An undercover officer duty is a complex one considering the nature of their work specification for two reasons. First, they are officers with a duty to investigate and report on any criminal activities as specified in their job description. Second, they have a duty to keep their identity hidden from the public and the people they are investigating. It is important to note that the core mission of a police officer is to control crime. This is not in dispute and the role of an undercover when faced with these imminent dilemmas does not affect this in any way. Currently, the scope of fighting crime has expanded the world over. The fight against crime and activities which might disturb public peace and cohesion sometimes requires the capacity to intercept them before they actually occur. This means that police officers need to be at the right place at the right time so as to enable crime to be thwarted.
It is due to these ethical and moral dilemmas that I seek to address you on what to do when faced with a possibility of committing misdemeanors and felonies in relation to the duty to keep their cover. Second, I will address the question whether undercover officers are compelled to intervene in order to prevent a crime that they have knowledge of a head of time. Third, I will address the criteria that must be established before sending two undercover agents to Ruckus Society training camp.
The undercover policing or the covert policing involves deception. Deception in covert policing extends to matters such as using fake identification to participating in activities which would otherwise appear to be criminal. An undercover officer can go to the extent of undertaking assignments from drug cartels to laundering their money, establishing fencing businesses that can be used to pay cash for stolen goods, printing counterfeit bills, committing perjury among other criminal activities.
However, this cannot be said to be criminal per se, as the undercover officer is engaged in such activities to gather evidence. The line must, therefore, be drawn from regular criminals who are in the activity for the sole purpose and intention of committing a crime. The officer engages in such crimes in order to protect their identity for the greater good of the operation. These actions are not illegal in so far as they are not committed by rogue officers who are not authorized to undertake such illegal activities. Accordingly, these activities are justifiable and necessary in the aspect of undercover policing.
In view of these reasons, an undercover officer is allowed to participate in authorized crimes for a number of reasons. The two most important reasons as evident from the discussion are: to provide the opportunities for the suspects to commit a crime that is targeted by the investigation authorities. Second, is to maintain a false identity for purposes of facilitating access to the suspect. However, a line must be drawn as to what extent an undercover must operate in this manner. They must participate in such crime in so far as it promotes legitimate objectives of the operation. Therefore, a stray from the set objectives by the undercover officers breaches the bounds of authorized criminality and as such make them become mere criminal themselves.
In view of the second point, it must be noted that criminals who suspect one to be an undercover would try to blow such cover by pushing them to participate in crime as a way of testing their willingness. Any show of reluctance to participate on the part of the officer would arouse suspicion and jeopardize the operations of the crimes fighting agency. The need to participate in this manner is well established and recognized. For instance, the decision of the Ohio Appellate Court affirmed this aspect of authorized criminality when it refused the objection argument by the defendant that an undercover police officer also engaged in the activity of drug use. The Court stated that the officer did so in a bid to stamp out the illicit drug traffic and as such may go to the extent of smoking marijuana to give validity to his appearance.
It is also imperative to note that the FBI is mandated to take reasonable steps to minimize the participation of the undercover officer in any illegal activity. Further, an undercover officer is prohibited from undertaking certain action even as they operate within the confines of their duty. First, an officer shall not undertake any form of violent act except in self-defense; secondly, they cannot initiate or instigate plans to commit criminal acts except to avoid entrapment.
Freeman and Underwood can, therefore, commit misdemeanor crimes but cannot undertake violent activities such as armed robbery and grand theft unless it is authorized by the SAC Assistant Director after Undercover Review Committee has made consideration regarding the activity.
There are several dangers that would put an agent in a position of a dilemma as to intervene and prevent crime or let go to protect the cover. In one circumstance that happened in Dallas, an undercover watched a woman being raped by a group he had infiltrated to avoid losing credibility. On his part, he pretended to be sick. These dangers are reflected in the working of an undercover. There is no rule as to circumstances under which officers can blow their cover. However, officers can do so in the event of a near commission of heinous crimes such as murder or rape. They can do this by themselves or call for back-up and have them prevent the crime thus protecting the cover. It is also important to note that deep undercover may have a psychological effect on the officers as they can easily succumb to the lifestyle adopted. Freeman and Underwood can intervene in either of the two ways but should be wary not to put their security and the operation at risk.
In order for the operation to be successful, there are various things that must be met. An operational plan must be developed as this is the most important tool for undercover operations. Operational plan is an absolute necessity for the safety of the agents and the operation. The management must agree on the plan and adopt in a clearly written form for distribution to all involved parties. In the plan, there is a need to put case number, the date, time and the place at which the operation is to take place. The plan should also contain the names of the undercover officers, the suspects by way of identifying through data or photos. There is also a need to have a street officer who will be responsible for engaging with the agents on a direct basis as well as control and supervisor officer. In addition to this, means of communication must be set as well as emergency signals and location of emergency medical care.