HPOU joins the Texas Narcotics Officers Association to conduct advanced undercover training sessions

Mike Ybanez

From Feb. 22 to March 4 students from around the United States reported to Houston, the epicenter of narcotics activity in the Southwest United States, to attend unique training classes designed to provide undercover officers with the techniques and survival tactics necessary to develop or compliment their present undercover experience.

The courses were broken down into two week-long sessions, Advanced Undercover Techniques for Women Only and then Advanced Undercover Techniques and Survival for both male and female officers and supervisors.

Hosted by the East Region Texas Narcotics Officers Association and facilitated by TNOA-East and HPOU Board member Rosalinda Ybanez and regional DEA Training Coordinator Art Hitchins, about 60 students occupied the fourth floor of the HPOU Building for the two weeks of activity.

The classes were taught by nationally renowned instructors Charlie Fuller and Dave Redemann of the International Association of Undercover Officers, of which Fuller is the founder and executive director. Fuller retired as a special agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms and has over 27 years of law enforcement experience with expertise in undercover, electronic surveillance and training. He was a program manager at the ATF National Academy for six years where he was responsible for the Undercover and Field Operations Training Programs. He is the author of The Art of Undercover: Techniques and Survival, a complete “how to” work undercover textbook.

Redemann is an active detective with the Seattle Police Department and is assigned to a special undercover unit. Dave has worked two long-term deep cover undercover operations for federal agencies, one of which was four years in duration.  Dave has been involved in undercover operations most of his 23 years of law enforcement experience.  He designed and presents an 80 hour Basic and Advanced Undercover School for the State of Washington and Seattle Police Department, where he developed his reputation as a skilled instructor. The teaching staff was complimented by Houston Police Officer Rosalinda Ybanez, who taught a section with emphasis on women’s issues as they relate to undercover work.

The classes began on February 22 with the women-only class which placed emphasis on women who intend to or routinely participate in covert undercover operations.  Fuller states that when working undercover, female police officers face situations and problems unique to their gender.

“This program provides the students with the techniques and survival tactics necessary to complement their present undercover experience,” Fuller said. “Many times this can make the difference between success or failure and safety or injury.”

Several HPD Vice Division female officers and one supervisor took advantage of this course and were extremely grateful that they benefited from the excellent instruction and felt they would carry these lessons with them onto the streets where they will practice and apply them so that at the end of the day they can return to their families in the same condition as when they left that morning.

Fuller was pleased that a supervisor attended the course as well and stated that “Managers who supervise female undercover officers need to be aware of the significant differences these officers face while working undercover. These differences can have significant psychological and physical dangers attached.”

Fuller’s class was complete with examples of female UCs who were placed in roles with little to no training and the negative results that happened during and after the operations which led these same UCs to leave the undercover units they were assigned.

“Proper training is essential both to the operation and, more importantly, to the physical and mental well-being of the officers involved,” he said. “We owe our officers and their families the right to be well trained and supervised.”

This course was followed by the Advanced Undercover Techniques and Survival course, which drew 37 officers from around the nation and locally to participate in the five-day (36 hours) training program designed for law enforcement officers who are beginning to work undercover or have worked undercover for some time.

The basic portion of the course is essential for newer undercover officers and provided veteran undercover officers with a solid reminder of important principles of their important work.

The course moved midweek into advanced undercover techniques and audio/video surveillance techniques which are rapidly changing with the introduction of new technology.  The “survival” portion of the classroom instruction definitely impacted all of the student undercover officers and was valuable in assisting them in keeping themselves safe while working in undercover operations.

The advanced course placed emphasis on the following topics:

  • Covert Operations – Common Sense/Policy Issues – Lust for the Bust Issues
  • How to Make the Transition from Patrol to Covert Ops
  • Informants – How to develop and control CI’s
  • Unique Approaches to the Violator
  • Undercover Background, Role and Identity
  • Special Undercover Techniques – Learning to Act/The Art of Undercover
  • Ethics in Undercover Operations – Honesty/Testimony
  • Undercover Officer Survival Techniques – Assessing Risks/Planning High Risk Events
  • Force on Force Techniques – Reactive vs Pro-active
  • Props – When and How to Use Them
  • Audio/Video Electronic Surveillance Equipment & Techniques
  • Planning Undercover Operations
  • The Psychology of Winning
  • Legal and Testifying in Court – Getting Ready for Court – Overcoming Defense Attorneys
  • Post Incident Procedures – What to do After Violent Incident Occurs
  • Undercover Checklist and Risk Analysis
  • Psychological Effects of Undercover Operations – Getting Out of Role

Fuller explained that “officers who participate in covert operations are not born with the talents needed to perform effectively in undercover situations. These talents are developed from experience, hard work and training, and we aim to teach the techniques and tactics necessary to complement their present undercover experience, which, depending on the agencies they work for, can vary greatly.

An officer with a big city like Houston will invariably have more experience opportunities than an officer from a smaller Midwest city. But the dangers at the time of the operation are the same”.

Fuller stressed the benefits of belonging to peer organizations such as East-Region TNOA and TGIA (Texas Gang Investigators Association) as well since they provide remarkable training and networking opportunities which might otherwise be overlooked.

Faller also placed emphasis on the benefits of undercover officers joining his organization. He said, “Membership in the International Association of Undercover Officers is be open to any sworn law enforcement officer employed by a municipal, county, state, federal, national or international police agency; military personnel assigned to a law enforcement agency or have had law enforcement training or have been assigned to law enforcement responsibilities; former or retired sworn law enforcement officers who discontinued their law enforcement employment under honorable conditions and who are referred by an active member; and any active prosecuting attorney who is sponsored by an active member.”