is the problem/issue addressed in the paper? In other words, what does the author
cite as the purpose of the study or what is the author trying to find out?
– The issue that the study wished to
explore was the effect of undercover work on the officer’s professional and
personal life. That is to say, the study was concerned with the adaptation to working
undercover after working normal, everyday police work. How and why they acted
as they did undercover, was important to understand. Once finished working
undercover, the study wanted to find out how the officer then returned to
normal, patrol type work. On a more personal level, the study sought to address
relationships that the officer that included their families. The study wished
to offer a view into the undercover officer’s world and discover any problems
that might arise for the officer during or after the time that they were
the author’s review of the related literature.
– As the authors, Pogrebin and Poole, delve into the beginning of the
study, the examined the work of Manning, Marx, William and Guess, and
Farkas in order to obtain information from their studies. Pogrebin and
Poole focused their review of related literature on what the other studies
found that changed the way the officer operated and how their mindset
could be altered. Manning and Marx both hypothesize that the culture that
the officer must adapt to would alter the officer’s ability to collect information
in what would be considered a normal manner. The officer undercover must
collect information with the help of criminals, either as informants, through
the infiltration process, or both. Officers must decide for themselves
what is right or wrong in a situation, including how to deal with the
situation. Marx goes a step further to suggest that officers undercover
have their own code of sharing information that can make them more capable
withholding what they think is not pertinent. Williams and Guess further
suggest that by being alone and following their investigation isolates the
officer from their work colleagues. This, they postulate, can lead to more
issues inside the law enforcement department because officers may choose
to not follow the laws themselves. While some might suggest that new rules
and structure might be needed in order to protect the officers in their
work from harm and from potential corruption, Farkas adds that these
measures are in place, but not necessarily used.
is the specific research question/questions?
– There were a few questions that this
study focused on. How does the officer conduct themselves undercover? What
effect does this have on their mindset when it comes to deciding what is right
and wrong? How does working undercover effect their personal lives? How do they
adapt back into normal, everyday police work? These four questions seek to
explain the overall, sociological effects of undercover work on the specific officer’s
life. In answering these questions, especially the ones about how the officer
conducts themselves undercover and their decision-making skills regarding the
legality of activities, a look into how the officer is changed by the undercover
work is made possible. By questioning how they adapt back into normal police work
offers researchers a chance to see the changes from undercover and how the
officer will react to situations that are not in almost constant tension filled
moments. The look into the personal life will ask and answer the question of
much of an effect undercover work has on a family, for better or worse.
dataset (or datasets) does the author use?
Who is being studied? What mechanism is used to collect the data?
When was the data collected? Where did the study take place? Why was this
data set chosen? How much data was collected?
– The authors’ datasets were made up of
three federal agencies and eight municipal police departments in Denver,
Colorado. The participants were previous and current members of the undercover
unit, overall two groups that had ten participants each. Then two more groups
were added whose focus was on length of time spent, 10 officers currently
working undercover with less than 3 years of undercover work and 10 currently
undercover officers with more than 3 years of undercover work. The same two
groups were added, but with officers that were not currently conducting
undercover work. Overall there were 40 people who had volunteered to be in the
study being conducted, 35 men and 5 women, each having spent a certain amount
of time working as an undercover officer. Every member of each group was then
individually interviewed in the privacy of conference rooms, offices, and
interrogation rooms. At the end of the interview process, there was one
interview per participant, each lasting about 2 hours and recorded.
are the major strengths and weaknesses of the dataset?
– The datasets that the researchers
created have many strengths, but two large weaknesses involved. The use of both
federal and municipal officers in the study makes it stronger by not just
focusing on one area. By having this cross section, researchers are able to
compare the effects of officers overall, instead of just focusing on the
federal or local level. They do not use anyone other than the officers that
have worked undercover, which is important because other individuals would not
have the information needed by the researchers. By using the number of years
worked as a variable, the study can look at the effects of undercover work in
more of a longitudinal way. The researchers can see if time plays a part in the
officer’s actions and mindset.
two large weaknesses at play are the location and sex of the participants. The
study was only conducted in Denver, which leads to questions of whether it is
only applicable to that specific area. By using more than one area of the
United States, the study could have more of a national representation of
undercover law enforcement. Also, the study does not say that only 5 women were
chosen for the study based on the population size. If the population size was
not considered, there could be issues that arise because the researchers
focused disproportionately on male officers than female officers. Men and women
have different views on issues and on how to deal with problems, so the
research should take that into account and focus on the population to get the
best population sample they can.
are the major results and important findings of the study?
– There were many different findings in
the study about how the undercover work effected the officer. First, the study
found that the officer relies heavily on their informant and the group the join
to conduct their work. The type of interactions between officer and criminal
have a reciprocity relationship that must be maintained for the law enforcement
case to be continued. Through this reciprocity, the officer, whether they want
to or not, often finds themselves relating to the criminals and becoming
concerned about them. While they can develop this type of relationship with the
criminals they work with, officers also become very cynical and do not trust
anyone. It is how they stay alive and gain their information. The study found
that in the officer’s personal life, they become isolated because of the job
they have taken on. They cannot go out with their families freely and they
cannot share information with them due to the highly confidential nature of
their work. This splits the family in half, leaving the officer feeling lonely.
Finally, when the officer returns to work, the study found that many are often depressed,
angry, and mistrusting of others. The things that kept them alive and working in
the undercover case have become part of the officer’s daily life. Right and
wrong become muddled, as well as how to handle situations becomes questionable.
At home, families have a hard time coming together again, may because they do
not realize that it was an undercover job that pushed them apart. In some cases,
these relationships cannot be saved and divorce occurs.
are the author’s main conclusions?
– The authors’ main conclusion of the
study is to call attention to the harmful or at the very least, life altering
ways undercover work effects the officer. Many officers are excited and seek
out undercover work because of the mystique involved in the work. They do not
think about the effects it will have on them. Undercover work will make the
officer question themselves and the world around them. It can make them more
like the criminals they work with and offer a distorted picture of right and
wrong. It can take them away from their families or push their families away.
The after effects are also something that should be considered. Like almost
coming down from a high, the officer is left deflated and returning to normal
police work can be hard, if not impossible. The officer can become angry easily
and have a cynical world view. With undercover work, the officer’s transformation
from regular officer to undercover officer is one that is hard to do and come
back from when the assignment is over.
would this study be useful for criminal justice professionals? What policies could be informed or
changed as a result of this study? (correctional officers,
probation/parole officers, judges, law enforcement agents or lawyers)
– The study would be the most useful
for officers considering undercover work. Most like the idea of working
undercover because it is mysterious and they are able to work without many
constraints being placed upon them. However, if the officer considers this
study, they would have a well-rounded picture of what their future may hold. The
issues involved both at work and at home are not small ones. The officer has
much to lose in trying to work undercover and maintain a normal life. Farkas
says that there are policies in place to help undercover officers conduct their
investigations, but maybe they could go further than what they are. Suggestions
that agencies explain the potential effects of working undercover to potential
officers would be a good change. Also, setting up a program to help undercover
officers decompress after working undercover and acclimating to everyday life
would be a promising start to helping these officers.
to the critical thinking question(s) at the end of the article.
One of the major findings from this
study is that working undercover can exact a heavy toll on detectives. Consider
the article by Stenross and Kleinman about emotional labor. How do you think
working undercover affects the emotional labor of being a detective? In what
ways do you think working undercover exacerbates the difficulties detectives
experience when interacting with innocents, victims, offenders, and their
– Working undercover requires the
detective to do work and rely on themselves to get things done. They must be conscious
of themselves at all moments so they do not miss anything important. By
constantly working and not having to create an emotional bond with the person
they are working with, the dective does not have to take into consideration
emotions. Working undercover, it seems officers would prefer to deal with
criminals rather than victims or their families because they do not have to
face people who are expecting them to understand their emotions and problems.
Criminals may share their problems, but officers can focus on their jobs and
not really worry about the emotional labor. With victims and family members,
the emotional labor becomes harder when undercover because they are playing a
part and also trying to be themselves. Their undercover persona could make them
less understanding with victims. With their families, it would be hard to have
to explain why they cannot go certain places and have to deakl with the
emotional fallout. For an undercover officer, the emotional labor before taking
on an undercover investigation is exacerbated once the investigation begins.