How to Spot an Undercover Cop


This morning, the New York Times reported what activists on the street and reporters who follow them have known for years—that officers from the New York Police Department pose as demonstrators and infiltrate the ranks of actual, real-live protesters.

Seems a forensics expert broke down the videotape in such a way that the nation’s paper of record—lately all over the issue of domestic spying, anyway—went ahead and said it:

“Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, ‘I am a shameless agitator.’ She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.”

The presence of undercover cops has been an open secret among protesters. In her blog for the 2004 Republican National Convention, Voice columnist Anya Kamenetz even provided this helpful guide to spotting them. We’ve reproduced the August 24, 2004, entry below.

(posted by Anya Kamenetz)

I’m not saying these fellows are plainclothes policemen. I’m just saying that at every protest I’ve been to so far there are several UNUSUALLY BURLY MEN IN SPORTY CLOTHING, standing OFF TO THE SIDE AWAY FROM THE SCENE, sometimes CHATTING AMIABLY WITH UNIFORMED COPS, or talking on TINY WALKIE-TALKIES. They wear their badges on chains underneath their shirts. If they stop you to ask for your ID, you can also ask for theirs.

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