Dating an undercover cop

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One policeman tells of the time a pounds 3 purchase gave him away: while pretending to be a wealthy arms-dealer, he bought a pair of rubber stick-on soles for the Gucci loafers he had been provided with.

The next day, he met his suspect as planned in the Dorchester; after that meeting he never heard from him again.

Or someone with a Geordie accent and an intimate knowledge of rave music who can drive a motorbike.

"There is no such thing as an `undercover policeman'; each job needs someone different." Sometimes those in charge have someone in mind, or on file; if not, the word gets sent out to different forces.

He is a drug user, a football hooligan, a thieving barman and a chauffeur.

Alan - not his real name - has been in the force for more than a decade, and he's proud of what he does, blending in with criminals, sometimes for months on end, to help "catch the big boys". The mystique of the undercover cop, has recently been tarnished in a series of high-profile cases.If an undercover officer has to tell his cronies that he was in the Royal Greenjackets, "either he actually will have been in the Greenjackets, or we'll make damn sure he'll be able to talk about units and events like he was there.He'll be able to describe the food and the colour of the carpets." Normally, detectives won't risk using someone who has to spin such a risky yarn, but circumstances might dictate there's only one candidate suitable for the job. A typical undercover assignment might involve a policeman working as a driver and mechanic for a crime ring."Some people do one undercover job that lasts two days in 20 years on the force; others are doing them more or less full-time," says the source.It is those involved in the high-risk, long-term operations, that require the assumption of a false identity - so-called "level one" assignments, who receive the most intensive training.

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