As an undercover NYPD Detective I was tasked with many responsibilities. I didn’t go to work out of normal law enforcement agencies or buildings. I didn’t carry police ID and never conducted normal police work. I never arrested anyone. I spent my days and nights in the streets, buying mainly narcotics and firearms.

I infiltrated organizations and gathered intelligence as well as conducting transactions of all types. I worked cold case homicides. Most cases were long term and usually involved wiretaps and federal agencies.

My safety depended on how well I assimilated the role of a criminal. It’s a thin line between assimilating and becoming one. It’s nothing like you have seen in any movie or TV show. That lifestyle eats you up from the inside. It’s not easy but easily addicting. Others have been murdered doing what I did. It was a reality you lived with every day, every minute of an operation. I paid the price, sometimes with blood and pain. Even my family paid, many times without even knowing why.

Ask me anything.

Currently I am affiliated and teach seminars at a martial arts academy as a weapons instructor and train with the head instructors in Hallandale Beach, Florida. If you’re interested, check out their program

EDIT: Thanks for all your questions everyone! I’ve had a lot of fun but I’m calling it a day now. Remember to check out the martial arts program at if you’re in South Florida come and see them. Thanks!

Comments: 374 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

hookersisfun81 karma

What was the most unethical/illegal thing you had to do to stay in character ?

Edit: also did you ever feel bad for someone and let them go ?

UndercoverDetective98 karma

Everything I did was illegal and unethical. I was buying illegal guns and drugs and facilitating other peoples purchases of drugs and guns.

Many times I would get into an organization and build it up. Guide them into having a bigger and better drug or gun organization than when I got there.

Guns and drugs walked all the time. It is not spoken about it is just part of that business.

As far as feeling bad. No.

As far as letting people go I will just say this. You never want to get everyone you deal with locked up. If you do you're going to take a burn and your undercover career will be over. You need people who can vouch for you on the street for years to come. As an undercover you are always creating doubt. If everyone you deal with gets locked up there will be no doubt it was you.

lapinrigolo24 karma

Guide them into having a bigger and better drug or gun organization than when I got there.

Why would you do that?

UndercoverDetective34 karma

Many times people that I went after were targeted because of their involvement for open cases like murder. If there is not enough evidence or no one is willing to testify against them. In those cases you go after them from a different angle like if they are a drug dealer or a gun dealer you want to get them on maximum charges for the drugs or guns.

You are looking to get the maximum sentence which is an A1 felony. So that they are off the street for the maximum amount of time.

Every deal you do as an undercover is with the goal of maximum prosecution. When you first start dealing with them they may not be at that A1 level so you guide them and provide them with the opportunity to reach those levels so when you take the case down you have your A1 felonies.

puredemo76 karma

Verified OP is a retired NYPD detective.

Rossbenton18 karma


UndercoverDetective46 karma

I sent in a copy of my ID. And some other things they requested. It shows I am retired NYPD. There is no way really to prove any of the rest.

I was working for 13 years and then had to retire due to my injuries

3_Sheets-2 karma

I don't see how someone could prove they were undercover.

Rossbenton-6 karma

Not only that, but this whole thread just sounds fake. Never worked the street? Never made a single arrest in their whole career? This reads like a crime drama.

3_Sheets-9 karma


No one goes directly into undercover.

This AMA is absolute bullshit.

UndercoverDetective7 karma

I was recruited while I was in my field training unit directly after graduating the academy.

The earlier you are recruited the better because you never get to develop those "cop" habits.

hsmith71156 karma

It’s nothing like you have seen in any movie or TV show.

That lifestyle eats you up from the inside. It’s not easy but easily addicting. Others have been murdered doing what I did. It was a reality you lived with every day, every minute of an operation. I paid the price, sometimes with blood and pain. Even my family paid, many times without even knowing why.


That is exactly how every TV Show and Movie about undercover cops depicts it.

UndercoverDetective49 karma

TV and movies make it much more attractive than it is.

They cut out the parts that make it not desirable, like the ulcers, heart issues, never being home, never being able to tell people what you do for a living, always looking over your shoulder. Having friends of yours being killed doing the same thing you are doing. You are not a star, other cops don't like you because you act like a criminal and civilians don't like you because you get people locked up.

Many officers that signed up for undercover work discover it is not for them and leave. Out of the ones who stay very few are able to maintain that life for many years.

spaceKaddette45 karma

Even though you are retired, do you ever fear that people from the organizations you have infiltrated will come back to take revenge against you?

UndercoverDetective74 karma

That's a reality that I live every day of my life but it is no different from when I was active. I lived in the same borough as my subjects and would run into them at times with my kids there etc. That's why there is no "character" you have to be that same person 24/7.

Its 20 years later. Many of these guys are getting out now and they have been sitting in prison thinking about me.

SugarflyXO38 karma

Holy crap, did you at least move out of that borough?

UndercoverDetective48 karma


Techre13 karma


UndercoverDetective22 karma

Most cases never went to trial so it was rare for me to directly testify. We tried to create doubt about who gave them up so they thought it was someone else.

im8bit9 karma

wait.. what? so they do know who you are?

Thorrtun33 karma

Currently I’m teaching at a martial arts academy as a weapons instructor in Hallandale Beach, Florida. If you’re interested, check out our program

And this is why I feel like it's bullshit.

"Hey criminals I have fucked over, I was a cop all along, na-na-na-na-na, PS, you'll find me here."

UndercoverDetective47 karma

I am affiliated with the school, train with the head instructors and come in and do some training for the students. So I wanted to acknowledge them. I won't be standing in the window. Plus I was under different name(s), thousands of miles away and almost 10 years ago and I look quite a bit different. (not as slim. lol)

HeyDude37845 karma

  1. Did you ever get caught? If so, what happened? If not, what was the closest it came?

  2. Did you do anything that was illegal, or were things like buying drugs and black-market weapons legal for you to do?

  3. How did you report in, if you were "in the field" so to speak? Did you have duress phrases in case you were reporting in after you'd been compromised?

UndercoverDetective56 karma

I got locked up by cops a few times. Never got caught by people I was dealing with. If it did happen in some instances I would have been killed. The worst place to be is in between a man and his freedom.

Of course its' "legal" for me to do because I'm part of law enforcement. But almost everything I did was breaking the law.

I mostly used cell phones or met a team member somewhere. In most long term case buys the team cannot reliably monitor the conversation so there is not word. When they hear gunshots, they come running.

SugarflyXO34 karma

wait so what happens when you get locked up by cops? Do you sit in jail or do you tell them you're on the same side?

UndercoverDetective67 karma

You go through the same as anyone who gets locked up and wait for someone from your field team to come get you. You don't tell anyone who you are including law enforcement. For your own safety and the integrity of the investigation.

OrganicCertified18 karma


UndercoverDetective44 karma

Some guys from the team come and take you with them. You leave in cuffs like any other criminal.

NeedToSay12 karma

But if everysingle time you get locked up and charges are never pursued how dumb are these people to not catch on?

UndercoverDetective26 karma

Most times youre not being arrested for anything to do with the main case. It does not happen that often. These guys have trouble with the cops all the time so it is not that unusual to have some.

Gravy-Leg__42 karma

If someone you loved got arrested by the cops, would you advise them to make a statement to the police before talking with an attorney?

UndercoverDetective91 karma

Never say anything to law enforcement without your attorney. Just your pedigree info (name, address, bday etc)

Even cops when they get in trouble don't speak without their attorney there.

midnightmoose40 karma

If you were put onto a random street in a new neighborhood without existing connections, how long would take you before you could find narcotics?

UndercoverDetective49 karma

Well, in places like Harlem that's the easy part. I didn't just buy, I had to get into the organization. That takes time, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. People need to recognize you from the area before you can start making connections.

kooxchicle36 karma

What was the sketchiest close to death situation you got into?

UndercoverDetective71 karma

A gun buy that went bad.

5 guys with guns against me and another detective in a project hallway in Brooklyn. About 50 shots fired. I thought I could hear the bullets whizzing by my head.

I got shot multiple times but obviously survived.

blind_mind24 karma

What caused it to go bad?

UndercoverDetective54 karma

It turned into a straight robbery

row4land13 karma

Wow! Can you elaborate on this situation? Did your partner survive? Did they get away with it?

UndercoverDetective23 karma

Partner was fine. Not a scratch.

Everyone else (including me) was running away bleeding so they just followed the blood trails and arrested everyone.

Breaking_Bran33 karma

Did you ever find yourself sinking into that lifestyle, or getting too comfortable with your "character?" And thank you for your service!

UndercoverDetective39 karma

Good question. The "character" was me so I was always comfortable with it. The drug business is something I learned and was comfortable with. The lifestyle became my own, it's impossible to fake something 100 percent for very long.

Heartgold2232 karma

Do gun laws actually keep guns from criminals? Or do they just go around the laws and get them anyways?

UndercoverDetective64 karma

Criminals don't ever let the law stop them from getting guns. They just get them from illegal dealers who use strawmen to buy them out of state. The markup on guns is crazy. But you can easily buy guns in the street.

maochins28 karma

In poorer neighborhoods, what percentage of small, independent businesses like barber shops and bodegas are just drug fronts? I live in the Bronx and I'm guessing at least 10%.

UndercoverDetective51 karma

it is probably close to that number.

If the bodega only has 4 bags of chips and a broken fridge, chances are it is a drug spot

BroccoliRocker26 karma

So i suppose you wouldve had to ingest drugs from time to time to fool these people ? Werent you scared?

UndercoverDetective36 karma

There are procedures in place for when you have to do drugs. There times where you cant avoid it but they are rare.

There are so many ways to gain peoples trust besides doing drugs. You have to gain their trust before it becomes an issue. This way you do it on your terms not on their terms.

Never scared from having to do drugs.

Techre22 karma


UndercoverDetective21 karma

In that world unfortunately safety takes a back seat

Procedure is you report what happened. the next day you report for a drug test where they confirm the drug you took. they even have a test to see if you have been doing it one time or it was a long term exposure.

You are not "partying" with these people. It just business. The ingestion just amounts to a test of the product or a test of you. After that you make the exchange and leave just like any other business.

Canadian_Coast24 karma

On a personal level how do you feel about child molesters and rapists doing less jail time than a local pot grower (not farmer) or other recreational drug facilitators?

UndercoverDetective59 karma

I think molesters and rapists are among the lowest turds in society.

Even in prison they are not accepted and are considered the lowest of low. I think it is sad they don't receive more time than an A1 narcotics felons


What TV show gets it right(as close as possible)?

UndercoverDetective38 karma

None. "the wire" was only close as far as the technical aspects of a wire tap.

As far as being an undercover goes not one has portrayed it as it really is. If they did you would hate the main character

artegos18 karma

1) Did anyone ever pull that, "hey, are you a cop. Because if you are you have to tell me because that's entrapment" if so, what was the outcome? You're definitely allowed to lie in that situation as an undercover, right?

2) were you ever put in a situation where you felt you had to take some sort of drug in the presence of the people you were with in order to keep your cover?

3) if you developed relationships with some of these people, didn't you feel bad busting them once you knew some of them and their life stories?

UndercoverDetective36 karma

It is a myth that you have to say you are a cop. Of course the answer is always no.

The situation comes up but not that often.

I never felt bad about anything I ever did to someone. If I did I would not be able to do my job. One of the best things about doing undercover work is you know for sure that the person is guilty.

TheBooberhamlincoln18 karma

What is the most WTF weaopon you ever came across that someone bought or sold?

UndercoverDetective27 karma

A tripod mounted 30 caliber machine gun well as hand grenades

Potatoe_away17 karma

Do you feel you made a difference? I did counter drug work and it really disillusioned me to how we are trying to fix the drug problem in this country. Spent weeks rolling up a supply chain to only have it set up again two days later.

UndercoverDetective26 karma

That's one of the big let downs of the job. You go in thinking you are going to change the world and make things better, after a few years you realize that very little will actually change. Crime was here before you became a cop and will be there after you retire. The best you can do is try to retire with your pension and your health.

mareksokal15 karma

Since you had seen it all first hand... In your opinion, is a persons environment (from a sociology kind of perspective) have a greater impact on them getting into crime? By such I mean involvement with illegal drugs and fire arms... Or do you feel that people from all walks of life are capable of doing these types of things?

UndercoverDetective18 karma

Of course anyone can get involved in a life of crime.

A lot of people from neighborhoods that are plagued by crime grow up with neighbors and family members doing and selling drugs or committing crimes so they grow up in a world where that is normal life. In that world the police are the bad guys.

So in my opinion anyone can get involved in crime but if you grow up in a world where crime is a normal part of life you have a greater chance of becoming involved in criminal activity.

nionvox13 karma

Ever face police brutality while undercover? I saw you said you can't identify yourself when you get caught, are there times you really wish you could have?

UndercoverDetective20 karma

Yes. I've been roughed up in more than a few instances.

Esp if they catch you with a weapon and you did not tell them you had one.

In one instance I was actually strip searched in a hallway.

Dihnekis12 karma


UndercoverDetective24 karma

It would be better if we fought the war to actually win. We need to address addiction, slow down the demand for the drugs and stop the drugs before they enter the country.

Heavy law enforcement moves the drug industry from plain sight to locations behind closed doors but it still happens.

Start with education for kids when they are very young. If there is no demand there will be a lot less of a drug problem.

macsack11 karma

Have any of your cases ever been thrown out because of a procedural error? Or because of the exclusionary rule? Tell me about that time if so!

UndercoverDetective16 karma

I never had a case thrown out. Units at the level we were are highly professional and leave no holes in their case especially a procedural one. A lot of work goes in to these cases and the last thing you want to do is have one thrown out for any reason especially if you did not cross a T or dot an I.

Most of these cases never go to trial. Most people plea out after seeing the evidence against them.

policesuck10 karma

My dad is a retired police officer and he always said "there is a fine line between police officers and criminals," I think he just meant in personality traits.

He also said my brother and I were meant for a life of crime...and its very true. Unfortunately not worth the risks...but damn do we thrive when we're doing something unlawful haha.

If you didn't live in Florida I'd be like..."dad is that you?" He also does martial arts. Has a club and stuff.

So for my question: Did you find that you were attracted to criminal activity your whole life? Was it fun/exciting? And how the fuck did you put up with the kind of assholes you would have had to work with?

My dad, myself, my brother...all of us have a certain attraction to the other side of the law. However, all 3 of us absolutely want to kick the shit out of every asshole we ever it just wouldn't work. Probably for the best haha.

UndercoverDetective12 karma

I was not one of those kids who always wanted to be a cop. In fact I wanted to be a garbage man. I spent most of my youth looking for excitement and usually that means doing things your not supposed to. Dealing with assholes is something you get used to. I'm sure many people thought I was an asshole also. It really is a thin line.

pentax1010 karma

Ever feel bad for anyone you were responsible for helping to lock up?

UndercoverDetective23 karma

No. Any good undercover does not feel bad about one of his subjects getting locked up.

On some level you have to dehumanize them because you may have to physically hurt that person. It's a dog eat dog world anyway. Like being in a room full of animals.

Juggernaut789 karma

Couple questions.

I think everyone wants to know the craziest weapon you have seen on the streets. What is the most common gun on the streets? Was there ever a weapon that you just had to stop and think, "wow! Where did these guys get THAT from?" ?

Were you ever involved in a traffic stop and the police completely missed something? Like car full of guys driving 40 kilos of smack on the dash and the cop didn't see it?

What's the saddest thing you've seen? I know you said you have no remorse for the criminals, but you have to have some compassion for their families/children who get drug thru the shit. Same note, would you let a child abuse slide for awhile to make a big drug bust later?

I imagine you didn't drive a black and white, but I'm sure you didn't drive a badass muscle car either (like in every cop movie ever) what did you drive? Did you trick it out at all? Have you ever seen a car that had super cool guy hide compartments or a sleeper to get away from the cops?

UndercoverDetective14 karma

I got stopped while driving several times and never got caught for what I was transporting. Not because the cops were not doing a good job but because I was not giving them the red flags they are looking for.

I always have compassion for innocent victims for crime within the family (mothers, kids). Some crime will happen in front of you that you cant do anything about. Of course something as serious as child abuse would be dealt with in a way that would not compromise the investigation.

Each undercover picks the car they use and the car represents their personality. I used to drive pickups and SUVs.

As far as "traps" go that's up to the individual undercover. Most undercovers as well as criminals use traps or hiding places to hide product or weapons. There is even certain auto shops that specialize in "trapping" cars.

uencos8 karma

You mention a field team: How many people did you work with? Do they do normal law enforcement duties, or are they full time handling you and/or other undercover officers?

UndercoverDetective14 karma

The unit I was in was fairly small, about 40 people total for the whole city. There were less than handful of undercovers doing what I did.

A field team could have 4-10 people including a supervisor and a lead investigator.

I never had anyone called a "handler". That term is used for referring to confidential informants and the investigator who handles them.

Investigators in the team are full times members of the unit and never do what most people would consider normal law enforcement duties.

Masanari7 karma

The NYPD has taken a lot of flak for the conduct of its officers, especially with the new watchdog program under dispute. Have you ever followed a trail that pointed to the corruption of law enforcement or politicians?

What do you think is the biggest constraint to successfully cutting down the illegal trade of narcotics/ weapons? (Funds, manpower, outdated laws, media's promotion of gangster lifestyles etc.)

UndercoverDetective13 karma

any time we ran into any kind of police corruption that investigation was handed over to IAB... not of my own choice.

blackfox16 karma

Did you ever have to kill/harm/torture anybody to prove yourself. If so how did you go about doing/avoiding it.

UndercoverDetective13 karma

Not to "prove myself"

badf1nger5 karma

Would you say the average criminal was more or less honest than you in your work?

UndercoverDetective11 karma

Honesty is an individual trait that is present on both side of the law however integrity and dedication is more often on the law enforcement side than on the criminal side. Criminals are in it for themselves and the financial gain. Law enforcement officers are dedicated to their cause, even though the financial gain is very modest.

master_dong4 karma

What types of guns were most sought after? Did you ever see unregistered automatics? Were so-called "assault rifles" ever requested by criminals?

UndercoverDetective7 karma

Assault rifles are very hard to hide so the most sought after are handguns.

I never bought any gun that were registered. They were stolen or brought into the state illegally.

SovereignAxe3 karma

Ugh, I always catch these things 18 and 20 hours in. I'm going to ask anyway on the off chance you check back in.

Something that always dumbfounds people is how big cities like Chicago, DC, and NYC have so much gun crime despite guns being all but completely banned in those cities. Considering your first hand knowledge of their origins, what would you say are the most common sources for illegal guns?

Is it irresponsible citizens having theirs stolen in burglaries, private sales that don't go through an FFL, someone not in the system as a prohibited person making a bunch of straw purchases running his own distribution, all of the above, or something else?

UndercoverDetective5 karma

It is a combination of stolen weapons and guns brought in through straw purchases. Private sales are not a common occurrence in NYC so I cant speak as to their impact.

spitfire91072 karma

do you suggest majoring in criminal justice to get into the nypd?

UndercoverDetective2 karma

Special schooling is not necessary. Just take the test and wait to be called.