Undercover Operations - Questions and Answers

Q. What factors are considered when deciding to use undercover operators? How do you prioritize?
A. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to proceed with an undercover operation.

These include:

Other factors include high risk to re-offend and commit other crimes. For example, crimes involving serial killers and contract killers are a top priority. Public safety and expectations also factor in the decision-making process because the public expects police to resolve heinous crime.

Q. What aspects of the major crime homicide technique have been challenged in court?
A. The execution of the technique has been challenged in court. Each one of those challenges has resulted in a re-evaluation of the techniques used. The program has been revised accordingly.

Q. Why are these types of investigations successful?
A. The major crime homicide technique provides an environment where suspects feel comfortable in disclosing certain past activities which they may not otherwise discuss. It promotes candor and truth, even about conduct that could be characterized as both criminal and shameful.

Q. How long is the average undercover operation?
A. It varies from case to case depending on the circumstances of the specific operation.

Q. Use of the Mr. Big scenarios is not allowed in the United States or in the United Kingdom. Why are Canadian police allowed to use this type of investigation technique?
A. On the contrary, evidence has been collected by the RCMP through the major crime homicide technique in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, police agencies in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and in some European counties also use this technique.

Q. Is the major crime homicide technique ethical?
A. In its 1981 decision in Rothman v. R., the Supreme Court of Canada said:
It must also be borne in mind that the investigation of crime and the detection of criminals is not a game to be governed by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules. The authorities, in dealing with shrewd and often sophisticated criminals, must sometimes of necessity resort to tricks or other forms of deceit and should not through the rule be hampered in their work. What should be repressed vigorously is conduct on their part that shocks the community.
The public also supports the approach. A recent poll conducted in British Columbia showed 90% of adults surveyed approve of the technique.

Q. Why is the major crime homicide technique so controversial?
A. It calls attention to itself because of its effectiveness. It is a tried, tested and true technique that successfully gets to the facts of a serious crime. The information collected through the technique, along with supporting and/or strong circumstantial evidence ensures the right person is brought to justice.

Q. Why is the RCMP so secretive about the Undercover Program?
A. The very nature of the program is covert and its continued success depends on the ability to protect the integrity of all undercover techniques.

Q. How successful are undercover major crime homicide operations?
A. In 75% of these operations, the person of interest is either cleared or charged. Of the cases prosecuted, in excess of 95% result in convictions.

Q. So what happens to the other 25%?
A. They remain unresolved.

Q. If the person of interest in an operation using the major crime homicide technique does not respond to the approach of undercover officers, does the investigation end?
A. No. Additional investigative avenues would be considered.

Q: How do you justify the use of the major crime homicide technique?
A: This technique has been used on numerous occasions and has been heavily scrutinized by the Courts across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada. In cases where this technique is used and evidence is scrutinized by the courts, the RCMP is guided by the findings and outcomes of those cases. This investigational technique has been accepted by the courts and has proven to be a highly successful method to determine the truth. All undercover operations are subjected to extensive planning, review, monitoring and approval processes.

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