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Undercover sex

March 1, 2013

Undercover police now have to gain permission to “engage in physical relationships” with their targets. In the past, undercover police, infiltrating groups, could, if necessary, choose to sleep with their target in the furtherance of their relationship.

Whilst I can understand why undercover officers may require close relationships with those they are observing, surely there is a boundary between professional conduct and the abuse of power? Whilst the officer’s motive to cement the perception of a relationship and thus gain privileged information is understandable, surely the British police have a moral and professional obligation to respect those with whom they serve?

For millennia sex has been used as a tool of repression, abuse and control; men, spawned from a misogynistic society using it as a means to subjugate and fragment both women as individuals and as a group. With this in mind, can we allow members of the police to sleep with suspects, whatever the motive? Surely, authority figures have a responsibility to carry out their roles without the need to make ambiguous the parameters, ethical and moral in which they operate.

The notion of permission is an interesting concept in this context. It seems that the officer now has to go to his superior, explain the situation, and suggest that, “If only I could sleep with her I could get closer to the intelligence we need…”

With this, the senior officer, (most likely a man) considers this request and says,
“Well, if you think it would help, then you must do what you must do. I expect a full report…”

With a heavy heart and sense of duty the officer rejoins the gang, clan or group-member he is “in a relationship” with and cheerfully, with thoughts of queen and country, has sex.

I appreciate that secret agents, fictitious or otherwise, are nothing without sex. Where would Fleming’s 007 be without the use of his charm, sophistication and bedroom-based prowess? Clearly all information is gathered from and squeezed out of the mattress.

But, do our police need to “put it about” whilst on duty? For surely, undercover or not they are still at work. How far does this go, can we expect to see serving officers sleeping with suspects of other offences in order to gain a confession?

“Sir, if I can just get her knickers off she’ll tell me everything, I guarantee it!”
“Yes sir.”
“Well, do you want the back of the van or one of the cells?”
“I was rather banking on the loan of your desk sir…”

I appreciate that this is a complex grey area. That the police have to infiltrate and therefore earn trust from those around them. In some cases they have to strike up relationships with individuals in order to gather information, intelligence and co-operation in order to establish fact and gather evidence. And of course I am not suggesting that every officer sleeps with his mark as a matter of course, but surely there is a massive and very disconcerting power imbalance when an officer is playing a game, maintaining a role and pretending.

From → law, Society

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