In the words of Randy Brooks in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, "An undercover cop's got to be Marlon Brando, right? To do this job, the person had got to be a great actor." As long as the operative never breaks character, the job should go smoothly.
However, staying in character does not always guarantee a smooth operation. In fact, it could require getting a little rough. Officers took to Reddit to share their stories of the craziest thing they had to do to avoid blowing their cover.
"I know a guy who often went undercover as a junkie. He was committed. He would stop showering for a while before a gig and pee on his tracksuit before going in to work. He was so good that he managed to get the same dealer convicted twice in the space of a year. They never suspected he was the rat. He had multiple police records under different names, too."
"I took a few criminal justice classes in college. Our professor, whom I will call 'Bob,' was a cop for 15 or so years. He had gone undercover in the 80s for a very long time. Bob was biker as a hobby. He was sent undercover to break up an illicit substance ring in the biker community. Bob arranged to make a buy from some guy. Shortly after the buy, the dealer was arrested.
The dealer's sister started telling everyone she thought Bob was a cop. Some of the other bikers started asking him questions. A day or so after the sister started accusing Bob of being a narc, the entire group was at a bar. Bob told a few of the guys to meet him outside in a few minutes. Bob told the sister he had some product for her and told her to come outside.
When they finally got out there, Bob told her, 'Where I'm from, friends don't call friends narcs.'
He then beat the crap out of her in front of the entire group. He kicked her as hard as he could between her legs. Then, he said he punched her four or five times in the face. HARD. He said he did not wanna do it, but after he did that, no one ever accused him of being a cop again."
"I am a former correctional officer. We had a situation in which a major police department planted a cop in the prison to get information on a guy they believed was orchestrating hits from inside the prison. The Warden knew and I knew (by accident), but not a single other officer knew. None of the staff knew, including medical. That's the way they wanted it.
He went through receiving, he was categorized, and placed. It was wild. He was there for a week. They got the info they needed and got him out. It didn't become public knowledge that he was undercover until after I had left and it was a long while after as they were making a case. That was a surreal moment."
"My cousin was an undercover ATF agent. They were trying to bust some guys for illegal distribution of adult beverages and were building a rapport by going undercover. My cousin does not take his ATF badge with him when he's undercover because if anyone ever saw it, he could get shot.
Some hot-headed cops came over and started harassing them. My cousin could not blow his cover but, pretty soon, the police started getting physical. They beat the crap out of my cousin and the guys he was trying to get evidence from. They took them all into the police station, only to find out that my cousin was ATF.
My cousin was angry because cops are not supposed to beat people up. He filed a lawsuit against that police department."
"When I first got started in forensics, it was when chat rooms and webcams were taking off. Child predators thought they would be able to figure out who was who on the internet since, clearly, you'll know you're webcamming with a 40-year-old dude munching on donuts instead of a 14-year-old girl.
I was a naive 18-year-old woman who was just getting started in policing when I heard a couple people talking about how they were having a hard time chatting up creeps now that webcams were a thing. I told them, why not just hire someone to act like an underage girl or boy and coach them on what to say and how to set up meetings to catch these imbeciles?
Lo and behold, I volunteered myself for the job. We set up a 'bedroom' in one of the upstairs offices complete with a bed, desk, and some posters from one of the officers' teenage daughters. I had to wear some of my high school sports clothes or pajamas while talking to predators via webcam.
I passed notes back and forth with the team of officers and passed it off as trying to do homework while chatting. The hardest part was that I had to seem interested and innocent while this dude on the screen was telling me what type of horrible things he wants to do to my body thinking I was still a child.
We netted somewhere around 120 men and a handful of women. The most notable were a few clergy, two city councilmen, a state trooper, school teachers, and other people you would just trust around kids. All of them looked like regular people and seemed like people I would interact with everyday without any idea that they were hunting minors online.
There was only one who got away who I just know went after a real victim - or had already done so already - that really made me worried. He would try and chat off and on when I was on. He got a thrill out of telling me how he would like to tie me up and do all sorts of torturous things to me in great detail. I actually started crying. He just laughed and said it would be fine after I got used to it.
I don't regret doing this work, but it was quite the mind boggle, especially at 18 years old. I just wanted to keep other people from getting abused and hurt the way I had been as a child. I was just doing my job, even though I was kind of blundering into things way outside of my pay grade."
"My grandfather worked narcotics. He had to get in with some dealers by pretending to be a user himself. I believe he actually had to shoot up once or twice.
One day, one of the higher ups was starting to get suspicious. He did not believe my grandpa was actually a user or anything because he didn't have any marks on his arm, where they normally do. My grandpa told them that he did not shoot there, but near his pelvis. He said he was more than happy to pull down his pants and undies to show them.
The dude didn't want see any of that and my grandpa got away with it. He lives in a whole other state now for safety reasons because a lot of the guys he put away years ago are now getting out."
"My husband and his brother worked for neighboring police departments. My husband was in undercover narcotics and his brother was a beat cop. One night, my husband was buying some crack from a group of dudes. One of the friends of the seller recognized my husband, probably from court or something.
'This guy is a freaking cop!' the guy started yelling. 'I know he's a cop. I've seen him before! You have to tell us if you're a cop!'
'No, I'm not a freaking cop,' my husband replied. 'My piece of crap brother is. How do you know my brother? Why do you know cops in that city? Your boy is a freaking narc. I'm not about to buy from a freaking narc.'
The seller and his other friends beat the crap out of the guy who recognized my husband. He left the location unscathed, but sans crack."
"I remember a few years ago in Seattle, people were complaining because the cops took months to do an undercover investigation at an exotic dance club to determine if the women were 'ladies of the night.'
Apparently, this investigation entailed going to these clubs a lot, drinking, and trying to get dancers to do things for money other than dance. I remember drinking was somehow involved because the cops were technically drinking on the job but apparently Seattle doesn't allow adult beverages in those sorts of clubs.
After they proudly announced several of the women were ladies of the night, the club was shut down. According to an article I found about the club being busted, the dancers were cited for 18 counts of illegal touching during lap dances; 16 counts of off-stage nudity, which is prohibited; 18 counts of accepting money for illegal acts; and four counts of 'making love' for money. All are misdemeanors. The manager was cited for reckless managerial conduct, a misdemeanor, for allegedly being aware of illegal activity and taking no action.
They also did stings at bikini barista stands by driving up to the window with a $20 sticking out of their fly."
"My father-in-law did undercover work in the south in the early 1980s. There was a brutal robbery and murder of an old woman in the town. The cops knew without a doubt it was her son, but couldn't pin it for one reason or another. With the son walking free, they decided to try and get him to admit to it with this crazy plan.
My father-in-law went undercover and started hanging around this guy. He told him he needed a hitman for a job - super easy, big money. He told him he had to have experience. Hoping the guy would say, 'Oh yeah, I've killed before. I'm the guy for this,' instead, he said, 'Oh, I have just the guy for you. He just returned to town.'
Not wanting to blow the cover, my father-in-law played along and asked to meet him. The guy told my father-in-law the street name of this guy. He looked him up in the prison system. Sure enough, this guy was an accomplished murderer who just got out of a notoriously rough prison in US. It is also important to the story to mention that he was black.
Now, they had this other guy on their hands who they did not need and he was more dangerous than the one they were after and was already ready for the job. They did not want to blow the cover, but they had to figure out how to get rid of him.
They decided to set up a meeting, print out some KKK/white supremacy shirts, and get some other officers undercover into this bar with my father-in-law, wearing the shirts. My father-in-law was sitting at a table with his weapon directly underneath him, just in case things got hairy. He told the guy that the job he was doing would be for one of the guys wearing the racist shirts. The guy 'noped' the heck out and walked away.
They eventually got the murderous son on another murder later."
"My mom dated a cop for a long time. He was an older guy, in his 70s now. He was at the Asbury Park Riots fresh out of the academy. Sad scary stuff.
Then, he was an undercover narcotics cop for 14 years during the 70s and 80s with the New Jersey State Police. He was Puerto Rican, spoke Spanish, was an ex-marine, and became a state trooper. They utilized his ability to blend in with organized crime in the Latin community. He had to do coke in front of a bunch of dudes during a buy one night. He basically stuck his knife in and blew a mound up his nose.
Then, he started having a minor panic attack, paranoid that they were going to find out he was a cop. He was breathing heavy and went out for air. His heart was pounding out of his chest, panicking over how to get out of it. One of the gangsters came outside to talk to him. He was ready to run or fight.
'Man, I've never seen someone snort that much at once man!' the gangster said. 'You OK?!'
He sighs a huge sigh of relief.
'Yeah, I never did that much,' he replied with a laugh. 'I'm having trouble breathing.'
The guy was really nice. He brought him a drink and they had a smoke. Everyone was joking that he had the heart of a lion to take that much. He actually felt bad about locking that one guy up when it all went down. He said he tried to help him or get a reduced sentence, or something."
"My dad did undercover work for several years and talked about a junkie whom he would hang out with all the time. He even babysat her kids when she went out to get high. This went on for several months while they were figuring out who the big dealer was and acquiring warrants. He grew a beard, had a fake ID, and drove an old, crappy car.
Eventually they got warrants to bust a bunch of people in the ring. He was actually part of the SWAT team at the time. He was part of the group that smashed in doors and arrested her and a bunch of others in the area. He had to wear a balaclava to protect his identity.
He said it was actually really difficult because he had become an important part of those kids' lives. He was kind of attached to them. At that point, they had no mother and had to be taken to child protective services. I never got to ask him more questions about this before he passed, but I have no idea how he balanced this crazy second life and then came home and acted like a normal husband and father in our family."
"I know a guy who used to work undercover for the DEA in Mexico. He infiltrated multiple gangs and cartels and got lots of higher-ups arrested.
He told me about one occasion when some of the cartel leaders pulled him into a shed. There was a guy tied up, on his knees in the middle of the floor. They handed him a six shooter and said the guy on the floor was a mole who had leaked info to the cops. He was told to shoot the guy in the head.
He was freaking out because, up until that point, he had not had to do anything nearly that violent. But, he knew he could not blow his cover. Without hesitation, he walked up to the guy, and pulled the trigger.
It was loaded with blanks. They wanted to test his loyalty, because they suspected him of being an undercover cop. He ended up getting everyone there arrested a short time later."
"I am not a cop, but I did work for the adult beverage board in the city next to my town busting bars for underage drinking. When I would get served, I would have to text the officer in charge. Then, he would come in and take my picture with the drink. Then, he would fine the bar, typically, a few hundred dollars and the bar would get a strike. Three strikes and they lost their license.
When I would get served, I was not allowed to drink anything. Only once did I actually have to break that rule.
I was at a sketchy biker bar known for underage drinking that already have 2 strikes. They were also known for getting rough with the informants, like some employees and patrons assaulting the kids ages 18-20. I walked in and asked for a Budweiser. I showed him my real ID and he served me the drink. Before I could even pull out my phone, the bartender grabbed my wrist and asked me if I worked for the board. I told him, no.
'OK,' he replied, 'then chug your drink.'
I slammed the bottle of Bud. He let my wrist go.
'I have my eye on you boy,' he said, as he got me another Bud.
I took a Snapchat of me at the bar with my drink and high tailed it out of the bar. I showed the picture to the officer and told him everything that happened. He headed into the bar and ended up fining the bar and the bar tender, giving them their last strike.
They ended up taking everything to court. I got called in as a witness and had to testify in court everything that happened. The bar lost the case. As I walked out to my car afterward, the owner yelled out to me.
'Hey, kid,' he said, 'watch your back. You'll get what's coming to you.'"
"I once was the gardener for a cop who worked undercover in the human trafficking trade to identify traffickers and extract underage kids. Apparently, she was highly regarded at her job, got awards etc. But, because she was successful, she ended up at it for a lot longer than is wise, I guess.
She retired early due to mental health issues that likely stemmed from substance abuse during her time undercover. To keep cover, she would do the substances that were being offered or used.
Of course, things spiraled out of control for her. Suddenly, she was on permanent paid leave. She stayed in the house most days hiding from the world. For her, what she did to keep cover was offer up her sanity in exchange for some successful arrests.
She wasn't necessarily 'paranoid' when I worked for her, but she was 'reclusive.' She encountered too much human garbage and just had little use for society anymore.
Once, I pulled up to just have a look and see if her yard needed maintenance and there were cop SUVs out front. I could see a group of people in business type clothes chatting with her on the lawn. I split, but eventually asked the old feller I was working under about it.
He said she told him she would still be in court a bunch of times a year to testify in parole hearings or trials where she would be called to give testimony on a person's past dealings, etc. When I moved cities, I hated giving up that job. I always hoped someday she'd tell me a bunch of stories."
"My mom's best friend's husband was a spy. No one ever knew much about what he did when he was undercover. One story I did hear that stuck with me was that he had to sit and watch while a 13-year-old girl was assaulted by a bunch of guys.
He is super messed up now and on a lot of meds."
"I had a professor who was a colonel. He served overseas and worked in embassies, specifically in Eastern Eurasian countries, such as Russia.
He told my class about how he had to collect intel at some sort of dinner party function in one of these countries. He was expected to keep up shot for shot with the partygoers as to not avoid suspicion.
In order to keep up with the Slavs, yet remain sober enough to do his job, he would down about a quarter cup of canola oil before attending the function to coat his stomach so he wouldn't absorb the drinks as quickly. He said it worked wonderfully, but all the drinks would hit him like a brick house as soon as he got home from the party."
"A family friend of mine worked 10-plus years as a New York City undercover cop. He has seen a lot of messed up stuff, but this is one of the funnier stories he's told me.
As an undercover, he would always wear these outrageous costumes and disguises. One of them was as an Hasidic Jew. Apparently, there was a lot of crime going on within that community. His job was to go into an illegally run brothel for a bust and give the go for a SWAT team to bust in.
He and his partner, both dressed up as Hasidic Jews, walked into the brothel which, according to him, was a disgusting run down apartment. Trying not to blow his cover, he continued pretending to be a customer.
One of the girls took him into a room for what she thought was down and dirty time. Once he got into the room, his job was to text and let the SWAT team know it was go time, but he had a major problem: he had no service. He, then, had to stall for as long as he could, hoping that the SWAT team would get a hint or he would hopefully get service.
He argued with the girl about money, saying he wouldn't pay the agreed amount. He then proceeded to tell the girl what he would want her to do, without doing anything himself. Then he said he was too nervous to do anything. He basically just rambled and distracted for as long as he could until the SWAT team finally busted in."
"An undercover cop in my hometown committed suicide in his truck after leaving the gym. He was in pretty deep with some high profile dealers and dangerous people.
I attended this gym and got the details from my personal trainer. The story is that he was working out with one of the kingpin dudes. A girl he used to date approached him and said that she wished he was in uniform because he was cuter that way. She had no idea he was undercover.
Apparently, he called his wife in the bathroom at the gym. He told her that he was a deadman and that he was sorry. Then, he shot himself.
Sad, sad, sad."