'A Shadow in the City,' Part 3 Alex Chadwick concludes his conversation with a former undercover narcotics officer. He is the subject of a new book, A Shadow in the City, by Charles Bowden. After two decades of fighting the drug war, the officer developed new perspectives on that struggle, and the people he incarcerated.
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'A Shadow in the City,' Part 3

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'A Shadow in the City,' Part 3

'A Shadow in the City,' Part 3

'A Shadow in the City,' Part 3

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Alex Chadwick concludes his conversation with a former undercover narcotics officer. He is the subject of a new book, A Shadow in the City, by Charles Bowden. After two decades of fighting the drug war, the officer developed new perspectives on that struggle, and the people he incarcerated.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Resuming an interview with a former undercover narcotics cop, the subject of a new book, "A Shadow in the City" by Charles Bowden. It's a true story, though the names in it are not. He's called Joey O'Shay. Undercover cops face obvious dangers to life and limb and, as Joey discovers, less obvious ones to the soul. Toward good ends--winning the drug war--they lie, deceive and betray. And after years of this, Joey says, he came to think differently about whom he was chasing.

"Mr. JOEY O'SHAY" (Former Undercover Narcotics Officer): Their family was everything to them. They were even willing to do huge jail sentences--in other words, give up their entire life so that their families didn't live in abject poverty; that their families could have things that they didn't have.

CHADWICK: Joey O'Shay was so good at undercover that often, if he wasn't on the actual arrest raid, the people who got caught never understood that he was a cop. They thought he'd simply gotten away. And some of them would refuse to offer Joey's name to the narcs, protecting him. That's what Joey finally could no longer live with--their refusal to betray him, especially a cocaine and heroin broker, Gloria.

What was your relationship with Gloria?

Mr. O'SHAY: Nothing but admiring her because she had survived in a extremely violent man's world and did what she did to support her kids and grandkids. Sadly enough, the emptiness she had made her think that I cared about her family stuff. And then in the end, she went down and never did give me up.

CHADWICK: You put her down?

Mr. O'SHAY: Yes. Put her away. I tricked her.

CHADWICK: She's in prison now?

Mr. O'SHAY: Yes.

CHADWICK: For how long?

Mr. O'SHAY: A long time.

CHADWICK: Ten years?

Mr. O'SHAY: A little bit more than that. It's a long time.

CHADWICK: This is a woman that you liked?

Mr. O'SHAY: Liked.

CHADWICK: A woman who liked you a lot.

Mr. O'SHAY: More than I realized. I think that she saw me as someone different in this dope world because I asked about her kids. Sadly enough, that was her vulnerability and I exploited it. And that's what I did. In every other case, that's what I did. Her only weakness happened to be...

CHADWICK: Her children.

Mr. O'SHAY: ...her children.

CHADWICK: Her feelings for her children.

Mr. O'SHAY: Her feelings for her children and the fact that I talked to her like she was a human being. There was no romance or anything like that, but in this business, a woman, for business purposes, is willing to give their body up as collateral, I guess you might say. And that did surprise me. And then I think I even gained more respect, even though she had not an idea I was a cop, when I just said, `No, you know, this is business. We got to--we can't do something like this.' And I was very, very ashamed.

CHADWICK: You were ashamed...

Mr. O'SHAY: That she was willing to do that to seal the deal.

CHADWICK: She wanted to sleep with you?

Mr. O'SHAY: Give herself to me.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Mr. O'SHAY: (Sighs) And I mean, it was just--even though the guys kidded with me about it, it made all of us sad. And they knew it made me sad. And I said, you know, `We gotta live with things we do to these people.' I said, `God only knows what'll happen to her kids in the time she's going to do and everything. She trusted our asses.'

CHADWICK: Yours.

Mr. O'SHAY: And mine. And they saw it. And they know, and they--believe me, none of us feel proud about what we do. There isn't--it ain't like scoring touchdowns in the end. It's like, it's just life, man.

CHADWICK: I wouldn't expect that you had those feelings about the people you arrest and put away. You feel enormous sympathy towards them.

Mr. O'SHAY: I think you'd be surprised if the ones of us that you think are hard cases--and maybe outside we are--but amongst ourselves, in quiet moments, we admit we have soft hearts. It didn't mean that I'm going to condone them dealing drugs. But I do now allow myself to feel sorry for them because, in essence, to say they're not human is a damn lie.

CHADWICK: Joey O'Shay is still on the same force in a city we are not going to name and still with the same partner and supervisor he's had for years. They've transferred out of narcotics, both disillusioned. This other officer also agreed to speak with us.

What do you think of the war on drugs?

Unidentified Man: We ain't winning, that's for sure. I don't think we are. And I don't see us winning any time in the future.

CHADWICK: What should we do? What's the answer?

Unidentified Man: Probably legalize it. There's more of it now. The quality is higher than it's ever been. And the price is going down. So, I mean, it's not working the way it's been going. There's too much politics involved. They cannot shut the border down. They won't shut the border down. And we consume the majority of it that's being sold. And the reason why law enforcement people who probably feel that way don't say it is because it's not the politically correct thing to do, to say, because you probably wouldn't go far in law enforcement if you did say it. So what are we trying to accomplish?

See, we've seen a lot of people get hurt, get shot, lose their jobs fighting this drug war. And, you know, I gave all I could give, and I know he gave all he could give. We don't have anything else to give. The only alternative that makes any sense to me is to legalize it. Now how you police it and you distribute it and that, how you tax it, you know, that's for someone higher in the food chain, higher than me to figure out.

CHADWICK: That's the partner and supervisor of the former undercover narcotics cop we've been speaking with, Joey O'Shay.

Joey lives in a comfortable house on a quiet street in a nice neighborhood. He's married. It looks like a good marriage. He is reading and rereading a short book of philosophy called "Man's Search For Meaning" by a concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, who knew a lot about suffering and enduring and going on.

Mr. O'SHAY: If nothing else, you can read it, and if you ever feel sorry for yourself, you'll never feel sorry for yourself again after seeing what that man survived to only do good for people. I got some time left and I'm going to try to help other people. I'm not going to spend it plotting their demise, either.

CHADWICK: Joey O'Shay's story is fully told in the new book "A Shadow in the City" by Charles Bowden. And my thanks to DAY TO DAY producer Chip Grabow.

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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