The Role of Undercover Police Officers
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
There are many roles that police officers and police departments take on. One of the most interesting roles that they take in my opinion is the role of undercover police work. It is one of the most unique jobs an officer can have; they, in a sense are living a double life. These operations are very secretive and undercover officers can be used in huge operations to take someone down or simply just talking to people on the street to gain more intel about certain crimes. Undercover work is also very tricky because at any moment in time the officers could be made out to be not who they say they are and the operation could be ruined, or worse, they could be severely injured or killed. Undercover work is sometimes considered controversial, because sometimes they have to break the law to enforce the law (Joh, 2009). These officers may sometimes suffer from stress, alcohol or drug abuse, and extreme anxiety while undercover, some have a difficult time reintegrating back into society after the operation. Undercover police work has been romanticized in television; however undercover officers have many duties and take a lot of risks with their lives and the lives of others while trying to bring justice to the public.
After completion of the police academy and after officially becoming a police officer, the first thing an officer has to do in order to be considered for an undercover operation is to pass the many phases of the tests they are given. Even with completion of these tests it is not always guaranteed that they will be chosen for an operation. The tests include many physical evaluations that test the candidate’s flexibility and stamina, academic tests, and psychological tests (Farmer, 2003). An extensive background check is also performed, the officer must have extensive experience in the field, so it is not likely that right after you become an officer you will be chosen for undercover work. Undercover officers must be prepared for the work that they are about to do. Some operations can take years, and some just a couple of days. Sometimes the officers could be working with other undercover officers, or they could be working solo on the operation. The officers are living double lives, they need to be prepared for the stress that they are about to take on while working undercover.
There are many types of undercover operations that officers deal with. According to Joh (2009), there are three distinguishing types of undercover work, “(1) surveillance or intelligence operations, which are the most passive activities, followed by (2) preventive operations, which take a more active approach, and (3) facilitative operations, which require the most active involvement of the police” (p. 163).
Surveillance operations are highly based on deception techniques to gather information. The main role is to collect information not to influence people to commit crimes. Officers are usually sent to places to collect this information, for example, schools, bars, or prisons (Joh, 2009). Secondly, there are the preventive operations which are used to try to stop the offenses from taking place; they may divert the suspect (Joh, 2009). And lastly there are the facilitative operations; this is when the officers encourage the offenses by strengthening the suspects. The officers sometimes may provide aid or goods to the suspects. This type of operation is the most controversial, because many think that an officer breaking the law to enforce the law is not justifiable (Joh, 2009).
Undercover officers are most likely going to be working with highly dangerous criminals. Some of the operations they could be involved with are huge drug operations, and depending on how far into the operation they are the more dangerous it could get. This profession can be very...
References: Farmer, Suzanne. (2003). Becoming an undercover police ofﬁcer: a note on fairness perceptions, behavior, and attitudes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24, 373-387.
Joh, Elizibeth. (2009). Breaking the law to enforce it: Undercover police participation in crime. Stanford Law Review, 62, 155-199.
Love, Kevin. (2008). Symptoms of undercover police officers: A comparison of officers currently, formerly, and without undercover experience. International Journal of Stress Management,15, 136-152.
Craig, David. (2003). The right to silence and undercover police operations. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 5,112-125.
Hay, Bruce. (2005). Sting operations, undercover agents, and entrapment. Missouri Law Review, 387.
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