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Judicious Use of Covert Tactics

The evidence from more recent successful inquiries and exposes of police misconduct is that the use of “high tech” and covert methods is now essential to break open many of the more secretive and pernicious forms of misconduct (Wood 1996: Sect. 5). High tech and intrusive methods include listening devices, hidden cameras, telephone and electronic communication interception, covert physical surveillance, and the use of undercover operatives. These, however, can be justified only if: (i) they are have a reasonable chance of being successful and alternative, less intrusive methods are not available; (ii) they are used only in relation to serious crimes; (iii) the infringement of the rights of innocent persons is non-existent or minimal; (iv) their use is subject to warrants issued by a judicial officer; and (v) there is external oversight. In most cases, legislation is required to protect covert operatives if they must engage in some illegal behaviour (Prenzler and Ronken 2001).

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