Lessons Learned from a Retired Undercover Agent

If ever anyone thought that Law Enforcement personnel are boring, I am here to correct that notion. Week after week, we come into contact with brilliant people who share experiences from their careers that are not only applicable in a law enforcement context, but in everyday life. I recently sat down to chat with one law enforcement agent with thirty one years of experience under his belt. He needs to remain anonymous but I can say that we at the RTC love him and would like to share a few lessons from his career as an undercover agent.


Lesson One: Family first

"As an undercover agent you assume many roles and personalities, but no one knows you better than your family. Family is very important and in this type of career, you must learn to keep your family safe and secure. It is also very helpful if you have a supportive family that understands the nature of the job and is there for you. Bad guys will come and go but family stays with you. Remember to make time for your family as well; plan activities together, vacation time, and just learn to be there for your family."                                                                                                                                                                                     

Lesson Two: Safety

"In my years as an undercover agent, I quickly had to learn that no case is more important than your life. The job has certain dangerous aspects to it, which requires smart thinking and reaction from you at all times. Thus, compromising on safety may result in dire consequences. Danger comes with the territory and sometimes, it’s difficult to predict what can happen on a case. However, life is important and therefore your security as an agent should be your foremost thought. Safety should be a reflex to you. Also when you lead a team, you assume the responsibility of keeping the entire team safe. That’s a huge responsibility but also a privilege. Be safe!"

Lesson Three: A Good partner is Gold.

"I worked with several people during my career and often when I had to go on undercover assignments, I went with my partner. My partner was always on the lookout for me. And it was very reassuring, especially in dangerous situations, knowing that I had someone who has my back. We worked as a team. There are times when I had to go undercover and meet a target and he was stuck in the car, looking out for me. On one such interview, I had to meet a target in a luxury hotel and while I was dining and enjoying good-tasting food, he was in the car eating crackers (haha). Of course I mostly remembered to bring him some food after the mission, but the point is, we trusted each other and worked together. Many years after I retired, my partner called me and said “Hey, you were one of the best guys I ever worked with!” There’s a popular saying in Africa that says:  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!” Teamwork!"

Lesson Four- Always Keep a Listening Ear

"It is said that the quieter you become, the more you can hear. As an agent, mastering the ability to listen cannot be overemphasized. We conduct a lot of interviews during which we are required to pay attention to detail. It is necessary to be critical in our listening and make sure we get our facts straight. The more you talk, the less likely you are to listen and remember. Stay alert at all times, pay attention and listen critically!"


Now that’s some sound advice. Are you an alumnus of the RTC? Do you have any stories or advice to share on your career as Law Enforcement? Please do write to us at info@westafricartc.org and we’ll get the conversation started!