July 7, 2016 by Stephen Bentley
What Have Undercover Cops and Truck Drivers in Common?
You, the reader, might well say, “Okay, what do undercover cops and truck drivers have in common?” I am so pleased you asked me that because I am about to tell you the answer.
According to the College of Policing in Bramshill, England, they are both subject to the European Union Working Time Directive. This is a piece of EU law that became incorporated into the laws of England and Wales. It is intended to protect workers from working too long a shift. In turn, that protects them from becoming overly fatigued. In a factory, or driving a 44 tonne truck, that is sensible. No one wishes to see a factory worker mutilated by a machine. No one wishes to experience a driver of a 44 tonne truck falling asleep and crashing his vehicle.
Many jobs are unique. Some are unique and dangerous. Is a fighting soldier governed by this EU law? I think not. So how is it that an undercover (UC) cop has to take cognizance of this law? The academics at Bramshill have issued a new rule book telling what an UC cannot do. Note “cannot.” They don’t say what he ‘can do,’
Before I go any further, there are issues in the rule book that I agree upon. In my book, I write about lessons learned from my undercover experiences. I urged that there should be a psychological testing regime in place for UCs. They must have heard me. It’s in the new guidance. The stresses of this type of work are not to be underestimated. I am not venturing the opinion that the stresses equate to that of a soldier in battle. Yet, they are considerable.
My incomprehension of the raison d’ être behind this reference to the directive grows by the day. I am incredulous. I am flabbergasted. My suspicion is that one of the academic authors has a law degree. There are few things more dangerous than a fellow with a law degree who has never practised law. [practise as in practise a profession – British English] In any event, if he (or they) are correct in invoking this legal reference, then the law is an ass!
You tell me what an undercover cop is supposed to do to adhere to these inane legal requirements. He or she is embedded. He is an infiltrator. These expert UCs are not governed by time constraints. They don’t clock on and off the job. They are ‘on the case’ 24 hours of the day. Eating, sleeping and living as another person. It is clear to me that the authors of this rule book have no idea about the realities of undercover work.
There are other matters in the guidance I take issue with. Undercover operatives MUST not use drugs. They will be subjected to random drugs tests and disciplinary and/or criminal proceedings may follow. What sheer, utter, bloody nonsense! Part of my infiltration work involved me as posing as a dealer in hash and cocaine. I once showed a considerable amount of cannabis to ‘prove’ my bona fides. It is an unusual dealer in hash, weed, cannabis who doesn’t use his own product. Believe me! But, why should I expect the academics to realise that?
The other issue that springs to mind is the mandatory direction to undercover officers about the use of written or electronic notebooks. What! A surefire way to have your cover blown is to carry a notebook, electronic or otherwise. Again, they are out of touch. Deep cover is as much about intelligence gathering as it is about gathering evidence. Intelligence has no evidential value. There is no need to record it as if it was potential evidence. Potential evidence can be recorded in other discreet ways without needlessly placing a UC in a tight spot.
The current thinking and mindset within the higher echelons of UK police forces is incomprehensible to me. There are matters addressed in this rule book that, in my opinion, are both sensitive and unnecessary. There is information and terminology in the report that is informative to criminals, terrorists and drug dealers. Frankly, I am seething about its contents.
What has it all got to do with me? Current practitioners of undercover work are unable to speak out. I am unable to stand by and say nothing.
In many ways this guidance, the new undercover rule book, is symptomatic of our times. It caters to the ‘PC brigade.’ It caters to the people too scared to make decisions or take risks. It caters to those with no balls. It is written by people too keen to ‘cover their own arses.’
The ‘duty of care’ principle is a theme that runs through the rule book. It is used as an excuse to ban UCs from using drugs in the course of their potentially dangerous double life. I pose this question to the academics – if a duty of care is paramount, then don’t you think you are breaching it every time you ask a young man or woman to go deep undercover?
If these people have their way then there will be no more undercover operations in England and Wales. The criminals, terrorists and drug dealers will laugh all the way to the bank or on their way to those virgins awaiting them.
For those of you who don’t know, there is an ongoing Public Inquiry into undercover policing in the UK. It was called for following controversial covert operations conducted by London’s Metropolitan Police Service. My bet is that the College of Policing has tried to divert criticism during the inquiry by drafting this rule book. Again, this decision astounds me. Why not wait until the Inquiry announces its findings?
One of the controversies I referred to was the case of Mark Kennedy, a former undercover cop. He had a long term sexual relationship with a woman in order to infiltrate a politically motivated group of activists. This was wrong on two counts. One, covert undercover cops should never be used for political reasons. Two, it is indefensible to enter into any kind of sexual relationship to further your goals as an undercover cop. It is reprehensible and immoral.
Undercover operations are a vital tool in the fight against organised crime. Bramshill seems to be doing its utmost to dull this tool.
I take one consolation from the Mark Kennedy fiasco. When I was undercover, I was the handsome one. Kennedy, on the other hand, is plug ugly 🙂 You be the judge!
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