Criminal Justice/Forensics Undercover Is a essay

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However, as criminals become more aware of undercover tactics, the covert officer is required to provide more and more proof that he is indeed a criminal- which leads to the officer committing acts that compromise his or her integrity for the sake of maintaining cover. By understanding the often conflicting nature of these goals, deception and integrity, we can see how an undercover officer can become confused, lost, and susceptible to temptation (i.e. criminal behavior).

By examining both aspects- environmental factors and personality factors- we take into account both sides of a complex relationship. These two groups of factors, when combined together, shed some light on the exact nature of criminal tendencies amongst police officers.

Definition of Terms

Covert: another term for undercover, meaning the use of deception for the purpose of gathering information or intelligence.

Non-covert: police officers that, even in plain clothes, maintain their own true identity instead of a false one.

Personality tests: various types will be used from the literature.

Undercover: describes a method of operation that includes inserting an operative in an environment with a false persona, for the purpose of gathering information/intelligence.

Deviance: used to describe behavior that is inconsistent with the norms, values and/or ethics of the position or institution.

Corruption: refers to any forbidden (criminal) act involving misuse of position or office for personal gain.

Misconduct: refers to violations of proper procedures.

Favoritism: describes the act of showing partiality to friends and family.

Dissimulation: the act of portraying/experiencing a false identity.

Limitations of the Study.

The study is qualitative in nature. There is little empirical evidence about police corruption in general, and less about corrupt undercover operations in particular. This being the case, it will be impossible to give exact figures as to how much more common criminal activities are amongst undercover officers. However, by use of the data provided, we can establish predispositions to criminal activities, and environmental factors that contribute to them. Therefore, this study will be an attempt to comb the available literature and data for identifiable trends in the illicit activities of known corruption cases, and to find common threads that bind them together. In so doing, we will be able to construct an argument that supports the hypothesis.

While it will be impossible to provide hard and fast numbers, it is the intention of this paper to pose a logical argument for the hypothesis based upon the collected works on the subjects at hand. By means of a comprehensive literary review, and the drawing together of loosely-related fields of data, relationships and causal factors can be derived that will lead to the conclusion put forward in the hypothesis.

Theoretical Framework.

The premise of the study is that corruption exists, but the actual extent of corruption is an unknown and unknowable. However, by studying the nature of corruption amongst police officers, as well as the psychology inherent in undercover work, we can provide evidence that will lead us to the logical conclusion that undercover officers are indeed more likely to engage in criminal acts than uniformed officers, due to great number of factors that inherently place them at a higher risk of corruption.

Research Hypothesis

The central theme of this paper is that undercover officers are more likely to commit crimes than uniformed police. To support this, the available studies and data relevant to the inquiry will provide reasons for the hypothesis to be valid and truthful. By an analyzation of the data from a risk-factor perspective, we can establish both environmental and personality-based factors that contribute to police corruption.

If undercover activities are inherently corruptive, then the basic premise of covert investigations comes into question. Conversely, if the nature of the individual is the greater factor, then it can be supposed that if the correct individuals can be cultivated for covert assignments, then corruption can be countered by intensive screening of potential operatives.

Summary of Remaining Chapters

Chapter Two is a comprehensive review of the relevant literature. It is broken down into sections explaining the background of undercover police investigations, examining the nature and extent of corruption amongst police (both covert and non-covert) with a special emphasis on drug-related corruption, and a study of the known psychology pertaining to undercover operations.

Chapter Three explains the methodology of the study. The study is composed of the collected data from four major studies in the field. This information is cross referenced with each other, and used to provide support for the thesis statement.

Chapter Four discloses the results of the study and provide a comparative analysis of the data produced.

Any relationships, trends, or patterns that are exhibited by the data are revealed here. The findings are presented from the collected works of four empirical studies.

Chapter Five discusses the possible interpretations of the data, provides the conclusions backed by the discussion, and postulates recommendations for future research and study.

Chapter II- Review of Literature

Background of Undercover Police Operations

There are four broad categories of police work. The first is overt and non-deceptive, and covers the day-to-day duties of most uniformed police officers- responding to calls, acting in response to crimes, making arrests, writing tickets, etc. The second is overt and deceptive, where the officers are known as officers, but use deceptive techniques, such as tricking a suspect into giving a confession. The third is covert and non-deceptive, such as surveillance operations- the officers do not conceal their identities or portray a false one, but their operation is kept as secret as possible. Fourth is covert and deceptive, which covers the activities of most undercover police officers- they falsify their identity and act to keep their operation secret.[Marx 1998, p11-13]

The goal of undercover police work is to gather enough information to enable a successful prosecution. The purpose is to gather physical evidence, in the form of drugs or contraband, and become the complainant seeking an arrest warrant. The agent's identity is usually revealed after the warrant(s) are served. There is usually a large number of warrants due to the large number of contacts and informants the officer has made while on the assignment (a typical three-month operation can yield sixty warrants). [O'Connor 2005c]

Undercover investigation methods are intrusive, involve deception and trickery, and require undercover police to conceal their true identity as they pretend to occupy a civic role. Through misrepresentation, pretext, and guise the police seek to gain the confidence of a person suspected of malfeasance in the hope of gathering evidence of criminal activities.[Girodo 1998, p481]

There are two types of investigation. Tactical investigations target specific persons, seek evidence regarding their intentions to commit a specific crime, and are geared to an eventual prosecution. Strategic investigations, also known as undercover probes, typically target a group or geographical area. In the latter case, the agent attempts to insinuate himself into a group for the purpose of gathering evidence. In most circumstances, the objective is not to prosecute but to gather information to guide future investigations and enforcements.[Girodo 1998, p481]

Traditional uses of undercover operations have been in consensual or victimless crimes. The two primary examples of these sorts of crimes that are targeted for undercover investigation are sex crimes (prostitution) and narcotics/drug offenses.[Choo and Mellors, 1995, p2]

The duration of undercover operations can in some cases be just a few days, but is more commonly in the order of weeks, months, or even years. [Girodo 1985, p300]

Undercover operations can involve considerable financial and personnel resource allocations, and a successful outcome is considerably less predictable. However, given the number of charges that are laid and the range of targets prosecuted, undercover operations are considered effective methods for "attaining significant law enforcement objectives." [Girodo 1985, p300]

The most obvious risk for undercover officers is the possibility of being physically harmed, or even killed, if their true identity is discovered by the target group. This is in addition to the shame, guilt, and embarrassment experienced when the "cover is blown." In some cases, threats to the agent force a relocation and additional security, which can interfere with the reentry into normal life.[Girodo 1985, p300] Nonetheless, there are substantial risks to the undercover agent's mental and emotional health, as well. These will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

Three associated issues have been linked to problems with undercover work:[Girodo 1997, p238] First, there is a conceptual problem of defining suitability for undercover work. Most efforts have concentrated on training people who demonstrated a natural aptitude for deception, so no effort was made to deconstruct the art of deception as a job task. Second, law enforcement appropriated the icon of the secret agent from the intelligence agencies, and fashioned undercover agents out of the mold of the WW2 search for the ideal secret agent. This model was misapplied by law enforcement agencies. Third, there is an inherent paradox in the undercover work selection criteria- the most desirable operatives should include personality predispositions of…[continue]

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