Former Undercover Cop Describes How He Maintained False Identity At Gunpoint
It’s no secret that being a police officer is a dangerous profession, but a whole new ‘unique set of dangers’ arise when your life depends on keeping that profession a secret.
Retired Greater Manchester Police officer Garry Rogers joined the force as a cadet in 1975, when he was just 16 years old, having been inspired by stories of the job told by his older brother. He then went on to become a surveillance operative attached to the Regional Crime Squad, where he saw officers working on undercover operations.
When the opportunity arose for Garry to become an undercover officer himself, he ‘knew it was for [him]’ and jumped at the chance, joining a newly-formed department that saw him become a ‘full-time’ undercover cop.
As part of the job, Garry was restricted from attending police courses and social activities, allowing him to ‘de-police’ and immerse himself in his role.
Speaking to UNILAD, the 62-year-old said that being an undercover officer comes with its own dangers because ‘you can find yourself on your own, pretending to be someone you are not – like a criminal – in order to infiltrate an ongoing criminal conspiracy.’
He described undercover officers as ‘a special breed of people who are sometimes asked to do the impossible’, and explained, ‘When you are pretending/acting you have to be constantly on your guard because if things go wrong it could be quite some time before any back up arrives. I never gave this too much thought at the start and perhaps if I had I might never have done it!’
In order to avoid being detected by the criminal groups he was infiltrating, Garry had to come up with a ‘false legend’ by which his new acquaintances would come to know him. In order to make a realistic alias, he advised making it ‘as close to your real persona as possible’, explaining he would only change his surname.
Garry had a passport, driving licence and credit cards made up under the name Garry Macalinden; a surname he had plucked from someone in his past. Though coming up with a fake name may be simple enough, Garry said the hard work starts when it comes to ‘remembering it all, especially when you’re changing legends on each operation’.
One mistake could result in the ‘end of the operation’, Garry stressed, meaning it was ‘essential that you never ever got them mixed up’. As part of what is known as ‘Deep Infiltration’, the former police officer also had access to a ‘real’ home for his alias so he could invite criminals back, and typically depicted himself as an armed robber, divorced, with no ties to loved ones.
‘Throughout my entire six years as a full-time undercover officer engaged on operations both at home and abroad, I am proud to say that I was never compromised as being a police officer with anyone I infiltrated,’ Garry said.
Of course, criminals involved in Garry’s cases did discover his true identity post-arrest, but with audio and video evidence to incriminate them, there was nothing they could do at that point.
There were times, however, when the officer was forced to keep his cool undercover, recalling one situation in which he had a ‘sawn-off shotgun’ pointed at him while the person holding it laughed and said, ‘You best not be a cop.’
The importance of non-verbal communication became paramount in situations like these, according to the retiree, as ‘your whole body language can give you away before you even open your mouth’. He said his reaction proved one of the most important things, as he remembered matching their confident nature and throwing it back at them, allowing him to stay undetected.
Upon joining what was dubbed the ‘Omega’ department in 1989, Garry was part of a team aimed to tackle ‘football hooliganism’ at games both in England and abroad. The following year, he attended the World Cup in Italy and proclaimed to be a football hooligan along with five other officers.
Describing the experience as a ‘baptism of fire’, Garry recalled witnessing ‘numerous violent acts of disorder as English fans clashed with the fans of opposing teams’. In disguising themselves as members of the public, Garry and his team were able to feed intelligence back to authorities and help prevent ‘large-scale violent disorder’.
The former undercover officer was at one point arrested as he continued his undercover work, and recalls being among 40 people ‘kept in a cage awaiting court the following morning’. He added, ‘The toilet for all 40 was a hole in the floor in the cage and the smell was unbelievable.’
As a result of the success of the operation, Garry said the Omega department was given a contract by the Football Association to covertly police all of England’s home and away games. It was these early experiences as an undercover officer that gave Garry a ‘great base to build on when later [he] would be involved in infiltrating serious crime such as armed robbery and murder’.
Though Garry believes all of the undercover operations he was involved in were dangerous ‘for one reason or another’, he found the ‘heightened feeling of danger in each one kept [him] on [his] toes’.
There was one particular case that he reflected upon when thinking about his most dangerous operations, however, which involved a 63-year-old man who was found dead in Manchester on New Year’s Day, 1991.
A post-mortem revealed he had been stabbed in the side of his head with a Philips screwdriver, and in turn a murder investigation began to hunt the person responsible for the attack.
Investigators reportedly began to suspect someone from a local traveller community, so approached the Omega department to question whether it would be possible to infiltrate the group. Garry was tasked with the operation, and after ‘months of painstaking work’, he and a fellow undercover officer managed to make contact with the suspect.
During his time undercover, Garry spent ‘many hours with a particularly vicious group of men’ who were accused of being involved in ‘serious violent disturbances’ in pubs around the area, ‘robberies and attempted robberies of innocent people’, and ‘the regular threat of violence against anyone they didn’t know’.
Garry and his co-worker posed as brothers who claimed to be ‘extremely violent armed robbers’ and managed to establish a relationship with the suspect, who told Garry he ‘could see the angel of death stood next to [him] because [he] had murdered someone’.
The former officer explained:
This gave me an instant affiliation with him as he opened up and said he regularly had nightmares about the angel of death coming for him because, as he openly admitted, he had murdered the 63-year-old man on Princess Road. He took us to a derelict house where he had burned his clothes after the murder.
During the operation, Garry learned the man had come across the victim by chance and asked him for a cigarette light, to which the victim allegedly told him to ‘f*ck off’ and ‘supposedly swung at him’. The suspect claimed he retaliated by hitting him in the side of his head with the hand that just so happened to be clutching a Philips screw driver.
The operation resulted in the suspect being arrested, charged, convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison, according to Garry, but despite it being a welcome result for the case, the former officer has acknowledged that dedicating so much of his life to being someone else took a toll on his real personal life.
He described himself as ‘lucky’ to have his wife stick by his side throughout the entirety of his time working undercover, remembering how he had to attend his children’s parents evenings wearing fake tattoos, earrings and with a shaved head, and having to avoid getting into conversations about what he did for a living.
If he was out with his family, he had to remain on guard for anyone he knew from working undercover in case they spotted him ‘in the happy family scene’. In spite of the risks, however, Garry said he ‘thrived’ off his work and ‘never lost sight’ of what he was doing. He was nominated for the Queens Police Medal (QPM) for his work, and went on to receive it in 1999.
After six years undercover, Garry’s time in the role came to an end following issues with a ‘corrupt’ chief inspector and a ‘major mistake’ during an operation that led to local private investigators finding out who he really was; a situation he claims was the fault of Greater Manchester Police.
At the time there was no re-entry programme for undercover officers to return to work in the police, so Garry claimed the force ‘did not know what to do’ with him. On top of this, the former officer said he ‘trusted no one’ and that his ‘head was in pieces’ as a result of having his true identity uncovered.
Garry was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and travelled to Kings College Hospital in London for treatment, but 16 years after retiring he is still ‘very careful’ about where he goes and what he does.
He explained, ‘I have never got out of the habit of scanning rooms when I enter to see any familiar faces, friend or foe, and that will continue for the rest of my life.’
Last year, Garry detailed his experiences working undercover and how his work came to an end in a book titled Undercover Policing and the Corrupt Society Within, which was published in November 2020.
Drawing on his own experiences, Garry said that while undercover officers ‘work in an environment where few would dare to tread’, once their time on operations comes to an end, ‘no one wants to help or pick up the pieces’.
You can buy Garry’s book here.
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