Thesis: Criminal Justice/Forensics Undercover

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Criminal Justice/Forensics

Undercover" is a term that has made its way into the public vernacular, thanks in large part to movies and television programs. Undercover, at its fundamental level, means pretending to be someone else- the construction and portrayal of a false identity for an ulterior purpose. In the case of undercover police investigations, this ulterior purpose is to enforce the law. This is done by using a false identity to infiltrate a criminal group in order to gather evidence and build a case. This can be a long-term project- some cases have had an undercover operative on assignments that lasted for years. The purpose of this research paper is to show that undercover police officers are more likely to commit criminal acts than police officers who do not work undercover. Based upon the available data, it is possible to construct a strong argument in favor of the hypothesis. Undercover police officers are certainly more likely to commit crimes than other police officers, for a variety of reasons

Abstract

Chapter I- Introduction

Background of the Study

Problem Statement

Purpose and Objective of Study

Rationale of the study

Definition of Terms

Limitations of the Study

Theoretical Framework

Research Hypothesis

Summary of Remaining Chapters

Chapter II- Review of the Literature

Background of Undercover Police Operations

Psychological Studies of Undercover Work

Nature and Extent of Police Corruption

Chapter III- Methodology

Description of the Subjects

Description of the Research Instruments

Chapter IV- Results

Chapter V- Discussions, Conclusions, and Recommendations

Discussion

Conclusions

Recommendations

Bibliography

Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations of principal measures for Low extroversion- low neuroticism group

Table 2: Means and Standard Deviations of principal measures for Low extroversion- high neuroticism group

Table 3: Means and Standard Deviations of principal measures for High extroversion- low neuroticism group

Table 4: Means and Standard Deviations of principal measures for High extroversion- high neuroticism group

Table 5: FBI-led Law Enforcement Corruption Cases Opened, 1993-97

Table 6: Convictions from FBI-led corruption investigations

Table 7: Outcomes for urinalysis/hair analysis for police applicants

Table 8: End of training period testing, urinalysis (1989-95) by gender and ethnicity

Table 9: End of training period testing, hair analysis (1996-99) by gender and ethnicity

Table 10: Urinalysis results, random screening, sworn officers, 1990-1999

Table 11: Comparison of per cent positive drug tests by job status

Table 12: Mean self-reported false identity reappearances for police officers observed to have reenacted the false identity outside operational settings

Chapter I: Introduction

Background of the study.

Undercover" is a term that has made its way into the public vernacular, thanks in large part to movies and television programs. Undercover, at its fundamental level, means pretending to be someone else- the construction and portrayal of a false identity for an ulterior purpose. In the case of undercover police investigations, this ulterior purpose is to enforce the law. This is done by using a false identity to infiltrate a criminal group in order to gather evidence and build a case. This can be a long-term project- some cases have had an undercover operative on assignments that lasted for years.

Yet, there are many cases where the law is not forwarded- quite the opposite. The undercover officer, for a variety of reasons, chooses to engage in criminal activities, such as buying, selling, or consuming drugs. Due to smarter criminals and more demanding circumstances, the undercover officer is often forced to engage in criminal activities in order to maintain their cover and gain the confidence and acceptance of the targeted group or individual.

For years, undercover operations have been used extensively in police investigations. Furthermore, in recent years, it has seen even wider use, for an increasingly diverse set of activities. While it cannot be argued that undercover work indeed produces results, there is an ongoing ethical debate in order to determine if deception in this or any form is an acceptable tool for law enforcement. Some argue that the essential nature of covert work is unethical, and could be a corrupting influence on its practitioners. After all, police are human beings, and therefore susceptible to temptations, such as sex, drugs and money. Can it really be a good idea to send personnel into such a subversive environment- generally for months at a time- where exactly these sorts of temptations will be present to a very large degree? Can it really be surprising to hear of undercover officers who have succumbed, by accepting cash, consuming illegal drugs, drinking in the line of duty, and using violence to gain acceptance within the criminal group?

Corruption is an ongoing problem in law enforcement, for both undercover officers and officers in non-covert assignments. The public media is full of examples of police corruption, and there are also many studies and commissions on the subject. There is strong link between corruption and drugs in regards to the police- much of the literature reflects this idea.

Police officers involved in drug enforcement are exposed to temptations through the accessibility of large amounts of drugs and cash. This is even more true for undercover agents, where in most cases the agent is working from within the criminal subculture. Total immersion in the criminal group, while expected as part of an undercover operation, has been shown to have deleterious side effects for the mental health of the agent. This effect weakens the officer's willpower and erodes his or her integrity, thereby creating a higher level of susceptibility to temptation. While there is little hard data to support this statement, logic dictates that undercover officers, due to the increased psychological strain that their job brings, are more susceptible to temptation, and thus committing crimes.

There is a startling lack of evidence that would even allow us to estimate the extent of corruption in the police in general, let alone undercover officers in particular. While there have been many important studies done on the subject, and several important Commissions that provided important information about corruption, in most cases, even the experts admit they have no way of knowing just how much corruption exists in law enforcement, and high far up and down the chain of command it goes.

Undercover work has been painted negatively by the media. In many cases, the undercover police officer is shown in turns as an addict, or an agency-endorsed criminal, or a classic "bad apple" that abuses the power and autonomy of undercover work for personal gain. It must be noted however, that much of what has been portrayed by popular movies on the subject (such as Deep Cover and Rush), have been largely based upon the descriptions of experiences from actual undercover operatives.

Problem Statement.

Because of the dangers of corruption to both the police and the public, it is at the heart of the issue at hand. While corruption is a serious charge against uniformed police, and there are numerous examples of it, the real discussion of this dissertation is about the nature of undercover work. In a society that values honesty and integrity and seeks to cultivate those traits in its law enforcement personnel, how can the deceptive, and often underhanded, premise of undercover work be justified? Is it ethically right for an undercover officer to manufacture and sell drugs, when the real purpose of drug enforcement is to keep drugs out of society? Moreover, what are the long-term ramifications of covert investigations, both for the criminal justice institution and for the individual officer? The implication is that the act of using deception compromises the ethics of the police officer, and increases the chance of bending or breaking the rules.

By examining corruption and the nature of undercover work, we can begin to come to an understanding that will answer these questions. By examining the psychology behind corruption and deception, we can show that undercover officers are more likely to engage in criminal acts than officers who operate in non-covert roles.

Purpose and Objective of the Study.

It is the purpose of this study to provide evidence that undercover officers are more likely to commit crimes than other police officers. This is to be accomplished by an extensive review of literature pertaining to police corruption. In addition, the psychological aspects of police work in general and undercover assignments in particular will provide conclusions to support the supposition. The objective is to establish firmly that there is indeed an increased risk of undercover officers crossing the line of legality, whether in the line of duty or otherwise.

Rationale of the Study.

The study of corruption in law enforcement is essential to this work because knowledge of how corruption takes root and grows can reveal vital information. By understanding how environmental factors can contribute to corruption, it can be shown that the total-immersion environment encountered by undercover officers has qualities that promote corruption, thereby making it more likely that covert officers will engage in illegal activities.

The study of the psychology involved in undercover work will also provide clues to an answer. The undercover police officer is expected to be able to convincingly deceive… [END OF PREVIEW]

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