What Do Undercover Cops Do?
Undercover cops bring down a criminal organization from within its ranks. They infiltrate a criminal organization, gather evidence on the activities of that organization, and sometimes participate in the arrest of those individuals.
Despite what’s depicted on TV shows, most undercover cops aren’t cocky individuals who walk around with gold chains dangling around their necks. Their job is to be inconspicuous, to blend in with the criminal types they’ll be associating with. If that means wearing flashy jewelry, then that’s what they’ll do. But most times that’s not the case. If an undercover cop is going to successfully infiltrate a criminal organization, then he has to act like he’s one of them. In fact, it’s much more than that. He puts on a persona. No, he becomes that persona. He is stripped of his police credentials and will only carry a gun if the role he is playing requires it. He’ll assume the role to such a degree that even his credit cards and identification will carry the name of his undercover persona. He may even have a complete criminal history, credit report and other background information created that lends authenticity to his cover.
During his time working on an assignment, an undercover cop will live at an undercover residence. To minimize the risk of being detected, he’ll only contact his law enforcement agency through his handler, who he’ll only meet with sparingly. Getting close to someone who’s actively involved in illegal activities sometimes requires the use of an informant. The informant is their way into the organization. He’ll introduce the undercover cop to the guns or drug dealer, and in exchange, he’ll receive money or a reduced sentence in a case he has pending before the courts. It should be noted that undercover cops cannot instigate a crime. They are only allowed to go along with a plan to commit a crime as a means of keeping their cover. And even then they must receive approval from their handler before-hand. But in some instances, an undercover cop may have to make a judgment call: Break procedure or blow my cover. Undercover cops will gather the evidence necessary to make a conviction using surveillance techniques and will sometimes be asked to testify in court.
Sometimes an operation can go on for years. It’s important that an undercover cop does not blow his cover within this time because the consequences can be deadly. Cops working in an area in which they are known are more likely to have their cover blown. A friend or a criminal who has had a past experience with them could potentially recognize them, walk up to them, and reveal their true identity. That’ why law enforcement agencies use procedures that mitigate the risk of detection. For instance, undercover cops may be assigned to work a case in communities they haven’t grown up in or worked in as a patrol officer.
Because of the risks involved the salary of an undercover cop is often higher than other police officers. The average police officer and detective earned an annual salary of $60,270 in 2015, so undercover cops on average earned more than $60,270 in 2015. However, as with most professions, the salary varies from region to region and employment growth within the profession is set to increase by 4% in the next 7 years.