Mr. Big: Undercover Sting Operations
As a fourth-year Criminology student, I have learned many different frameworks, concepts, and ideas. But, the most interesting concept I have come across thus far, is the Mr. Big Operation, an undercover police sting operation. To give you an idea of the intensity of this operation, it is important to know that neither Britain nor the United States use this tactic (Bridges & Dinh, 2019).
This technique is used by Canadian law enforcement to gather evidence and gain a confession from suspects (Bridges & Dinh, 2019; Craig, 2018). According to Bridges and Dinh (2019), the Mr. Big technique is utilized when cases have gone cold, more often than not, it is the last option for families of victims to see charges being laid, and receive justice. These sting operations begin with undercover officers befriending a targeted suspect, and claim that they are members of a criminal organization, which is fabricated, but the suspect is unaware of this (Bridges & Dinh, 2019). Bridges and Dinh (2019) explain that once a relationship has been established between the suspect and the officers, the suspect will be asked to complete various tasks for the fictitious criminal organization. The main goal of these operations is to build enough trust with the suspect to draw out new information that can be used as evidence (Craig, 2018). As said by Bridges and Dinh (2019), the information that can be drawn out by the suspect can be, “a confession to a crime, a description of how the crime occurred, or the location of the victim's body or the murder weapon.” In most Mr. Big sting operations, the relationship proceeds to the introduction of “Mr. Big” to the suspect (Craig, 2018). Once the suspect meets the boss of the fabricated criminal organization, they are asked to confess to their crime, and in exchange, they will be granted a position within the criminal organization (Craig, 2018). Also important to note, most of these conversations are recorded, which are often used against the suspect in court (Bridges & Dinh, 2019). This seems like a full-proof police operation, right?
Like most things in life, the Mr. Big sting operation has its downfalls. For example, Bridges and Dinh (2019) claim that accusations are stating these operations target defenceless suspects, and “prey” on their vulnerabilities, such as financial issues or addiction. Furthermore, critics of the sting operation hold that it often violates Canadian principles of confession, due to the creation of fear, and in turn can escalate the risk of false confessions (Bridges & Dinh, 2019). Bridges and Dinh (2019) emphasize that considering Canadian law, confessions must be made of free will, without the presence of threats or promises made to the suspect. In support of this claim, Craig (2018) explained that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2014 that these operations have the possibility of being abusive, and can bring out unreliable confessions that are oftentimes thrown out due to violations of free will, for example. There are other issues with this operation that I have learned through my schooling at SFU, one being criminal braggadocio. Criminal braggadocio is the concept of confessing to committing a crime they did not commit, for the purpose of impressing the “gangsters.” Because of this desire to brag and lie to the undercover officers, it can lead to false confessions. Another problem arises with this, if the suspect lied about committing a crime, the jury present at their trial will find the accused guilty, assuming, “Well, if they are willing to speak to criminals and want a part in a criminal organization, they must be guilty.” In 2014 though, the Supreme Court developed stricter rules for the operation, and very few cases involving Mr. Big investigations have succeeded since then (Bridges & Dinh, 2019).
So, what do you think? Are the Mr. Big operations something that should continue to be carried out? Or should we follow in the footsteps of Britain and the United States, who do not conduct these investigations?
Bridges, A., & Dinh, V. (2019, December 9). Confessions and controversy: Murder case against husband of Sheree Fertuck latest test of 'Mr. Big' tactic. CBC News. https:// https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/mr-big-sting-saskatchewan-greg-fertuck-rcmp-police-canada-1.5388277
Craig, M. (2018, October 26). How do Mr. Big sting operations work. Global News.