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Going Undercover

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A moon rises over the mountains in Alaska. (View larger version)

Jason Fierst

By Abby Lautt, Field Producer

Published

At the top of my list entitled, Things I Never Thought I’d Do, is sneaking around the Alaskan woods in the dead of night, wearing snow pants, attempting to walk in snow that comes up to my waist, while capturing usable night vision footage, holding a boom mic, and attempting to arrest a man on a warrant.  At the top of my list entitled, Things I Never Thought I Would Absolutely LOVE  Doing, is sneaking around the Alaskan woods in the dead of night, wearing snow pants, attempting to walk in snow that comes up to my waist, while capturing usable night vision footage, holding a boom mic, and attempting to arrest a man on a warrant.  That was my introduction to being inconspicuous while on patrol.  I had no idea that things I absolutely hate: being cold, being cold while working, being cold and in the wilderness at night, would all be negated by the adrenaline of sneaking up on criminals!  I also had no idea that it would get even more exciting….undercover operations! 

The first real undercover surveillance we did was at Arctic Man.  That’s where I learned about what Trooper Stroebel calls “doper time.”  These guys don’t show up when they’re supposed to.  They make deals when they feel like it, and for an impatient person like myself, the waiting is painful.  When I say painful I mean painful for me because in Alaska you wait in the cold, and painful for the Troopers because when impatient people have to wait they tend to talk and talk and talk. To my credit, I was talking about how exciting it is being undercover for the first time.  I mean we were in the middle of the biggest party scene in Alaska, in the dark, hiding behind some sort of food cart, and trying to follow a drug dealer home on foot!  Again, add that to my list of Things I Never Thought I Do.  

Unfortunately the pitch black night got the better of us, but it was meant to be because the next day Trooper Peterson taught us a whole new lesson about being undercover… being undercover in plain sight.  He pulled off a maneuver any fiction crime show would love to write about.  It was a moment of pure sweet-talking genius.  A moment where I thought to myself, “Well, there goes this entire operation. That’s never going to work.”  Then I was literally floored… rendered immobilized. “Did that just work? Yes it did!”  You’ll have to watch the Arctic Man episode to see how simplistically genius it really was.

The best undercover op, was yet to come.  We’re talking a major multi-agency, multi-criminal, simultaneous controlled buys in progress type operation.  The officers and troopers involved in this sting were seasoned. They knew exactly what they were doing and lived for this stuff… literally.  I won’t name names on this one, but you know who you are, and that your car is practically a closet.  I’m also sorry for stepping on the clothes in your backseat while trying to get a better shot, although I’m not sure if they were dirty or clean.  It was tough to tell.  I guess that’s just the life of an undercover officer. But, back to the undercover surveillance at hand. For an impatient producer, the payoff for HOURS of waiting in random parking lots and alleys was HUGE.  In fact, I’m pretty sure my voice had to be edited out of the surveillance footage because I couldn’t contain the excitement of being in the right place at the right time. It is such a rush!  I believe I said, “Oh sa-weet!  I got the footage of the drug deal, and Jason (photographer) is right there in the take down vehicle!!!  This is so perfect.  I can’t believe this came together so well.”  I looked over at the officer and realized he’s done this a lot, because he’s trying not to laugh at my over the top excitement. Guess it’s just one more thing to add to my Reasons I Love Being a Producer list.

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