Ask a detective/undercover cop

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One more question, do cops enjoy listening to N.W.A.?

Man I don't really have any questions right now but I've been reading every post and this thread is mega interesting :) Very good questions and very good answers. I hope my creativity kicks in and I'll actually conjure an interesting question. I was actually for a while thinking of joining the cops in Sweden :) Then I though nah I'd probably be a really shitty cop and decided to pursue something else. Keep doing a great job and be safe!

Do you ever do the whole flashing lights and siren to get through red lights for no real reason?

Vanguard_Ex:
How often do you have to use negotiators?

Not sure what you mean by that? Do you mean like in the movie 'the negotiator'? In which case there are people on each department specially trained for that situation. I've only seen them used once when a guy was threatening to jump off a bridge. I believe they get pulled in this city (population about half a million) a few times a year.
I don't think I could do that job, I'm not warm and cuddly enough.

Arcthelad:
Are you happy with your salary? What is your salary?

Like most people in law enforcement who are not brass (very high ranking people) I don't make a salary I am paid an hourly wage. It's actually based more off how long you've been in the department. I actually hold the record in our department for fastest person to be promoted to detective (partly because I was on a different department before this and my good education)
So because I only have a little under two years here I am actually the lowest paid detective on the department. :-p
I am happy with my pay though because I do a crotchton of overtime where they pay me 1 1/2 times my normal pay.

How much free time do you get? And what is the risk of getting hurt at work?

ace_of_something:

Frequen-Z:
I'm not entirely sure how relevant the departments and such are, but just how realistic are the CSI programs compared to what actually goes on in an investigation?

CSI is complete and utter bullcrap!

Surely this a good thing though right? i've always thought that these kind of shows are purposely made to be not entirely representative of the truth as otherwise people, namely criminals would be able to learn way to much about the methods used to link them to there crimes.

On the other hand i do get your point that there are a lot of stupid people who can't differentiate between reality and fiction that must be very frustrating, a problem no doubt exaggerated by the public your referring to being American.....

What are the recruitment requirements regarding nationality?
I've always been interested in joining the police but I don't particularly want to live in England for the rest of my life.

Trifixion:
Pardon my ignorance on this, just curious...

If you are working undercover and in the course of maintaining that cover you have to commit a crime, can you later be prosecuted yourself for that crime, or does your undercover status effectively afford you a "get out of jail free" card?

WanderFreak:

And for a slightly more serious question, when you are undercover are you a cop, by which I mean at what point do you officially stop being undercover and start being a badge? I'd assume it relates entirely to the context of the situation, but yeah.

It's actually very complex and each department has their own rules on the subject. In the case of selling or buying drugs, both of which are illegal, you will not get in trouble for it because the whole point is taking down the other part of that transaction.

One of the most intense moments when being prolonged undercover work is trying to keep the people you're working with (or would that be against?) from committing certain crimes while you're there. This is because depending on the crime you are obligated to stop it.

For example if they start curb stomping a guy (Like one fucking scary moment I was in) You HAVE to stop them. Now, you don't necessarily need to say 'I'm a cop stop!' but you need to make it stop. I chose to tackle both the guys and shout "it's not worth it! it's not worth it! let him go!" Trying to talk them down from continuing the fight saying the jail time isn't worth it and citing all the money they would be losing. This resulted with me getting popped in the mouth. I let it go though.
However, in the end when we collared these guys the assault charge was added to their list. I also called an ambulance the next chance I had to be alone.
If i couldn't get them to stop I would've had to say I was a cop to get them to stop and well, they had guns and I didn't. So I don't want to think about what would have happened.

The thing is if I don't do SOMETHING I could get some sort of negligence charge from my department. Undercover work is very very fucking intense, the movies don't even begin to let you understand, I cannot stress this enough.

ace_of_something:
*Snip*

Currently about to go into university in the UK, and my dream is to join the police either here or in another country. I'd ultimately like to do something in profiling, but I'm aware it'll take years to work myself that far into the whole system.

I have a few questions, if it's alright to ask them all at once.

Is it possible for us British guys to get jobs as cops over there? Like, do they have a preference for foreigners, or the home-grown guys, or is it all fair game?

Do you know anything about the world of profiling? I know it's mainly an FBI thing, but I'm sure all the departments hear little rumors or snippets about it

Thanks a lot, this thread so far has been better than any careers advice officer over here :)

Ive always been interested in the undercover side of things, is it mainly fiction and do you have to be part of the regular force first?

What do cops think of Chris Hansen ?

Has anyone ever gone up to you and said "Is that your pistol or are you just happy to see me?"

WanderFreak:
Being a geek, I must ask: how technologically accurate are the shows when it comes to your daily workings? The shows seem to always portray you as having interactive holographic bullet skull projectors, or IBMs from 1995 running Windows 3. When you send an email, does it make a "sending email" animation? Do you have some sort of convoluted interface, or do you just use Windows?

Haha. Yeah no kidding. We use windows XP and outlook express right now. The program we use for pulling up criminal histories is called 'mugshot' it is used pretty much uniformly in all big departments because the FBI is giving people money to convert to it and make a larger national criminal database. It basically looks like a web browser.
And for me in crimes against property. Well the first thing I do when I get on duty and it's a slow day is browse craigslist for an hour or so to see if anything that has recently been stolen is for sale (it almost always is)

Orcus_35:
Did you ever had paranormal cases? by that i mean, unsolved or wierd cases? and if you can tell some anecdotes that'be interesting to hear.

Sadly, I haven't had anything paranormal. The closest I had was when an older immigrant woman (she was from Sudan I believe) wouldn't let us go into every room in her burgled home because the spirit of her dead husband was in one of the rooms. (It was a guest bed room).

Thing is though, in a big department we always know a guy who knows a guy who once investigated a case with something weird going on. I can't think of any at the moment but if I do I'll let you know.
I do know in our local jail the last 4 guys who have died while in custody, either from suicide or just being old. They've all died in the SAME CELL. And this isn't a small jail there are 1,400 people there at any given moment. The odds of it always being in the same cell is astronomical. Especially since only 4 or 5 people die a year there.

First of all, I must express a lot of respect for what you do.

My question: If you could make or unmake a law to make your job or perhaps the lives of regular people easier or safer, what would it be?

Furburt:
One more question, do cops enjoy listening to N.W.A.?

I can think of a few that do. I like more punk rock. (Rollins band, Bad Religion and the like)

mikecoulter:
Do you ever do the whole flashing lights and siren to get through red lights for no real reason?

Little kids who just go burgled and need a small amount of comfort love turning on our sirens. That's the closest I can think of.

ostro-whiskey:
What do cops think of Chris Hansen ?

It's very dramatic and silly. Everyone loves pointing out the one where the cops were dressed up like bushes, never in my life have i seen of or heard of something so unnecessary. Couldn't they just wait in a car nearby?
My twin brother actually catches these kinds of people. He has said a few times he can see them making large mistakes (Like not letting the guy admit to what he was about to do first) which could cost the trial.

ace_of_something:
I do know in our local jail the last 4 guys who have died while in custody, either from suicide or just being old. They've all died in the SAME CELL. And this isn't a small jail there are 1,400 people there at any given moment. The odds of it always being in the same cell is astronomical. Especially since only 4 or 5 people die a year there.

Ooo-waaa-ooo.
Oh, I have a question.
How hard is it to become a detective in your position, i.e. chasing fools and going deep undercover?
I've got a close relative in America, almost college age, wants to be in basically your job. Any info would be much appreciated and get me a 1-up on any rival family members who may get the information first.
*Is so not referring to the Mafia*
*Shifty eyes*

As a former Private Investigator who used to contract with the local ICE (Integrated Child Exploitation) as a computer forensics technician, I applaud your efforts to try and dispel some of the myths about police work.

I've been privvy to a lot of stuff your average civilian wouldn't be, and as far as I know I was one of only a handful of civilian contractors in my Province's history to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon and assist the police in making arrests. (I never actually arrested anyone, but I did participate in 3 raids that netted thousands of child porn images and videos)

I was only allowed on these raids after taking the required firearms and dynamic entry training, and I was always the last to go in. My purpose was to get to the computer equipment as fast as possible in case the bad guys had any kind of failsafes to wipe the HD's, and on the second raid that's exactly what happened.

I'm still under an NDA so I can't go into any detail until after the trials, but all 3 cases are air tight. Unfortunately we both know how long the Judicial system takes, both in the US and Canada. That's another thing these cop shows don't tell you.

I don't know how many times I've seen a CSI or some similar show where their computer software (Why do they always have sound effects? None of my forensic programs had sound effects) does something ridiculous like taking a grainy cell phone image and sharpening it to near HD quality, or reconstructing a suspect's face from a few pixels reflected in a rear view mirror from a couple of kilometers away. For the record, COMPUTERS CAN NOT DO THIS.

The biggest challenge for me when I'm called as a witness will be to explain the inner workings of a computer and how data is forensically copied bit for bit to a sanitized hard drive and then examined, a lot of people will be staring blankly at me as I explain Hash counts, disk sectors and common hiding places for data on a Hard Drive that your average windows user wouldn't have a clue about. That's the part that worries me, but I have at least another year before I go to court. Yay. Friggin' defense lawyers and their drawn out discoveries and voi dire...

I got out of the business for personal reasons, but if they were ever to ask me to help with another investigation I don't think I would say no. I like putting bad guys away, I just don't like the ugliness I had to witness and document. Look up "Operation Landslide" on the internet to get an idea of what I had to go through as a computer forensics tech.

Listen to what ace_of_something is telling you boys and girls, you just might learn something. Oh, and P.I.'s like donuts, too. I'm partial to dutchies myself ;)

CrazyHaircut94:
How much free time do you get? And what is the risk of getting hurt at work?

Not as much as I should! I work about 60 hours a week typically. Someone always gets robbed in the last 10 minutes of my shift which will then extend my work at least another 3-4 hours. AS a detective It's pretty rare for one of us to get hurt. Because when we come in to the picture the crime is over and the intense moments are gone. When I worked undercover?
Hoooo boy. It was a constant threat. One wrong statement and I could end up in the river, ya know?

Eagle Est1986:
What are the recruitment requirements regarding nationality?
I've always been interested in joining the police but I don't particularly want to live in England for the rest of my life.

AsthmaticPsycho:

Is it possible for us British guys to get jobs as cops over there? Like, do they have a preference for foreigners, or the home-grown guys, or is it all fair game?

Basically in the USA you need to be a legal citizen and have some proof of that. My partner is from Barbados for example. One of the Lieutenants in my department is from Wales a town called ummm "A-Berry-St'width?" He gets an odd accent when he gets pissed.
My department has many Sudanese officer on it because our area has the largest Sudanese population in the united states. (ours was one of the only cities that has consistently been accepting refugees for 20 years)
If you have a foreign language you speak most departments give you bonus points on your application for that. Particularly Spanish or something else relevant to the area (again the Sudanese around here makes Arabic, Nuer, and the other dialects of Sudan very valuable)

Not to mention that many departments are realizing that having a wide variety of people gives you that many more ways of thinking and thought processes which are always a plus.

ace_of_something:
... One of the Lieutenants in my department is from Wales a town called ummm "A-Berry-St'width?" ...

Aberystwyth, you mean? Don't worry, I had to google it to get the spelling :P

Thanks, that's a big help. Anything on my profiling question, pretty please? :)

Edit: Nevermind, I realise you were most likely working on it while I was being impatient

As a detective dealing with thefts probably not, but have you ever been forced to shoot at someone?

AsthmaticPsycho:

ace_of_something:
*Snip*

Currently about to go into university in the UK, and my dream is to join the police either here or in another country. I'd ultimately like to do something in profiling, but I'm aware it'll take years to work myself that far into the whole system.

I have a few questions, if it's alright to ask them all at once.

Do you know anything about the world of profiling? I know it's mainly an FBI thing, but I'm sure all the departments hear little rumors or snippets about it

Thanks a lot, this thread so far has been better than any careers advice officer over here :)

Thanks, I try to see this as a community relations exercise. Cept the community is the global village.

Hmmm Profilers? Well, I really don't want to tell you this but, Profilers are going the way of the dodo. The FBI has been gathering large amounts of data for the last 60 years in what is called 'the uniform crime report' they record all available data on trends, recent changes, races, everything you can think of. It's one of the most sophisticated statistic gathering offices in the world. What they've been finding in the last 12 years or so is that profilers are well, about as accurate as random guessing most of the time. (I can't seem to find the article on the FBIs website) this is the best i could do
A good example was the DC sniper. They were sure he was a lone white guy probably a sales clerk or something. They found two black men one was ex military.

Now that's not to say we don't do some profiling, but it's usually limited to common sense. Like "well, there was no forced entry and the struggle only took place in one room. Victim probably knew the assailant."

I think if that's what you want to get in to the best you can do is become a good old fashioned cop. You learn to pick up on a lot of the things profilers do by using common sense and just experiencing all the different kinds of people you do when you're on a beat. The feds still like to do some profiling but it's more related to bank accounts and how money is spent than anything else (there's ALWAYS a money trail)

How accurate portrayal of you life is Undercover Brother?

ace_of_something:
*Snip*

Your honesty very much appreciated. In fact, this actually makes it a lot easier for me - whereas before I was thinking I had to go specifically into a profiling job, now thanks to you I know that some of the elements I find the most interesting (i.e. being able to figure out certain characteristics just from looking at the crime scene) can be found just in a normal police job.

A future career is starting to look much more simple now, thank you again :)

angel34:
Ive always been interested in the undercover side of things, is it mainly fiction and do you have to be part of the regular force first?

killer-corkonian:

Oh, I have a question.
How hard is it to become a detective in your position, i.e. chasing fools and going deep undercover?
I've got a close relative in America, almost college age, wants to be in basically your job. Any info would be much appreciated and get me a 1-up on any rival family members who may get the information first.
*Is so not referring to the Mafia*
*Shifty eyes*

Right now I don't do undercover work, and I don't see myself doing it again in the near future. I'm only 29ish and I already feel I'm too old for it.

A lot of what you see on TV as far as undercover work goes, ironically makes it a lot LESS scary/dramatic than it really is. Especially prolonged cover. You have to live a separate life, lose contact with friends. One true thing from movies is that prolonged undercover work (lasting more than a couple days) they really do like having guys with no wife and kids not because of the risk but more because if you have a wife and kids you're going to miss not talking to them.

The worst is if you start to think of the people you're going to put behind bars as friends. This happens a lot when they're the only people you hang around. See criminals aren't like on TV they're not pure unadulterated evilness. Some of those guys have kids, kids that they're perfectly good parents to. They don't beat the shit out of people, they just sell tons of drugs that ruin everyone elses lives. But really he's a nice guy if you get to know him. And when you're undercover you will.
When you sit at a trial that is usually the first time the guys you got arrested realizes you were a cop. They'll look across the courtroom at you with a look in their eyes like "what the hell man? I thought we were friends?"
And you have to betray them because it's your job and it the right thing to do.

The best book I found that really gives you a feel for how fucked up it all can be is Under and Alone by ex-ATF undercover expert Bill Queen. Here he tells the true story of infiltrating a motorcycle gang.
I highly recommend it.

How big is the Head of Department's Office? Is it at the top of a skyscraper with a desk the size of Wales and a glass wall overlooking the city?

WorkerMurphey:
First of all, I must express a lot of respect for what you do.

My question: If you could make or unmake a law to make your job or perhaps the lives of regular people easier or safer, what would it be?

Hrhm. Sometimes the 'fruit of the poison tree' I wish could go away. This is when you find evidence not by legal means. On tv this usually means when they threaten to beat the shit out of someone if they don't talk. In real life this usually means when you accidentally and dumb luck your way in to evidence. For example when you get a search warrent it's very specific what you can and can't search. I saw one guy get away with murder (I wasn't involved in the case) because they found the murder weapon in his detached garage. The warrant only covered his house and car. Not his detached garage. This was 90% the cops fault for not paying the fuck attention. However, if the fruit of the poison tree principal wasn't there they would've just been able to see 'does it matter how we found it? He had the fucking gun!'

That scum bag, you'll be glad to know isn't walking the streets because he is serving time for an unrelated robbery charge.

ace_of_something:

And for me in crimes against property. Well the first thing I do when I get on duty and it's a slow day is browse craigslist for an hour or so to see if anything that has recently been stolen is for sale (it almost always is)

In that case do you buy it and return it, or try to find the person selling it?

In the particular city I'm in it is in the opinion of the minority citizens that the department is racially biased. Some of the cops I've talked to agreed of said opinion. My question is do you feel the department you represent is racist? What's your opinion of other departments and what do you feel are some solutions?

Have you ever went "Jack Bauer" on someone's ass?

Undercover:

I don't know how many times I've seen a CSI or some similar show where their computer software (Why do they always have sound effects? None of my forensic programs had sound effects) does something ridiculous like taking a grainy cell phone image and sharpening it to near HD quality, or reconstructing a suspect's face from a few pixels reflected in a rear view mirror from a couple of kilometers away. For the record, COMPUTERS CAN NOT DO THIS.

Thank you. Thank you. For mentioning this. I work a lot of robberies where they use security cameras they installed in 1988. I always want to shout when a defense attorney brings up the grainy image that "ITS NOT FUCKING BLADE RUNNER YOU DICK!" If you enlarge a pixlated image you just get a big fucking blob. *fumes*

Quaxar:
As a detective dealing with thefts probably not, but have you ever been forced to shoot at someone?

As a detective and as former undercover I never had to discharge my weapon. Though about a month ago during an interview a guy tried to choke my partner I had to knock him out. He then got a whole new charge. What made this really stupid was he wasn't even a fucking suspect he was a witness.

I was unlucky enough to fire my weapon a few times when I was on beat/gang unit.

It's not my favorite thing to talk about.

Is it possible for someone to hack your Escapist account and then deduce your identity, tipping off people in the area you live/work and potentially endangering your life?

I don't usually reply to these things, particularity on a topic I have studied in the past and understand just enough to be dangerous with. But this is a more personal question: How many laws on the books do you disagree with and how do you feel about enforcing these types of laws?

It was the main reason I never joined the police force myself, even with such a fascination with the force, as there are so many bad laws I would never be able to enforce without losing a part of my soul.

PS: That you are not comfortable having fired your weapon makes me respect you even more. It is sad that there are people whom join the police force cause they are attracted to the power and want to shoot guns at people legally.

tharwen:
How big is the Head of Department's Office? Is it at the top of a skyscraper with a desk the size of Wales and a glass wall overlooking the city?

Our Sheriff actually has a fairly smaller office then my father who is a steel salesmen. Though like every department I've ever been on or heard the Chief/Sheriff/Commissioner's office is on the top floor (That's floor 4 for us).

driveBYargument:
In the particular city I'm in it is in the opinion of the minority citizens that the department is racially biased. Some of the cops I've talked to agreed of said opinion. My question is do you feel the department you represent is racist? What's your opinion of other departments and what do you feel are some solutions?

The department itself is a machine. It does not care for race. As far as individuals go? Well, I'd be lying to myself if I said I never met someone who can be more suspicious of one race or another. Our city has a fairly mixed population though, so it's not too much of a problem.

Atheist.:
Have you ever went "Jack Bauer" on someone's ass?

No, but there have been moments where it took every ounce of will not to. Particularly when a guy gets robbed and shot and you ask him "do you know who shot you?"
"yes"
"who was it?"
"I ain't tellin"

Do you ever need to draw your gun and cock it to make a point?

Can you curve bullets a la "Wanted"?

What is the biggest perk to your career?

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