Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Secret Weapon of the Undercover Cop: Attitude

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.”


Darlene Ryan said...

Marco, after reading about the "green tops" I'm wondering if there might be an adult novel from you someday?

Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls is terrific. The munchkin gives it four out of five stars. (It lost one star because the book almost made her late one morning because she couldn't stop reading it.)

Lori said...

Do you mind sharing why you decided to write for young people instead of adults?

jonathanmcgoran said...

Hey Marco,
So is that the same attitude you use with the hot-headed musicians who want to change your songs?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Nobody's asked yet how Marco blows off steam after the stress of being undercover, but I can tell you that along with singing, writing songs, and playing guitar, he's a demon drummer.

Marco said...

Hello friends,
Thanks for the feedback. Yes Darlene thanks for the kind words. I will eventually take a stab at the adult novel one day, but I think all of you are doing a fine job in that genre right now. Yes green tops, I remember red, white, black, gold, clear, and I almost got killed buying pink.
Hello Lori,
I think kids are fun. Teen sleuths, their adventures don't conform to the paramaters of being adults. Like me, when ever I go on a case and track somebody down for committing a crime, I wonder how long it will be before I get sued. These teens are fun and they will grow on you, like in the upcoming second Matthew Livingston book. Thanks for the question.
Hello Jonathon, Philadelphia was a blast and it was great hanging out with you and Jack Getze. Musicians think they are sensitive, so I must respect their feelings. Be well.
Hell Liz, thanks for stopping out at the gigs. I will be at your signing.