From the beginning of my career as a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), I learned that attention to detail is a hallmark of competency and excellence. I adopted as my personal slogan — one drilled into my head by my mentor, a seasoned agent with far more years than mine — “little things make big things happen.”

Those words rang true for me during my first investigation in Chicago’s aptly titled Little Village neighborhood and continued through the hundreds of criminal investigations across the globe I conducted during my 30-year career with the DEA. As Hillard Heintze’s newly appointed Director with Law Enforcement Consulting, I know this same principle will prove helpful as I embark on the next stage of my professional life.

Even When Investigating a Major Crisis, Little Things Matter

During the last several years of my career with the DEA, I led a series of massive investigations targeting two of the world’s most powerful criminal organizations responsible for much of the heroin and synthetic opioids poisoning communities across the country. Opioids now claim more victims than firearms and automobile accidents. Drug overdoses claim a life every eight minutes. The opioid crisis has become the largest health epidemic in our nation’s history.

But even with a problem of this magnitude, the little things turned out to be the most essential. Attention to detail uncovered an easy-to-overlook weakness in the cartel’s method of communications, that when fully exploited, laid bare a vein of information and evidence unprecedented in significance and volume. This minor detail aided me and the team in the successful prosecution of 70 top-tier criminals and a $1.7 billion forfeiture order.

Whether it is the subtle things or the glaringly obvious details, all of them are crucial to achieving success in investigations. It was those little things being properly documented and followed up on with tenacity, and those little things being done routinely with precision day in and day out, that broke an investigation wide open and culminated in achieving its objectives.

Law Enforcement Consulting Is Another Way to Make ‘Big Things’ Happen

As I began to transition from a lifelong passion for the challenges of investigations, I searched for an organization in the private sector where a culture existed that demanded that kind of attention to detail. I found that place on the team at Hillard Heintze where “protecting what matters” is based on a similar principle.

While I will not be conducting the exact same investigations that filled my time at the DEA, my experience in law enforcement – particularly drug trafficking and its impact on communities – will help me assist those cities and towns that look to us for help when it comes to bettering their policing efforts and improving services. From San Francisco and Milwaukee to lesser-known but nonetheless dynamic communities like Lancaster, California and Cedar Park, Texas, the Law Enforcement Consulting practice knows that the solution to a city’s perceived issues never comes in broad strokes, but in observing the unique details of each department and function.

In my new role, I will continue to focus on cultivating, investing in, maintaining and tapping into vital relationships with community leaders, members and professionals across all disciplines to garner a holistic view of the community and its experiences. We as a team can then leverage our collective, diverse expertise and use available technology and practices – like a staffing study, data analysis, police department assessment – to work toward tangible goals. In this way, I’ll continue to “make big things happen” through the little things.

On the last day of an incredibly rewarding tenure with the DEA, I walked out of my office and something caused me to stop; I had forgotten something. I returned to my desk and retrieved the sign that had hung prominently on my office doors for so long. It read: “Little things make big things happen.”

Same sign, new office.

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