The experts at Kolins Security are known for their “boots on the ground” experience. Nowhere is that experience more evident than in the knowledge and skills of Joe Ralston, a veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and an expert witness on drug trafficking, surveillance and other narcotics-related issues.
Ralston started on the street level as an officer in the Philadelphia Police Department. “I did all the usual stuff,” he said, “like patrolling the streets and executing search warrants.” After making contacts at the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Ralston was hired there as a narcotics agent, where he handled complex drug cases that required him to develop special expertise in several areas.
Ralston was promoted to a supervisory role at the Attorney General’s office because of his success with those complex cases. “I testified in hundreds of court cases in several areas,” he said. “I became an expert in drug jargon, working with informants, organized crime, undercover operations and wiretaps.”
Working with wiretaps proved to be the most difficult, yet most rewarding, part of Ralston’s work with the Attorney General’s office. “A wiretap can be an investigator’s biggest tool, but you have to show a judge that you’ve exhausted all of the other tools available,” he said. Ralston said that while the federal agents might have designated attorneys to complete wiretap affidavits, Ralston was responsible for writing these affidavits himself and providing judges with justification for a wiretap. “Only about 10% of agents have ever filed a wiretap affidavit,” he said, “because the process is so complicated and requires a high level of expertise.”
According to Ralston, the first step to obtaining a wiretap was to obtain phone records. “Using the information from the phone records, I would review all the data and look for patterns.” The patterns he found, along with the results of surveillance work and the cultivation of informants, would help him build a case for probable cause to obtain a wiretap. “The process is tedious, but necessary, in order to justify a wiretap,” Ralston said.
Ralston’s narcotics investigations eventually removed dangerous criminals off the streets, including members of a cartel who were responsible for using tractor trailers to move hundreds of kilos of cocaine from Arizona to Philadelphia every month.
In addition to wiretapping cases, Ralston has testified in federal, state and municipal courts over 500 times, on subjects ranging from organized crime and bookmaking to gangs and surveillance techniques. He’s also provided private security for Sylvester Stallone, the National Football League, CBS Nightly News, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and various business executives.
Ralston still remembers an important piece of advice he got while in the Police Academy: “I had an instructor that said, ‘What you learn here is only the first step on your way to becoming an officer. Your real learning is being on the street.” Ralston’s street experience makes him a successful and knowledgeable part of the Kolins Security team. Ralston exemplifies their commitment to providing security consultants who have real world expertise.
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