Marco Conelli (Guest Blogger)
When I look back at my police career, I dwell fondly on my time as an undercover police officer in the Bronx Narcotics unit. Many people commonly confuse undercover cops with plain clothes officers. Big difference. As a true undercover you revoke your identity and no one knows who you are.
People who have read Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls have told me they enjoyed the way the characters could be identified with.
When Matthew, Dennis, and Sandra have to confront their criminal in an abandoned church, they are not overly confident or sure of themselves. They are much the way I was the first time I “stepped out” with a body wire taped to my skin and carbon paper smeared into my hands and face to make me look “dingy.” They are scared!
Matthew, Dennis, and Sandra used the very tool we should all exercise, common sense guided by good judgment. I remember the first time I locked stares with a drug dealer; I didn’t have my legs underneath me. I had entered a small apartment building, stepping from the bright summer sun into the dark lobby inside. By the time my eyes adjusted I was faced with three nasty fellows who were quick to inform me, “We ain't never seen you before.”
While I stammered through a defense indicating that I had been there plenty of times, the next question was fired at me twice as fast. “If you were here before, what color did you buy?” Well, the intelligence I had received before I went to this location informed me that they sold vials of crack-cocaine. In this section of the Bronx, crack vials were identified by the color of the cap. I quickly looked at my surroundings to see how much room I had if I ended up in a fight.
When my eyes scanned the floor I saw empty vials and a few green caps. All I had to do now was sell my performance. I looked at the three of them, who were growing nastier by the second, and replied, “Come on, guys, I always buy green tops here.” After that they felt a bit more relaxed and proceeded to high five me and sell me three vials for $9. Five minutes later they were in the custody of my backup team, none the wiser.
When I look back at barely being 23, I see how my confidence grew daily with every undercover experience. I value those experiences and pass them along to my teen age sleuths. Somehow they are each a young version of myself. By the way, would you like to know what gets an undercover transaction completed successfully? You can take all the disguises, stories, and unique “non cop” looks and throw them out the window. The thing that gets you over is...attitude! And there is nothing the bad guys can do about it.
Marco Conelli is the author of the young adult mystery Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls. He is also an active Detective in the NYPD, in his 18th year of service to New York, or as he puts it, “this great city.” In addition, he’s a songwriter and musician with several CDs to his credit. However, he says, “You mystery folks are much more interesting than those hot headed musicians.”