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'Takedown': A Book Review With Global Social Lessons

Recently I won a promotional copy of the 2016 bookTakedown, by Jeff Buck. Mr. Buck, the self-described “dope ghost” undercover police officer from suburban Ohio, details his accounts of drug investigations that he took part in, including the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. The book narrative is non-linear, meaning that the reader has to keep track of multiple storylines being told at the same time. I think that is the main reason that the book has not sold many copies. A lack of public book reviews of this title may owe to this. The language used throughout the book by Buck, and his co-authors Jon Land and Lindsay Preston, is salty in nature.

Portions of the book have been made available on Google.

That being said, my interest in Takedown derives from the involvement with Akwesasne, my former home. I lived there during the years of the alleged criminal activities, many which seem to have been fictionally detailed in this book. In counting how many instances of speculation passed off as fact that I could track, the list kept growing.

I cannot describe the style of writing as a traditional law enforcement viewpoint book, such as Joseph Wambaugh’s seminal work The New Centurions, or even Peter Maas’ biography of Frank Serpico, the crusading undercover NYPD detective. Instead, Takedown is a running account of the incrementally dominant asset forfeiture process that the American criminal justice system presently gorges upon. Current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch built a prosecutorial career on the staggering dollar value of seized property that was accumulated under her watch on Long Island, New York. That performance was successful enough to ascend to the heights of federal appointment.

Mr. Buck is just more animated in his boastful claims, including owning a profitable Ohio horse breeding farm. An egoist of the first degree, he imparts his opinion of everyone that he crosses paths with in Takedown, including other police. A self-described choir-boy who claims to have never experimented with non-prescribed substances, he also randomly details his process of professional bonding through prodigious amounts of hard liquor. The author routinely belittles other law enforcement agency personnel as “ass clowns” while maintaining his own elitist self-identity. The age-old label of not playing well with others seems applicable here.

With the Buck’s point-of-view now well established, I took great offense at the broad brush stroke of the authors in demonizing the residents of Akwesasne. Claims that 80% of the community members are illicit smugglers lack any citation. The repeating of the unfounded claim that 9/11 hijackers passed through the border here in 2001 is embraced by Buck personally to this day. From these inaccuracies, I consider the book research to be uneven.

A claim is also made that elected Mohawk tribal leaders are behind the criminal tide engulfing this disputed area of the international border. Again, no basis for prosecution is offered. Therefore, the comments in this book should not be considered quote-worthy or compelling.

Amidst my reading of this book, the shootings of two African American males and the Dallas police shooting took place. The tone of this book struck a deeper cord. When a person in authority, such as Mr. Buck, perceives others that he deals with in disdain, the end results could also be fatal. The predatory glee of freezing bank accounts, seizing personal property and inciting fear all psychologically reveal Mr. Buck’s own inadequacies, in my opinion.

The bludgeon of American criminal justice today is asset forfeiture. In the past, tribal real estate has been threatened for seizure by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, notably during an early political term of retired-Chief Paul O. Thompson. The late and fearless Sub-Chief Harry J. Benedict memorably announced at a tribal-government agency liaison meeting afterwards that it would be over his dead body that any federal action would be taking place here. No forfeiture has therefore ever taken place of Indian-titled land in Akwesasne.

This era of stand-up political resolve was also pointedly made by the late Peter Burns, Sr., known affectionately by some as “Bubba Pete,” who allegedly levelled a shotgun at New York State troopers during a 1989 stand-off he was once involved in as a pioneering Mohawk small business owner.

The message is that there is no Indian land available to be taken for any reason. Too much land has already been lost. In the case of Akwesasne our ancestors are buried under our feet. No crime or legal infraction can justify the loss of collective right to this land.

It resembles an age-old tale of loss in Indian Country. This happened when Europeans sought out outlier members of tribal groups to speak for and sign away all collective rights via fraudulent treaty participation. For individual actions to cause the repercussion of group collective loss, especially of vintage original lands, it is unconscionable to think that would motivate a public servant to covet such reserved lands, even if it is only the slightest of possibilities, and chilling.

It is ironic that the only Akwesasne resident that seems to pass muster under Jeff Buck is the grandson of “Bubba Pete,” his namesake Peter John Burns, a St. Regis Tribal Police officer and cross-sworn federal agent. Buck plied Burns and other New York North Country police with liquor as he rallied others to his cause, he states in the book. No other Akwesasne community members are noted as interview subjects.

From a personal disclosure, I was living in Akwesasne when some of the events in Takedown occurred. Alan Jacobs, the target of Mr. Buck was still a free man when I started working at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino in 2005. My office companion was his Aunt M, his father’s one sister. His other Aunt S, was our HR director who became my close friend, and I grew to call each of them “Auntie.”

For you see that my own long-gone relative from Akwesasne, my tie to the tribal membership, was my grandmother Mary Jacobs. Her 1930’s baptismal certificate was undisputed proof of that link. Although I claim no ancestry with Al Jacobs, I can also assure Takedown readers that he had no financial interest in the tribal casino, any more than any tribal member can themselves claim. He was as much a tribal leader in Akwesasne as anyone else offering their own two cents on community issues, such as at meetings. I was never introduced to Al, nor did I ever meet him. I could not pick him out of a lineup if he was the only one standing in it.

I do know his mother and sisters however. Nicer people you could not meet. They are no threats to anyone. Al’s mother Rosalie should have been left out of this book, but her part was filler, like so many other sections of Takedown.

Equally off-base was slamming the Mohawk tribe and their website for claiming to be building a better tomorrow. The paragraph was as disparaging as any passage in the book. While the tribe declined to comment for this piece, my advice to them was to shoot down any unfounded accusations forthwith and posthaste. In treacherous political times such as these, you never know where the quotes might come from.

In a perfect world, law and order zealots like Jeff Buck would be invaluable to address the dispossession of Native original land base territories since 1492. In my view the U.S. criminal justice system chooses to prosecute the latest infractions, without regard for those earliest ones transgressed against the original American peoples.

This is another form of avoidance theory. It has been deliberately imposed in a form of social disorder with an outcome that sees age old loss normalized and economically indemnified. Deal with it is the official suggestion. Yet, it is the one example that many point to even today to illustrate the incrementalism of modern Big government. “Look what they did to the Indians; they can do it to us…” In Takedown, Jeff Buck thought he could still do it to the Mohawks. And there, like the book, is where he failed.

Charles Kader (Turtle Clan) was born in Erie, Pennsylvania to a World War II veteran. He attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in Communication and Library Science, as well as Mercyhurst College where he earned a graduate degree in the Administration of Justice. He has worked across Indian country, from the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana (where he married his wife) to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and now resides in Kanienkeh.