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The Cops Issue

Undercover For A Day

A while back I got the chance to tag along in an undercover police car for one shift. This is what happened.
01 June 2006, 12:00am

Oscar the Grouch, the 23rd Precinct’s house cat that Amy Kellner met on her day with the NYPD.

A while back I got the chance to tag along in an undercover police car for one shift. This is what happened.

14.00: I met up with Olle and started out by asking what the hell it is he’s doing. He told me he’s with the CID, doing high profile violence and narcotics investigations.

Olle: We always work in teams, and we always know who’s doing what, who’s dealing drugs. Our job is to collect the evidence that will get the perpetrator convicted. It takes a lot of time, and it can get really tedious, but the reward is when we make a “hit.” That’s police talk for when we get to arrest someone and search their place. Another cop term is “crocodile.” That’s an inspector. You know, big mouth, no ears.

15.00: Olle starts his day at either nine in the morning or three in the afternoon, with a meeting. For regular cops this would be “roll call,” but in the CID they just call it a meeting. Everyone from Olle’s team met with Olle’s boss, who told them what had been going on, which meant I had to wait outside. That place had so many secrets! The station was huge, and really institutional like. Nobody had anything on their desks, or anything that gave away their personalities. I was allowed to walk around everywhere, except for the custody because someone was being “handled” there. I didn’t even have to go through metal detectors, but I don’t know, maybe that was because me and Olle are pals.

When Olle came back out he couldn’t really tell me what was going on, but there had been an “incident,” and we got in the car.

16.30: Ok, so let me tell you the car was a real bummer. Since Olle is undercover, it’s just, you know, a car. I kept pestering him about showing me the secret compartments and where the extra stick shift for super speed was, but he told me there isn’t anything like that. It’s just a car. It’s a new standard model (not allowed to tell you anything else, sowwy), and it doesn’t have anything that could give away the fact that Olle’s not just a regular guy, out cruising his Volvo (oops!). Everyone in the team has about five or six cars each, that they keep on rotation, so that it won’t be the same blue (oops!) car circling the block every day.

16.50: We reached a remote residential area. I wasn’t really allowed to be in the car at all, so I had to keep a low profile while Olle got out and started going from door to door. Even though I was just in the car it was funny seeing person after person going from super suspicious, brows knit, to trusting little kittens ready to roll up in Olle’s arms when he hit them with his tough-but-charming cop authority.

17.20: Helloooo boring! I tugged on Olle’s sleeve and nagged on him to let me go with him, but he told me I wasn’t allowed, because it would mean he’d be passing on “uncompromising third party information.” Up until a few years ago no one cared, but now the rules have changed. There seemed to be a few nutters along Olle’s way, but most of the visits were quick and Olle got frustrated because no one told him anything juicy.

17.40: There wasn’t even a police radio to listen to, Olle carries it with him. It looked like a plain phone, a little bigger than a regular mobile, that he kept in his pocket. You know how some people walk around with the handsfree thing in their ear all the time? So does Olle, but he does it because he’s on an open line with his team. They never have to call each other, they just start talking. It comes in handy when they’re following someone and need to keep each other updated on which corner he’s turning. There are terms and codes they use, like truck drivers, but I’m not allowed to pass on what they are. I asked if people make jokes and chit chat, but Olle told me they don’t, it’s just work talk. And codes. These guys are focused.

19.00: After about two eons of nothing-ness (and a few secrets that I’m not allowed to pass on) Olle decided it was time to go back to the station, where it was time for, you guessed it...

19.30: More nothing! Olle had a lot of paperwork to do, he needed to write down that every person along every street told him fuck all. I hung out in the cafeteria, ate sugar cubes and drank lousy coffee (the coffee is actually worse than they make it out to be in the movies, ALTHOUGH there were absolutely no sign of any Krispy Kreme looking doughnuts). I asked Olle if he didn’t want to have little photo frames on his desk, the way they have in the cop shows on TV, and he told me he would love to. He was planning on getting one with a photo of his kid. So sweet!

20.00: Ok, Olle, I admit it is VERY tedious. I got bored out of my fucking skull, gave Olle a peck on the cheek and said good-bye and left him to many more hours of filing reports.

PS. This was so dull I was sort of bummed, and I called Olle up a couple of weeks later to ask how he was, and this is what he told me.

What had happened that morning was that two bodies had been found in the forest. The bodies were un-identified, so what him and me had been doing was going door to door to see if anyone had seen anything that could give a hint of who they were. Olle had absolutely no leads, and going door to door is always the first step.

That whole day, and what turned into a week of the same thing for Olle (poor guy), had been completely useless. Nothing. But after a while Olle was informed (informers exists!) that a person was bragging about having killed the two people in the forest. When the guy was brought in for questioning it turned out he was a nut, and that it wasn’t him who did it after all. This kind of thing happens all the time, that’s why you can’t sentence people on their own admission.

What finally cracked this nut was a regular guy who called the police because he got suspicious.

It turns out the two victims were Polish. They were “good people,” they had no registered criminal behaviour. So Olle started investigating the rest of the Polish circle living in Sweden, and found that a lot of people were using false identities. A bunch of them, including one of the dead guys, shared an address with about 20 other people in Stockholm, in order to be able to collect his welfare check.

The day before the murder the two victims had made contact with the person who was living in the apartment. They needed the check. After they got the check they went to the bank to collect the money. Olle managed to get footage from the bank surveillance camera, and could confirm the couple had gotten that far at least.

A few weeks after the murder, the person who lived on the address called up the police and goes, “I think I know who did it.” And that’s what ended up solving the case.

He said that there was a group of people who left the check to the two people who got killed. The two dead guys had always behaved well, while the rest of the bunch was always making trouble. The guy on the address told the cops he had seen the bad boys leaving together in a red car after they had handed over the checks. Bad news for sure, that meant the bad boys had been making plans.

Olle put out a detaining order and was able to identify the group from a photo taken of them, by surveillance again, in the red car on the border between Sweden and Denmark. Alas, they were running. That meant Olle felt confident he was right, and made the detaining order international. Soon the group “came up for air” in Austria. Three out of four got arrested and got extradited to Sweden right away. It didn’t take long in interrogations before the group disintegrated, and Olle’s job was done when they gave up and told the truth themselves. The bullshit that led to two dead guys was the following: the victims had gone with the perps to a party after they received the check. After a serious booze binge a drunken brawl erupted and the perpetrators beat the victims to death. That’s it.

So far, one perpetrator still remains missing.

ANETKA ZAKREWSKA
If you think we didn’t change all the names and ethnicities for the cops and suspects, you’re nuts.