Welfare of undercover officers

How are undercover operatives being cared for and protected?

Undercover police officers undertake some of the most difficult and dangerous jobs to protect the public. Guidance published by the College for the first time places an emphasis on the welfare of those working in these roles.

Undercover policing Authorised Professional Practice is now out for consultation, outlining how the tactic should be used to gather legal evidence and intelligence. In a similar way to other areas of guidance such as firearms, the APP sets out use of the tactic without giving away any details or tactics that could aid criminals.

The draft guidance places an emphasis on the welfare of those working undercover and is clear that they require a safe, secure and confidential environment to receive psychological assessment and mental wellbeing support from qualified practitioners.

There are two types of undercover operative

1. An undercover foundation operative carries out low-level infiltration that does not require the ability to withstand intense scrutiny by people who are potentially suspicious. For example, buying drugs on the street.

2. An undercover advanced operative is trained to undertake deployments involving higher-level infiltrations and must be able to withstand intense scrutiny from anyone who may be suspicious. For example, counter terrorism work.

To ensure their welfare, foundation operatives undergo a personality assessment by a chartered clinical psychologist to understand a candidate's motivation and suitability for the role.

Advance operatives undergo a one-to-one psychological assessment with a psychologist or psychiatrist to identify any risk to their wellbeing. The guidance makes clear that officers themselves, their supervisors and managers all have a role in supporting those who operate in this high stress area of work.

In addition, particular consideration should be given to the potential psychological impact on undercover online operatives, whose work may involve frequently viewing graphic and disturbing images. This will be addressed and managed by an approved psychologist.

College of Policing CEO, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, said:

"The job of an undercover operative is dangerous and stressful so it is essential that we, as the professional body, give them the right support to keep them and the public safe."

The College of Policing licenses all undercover training courses and accredits all who pass them.

You can view and respond to the consultation until 10 August 12016 on the Authorised Professional Practice website.

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