In 1974, the New Zealand Police created its most effective weapon yet – the undercover police officer. Tasked with living as an insider deep within the criminal world, these agents would make friends with society’s lawbreakers – drug dealers, thieves, murderers, gang members – in order to secure enough evidence to convict. Successful operations would result in hundreds of convictions. “You are stepping from the world we all live in, into a parallel existence.” (Ex agent) But for many agents, life in the criminal underworld is addictive. Undercover cops have provided material for countless movies and TV dramas. The real stories are just as gripping. “You find it’s easier to become the part rather than act the part.” (Ex-agent)
In Undercover, the Gibson Group’s compelling three part documentary series, we go behind the headlines to find out what it’s really like to work as an undercover agent. These are tales from the criminal underworld as told by the people who lived in it – and living a lie among dangerous criminals is not for the faint-hearted. The show features candid interviews with former agents and their operators, as well as dramatic stylisations of key events. These are stories of friendships made and broken, betrayals, frustrations – and the agents’ ultimate dedication to a cause to make the world a safer place. Agents stories range from those of disillusionment and dissatisfaction at the role of the New Zealand Police, to those for whom the Undercover Programme was the pinnacle of their careers, and who still believe sending agents undercover is the only way to catch some of our most wanted criminals. Some say that the agents who go off the rails have to accept the blame for their own mistakes.
“Making the show has been an incredible insight into the reality of living a lie. Many of the stories we have heard have surprised and shocked us,” Producer Alex Clark says. “But in all the stories, we have been inspired by the tremendous courage and strength these individuals showed to a cause they often had stopped believing in.”
“It’s a privilege to be able to bring these stories to the TV One audience.” The series follows a loosely chronological timeframe covering the late 60s through to recent times. The agents’ stories explore the legacy of the official Programme’s development, from a time when largely untrained and unprepared agents were sent out to target vice crimes and drug deals, to the current-day slick and successful operations. The series also tells the story of New Zealand’s social and criminal history – from the Mr Asia crime ring through to the gangs and organised crime syndicates. And what the agents fought so hard against – drugs – ironically, became the substance desired by so many. Unlike many other international undercover programmes, New Zealand’s controversial policy with agents’ drug taking has been their unmaking. Lawsuits, addicted agents, and allegations of perjured evidence have sullied the aims and achievements of the Undercover Programme.
Undercover explores what happens to police officers permitted to take drugs and live long-term, elaborate lies in order to catch criminals. Can testimony from these cops hold up in court? Where does the responsibility for the drug abuse and psychological trauma among undercover agents lie? Their answers – and the stories they tell – will shock, surprise, and inspire.
Qantas Film and Television Awards - nominated Best Factual Series - 2008
Production Year: 2007
Producer: Alex Clark
Director: Michael Huddleston
Description: 3 x 1 Hour Commissioning Broadcaster: TVNZ for TV One
International Distribution under the title: "Crime Down Under: Undercover"
Represented by TVF International
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