Australian Institute of Criminology

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Profiling the re-assimilation experiences of Australasian undercover police officers

Australian Institute of Criminology, Nicole French
07 April 2004 -

Dr Nicole French
Queensland University of Technology


Undercover policing is a unique form of law enforcement not only in its use of unconventional investigative techniques but also in the job requirements of the officer. Officers are required to assume fictitious identities for sustained periods and they must anchor themselves in often unfamiliar social contexts that are void of any previously familiar police affiliations. Given the estrangement from regular social and organisational supports, it is not unreasonable to assume that officers will experience attitudinal and behavioral changes that may continue long after undercover policing activity ceases.

This research interviewed 20 Australasian undercover police officers to investigate and identify the transitional issues officer may experience as they return to mainstream policing. This presentation will a) profile two distinct paths through which officers experience re-integration and b) identify key social-psychological processes underlying the re-assimilation experience.

As a consequence of the lack of fit between officers' professional identity and the mainstream policing environment, a number of behavioural and cognitive manifestations were reported in these interviews. Explanations on why and under what conditions former undercover officers are likely to display inappropriate behaviour will be provided. The implications of these findings for law enforcement agencies are also addressed in the presentation.

Dr Nicole French holds a Post-doctoral Research Fellow position at Queensland University of Technology as funded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund. Nicole has held teaching positions at QUT and University of Queensland. She is a registered psychologist and an executive board member of the Queensland and National College of Forensic Psychologists. Nicole has been working extensively for the past 10 years with drug law enforcement agencies both nationally and internationally advising on practices fro the psychological management and monitoring of covert police personnel. Her other areas of work involvement include drug and alcohol related issues, organisational change management and youth offending. Currently, Nicole is contracted to work with the NSW police service in drug and alcohol services.