Curran, Liam (2018) “And now I don’t know who I am”: An Exploration of Wellbeing in Former Undercover Police Officers. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Undercover policing, broadly, is the practice of covert deceptive and non-deceptive activities to identify and gather intelligence against offenders. This thesis explores the emotional and psychological wellbeing of former undercover police officers; firstly, by ascertaining the stressors experienced when participating in an undercover operation, and secondly by understanding the ways in which former officers utilised coping strategies. This thesis explores the concepts of: stress and coping; policing research, and undercover policing and stress. This exploration aids in understanding the psychological risks of undertaking an undercover assignment, the welfare of undercover police officers, the inherent dangers in undercover policing, and the practice of deception in undercover policing. The focus of this research was primarily upon the wellbeing of undercover police officers, rather than the operational methods by which undercover police officers conduct their work. In order to do this, a qualitative approach was taken. Data were gathered by conducting semi-structured interviews with five former undercover police officers from various forces, with a focus on wellbeing and coping in an undercover capacity. Data were thematically analysed, and overall it was found that formal support networks were limited, and of poor quality with no alternative, such as friends and family. The stressors experienced by UCOs were found to resonate with previous research, surrounding concepts of risks to safety, as well as risks to emotional and mental wellbeing, and alcohol use, although analysis around identity stressors does not correlate with previous research. Reflection was often utilised negatively, often leading to rumination, however physical activity was positively used by most of the participants. Though limited in scope, this research brings contemporary understanding to an important, but underdeveloped and often fragmented body of knowledge surrounding undercover policing. As a result of this, suggestions for further research and policy implications are also presented.

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