Today, most aspects of policing from simple traffic enforcement to homicide investigation rely on identification and acknowledgement of a police agent as a law enforcement officer. The presence of a “highly visible police have a deterrent effect” (Baker, 2009) to crime, and many believe that any criminal intending to commit a crime will most likely avoid committing crime if there is a likely hood of encountering a police officer in uniform. Certainly, the presence of a uniformed police officer has it benefits to modern society, as it leads to calm and peace of mind in that it assure members of public that someone is on the lookout. The problem though with this form of policing is that it faces many dilemmas especially “when attempting to justify and fund this police presence that crime ridden neighborhoods and communities continually demand” (Baker, 2009). It’s particularly hard to measure the benefit and quantify the number of crimes were suppressed by this form of policing.
“One of the most notable exceptions to uniformed duty is undercover work” (O’Connor, 2007). Although it’s the most challenging area of law enforcement, undercover is the most unique and efficient investigatory tools available to members of law enforcement. Undercover is based on the theory that “not wearing a uniform removes any impediments to acquiring information” (O’Connor, 2007). Undercover police assume the identity of another person for a predefined and substantial amount of time. This form of policing requires secrecy. As an undercover agent, police are able to penetrate areas of the community where police are not readily welcome.
The main purpose of going undercover is to gather “enough information to enable a successful prosecution” (O’Connor, 2007) of criminal. Undercover police aim is to obtain physical evidence, which can enable them to seek an arrest warrant. A police officer’s identity is revealed once he/she obtains an arrest warrant. Undercover operations lead to the arrest of a large number of people because undercover agents are able to maximize the opportunity presented by the operation.
Although undercover policing is a better alternative to uniformed policing, this method of policing has “garnered an air of apprehension and distrust from the public” (Baker, 2009). The media have made the matter worse by portraying rogue “undercover cops going off the grid to affect their own form of justice on unsuspecting suspects” (O’Connor, 2007). Within the American culture, there exists an attitude of distrust to undercover operations. Member of minorities race feel that the police exceed their limit in detecting and apprehending criminals. The public feel that undercover police use unfair tactics that induce criminal activities resulting to entrapment.
Although the law allows undercover police to entice individual to commit crime during undercover operation, some police officer goes beyond the call of duty by using outrageous inducement means that cause regular law-abiding person to commit crime. This is especially true when undercover agents are trying to get informants who will give them vital leads related to cases they are investigating. Some agents do not commit enough time to determine a person predisposition before inducing them to commit crime. In some cases, undercover police have been known to target recently released convicts who are trying to turn their life around. Such practices create a lot of anger directed at police.
Another aspect of undercover operation raising tension and apprehension to member of public is internet undercover policing. Law enforcement agents are going “undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information” (Lardner, 2010). In these operations, undercover police will identify a target’s relatives and friend, from whom the officer will then proceed to gather private information about the target. This information is the used to prosecute the target. In such cases, members of public feel that they are duped to incriminate their friends and relatives, hence becoming very wary about such police operations.
Undercover police operations are not always viewed with suspicion and distrust especially when they respond to public complaints. In such cases, member of public gives tips to undercover police about particular crime perpetrator within the community. The police then work with close collaboration with member of public in investigating and prosecuting perpetrator. Most prostitution and drug related cases are solved this way. When member of public feel that they stand to benefit from such operations, they readily provide vital information and give full support to such operations.
Uniformed policing is the most common form of law enforcement, and has been known to deter crime. However, this form of policing is surrounded by many predicaments since it’s hard to measure the number of crimes that were never committed. Law enforcement officers has recognized undercover policing as the most efficient and unique tool of investigation. Despite its efficiency, undercover policing is faced with distrust and apprehension from members of public. Many feel that this form of policing has created rogue undercover agents who exploit undercover operations for their own selfish gain. Other communities readily support undercover policing by providing vitals tips and collaborating with undercover agents to fight crimes like prostitution and drugs.
Baker, D. (2009). Understanding and Overcoming the Entrapment Defense in. Web.
Lardner, R. (2010). When tweets can make you a jailbird. Web.
O’Connor, T. (2007). Informant, Surveillance, and Undercover Operations. Web.