Thu May 26, 7:47 AM ET
MIAMI - He's Shaquille O'Neal, basketball star and undercover officer.
The 7-foot-1, 325-pound
Miami Heat center, who has a fascination with law enforcement, was recently sworn in as a U.S. deputy marshal. He spent six hours on a Saturday afternoon with Miami Beach police investigators helping with cases.
O'Neal has joined a
Department of Justice task force that tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.
He is becoming familiar with the techniques and software that officers use to track down the predators, said Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca. And he spends countless hours on his home computer, logging into the police network and learning the ropes.
"I put a lot into it, and when I am done playing, I plan on going undercover and then being the sheriff or chief of police somewhere, either Miami or Orlando, I don't know yet," O'Neal said recently.
After being traded from the
Los Angeles Lakers to Miami, O'Neal contacted Miami Beach police about becoming a reserve officer. He drops by the department regularly for one-on-one instruction, speaks to De Lucca at least once a week, and is a few training hours shy of being certified to make arrests, conduct search warrants and carry a .40-caliber pistol.
"Everyone knows the love I have for the people who defend the streets and the people who defend our country, the armed forces, the Army, Navy, Marines. I want to do something like that, help the community," O'Neal said. "I want to really learn the business."
O'Neal has been interested in law enforcement since he was a teen. He was raised by a stepfather who was an Army sergeant. Two of his uncles worked in law enforcement.
While playing for the Lakers, he went through the police academy and became a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police.
During the 2000 offseason, he rode along with the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Florida. They recovered three stolen cars and made a handful of arrests.
"Shaq's interest in police work is very real," De Lucca said. "He'd be a great undercover guy.
"Obviously, we're not going to send him out to buy dope, but he can do surveillance, he can do Internet crimes. He has an incredible thirst for information, he's street-smart, and he's a communicator and leader. I just hope it's not my job he comes after, or I'm in trouble."