The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

Baseball falls to BCC 7–3 in the ultimate Battle of Bethesda
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April 21, 2024

Local reverend goes undercover to catch criminals

Few reverends can say that they’ve found themselves atop a hit list of most wanted police by inmates at a D.C. jail. But Dale Sutherland, a reverend at McLean Bible Church, considers it an accomplishment.

Sutherland has worked as an undercover cop in narcotics since 1988 and has been a reverend since 2001. By day, he works at the church, giving sermons, counseling youth and doing administrative work. But by night he goes undercover, posing as drug dealers, mob bosses and heroin addicts, to catch dozens of criminals.

Most of Sutherland’s leads come from men previously arrested for drug use who exchange information for a lighter prison sentence.

“I usually buy drugs from a guy and then work my way up to the supplier,” Sutherland said. “I try to become friends with them, earn their trust and then get them to bring me to their supplier.”

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Sutherland has gone undercover as a painter, mechanic, body shop owner and medical student, among other personas, to catch drug dealers.

“I like to be creative, so I’m not always doing the same thing,” Sutherland said. “The most fun thing I’ve done was being a mob boss.”

Sutherland’s informants leaked a fake story about him, saying he was Giovanni, a mob boss moving down from Philadelphia to D.C. to make a profit off drugs and stolen goods. His team then set up a body shop with hidden cameras in the walls and invited as many criminals as they could to come buy drugs and weapons.

During the operation, Sutherland displayed a Virgin Mary on his desk in the body shop and pictures of his Italian-looking grandfather on the wall. He kept a vicious Rottweiler chained to his desk, to attack anyone who came too near. The police also loaned Sutherland a $5,000 dollar Rolex and $10,000 dollars in rings to wear to look the part.

“I would wear all this and a wife beater, and I would smoke a cigar,” Sutherland said. “Defendants, drug dealers, partiers and street guys know clothes. You’ve got to dress nice or else you’re out of the game.”

Police officers made all of their arrests within two or three days, and as word spread that “Giovanni ain’t Giovanni,” criminals began to disappear off the radar. By the end of the operation, Sutherland had helped arrest 35 criminals and confiscate 25 guns.

Undercover cops don’t receive any sort of protection once their identities are revealed to the criminals they’ve caught. With modern day technology, it would be easy for a criminal to find Sutherland’s picture, address and place of work on the Internet. His job involves a considerable amount of danger, but the risk doesn’t deter him from doing his job, Sutherland said.

“For whatever reason, I’m scared of everything else in life,” he said.  “I’m scared of bats, I’m scared of rats, and when I hear loud noises I jump. But with this, I’m not scared at all.”

Sutherland’s two jobs occasionally intertwine when he tries to show his informants the way to God.

“I try to tell them about Jesus, so at least they understand the gospel and that there is forgiveness,” he said. “I tell them that they don’t need to continue living the way they’re living God has some thing better for them.”

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