Mother Jones profiles Allen E. Smith, 65, a former Fort Lauderdale cop who now works for the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. During his 26 years as a cop, Smith thought he saw things clearly: There were good guys and there were bad guys. But he essentially switched teams in 1997 when he retired from the police force and became a public defender’s investigator.
At the public defender’s office, Smith supervises 11 other investigators, 9 of whom are retired officers like him. Every day, they use technology, public records and legwork to dig into the sorts of complaints against cops and prosecutors that they used to brush off. In the process, they’re not only turning up evidence of sloppy police work and racial profiling. They’re also finding what they never would have guessed in their previous careers—that some of the sketchy characters they cross paths with are actually innocent.