The Ultimate Sacrifice
The Real Story Behind Undercover Police Officers

Nov. 12, 2013

    Whether it’s the comedy “21 Jump Street”, or the action movie “Beyond the Law”, the media has romanticized the role of an undercover officer so much so causing people to forget what a life-threatening profession it is.
An undercover, or plainclothes officer could be the person sitting next to you on the subway, the business man yelling into his phone, the homeless man sitting on a curb.
Undercover police officers, according to LawEnforcementEDU.net, “are among the hardest working, most capable and courageous [people] in the law enforcement community. These officers must infiltrate organizations that are highly resistant to outsiders, and then obtain evidence or intelligence that can be used to dismantle the network. Undercover police officers must tread the line between impersonating members of criminal organizations while still retaining their identity as police officers.”
Imagine being involved with a gang, where every move you make is being watched, and any and everything you do could give away your true identity jeopardizing your and your team’s lives.
For example according to The Independent, “One policeman tells of the time a 3 pound purchase gave him away:
“While pretending to be a wealthy arms-dealer, he bought a pair of rubber stick-on soles for the Gucci loafers he had been provided with. The next day, he met his suspect as planned in the Dorchester; after that meeting he never heard from him again.”
    With the lives of undercover officer’s constantly watched, it is no wonder why reporter Darius Sanai refers to the Undercover Operation as ‘One slip away from death or a breakdown’.
According to Charlie Fuller, the Executive Director of The International Association of Undercover Officers, “The most dangerous part of undercover work is the psychological dangers. More undercover officers suffer severe psychological issues due to undercover [work] than [they] ever [suffer] physically.”
In Fuller’s book, “The Art of Undercover” he goes into more detail on the psychological effects of undercover work, stating that “These effects can be both positive and negative They can vary from causing an individual to become very self-confident and professional in his duties to an individual who completely losses his sense of reality and well-being and actually becomes a violent criminal.”
An undercover agent will have his/her integrity constantly tested and in question. Such tests include temptations, which, according to Fuller are “sometimes, [tough] to resist. These are just a few of the reasons why working undercover is not a preferred form of investigation.”
Contrary to glamorous Hollywood propaganda, any and everything an undercover officer encounters has the possibility to be fatal.
Craig W. Floyd in his article “American Police Beat: Supreme Sacrifice” states; “More than 100 federal, state and local officers have made the ultimate sacrifice while working undercover.”
However, according to Fuller, although working undercover is overwhelmingly dangerous, it is ‘a whole lot safer than working patrol.’
“In 2012 [alone], 95 law enforcement officers were killed. Only 108 [undercover officers] have been killed since 1893.  The last one was in 2011.”
It can be assumed that the fatality rate for undercover officers is lower than for regular patrol officers because of the safety precautions put into undercover work to protect the officer. Not only are there courses to take and veterans to advise the rookie undercover officer, there are also different surveillances utilized.
The International Associations of Undercover Officers requested me not to provide details about the technology used. However the equipment itself does it job, considering “More undercover officers have been injured as a result of not wearing [the surveillance equipment] than those who were discovered wearing [the surveillance equipment].”
Undercover officers face a world of dangers unknown to the public, and it’s time we give their profession, their way of life more consideration and credit.
Another falsehood associated with undercover police officers is that they are ‘allowed’ to partake in illegal activity to maintain their cover. This is almost always false.
If an undercover police officer was asked to partake in illegal activity to ensure the target group, or group of criminals they have assimilated themselves to, that they are not a cop, the officer still would not blindly delve headfirst into the world of their target group.
According to Fuller, “We would have to obtain permission from our supervisors and the prosecuting attorney.”
“Undercover officers are instructed to never participate in a crime with the intent of causing another person harm.”
Furthermore, along with not causing bystanders harm, an undercover officer is “not allowed to do any sort of narcotics whether undercover or on patrol.  When the bad guys want us to consume narcotics, we have numerous excuses to avoid consuming them.”
A viable excuse, states Fuller would be to claim that you are on probation, and if you fail a urinalysis you will go back to jail.
However there is an exception to the policy of an undercover police officer not being allowed to do narcotics of any kind. This would be if the violator was directly threating the officer’s life, i.e. holding him at gunpoint demanding he take narcotics.