“It’s not like the movies”- Andrew: An ex undercover officer
Andrew Gregory, 54, never imagined that when he went to the Job Centre at 18 straight after he finished his A-levels, that he would end up in a career as an undercover officer culminating in him becoming a Covert Operation Manager. His journey began at Dover docks, where for a few years he worked as a customs officer dealing with passengers at the port. This was until one day, one of his fellow colleges mentioned that there was currently work available in the investigation unit. Andrew was raised in a council estate in Kent, and as government grants did not exist at this time, university was never an option for him. As he excelled at school, he was determined to ensure that his background and financial situation would not hold him back from a satisfactory and lucrative career.
Andrew worked within an investigation team that focused on criminal organisations that were smuggling cocaine into the UK. This was an interesting and high profile field of work, because at this time cocaine and particularly crack cocaine were fairly new forms of drugs that were attracting press attention.
After 10 years of working within the investigation team, he then stumbled into undercover work where he spent the next 18 years of his career. His job entailed him travelling abroad and becoming the character of a lorry driver. His job was to meet with informers and sometimes collect drugs off individuals. He would then proceed to bring the drugs back to the UK, in order for him and his team to arrest the organisations arranging the importations and supplying the drugs to the public.
“My most interesting job was probably the one that lasted for five years. I started the job and saw it through to the end. We infiltrated an organisation who we thought were trying to smuggle four tons of cocaine into England, but it ended up being into Spain. They handed us four tons of cocaine thinking we were working for them.”
Andrew whilst undercover, had to always be on his toes. One little slip up could have blown his cover and ruined a whole investigation. He built up a character that he believed in, and was similar to his actual life to ensure that every operation ran smoothly and that no mistakes were made. His character was that of a single lorry driver. Once his home life changed and his daughter was born, his character and real-life circumstances diverged. This wasn’t an issue but it just meant that Andrew had to be extra careful whilst undercover. Within his field of work, Andrew was always being watched as criminals live on the edge. They are sharp and look at the little things such as what he wore, what he ate, and particularly how he talked.
Andrew faced many struggles and hurdles throughout his 18 years within undercover work. He has often stated that one of the surprising aspects of his job, was that when he was working alongside criminals for long periods of time he found himself growing fond of them and their company. Whilst being involved in this certain job, Andrew had to ensure that his emotions and personal opinion did not get in the way of the operations and its main objectives.
“When it comes to crimes such as smuggling and robbery the people that do them can be anybody. I believe that it all just depends on who you hang around with and what path you chose to take.”
“I did a job in Liverpool and I was undercover as a lorry driver. I had to live up there for a month. Whilst I was there I had to go to the pub for drinks with the bad guys and watch them take drugs in front of me.”
The job wasn’t all fast cars, expensive dinners and travelling, even though these were just some of the amazing perks. Due to Andrew spending 18 years working as an undercover officer, it caused a strain on him personally. He would spend long durations of time away from home, and once he started a family this caused his work to become more and more stressful. He could spend weeks within his character and then have to go home and change back into himself. This caused his personality to considerably change due to the sharp transition he would have to face on a regular basis.
“Spending sometimes weeks with criminals would change my character. I became less of a nice person and unfortunately, you don’t get much help or support in this line of work. I definitely did it for too long.”
Andrew was lucky when it came to his career. He fell on his feet, believed in what he did, and never had to worry about there being a dull day in the office. However, it’s not like the movies, it’s an intense, overwhelming and 24/7 job.