I worked in an undercover capacity in a street narcotics unit for a number of years. Part of my job entailed running “controlled buys” on crack cocaine dealers in my city using confidential informants (CIs), or sources. These investigations would frequently result in search warrants being served by our SWAT team, of which I was also a member. Rolling through the “hood” in a nondescript ride, I would drop the CI a distance away and monitor them as they approached the location to make the deal. My duties also included running surveillance operations and calling out suspects and vehicles to be stopped by my uniformed partners.
We were an active and highly effective unit that worked in the worst parts of the city night after night. Sitting in a car yards if not feet away from dopers and gang members is a hair-raising experience. More than a few times I held my pistol in my hand in preparation for possible gunplay should my presence have been discovered. I understood that until my uniform partners arrived, I was on my own and had to “hold the line” and repel any attack against me.
My narcotics detective assignment is just one of a large variety of plainclothes or detective jobs in law enforcement. Indeed, during my years there, my unit hunted felony suspects on a daily basis with warrants from murder down, spearheaded street gang investigations, engaged in bank robbery stakeouts and worked every dignitary detail that came into town as well as anything else high-profile or violent. There are really several different plainclothes assignments in law enforcement today: the general assignment detective, the officer assigned to fugitive or other taskforces, and the undercover officer. Each has a different role with different tactics, techniques and procedures.