Cooper had already been thinking along the same lines. From his office at police headquarters, he had a direct view of the entrance to Courtroom 191-J, Denver's juvenile courtroom, and the line of kids waiting to see the judge that often stretched for half a block. "I used to look at that line and think, 'Something we are doing here is just not working,'" he says.

Besides, the DPD was in need of a positive story. The summer before, the department had taken a hit over the death of Paul Childs, a mentally disabled fifteen-year-old shot and killed by a Denver patrolman. It wouldn't be a bad thing to remind kids they didn't need to run every time they saw a cop.

"Let's do it," Cooper told Rajaee-Moore. While he couldn't assign cops directly to TASC, he could make it possible for them to work off-duty with the program.

Anthony Camera
Anthony Camera

That agreement was the beginning of a bold new experiment, one that would eventually be titled the Justice Initiative for Drug Endangered Families and grow to serve not just kids but adults, bringing together Denver juvenile and district court judges, the Denver District Attorney's Office, the Denver Department of Human Services, the Denver probation departments, the Denver Drug Endangered Children's Alliance, the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, and a variety of other community organizations, all dedicated to filling the holes for drug addicts caught in the net of the criminal justice system.

But before all that could happen, Rajaee-Moore and Cooper still had to find cops willing to sign on.

******

Audrey and Katie struggle to piece together exactly what happened over the last eight years. Meth will do that: It eats away at your memories, leaving behind a jumble of disjointed recollections and regrets.

Audrey can remember how it started: She was a high-school senior when she smoked meth off some foil at a friend's house. It wasn't a big deal; the drug was just something new to do, and seemed pretty similar to the weed she'd been smoking for years. Nor was it a big deal when Katie walked in on Audrey and her friend smoking meth a few days later and they let the freshman take a couple of hits. Even when the sisters did meth with their biological father, who'd recently slouched back into their lives, it was no big deal: Since he'd been AWOL most of their childhood, it was like doing drugs with some random guy who knew how to party, not their dad.

The two girls were sure they could handle it. They lived in a nice suburban home with their loving mom and stepdad, did well enough in school, dated football players. And in fact, about a month after their little experiment with meth began, it was over. Both moved on to other distractions, to other games and mischief.

But two years later, Audrey went back to meth. She'd recently given birth to a daughter, and smoking meth helped her lose weight. It also helped keep her mind off other problems: The father of her child was in jail for attacking a guy with a baseball bat. Soon after he got out, a few months later, Audrey was pregnant again. She was straight for most of her pregnancy, but after her son was born, she went back to meth.

And what Audrey did, her younger sister did, too.

"It was a second, secret life," says Katie, who hid her growing habit from her friends, boyfriends and parents while holding down a full-time job. Audrey, too, managed to keep her addiction in check at her accounting job and around the children's father, who remained her off-again, on-again boyfriend.

"I told myself, 'I can handle it. I can take care of my kids, and my house is clean,'" Audrey remembers.

But she couldn't maintain the balancing act. Audrey's relationship with her boyfriend was so volatile that she and her kids kept moving from one temporary home to the next — from apartments to hotels to people's garages. Sometimes they stayed with Audrey's mom and stepdad, other times they stayed with her biological father, who'd give Audrey and Katie money for the dope the three would share. When that money ran out, Audrey began selling belongings like her dryer and kitchen table to pay for her habit, and stealing from her friends and family. One day, she took $3,000 and a credit card from the company where she worked. In February 2007, she left the job altogether.

By then, the girls' mother had seen through their act. She told Audrey not to come around again unless she showed up at the front door with a drug counselor. Her safe haven gone, when Audrey heard the cops were after her for the money she'd stolen from her job, she dropped her kids off with their father and went on the run.

She soon met "Primo," a major Mexican dope supplier working in the area. Audrey began moving major quantities of meth for him, buying it for $1,000 an ounce and selling it for a 30 to 40 percent profit. "I thought I was cool," she says. "I felt like a top dog. I was the 'connect.'" Eventually she did other jobs for Primo, including procuring prostitutes for cartel leaders when they flew in from Mexico.

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