Don's Diary

April 30, 1999

Monday. Start of the second and final week of a course I am delivering to 12 hardened CID men who now have to struggle with the academic demands of essays and group presentations. Most claim the last essay they wrote was entitled "What I did on my holidays", so feedback on draft attempts is pitched appropriately. Unless they get a pass they will not become accredited handlers of informers.


The prison service and the Crown Prosecution Service come to talk to the officers about "grasses" and "snouts". First hitch occurs - the legal expert who is supposed to be addressing the group has been taken ill at Darlington station and will not be coming. Ask other speakers to stretch their sessions. Put final touches to an article about gender and selection procedures in the CID before posting it to a former colleague at Cornell for comments.


Leave administration to a colleague to pursue my research interest - undercover policing and the workings of surveillance teams. Arrive at nondescript police station at dawn to be fed bacon sandwiches, coffee and a lecture by the Special Branch on the "Irish situation". Today the surveillance team is taking part in a training exercise that involves following and observing a "target". We hide outside a travel lodge in cars, follow the suspect to a railway station and then try to reach her anticipated destination before the train arrives by darting in and out of traffic in an alarming way. Once the target leaves the train, she is followed to a department store where she is observed depositing a "bomb" in some knickers. We then have to chase back to meet the train arriving at the station in order to follow her home and effect the "strike". At home I find a message from Radio 4's Thinking Allowed programme asking about the exclusion of women from elite specialist forces.


Back at the centre things are hotting up. This is the most stressful day for the officers. It consists of a series of assessed role plays, where they are thrown into situations they might encounter as informer handlers. A number of stations are organised - basically interview rooms in which police officers posing as informers, senior officers and so on test the candidates' knowledge of rules and guidelines and their ability to "think on the spot". Everything progressing well so I nip to my office to see an undergraduate dissertation supervisee. We are just into a meaningful discussion when the phone rings. It is the university's finance department berating me for ordering my own ticket for a train journey. She informs me I will be fined 5 per cent of the claim I submitted. Expletive deleted.


Last day of the course. A senior officer is arriving to help assess presentations. I go to link up the projector. Open a locked door in the centre's police classroom to find that the projector appears to have been stolen. Consider setting the detectives a "practical" to find it but decide it will be quicker to ask for a replacement. Everything goes well - all the students pass.

Louise Westmarland

Lecturer in criminology, Centre for Police Research and Education, University of Teesside.

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