Betrayal by Bosses: Undercover Policing and the Problem of “Upstream Defection” by Rogue Principals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter identifies a management problem in the regulation of undercover operations and terms it the problem of “upstream defection” by a “rogue principal,” in contrast to the better-known problem of the faithless agent (known as the “agency problem”) or “downstream defection.” orThe chapter first considers some of the features of undercover operations that bring undercover agents into conflict with investigative teams and supervisors and that can make undercover agents vulnerable to upstream defection, either real or imagined. It then highlights the distinction between the risks of betrayal facing undercover agents and those facing informants, as well as the differences between real and perceived “betrayals” and the analytical and evidentiary difficulties of distinguishing between them. It also discusses some of the regulatory devices employed by French and German law enforcement agencies to reduce the differences in outlook between undercover agents and other members of the law enforcement team, in order to mitigate the conflicts that can produce both real and perceived forms of defection within the chain of command.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Criminal Process
EditorsDarryl K. Brown, Jenia Turner, Bettina Weisser
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190659837
StatePublished - 2019


  • undercover policing
  • law enforcement agencies
  • informants
  • betrayal
  • undercover agents
  • undercover operations
  • agency problem


Dive into the research topics of 'Betrayal by Bosses: Undercover Policing and the Problem of “Upstream Defection” by Rogue Principals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this