help a victim work their way through this minefield
it was a good feeling.
CA: You are very even handed in your commentary about the
goals and actions of the JDL during the period you were working
undercover in the organization. You only seem to have problems with
their actions and goals when they might be a danger to themselves
and others. After so many years in law enforcement how do you keep
yourself from generalizing about extremist groups and their ideologies?
RR: : As a person I hold many opinions. As a police officer
I am not entitled to espouse them to the same degree as the average
citizen. Police officers cannot do their jobs and at the same time
be social activists. What would you think of a chief of police who
spoke strongly for some issue you felt strongly about? For example,
if a person in my position took a position on the matter of abortion,
half the population would look kindly on my words, the other half
would be upset and concerned that I would not enforce the law in
order to protect their rights and interests. Silence is therefore
most appropriate in such matters. As for extremist groups and their
ideologies, I hold many strong opinions. Which shall remain mine.
CA: It's common for most people to feel bad about lying,
even when it's for a good reason. While you were infiltrating the
JDL, did you ever feel bad about lying to people you were pretending
to befriend or did the necessity of the information you were gathering
make up for it?
RR: Interesting question. I pride myself in being honest
and forthright, yet, as you point out, I mislead the members of
the JDL during my undercover assignment. I suppose the end justified
the means. In fact, I liked a number of the people I was involved
with in that organization. I found them bright and articulate. But
they were doing things that if unchecked could have had a terrible
impact on society (their desire to blowup the Soviet Diplomatic
Mission comes to mind) and in fact lead up to the death of a young
woman. The bottom line was, it was my duty and I had no other choice.
CA: Your ideas on guns and citizens are also very even handed.
I was surprised that you were in favor of an armed populace. How
do you feel about the current controversy about guns and children/teenagers?
Do you believe that the only way to protect kids from guns is to
strictly control them or take them away altogether?
RR: Freedom is a delicate thing. Every law which goes on
the books is one small detraction from our liberties. I understand
the need for control of human actions, as anarchy is the ultimate
tyranny. Nonetheless, I'd much prefer to see the myriad laws we
have on the law books enforced before we create new ones. As for
dealing with firearms, children and teenagers, clearly a person
must be responsible prior to being given access to such devices.
I have no qualm about such controls aimed at youth and others who
should not have access to weapons. However, I tend to object to
these controls when it impacts my freedoms. Many law officers wish
for strict firearms controls. They would well be advised to remember
that they won't be law officers for the rest of their lives and
will have to live with the restrictions they promulgate and which
CA: What do you mean by anarchy is the ultimate tyranny?
RR: In a society which is out of control only the powerful,
and armed, have freedom. Everyone else is subservient to them, with
no recourse to the whims of that group.
CA: After your assignment was over, what did you feel had
accomplished on a social level, or on a legal level?
RR: The end of the assignment was bitter sweet for me. As
you saw in the book, an abuse of authority on the part of the federal
government (an illegal wiretap) came close to having us totally
lose the case. I have no doubt the less than draconian sentences
handed down in the plea bargain deal can be argued to have emboldened
the JDL leadership and enhanced their view that the authorities
were incompetent. This resulted in a number of successful JDL bombings
and the death of an innocent young woman.
CA: Do you feel that the JDL changed in any way due to your
work? Do you think that extreme political groups will ever stop
forming or is it just a side effect of society?
RR: The JDL became quite paranoid after I surfaced. There
was an internal witch-hunt at one point which came close to resulting
in the murder of one of the members (a man who had nothing to do
with law enforcement). It certainly made police surveillance and
penetration of that organization very difficult. As to whether extreme
political groups will ever cease to form, I would respond, sure,
if you create a society which is made up without people. As a species
we are a most intractable, xenophobic group. I think we tend to
lose sight of the fact that humans are little more then advanced
primates. Study chimps and you will see just how well we will be
able to live and work together. The main difference between us and
our less sophisticated cousins is; we can come up with an unlimited
number of reasons why we ought to slaughter our neighbors, and,
we have the tools that make it easy to do.
CA: This was your first assignment for the NYPD, and it
seems like any assignment after this might be kind of a let down.
Did the rest of your NYPD career hold up to this first job? What
were some of the better moments for you on the force?
RR: I had a remarkably diverse and interesting career in
that department. Some of my favorite assignments were; Homicide
detective-I worked in the Bronx. It was a time in the history of
the city when there were over 2,000 homicides a year. One of the
detectives at work put up a handwritten sign on his locker. It read:
"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man.... And
those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it... Never
really care for anything else." Signed; Ernest Hemingway
Going to homicide scene after homicide scene,
then seeking out the perpetrators of the crimes, gives one an interesting
perspective on life.
My assignment to the Robbery squad was also pretty
intense. Our task was to arrest heavily armed robbery teams. We
were well trained and equipped for the work, but it did get your
attention. Once, two of my two partners and I interrupted a bank
robbery in progress. Four bad guys with guns. We made them an offer
they couldn't refuse.
Then there was Aviation. The department taught
me to fly helicopters. I flew as pilot in command in Bell Jet Rangers
and Huey UH-1Bs. We did some interesting things in those ships.
So, I guess you can say I had a most interesting
and eclectic career after my undercover assignment.
CA: You're now a police chief in a small town, especially
compared to New York, how do you like that? What do you like most
about it, and what do you miss about you work in New York?
RR: After twenty years in the NYPD I was ready for a change.
I wanted to be in charge of my own "sand box" as it were. Small
town policing is very different from urban law enforcement. I'm
living in a fish bowl. Every action I take is scrutinized by the
citizens of my little Cape Cod town. You get used to it. As in so
much else in life, working here is a trade-off. Now, instead of
commuting an hour and half to work I live five minutes from my office.
I get to come home for lunch. My wife joined the local fire department
(she became an EMT and a Firefighter I since moving here) so I have
the pleasure of assisting her in the field (as happened today, at
a car accident). I like to say I am one of the few husbands around
who can honestly state that he's helped his wife both putting on
and taking off her Scott air pack (a breathing apparatus) as she
prepared to enter, then exited, a burning building.
Do I miss anything about NY? In truth, not much.
The NYPD has become so put upon by recent circumstances I am pleased
not be a part of that agony. On the other hand, the restaurants
in NYC are the best!
CA: You mentioned your wife having become a firefighter.
Are you still married to the German woman you talked about in the
book? If so, you guys have had quite the exciting careers throughout
your marriage, not the usual married couple.
RR: Yes, I'm married to Frauke, a firefighter and EMT. She
became a member of the fire department when we moved to Wellfleet.
She's very good at it. We met while I was stationed in Berlin (I
was in military intelligence, a Russian language specialist). She
was studying architectural engineering at the time. We married one
week prior to my becoming a police officer and have been together
nearly 31 years. Which only proves that that woman can put up with
anything! Not sure about us having exciting careers, but I guess
you're right. Funny, when you live it, it doesn't seem all that
CA: There is always something in the news, especially in
Los Angeles about the capabilities of women in jobs like the police
force and fire fighting. You must have a lot of first hand knowledge
about the subject. Do you have any thoughts on it?
RR: Women in law enforcement carry with them the same capabilities,
assets and liabilities as the men. We have to get away from the
"Them vs. Us" way of thinking, same with our various ethnic, racial
and religious groups. Problem is, the human animal is such a contentious
beast that working together in harmony is not something we do very