Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chicago Police Torture Suspects

Prosecutors in Chicago recently reported that Chicago police officers beat, kicked, shocked, or otherwise tortured scores of black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s to try to extract confessions from them.

I was a Secret Service agent in Chicago from late 1969 until early 1972. I served on the counterfeit squad and worked with Chicago police officers and detectives often—although only when necessary because of their lack of ethics. A few stories:

I was the weekend duty agent. I got a call late on a Saturday night. The police had arrested a black man for trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. I got out of bed, drove to the precinct, and got ready to interview the suspect. His right arm hung limply when he came into the interview room. He said, “Mister, I don’t know who you are, but I’m going with you.” He had been beaten by officers. I told him I could help him out if he told me who gave him the counterfeit money, otherwise I would have to leave him there. He wouldn’t tell me, so I left him with the police.

I never saw, but was told, that the Chicago police played a game called “Guess Who?” with suspects to get them to talk. The suspect would sit in a chair and the office would circle behind him and hit the suspect over the head with a Chicago telephone book and say, “guess who?” I heard other stories of cops hanging suspects out the windows by their ankles to get them to talk.

I had an arrest warrant for a man who sold counterfeit money. An informant told me his location. I invited a Chicago police detective to come with us to make the arrest. I wanted an officer along because we might have to break into the apartment, and I wanted a local police presence. I told the detective not to search in the apartment until I first tried to get consent for a search. Otherwise anything we found would be illegal and not admissible in court.

We went to the apartment, knocked on the door, and pushed our way in when the door began to open. The suspect’s girlfriend was behind the door. The suspect was not there. We would have to wait for him to return.

The Chicago detective began to search the apartment. I made him stop. I talked to the young woman and got her consent for a search. We didn’t find any counterfeit money, but we did find a lot of nude photos of the suspect. He was a real ladies man and liked tattoos—one photo showed one on the end of his penis.

We waited for hours. Finally about midnight we heard someone coming down the hall. I was in front of the door. When I heard the key turn in the lock, I pulled the door open from the inside. The startled man jumped. Two agents rushed past me and put the man against the wall and searched him. Suddenly an agent said, “Oh, God.” He searched the man and found a long rubber dildo hanging out the front of his pants. The suspect said he was going to surprise his girlfriend.

We took the defendant off to jail. The Chicago cop stole everything of value in the apartment. My boss took the photo of the tattooed penis—“cocktail conversation”—he said as he put the photo in his pocket.

Street corner justice goes on in every community every day. A lot of good is accomplished when police use good judgment, however, we see in the atrocities in Iraq and in these stories of police behavior what a slippery slope we can go down when we break the rules. The behavior of those in authority can become more evil than the behavior of those they fight when they go down that slippery slope.

I fear I often sound naïve in my idealistic vision for how people with power should behave. I stick with the idealistic, because I’ve been down the slippery slopes and know where they lead.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U.S. Secret Service agent, senior executive at the Star Tribune newspaper, and has been a writer, coach, and consultant since 1994.

I invite you to visit to view my photographs and explore my Pamphlets.

Contact me for information about speaking, coaching, and workshops.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sabotage the Leader

By all accounts, Robert Potts, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, is a good person and a terrific leader.

Potts is out of a job.

Trouble began almost 1 ½ years ago when politically connected North Dakota State University president Joseph Chapman and the presidents of two smaller state colleges came to a legislative session with their own agendas rather than supporting the North Dakota University System as a whole.

Chancellor Potts told the presidents to “cease and desist” their support of a bill that would give their schools more money. He threatened to hold them accountable if they didn’t. If three company presidents tried to undercut the corporate CEO in the business world, they would be out of a job—right now. The first problem in this drama is that the leader did not have the authority to lead, which left the door wide open for passive-aggressive political intrigue.

Chapman then stopped communicating with Potts (more grounds for dismissal) but not with the governor and members of the state Board of Higher Education. Chapman told Governor John Hoven that he was unhappy. Hoven told Chapman he would have to meet Potts halfway. Going to the governor in an effort to undercut Potts is blatant political behavior that might also lead to dismissal in the corporate world.

Governor Hoven also met with two board members to discuss getting Potts and Chapman to work together. Why didn’t the governor get together with Potts and Chapman and put the issues on the table for discussion or see that some other appropriate person did so? That would have been leadership.

Two other board members said Hoven told them he was dissatisfied with Potts. Did Governor Hoven ever talk to Potts and express his dissatisfaction? Apparently not as Potts said he had no indication that Hoven was unhappy with him, and he is disappointed in how Hoven handled the situation. Should the chancellor of the state university system be able to expect directness from the governor of the state?

Meanwhile board members behaved in equally passive/aggressive ways. They, or some of them, criticized Potts informally. Board members with different allegiances did not talk to one another. Chapman told another college president that a board member planned to suggest to Potts that he resign. Chapman acknowledged that he had conversations with board members that “led him to believe” Potts would be asked to resign. Someone leaked the rumor that Potts would be asked to resign by the board to the local newspaper. Board members denied the rumors. Potts was not asked to resign. The board gave him a vote of confidence.

Potts, the only leader in this drama, then asked the board for authority to enforce policies and reporting lines equally across all the institutions in the university system. Absent that authority he would resign. This was an act of courage and leadership. Potts refused to “play the game” by the dysfunctional rules. He refused to be set up to fail. He brought the issue to the light of day. He did the right thing. The board lacked the backbone to grant his request. I am sure Potts expected that outcome.

Potts, a man of integrity, resigned.

Some suggestions based on my 30 years experience as a leader and consultant:

1. Joseph Chapman cannot be trusted. He should resign or be fired for his lack of loyalty, sabotage of Potts, and lack of professionalism. (he won’t, but he should),

2. The board and appropriate other people should conduct a facilitated “after action review” and ask, “What happened and what can we learn from it?” If the military can use an AAR to learn, so can this board.

3. The state Board of Higher Education and the governor should get some training on how to deal directly and privately with conflict and differences—not behind people’s backs and through the newspaper.

4. Between now and when a new chancellor is hired, the board, with state-wide input and involvement, should develop a vision for the North Dakota University System and a strategy to move toward that vision. Structure the system in the way that best drives the strategy. Do not restructure as a quick-fix to make conflict go away (the reason most reorganizations happen). If you do, you will be back in a similar situation in the future.

5. Train the board on the role of boards of directors (from stories in the local newspaper many boards in the region could use this training).

6. Follow Chancellor Potts’s advice and make roles and responsibilities clear to the next chancellor, the board, and the presidents of the colleges and universities.

7. The board should not lead day-to-day operations or micro-manage the chancellor. Hire a strong chancellor and provide that person with a clear vision to move toward and clear values to live by.

8. The board get out of the way and let the chancellor lead, and

9. Hold yourselves accountable to do what you say you will do.

Ernest Becker wrote: “If everyone lives the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.”

We live in a dark time in our world. Good people find it increasingly difficult to do good work, as Chancellor Potts discovered. They stand surrounded by too many lies, too many villains, too much selfishness, and too many cowards who do not care enough to be courageous. Often the good leaders get set up to fail and play the scapegoat for others.

The actors in this drama played by the unwritten rules they learned in this system. For them this behavior seems “normal.” Political players play the game this way every day throughout government and education. Dirty politics may be normal but they are also immature and destructive. The rules need to change; they do not work well for the citizens of North Dakota. Changing those unwritten rules will take real leadership and great maturity.

In the end it is always about leadership.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U.S. Secret Service agent, senior executive at the Star Tribune newspaper, and has been a writer, coach, and consultant since 1994.

I invite you to visit to view my photographs and explore my Pamphlets.

Contact me for information about speaking, coaching, and workshops.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


A Hawley, Minnesota man doused a large female snapping turtle with gasoline while another man held it still. He ignited a trail behind the turtle, which was engulfed in flames. The men put out the fire and then torched the turtle again. They did an evil dance around the turtle, laughing and yelling “what are you going to do about it,” as the turtle tries to escape.

This dastardly behavior, which demonstrated their personal sense of powerlessness, was captured on video by a third man who shouted encouragement to his friends. The video was posted on the internet and the men (two juveniles and an adult) were arrested. The fate of the turtle is unknown.

The story has aroused the ire and condemnation of viewers and animal rights advocates from around the world. Nearly 1,700 people signed an online petition ( urging Hawley prosecutor Kevin Miller to pursue the most serious penalty for the crime.

You can see the video at:

I am sickened by the disconnection of the souls of these men from life around them. They displayed a distorted sense of masculinity.

Masculinity today is disconnection. We raise little boys to be disconnected from others, themselves, and the natural world. We socialize them through emotional injury and violence. We pull them away from their own expressiveness, from their emotions, from sensitivity to others

We created these men—parents, coaches, schools, and male models. We teach young boys a false masculinity based on power and control. We teach them that manhood is sexual, athletic, and material prowess. We model for them that being a man is power, cruelty, and arrogance. We reward boys and men for being this way. Pay attention to the men around you—notice their behavior. What do they model for the young men around them? Don’t many seem primitive?

Often men shame boys when they do not live up to their expectations of them—expectations often born of men's own disappointments in themselves. Just notice male behavior at the athletic fields and arenas. How many men live out their disappointed lives through their sons and ask more of little boys than they could do for themselves?

We send the message that many boys don’t have the “right stuff.” They then learn to live with the “right bluff.” How many men around you live the “right bluff” in life?

We the men and women in the lives of these three young men are responsible. Fathers taught them; mothers kept silent to male emotional violence and disconnection. Coaches and teachers collude in how we raise boys in our society. The workplace rewards disconnection. Many problems we deal with in our families, our workplaces, and in our society are symptoms of our failure to raise little boys to be connected to self, others, and the natural world.

Animal abuse is one step in the cycle of domestic violence and it does not stand-alone. Many studies show a clear connection between animal abuse and other forms of family violence. If there is an animal in a home where child, spousal, or elder abuse occurs, you will often find animal abuse and vice-versa.

Animal abuse should be taken seriously, as it is often an indicator that something else is going on in the home or with the person. Many convicted serial killers have had animal abuse in their background. The infamous Jeffrey Dahmer impaled frogs and cats on sticks as a youngster. Theodore Bundy was linked to graveyards filled with animal bones. More recently, many of the youngsters involved in school shootings have also had histories of animal abuse. Luke Woodham, age 16, who shot his mother and killed two classmates wrote in his journal he he had beat, burned, and tortured the family dog Sparkle to death.

We need a new model for men; a model that encompasses the best of the masculine AND the feminine sides of all men.

Masculinity today should be defined in terms of relationships and the capacity to connect with self, others, and the natural world—to love and to be loved. Success in life would be measured not by how much money you make but by the quality of the relationships you have. What kind of father were you? What kind of husband were you? What kind of brother were you? What kind of friend were you? How did you treat animals?

I hope the three young men in this sad story are punished fully. This is needed to get their attention. Then I hope that, somehow, someone teaches these fractured men how to be human beings that see every living things as an extension of themselves and see the truth that what we do to other living beings, we do to ourselves.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U.S. Secret Service agent, senior executive at the Star Tribune newspaper, and has been a writer, coach, and consultant since 1994.

I invite you to visit to view my photographs and explore my Pamphlets.

Contact me for information about speaking, coaching, and workshops.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, are suing Vice President Dick Cheney, his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, and presidential adviser Karl Rove because they engaged in a “whispering campaign” to destroy her career.

Plame said, “I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs.” The lawsuit accuses the defendants of putting the Wilson’s lives at risk as well as the lives of their children by exposing her CIA role in retaliation for an article Wilson wrote critical of the Bush administrations justification for war in Iraq.

Plame’s identity as a CIA officer was revealed in a July 14, 2003 article by columnist Robert Novak—a sour journalist called “The Prince of Darkness.” His column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the Bush administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

Wilson said, “We are under no illusions about how tough this fight will be. But we believe the time has come to hold those who use their official positions to exact personal revenge accountable and responsible for their actions.”

Don’t call me for jury duty. I have an opinion. I don’t know the legalities, but I know my values I believe the defendants are guilty as charged. I might be wrong; but I doubt it. I wasn’t born yesterday. I believe they are guilty because the best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior, and the Bush administration has a history of venomous attacks on critics. They have refined the art of scapegoating to cover their arrogant incompetence. Rove is the architect of those attacks and Cheney the poster boy for the dark side and the abuse of presidential power.

I was a Secret Service agent from 1968-1972 and spent two years on the counterfeit squad in Chicago, Illinois. Some of my friends and colleagues worked undercover. They pretended to be “bad guys” so they could uncover crimes and criminals. I even went undercover once. I was excited to do it; however, my youthful college appearance didn’t quite fit the image of a potential purchaser of counterfeit money in Chicago.

If undercover agents are identified, their lives and the lives of others are put in danger. If undercover agents are “outed” by supposed “good guys” no one will want to work undercover and an effective tactic for fighting crime and corruption would be lost.

As one who once worked in the world of undercover agents, I take a harsh view of people who would reveal identities for political purposes. It is an ultimate act of betrayal.

Is such a person a traitor to our nation?

It is not a good time to be a truth-teller in our society. Arrogant incompetence is a fractal pattern at all levels of our institutions and organizations made acceptable by the Bush administration’s cronyism and righteous defensiveness. The villains protect themselves from the truth by scapegoating others. Retaliation is often swift and costly.

It is increasingly difficult for good people to do good work in the dark times in which we live. This is exactly the time for good people to speak up and express themselves at the ballot box in November. Vote for competence and integrity regardless of political party.

I suggest we turn this case over to Jack Bauer to investigate. He'll get to the truth.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U.S. Secret Service agent, senior executive at the Star Tribune newspaper, and has been a writer, coach, and consultant since 1994.

I invite you to visit to view my photographs and explore my Pamphlets.

Contact me for information about speaking, coaching, and workshops.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Judge Favors Serial Rapist

A newspaper headline read: “Ruling favors rapist.” Fargo Judge Steven Marquart refused the state’s motion to commit convicted serial rapist Gero Davis Mahto to the North Dakota State Hospital because psychologists could not say that he is a “sexually dangerous person”—a legal requirement.

A serial “ritualized and systematized” rapist who demonstrates “psychopathic and anti-social” traits and abused drugs and alcohol when he committed his crimes, Mahto spent 14 years in prison where he failed sex offender treatment four times—once for each of his known victims in south Fargo. The article wasn’t clear if he eventually “passed” treatment; he should have been able to after four practice attempts. The Parole Board will release him six years early for good behavior (should rapists be released early for any reason?), and Mahto will live in Jamestown, North Dakota.

A psychologist said Mahto is likely to commit crimes again if he uses alcohol or drugs. As a recovering alcoholic sober since 1974 (knock on wood), I believe that the odds that he will drink or use drugs are high. Where is the common sense?

Judges, lawyers, and experts often live in a linear, dualistic, and fragmented world far from the reality of common sense and community values. A left-brain thought process isolates behavior, assumption on top of assumption (some incorrect) is made, “scientific models” provide the illusion of certainty, and empathy for the victims is forgotten for the “objectivity” of law.

The psychologists say they cannot say with certainty that Mahto will rape again. Oh please—little in life can be predicted with absolute certainty. Can they say with certainty that he will not rape again? Of course they can’t. What do the probabilities say? The probability must be high that he will repeat his past behavior. When uncertain we should decide on the side of the victims, past and future, and on the side of common sense. If the psychologists want to be experts, they must be willing to take a position on what is most likely to happen, not hide behind “scientific models” and the myth of certainty.

Judge Marquart said, “If the state is unhappy with the law, it’s not the job of this court to change it.” I would have felt good had the judge committed the criminal to the state hospital and placed the burden of appeal on him. I would have felt good to see that a judge cared enough about the victims and the community to risk being overturned on appeal. Sometimes doing the right thing is more important than being right. Instead the judge took the easy path and said, “Not my job.” If doing the right thing is not his job then whose is it? We need wiser discernment than this judge demonstrated.

A victim said, “It’s so wrong.” I almost can’t believe this is happening. What’s broken in him has not been fixed with 14 years in prison.” Another victim said, “I was hoping the judge would take that more seriously. The system has failed us over and over in this case.”

I believe the legal system fails women and negates their stories and experiences in cases of abuse, harassment, and physical violence small and large, time and time again.

I invite the local newspaper to investigate justice for women victims in Clay and Cass counties (Fargo/Moorhead). Talk to a cross-section of victims ranging from emotional abuse to stalking to physical assault to rape and murder and listen to their stories. Talk to the experts at the Fargo Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Examine the education of judges on the subject of abuse. You might find a story.

We live in a country where nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey. More than 500,000 women are stalked each year in the United States by an intimate partner. Around the world today one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

How is “the system” working for us?


On September 7, 2006 Judge McCullough ordered Mahto to serve 55 weeks in prison and complete a chemical dependency treatment programe befoe he will be released.

Finally a little common sense.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U.S. Secret Service agent, senior executive at the Star Tribune newspaper, and has been a writer, coach, and consultant since 1994.

I invite you to visit to view my photographs and explore my Pamphlets.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The View From Fargo

Welcome to "A View From Fargo."

This blog is a compliment to my web site, which contains my photo gallery and Pamphlets about life, leadership, and change.

The purpose of this blog is to share my views from Middle America on local issues with global meaning and on global issues with local impacts.

I might write on a local story that I reacted strongly to and link it to universal applications, or I might write on a national or international story and give it a local twist.

A couple of years ago one of my brothers asked me: "Did you ever think you would end up in Fargo, North Dakota?" " No," I replied, "but then I never thought I would be a Secret Service agent, Star Tribune newspaper executive, writer, or consultant either. I never thought I would have three kids, five grandkids, or three step-children. I never thought most things about my journey in life.

I spent 2001 living on the side of a mountain between Ouray and Ridgway, Colorado. Prior to that I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for most of my adult life. The time in Colorado fulfilled a dream and when it was finished, I packed up my jeep and trailer and headed East. I decided I would stay in Fargo for a while as I had no where I had to be. Besides there was someone in the area that I wanted to get to know better.

Initially I had the typical stereotype of Fargo: the end of the world, nothing to do, cold and lonely, and the people talk funny. I didn't know if I would like it here.

It turned out that I love it here: the air is clean, the sunsets big, crime is minimal, the people nice, and a traffic jam means it takes you five minutes longer to get to your destination. I have cable television and high speed internet. I saw Springsteen here and will go and see the Dixie Chicks in August (I like them because they talk back). Some of the best leaders I've ever met are in Fargo. I am a day from Yellowstone and just east of me is Minnesota lakes country. I also rediscovered Northern League baseball from my youth and am a big fan of the Fargo/Moorhead Red Hawks; they are winners. In a time of voluntary simplicity, I cannot ask for more.

I've now been here for four years. The first blindness of romance has worn off, and I've seen some of the dark side of Fargo: the Scandanavians are tight with a dollar, can be hard to get a reaction from, and they really make a big deal of high school graduations in this part of the world. Graduation gives everyone an excuse to fix up the house periodically as the kids grow up. When one of your kids graduate you plan on eating the left-over shredded pork for many months.

After being in Fargo for a while I told another brother about it and he said, "You sound like the Chamber of Commerce." I realized that I really liked it here. He said, "Too bad you have such cold winters." I replied, "It keeps the California 'riff-raff' out of here (he is from Carmel, California). Besides with global warming, Fargo will become the next hot real estate market.

I ended up married to the person I wanted to get to know better. That was the best thing I ever did. We live across the Red River and about 100 yards from Fargo in south Moorhead, Minnesota. Our home is along the river in a natural setting within the city. Wild turkeys are regular visitors.

Fargo is much more cosmopolitan than Moorhead, Minnesota, hence the title of this blog.

I hope this regular column will provoke, educate, entertain, and illuminate.

My first column will be posted by Monday, July, 17, 2006. Please come back and read it.

I hope you will share this site with others, visit, and come back often and share your comments with me.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former U. S. Secret Service agent, an 18 year executive at the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has been a writer and consultant since 1994.