Covert policing in the United Kingdom

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Covert policing in the United Kingdom are the practices of the British police that are hidden to the public,[1] usually employed in order that an officer can gather intelligence and approach an offender without prompting escape.

Covert policing role[edit]

Most British police forces have formed a unit solely for covert policing operations. One of the forces that makes extensive use of surveillance-led policing is Greater London's Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police unit was formerly a Specialist Operations designation devoted to covert policing, which was SO10. Since then, most of the Specialist Operations units have been disbanded or merged, giving way to SO10 being merged into the Specialist Crime Directorate to be designated SCD10. Now designated as SC&O 10, it falls under the purview of Specialist Crime & Operations.

The concept of covert policing evolved from that of community policing, but as criminality advanced, covert policing was seen to be needed to combat this.

CID detectives usually do not wear a uniform, which stemmed from the foundation of the CID. Because detectives are often concerned with the evidence gathering stage of an investigation, they are assumed by many to be the officers required to survey suspects as they go around their daily routines, however, this is not the case. Specialist Surveillance Teams exist which deploy a number of covert tactics in order to gather intelligence and evidence of subjects.


Much of Britain's police service throughout the early to mid 20th century consisted of police officers walking a beat,[2] one in each neighbourhood. This gave rise to the term "bobbies on the beat" and "golden age policing", as the officers walked constantly instead of patrolling the streets from police cars.[2] Possibly the most accurate television portrayal of the archetypal British policing was the BBC programme Dixon of Dock Green.[2]

The Criminal Intelligence Branch (which Covert Policing was a branch of before SO designations were devised) was formed in March 1960, and provided surveillance on known criminals, keeping pace with criminal methodology and technology.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d Waldren, Michael J. (2007). Armed Police, The Police Use of Firearms since 1945. England: Sutton. p. 224. ISBN 0-7509-4637-7. 

External links[edit]