When it comes to their clothes, Birzer says that “for those types of assignments, [departments select] people that are going to reflect the individuals in the crowd. So if it’s a young group, younger age people predominantly in the group, they’re going to send younger officers in there that can kind of blend in better.”
So departments tell officers to wear their own clothes? “That’s pretty much it,” Birzer says. “If you’re working in a covert assignment, you want to wear clothes that kind of ‘fit in’ better. There’s no prescribed policy that you wear jeans or this or that—it’s just [based on] the situation.” In other words, this is, indeed, officers’ best impression of what a “normal” protester looks like.
As policing has become more militarized over the past two decades, with an emphasis on terrorism prevention, covert work has proliferated—and its message more tangled. Initially, undercover work was