Interview With A Former Argentinian Federal Police Officer
The following is with an interview Argentinian individual known as Pepito, about his experiences working as a police officer. English is not the interviewee’s first language. Some minimal changes have been made to spelling and grammar to make the text easier to read. It has been kept true to tone. Italics is the interviewer.
What can you tell me about yourself?
I’m a 41 year old retired PFA officer and former GEOF member. Truth be told, I was the guy in the right place at the wrong time. The PFA is Policía Federal Argentina, the Federal force with jurisdiction within the limits of the country although they mostly operate in the capital city. GEOF is Grupo Especial de Operaciones Federales or Special Federal Ops. Anti terrorism and such. Got a little under 10 years of service, got injured and got sent home. I regret nothing.
Did you have any local police experience before that? Did you have any firearm or outdoors experience beforehand?
No, at the time I joined, a special accelerated training program was in place after a huge wave of desertions, mostly because of budget cuts. The nation was in turmoil since ’95 and they were taking agents ripe from high school, of which I finished when I was 22, and joined to keep from dying of hunger.
What were your qualifications before joining & what were you taught in the police force?
High school with decent grades, and flying colors in my year long criminality and forensic course. Out of 2000 or so, about 150 made it. I was one of them. It also helped that I wasn’t a junkie or psycho unlike most of them.
What were you trained on weapon wise?
We were sent to ranges for handgun (mostly old 1911s and shitty Taurus handguns) and gas launcher training. That said, by the time I graduated, I had still never touched a shotgun. Thankfully things got better once I was assigned to the Comisaría “the station”, and we had a range nearby where we could go to practice with the shotguns. Not much else, honestly. That was for the PFA. GEOF was a completely different thing. We got to ‘play’ with all kinds of guns there.
Glocks, MP5s, UMPs, FALs, and although I don’t personally remember them in my experience, it was fairly common for smol .22s to be present as well.
What was equipment upkeep like? Was everything beat to death?
Very. Things haven’t improved even today. The place was a rundown shithole: broken lights, walls falling off, spiderwebs everywhere, rats in every corner. Almost no hot water and the drunk tanks were always full, dark and damp. We usually had one for like 20 prisoners, and a couple for drunkard kids with no background. If they started shit, we would tell them that we’d put them in the “big boys cage”, and it was usually enough to shut them down. But yeah, we did maintain and ask for our own equipment. We brought the plates for our own vests and we usually did the mechanics for the patrol cars as well. If someone crashed a patrol car, we just slashed the fucked part and kept going.
Is it safe to say that much of the police force saw their weapons as simple tools, and therefore did little to maintain or train with them?
Yeah, absolutely. I was one of them. I guess I still am, but I like shooting and keeping things neat. I can assure you most of the cops back then had a piece of rusted iron that was in the shape of a gun that misfired half the time, if not in every pull. We bought our own ammo and some of those dudes were cheap so… probably empty too.
What was the general state of your fellow officers? In terms of their mindset, training, and general professionalism?
Some were very dedicated, all around good guys trying to make a difference. Some of them, me included, saw it as a mere job. Although it grew on me… But some, especially brass, were the fucking worst. Not only bad people pushing everyone around and demanding protection money like a street crook, but you could also see that they had never sprinted a block in their lives. I still don’t know where they got those XXXL uniforms. It was a mixed bag but better than other forces in the country, that’s for sure. Training wise, we had a weekend every 15 days for maneuvers. And they were tough, including lots of running, shooting, and obstacle courses. Sometimes we went for trips but those were a joke, as we always ended up fishing. The gist: they weren’t mandatory. At least not in practice. A lot of guys just traded overtime for not assisting.
In general what various types of weapons did “unorganized” criminals use?
I saw a lot of .22s, revolvers mostly. They were easy to conceal and cheap enough for street kids to use them. There were lots of Brazilian Taurus models. Some Bersas, but not many at that time since the factory was still small. A shit-ton of improvised shotguns: pipes with springs and a nail for triggering the shell. Almost got shot by one of them once. Lots of sawed off Mausers because it was the army’s weapon for training during the mandatory conscription era of the 80s, right before the war. The guys often kept their Mausers as trophies and then sold them. Nothing too fancy, no rifles or anything semi, really. Not until the drug wars with the GEOF. Owning a gun here is super restrictive and even when you do own one, there’s no open carry and you can only use it for self defense outside if you are “force” and INSIDE your home if you’re a “civ”. I saw more edged weapons than anything. Guns were still rare enough that you didn’t need to be on your toes all the time. [Not that knives couldn’t be incredibly dangerous, but it’s all in perspective.]
What about the organized crime and their resources?
That was a different story. We got a lot of FALs, again, stolen from the army’s reserve. A few MP5s, and once, a huge cache of “M4s” that actually turned out to be ancient M16s used to steal an entire armored trucks worth of cash. We did catch the guys who did it but 5 years later and not a single dime out of the booty. Turns out they got the guns from Guatemala. There was also this awful Browning sub going around back then that looked like a glue gun, can’t remember the model. We had a few of those and they got to the streets after decommission.
Have any stories in general?
Yeah, I have tons. Something gun related. Let’s see. As I said, I almost got shot by an improv [gun] and it was scary as shit. This skinny junkie defending a drug bunker flanked me and tried to shoot this bench leg pipe but either the shell was a dud or the spring got fucked because nothing happened. My teammate got him square in the chest 2 times with his Glock as I crawled away and some other dude tackled him. Or, well, the time I got shot in the nads, what put me on retirement, was during a raid. We forced open the main door of this apartment building, me being the tail of the formation. Some Peruvian mofo hidden behind a couch 4 yards away shot 3 times from the ground and the last one got me. I shot him with my MP5 on burst after I fell, and he also got another 20 holes from my squaddies. Thank God it was just an FMJ. Anything like a hollow[point] or a ripper and “bye bye dick”. Oh, and once I extracted a full .22 pistol from someone’s ass but I don’t want to remember that. It was a revolver and that’s all I’ll say about the incident lol.