Like a dodgy James Bond imitation, the search for intelligence information led some officers into the realm of seduction, relationship building and family life. It is a deep and hurtful tragedy for all of those concerned because, despite the legalities of it, human emotions of love and attachment were evoked on all sides and these attachments were broken, or made false, by the presence of the legal motivation behind the actions.
In short, it is perceived as betrayal, and yet I wonder if that is equalled by the sadness that the emotions, despite their shaky initial basis, nevertheless grew into real and valid feelings between all of those involved and these do not simply vanish once the “truth” is revealed.
From a fiction writer’s perspective, there is a sizeable human element that opens up many opportunities for stories in this area. My recent short story (“The Cabin”), which is available free from my website, dealt with one aspect of those emotions, but there are many more. I think it is a good area for crime writers to explore and if any of my professional peers are reading this I would urge them to look at it as an area for story development.
The problem in this area is the gap between the regulations and the interpretation of those regulations. A decision always has to be made as to what actions are proportionate to the information/crime that is under investigation.
For example, the officers in the above case where gathering information on environmental protest groups who might be seeking to use violence in demonstrations. Was it proportional, then, for officers to spend years building families with those under investigation? What was the real threat?
Would it be different if the officers were infiltrating child-trafficking groups?
How do we give weight to one over the other?
Indeed, how do we, as society, view levels of criminality?
Well, we reflect these things in the sentencing of those found guilty… so should the same tier-tariff be used to judge the actions of undercover officers?
What if you are an officer gathering information on violent international drug-traffickers, and the gang ask you to shoot a dealer to make a point? To refuse reveals your cover, to agree makes you a killer.
Police officers argue strongly that there should be no “black and white” guidelines laid down lest it be made easy for criminals to “test” those within their ranks and identify potential undercover officers. It is an absolute minefield, and therefore one ripe for crime-fiction writers.
Current writing projects preclude me from pursuing these ideas in a fictional setting at present, which is why I am passing it on. Hopefully, someone will make a cracking moral-dilemma crime novel out of it! If you do, let me know! I would love to read it!