Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice
By Kathryn Bolkovac, Cari Lynn
Palgrave Macmillan Copyright © 2011 Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn
All rights reserved.
RUNNING FROM SOMETHING
(November 1998–June 1999)
The war in Bosnia was the longest and bloodiest waged on European soil since World War II. In 1992, in the wake of the perfect storm of the fall of communism in Yugoslavia and the increasing power of Serbian president Slobodan Miloevi, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. A multiethnic region, Bosnia and Herzegovina had long been home to Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks. I have Croation roots, and I remember as a teenager spending summer vacations in Ohio with my grandparents, gathering on the front porch while Grandma cross-stitched pillowcases and Grandpa talked about the old country, Croatia, describing the different religions and ethnicities living and working side by side and even intermarrying.
All that changed in April 1992, when Serb forces shelled Sarajevo, targeting Muslims and Croats, looting, burning, and massacring Bosniak-populated regions around the country, including mass attacks at marketplaces and a football stadium. Concentration camps detaining Muslims and Croats were set up in four regions. There, men, women, and children were starved, tortured, and killed. The Serbs would soon establish a complete blockade of Sarajevo, in a siege that would last until 1996 and would go down as the longest siege of a capital city in modern history. During these years, snipers perched in the surrounding hills or on the top floors of the tallest buildings and pecked off approximately 10,000 innocent civilians, including 1,500 children. In the final year of the siege, electricity, water, and food delivery was cut off. In August 1995, NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—launched air strikes against the Serbs. Facing combined uprisings by Croat and Bosniak forces, the Serbs finally retreated.
The signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995 ended the three-and-a-half-year war in the Republic of Yugoslavia, and the region was renamed Bosnia and Herzegovina. In all, approximately 100,000 people, including thousands of children, had been killed; the majority were Muslim Bosniaks. Nearly 2 million people were estimated to have been displaced. Miloevi was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. His trial stretched on for five years until, on March 11, 2006, he was found dead in his prison cell at The Hague, ostensibly from a heart attack, although conspiracy theories abound.
As part of the Dayton agreement, the UN Security Council mandated the creation of a mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide an International Police Task Force (IPTF) and a UN Civilian Affairs Office. Together, the branches had the not-small tasks of: humanitarian relief and refugee aid, de-mining, monitoring human rights issues, facilitating elections, rebuilding infrastructure, rebuilding the economy, and providing civilian police to train and monitor what was left of the diminished local police force.
To make up the IPTF, each UN member state was asked to supply officers from its national police forces. Out shipped officers from the Italian Carabinieri Corps, the German Bundespolizei, the French Gendarmerie National, the Spanish Guardia Civil, the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, the Dutch Koninklijke Marechaussee, and so on. Because the United States does not have this type of national police force—U.S. police is primarily made up of state, county, and city forces—the American police contingent was to be comprised solely of private contractors.
This mission in Bosnia was a lucrative bid for American private military contractors. The first ever contract of this sort—called a global Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (Logcap) contract—was won by Houston-based Brown & Root Services. For three years, Brown & Root provided American police to Bosnia and seven other countries. But in 1995 the contract was put back up for competitive bidding, and DynCorp, with headquarters in Virginia, snagged its first global Logcap contract by underbidding the incumbent.
The U.S. State Department cut the checks for DynCorp, and the media was blitzed with press releases. DynCorp would be in charge of everything from placing specialized aircraft mechanics on military bases, to staffing the mess hall cafeteria, to managing warehouses, to engineering new building construction, to recruiting hundreds of American police officers to serve as peacekeepers.
* * *
I got involved in DynCorp's first rent-a-cop contract simply by answering an ad. It was stapled to the bulletin board at police headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the autumn of 1998:
International Police Task Force—Bosnia
It caught my eye primarily because the salary figure was twice as high as any I had ever seen posted on a police station bulletin board:$85,000 a year. A DynCorp logo decorated the top of the ad. I had never heard of DynCorp, so I read further:
The US State Department is seeking active/retired police officers of any rank who are eager to accept a challenging and rigorous assignment to serve with the United Nations (UN) International Police Task Force (IPTF), as international police monitors (IPMs), for one year.
Aside from the excessive use of acronyms, it sounded intriguing.
Minimum eight (8) years full-time sworn civilian police service to include patrol training/experience. Must have been active within the last five (5) years. Military service may partially substitute for civilian police experience. Preference will be given to officers who are currently on active duty.
Ability to communicate in English
Valid US Driver's License and ability to drive 4 × 4 vehicle
Unblemished background record
Apparently, getting accepted was going to be the easy part. The tough part was the decision to go so far away from my kids.
I cooked up a family favorite, known in the house as Chicken Parisian—chicken breasts sautéed with mushrooms, garlic, and sour cream—and my three kids and I sat down at the dining-room table to talk it through. The oldest two, Jake and Sarah, were in college, and knew we could really use the extra money for tuition. My decision wouldn't directly impact them at this point; it was fifteen-year-old Erin who would be most affected by not having her mom around. Erin already lived with her dad, the result of a two-year-long, ugly custody battle. I knew my heartache would be the same whether I was in Nebraska or Bosnia, but for the first time in a while, here was something I was excited about, something I could believe in that would also put me in new surroundings, far away from the wreckage of my divorce.
"Mom," Jake began. "We want you to have this opportunity and you'd be out of the line of fire. Besides, we've seen you come home from work in bandages, on crutches—"
"And concussed," Sarah added.
"I know, I know," I said. Then I looked at Erin. She was trying to be as grown up as she could muster, but I could see tears welling in her eyes. "Mom," she said. "I know this is what you need to be doing."
And so I decided to give up certain comforts I took for granted—electricity on demand, toilets, walking down the street without fear of getting your legs blown off—and handed in my resignation letter to the chief of the Lincoln Police Department.
Police Chief Thomas Casady sent a letter back to me: "I don't want you to leave LPD. You are a fine officer, a valued employee, a good person, and a friend. We need you." He went on to explain that, after deep consideration, he would grant me a leave of absence for thirty days, during which time he hoped I would change my mind.
When I entered the chief's office to finalize my resignation, he gave me a long stare. Straightlaced and serious, he was one of the most exacting people I had ever known, which is why his response caught me off guard. He told me that I really did not want to go work with that bunch of idiots. At the time, I figured this was just his awkwardly endearing way of trying to say good-bye. I did not have any inkling that he might have known more than he was letting on—military contractors and companies like DynCorp were still a nascent breed, but perhaps the chief had heard reports from the field and had suspicions about what I getting myself into. I should have asked questions, but instead I just gave him a perplexed look. He reiterated that I had thirty days to change my mind. But I knew that wasn't going to happen. I was thirty-eight years old and needed change in my life. To me, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The truth was, most of my DynCorp colleagues had a personal story that compelled them to join the mission, whether they admitted to it or not. There had to be a pretty significant reason for someone at a later stage in his or her career to uproot without family and head 5,000 miles away. In one way or another, we were all running from something. But there is a difference between leaving and escaping. And some of my DynCorp colleagues were definitely escaping—taking cover in a place where no one knew of the very bad things they had done back home and where they thought no one would notice if they carried on, this time taking advantage of a broken people and a broken system.
STOP THE THREAT
(The Early Years–June 1999)
I was born a Bolkovac, a not-uncommon name in Croatia but one that always required me to spell it out in Nebraska. All I knew of my family history was that my grandfather, John Bolkovac, left Croatia when he was sixteen. He eventually found work in the steel mill in Young stown, Ohio, met and married a U.S.-born woman with Croatian roots, and raised five sons. There was little talk about our heritage, and the only time I ever heard my grandfather mention the old country was when he visited our farm and compared the Nebraska countryside to his home, Vukovar Gorica, a farming community outside of Zagreb. Although my grandfather's generation spoke Croatian, his sons were never taught the language. "You are American, you speak English," he would say. He created a truly all-American family: his sons all went to college and were all outstanding football players, with my dad and uncle going on to play for Pitt, Army, and the Steelers.
My parents met on a blind date while Dad was at University of Pittsburgh and Mom was attending Kent Sate; they eloped not long thereafter. Mom, originally from Ohio, had lived in South Africa for several years when her father, a manager for Goodyear Tire and Rubber, helped open the first plant there. Like my father, she had grown up in an athletic family. Her father had managed to letter in football, basketball, track, and baseball while at Ohio State University—he had also been homecoming king and crowned an amateur model for his queen; she would go on to become his wife.
The two generations of women in my life, on both my parents' sides, ranged in personality from strong-willed to forces to be reckoned with. These women were the loudest voices at any sporting event. They taught me to do a job right the first time, that it was okay to speak out, and that you should always have a soft spot for the underdog.
My first nickname was Fireplug, given to me by my uncle Nick. Yes, my dad agreed, she has got our linebacker shoulders. Given Uncle Nick's and Dad's football careers, I was flattered—as only a kid could be—to have inherited their stout, broad frame. I was strong like them, and this too was a trait my family enjoyed pointing out.
One day, when I was about twelve years old, Mom and I hopped into the pickup truck, with the lawnmowers still in the back, to make a milk run. In my hometown of Douglas—thirty miles outside the Nebraska state capital, with a population of 100—this meant heading to the local bar. The Pony Express served as watering hole, gossip central, and mini mart; you could get milk, eggs, and butter along with your Pabst. A handful of farmers were there playing pitch and poker, and after Mom bought our groceries, she announced, "Anyone want to arm wrestle Kathy? She just beat all the boys down at the house." I imagine the farmers, at first, thought it was cute and that they would pretend to put up a good fight before kindly letting me win. Instead, Mom and I left all of them redfaced and asking, "What the hell is in that milk?"
As far back as I can remember, I always liked hard, physical work. As a kid, if I got to spend all day working the farm and could come in dirty and sweaty and hungry, I felt a sense of accomplishment. My dad was an industrial engineer and while our 360-acre farm was his hobby, it was my mom who essentially ran the place, tending daily to the cattle, horses, chickens, pigs, and cutting and baling hay. Mom also drove the morning school bus and worked part time as a bank teller.
My two sisters and I were born in three consecutive years; ten years later my brother would come along. The classic middle child, I was the peacekeeper between my older sister, Betsy, who was the overachiever, and my younger sister, Carrie, the troublemaker. I was a chubby tomboy who liked playing football with the boys. In my teens, volleyball became the center of my world, and I made the Junior Olympic team and earned a full athletic scholarship to the University of Houston. But after six weeks of college, I came back home to marry my first and only boyfriend. It rained ice on the November day of my wedding and, as I was about to walk down the aisle of St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church, my dad whispered to me, "It's not too late to change your mind." For what seemed the first time, I did not listen to his advice. By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three. The years went by, the kids became our lives, and my husband and I realized we did not have much else in common.
My first career was in the hotel industry, and I worked my way up to management at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Houston. Hotel management was a very different world from where I would end up, but the signs of my future path were there, such as the adrenaline rush I felt when I turned down the bed in the celebrity suite, booked by a heavy metal band, and found a sawed-off shotgun under the pillow; or the time the fire alarm went off and I hurdled the front desk—in heeled pumps—to radio security and assemble the quick response team.
My divorce—the first divorce in my extended family—came after ten years of pretending everything was okay. For the first time in my life, I felt like a failure. It was then that I happened on a newspaper ad for open positions in the Lincoln Police Department. I was familiar with guns, having gone on hunting trips with my dad, and I was a diehard fan of cop shows like Matlock, Magnum P.I., Police Woman, and Perry Mason. This was a world I wanted to be a part of.
* * *
From the moment I sat down for my first interview at the Lincoln police station in 1989, I felt as if my life was starting over and that this was where I belonged. Many of the officers were farmers' sons and former football players, and it was in this wholesome mix of athleticism, smarts, and discipline that I felt most comfortable. My initial interview was with Sergeant Jim Hawkins, who would go on to have a profound effect on me as a police officer and as a person. Hawk had played football at the University of Nebraska, and while he possessed a no-nonsense attitude, he was genuinely interested in and concerned for his officers and was always available for advice and mentoring. I will never forget leaving that interview and thinking that Hawk was just about the coolest person I had ever met.
After undergoing the routine physical and psychological tests, a polygraph, and numerous personal interviews, I was recruited for the force and started at the police academy. I naturally took to the qualification courses—running and diving (volleyball all over again), wrestling on floor mats with the guys as we learned takedown techniques, climbing barricades and walls, and shooting. At close range, I was a good shot, landing bullets in the target silhouette's head and center mass. But somewhere between fifteen and fifty yards, a particularly bad habit set in: I could not place my shots anywhere but the ball-bag. I would aim for center mass, but my bullets invariably landed groin high, obliterating any indication that my cardboard target may have had testicles. While Freud would have had a distinct view of the situation, I swore to my colleagues I was no man-hater. Just a heavy trigger pull, I would justify. They would feign agreement, then cough out "ball buster" under their breath.
I graduated from the State of Nebraska Law Enforcement Academy and earned my commission, badge, and gun. Soon enough, I was bestowed with another nickname. My beat partner and I were about to make an arrest, but the suspect refused to get out of his car. He had a vise grip on the steering wheel, requiring me to extract him forcibly. As I pulled him down to the ground so I could cuff him, he craned his neck to yell to my partner, "Who is this woman, Xena the Warrior Princess?" My partner, who had been standing there watching me wrestle the guy, burst out laughing. In my ten years at the station, I never lived that moment down.
I spent my first couple of years as a cop on the street, and then I turned my focus to domestic abuse cases and child sex crimes. I took courses and national seminars to become certified in forensic science technology, crime scene management, and advanced interview and interrogation techniques. I was placed on the Youth Aid unit, now known as the Special Investigations Unit, and, in my three years there, made over sixty felony arrests and had a 95 percent conviction rate of predators of women and children. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac, Cari Lynn. Copyright © 2011 Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
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