Undercover-Barber Operation Fails Due to Bad Barbering

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The New York Times reports today on an NYPD operation involving an officer posing as a barber in a shop suspected of dealing drugs. The owner of the shop was also a police officer, and apparently the plan was for Internal Affairs officers to come in (also undercover) to get their hair cut by their colleague and try to buy drugs and look for evidence of drug transactions. It's not clear what those officers were supposed to add to the investigation, since the barber was already there, but ultimately they added nothing because they just quit coming, due to bad haircuts:

[F]ew of the undercover officers, it turns out, came back after their haircuts, according to one person with knowledge of the matter, and ended up contributing little to the eventual success of the investigation.

The reason they did not return had nothing to do with crime or criminals. It was simply because they did not like the way their colleague, the undercover barber, cut their hair, according to the person briefed on the case. And that is despite the fact that the Police Department was picking up the tab.

It's also despite the fact that the NYPD managed to find an officer who had cut hair (apparently more than once) before joining the force. It also paid to reinstate his license. Police records show that he trimmed at least four Internal Affairs investigators at department expense, but a source told the Times that none of them wanted to go back. "The consensus was that he just gave bad haircuts," the source said. "They just didn't like his haircuts."

Again, it's not clear to me why they wouldn't just choose one of the other barbers, not only for haircut purposes but also because those were presumably the ones selling drugs. But whatever the other officers were supposed to do, they didn't do it. (Maybe it's harder to stay incognito if you have a distinctively bad haircut.) Nor did the undercover barber manage to witness any criminal activity himself, and was never even able to meet the owner. Eventually, the operation was declared "not feasible" and was terminated.

The report did not say how many private citizens may have been subjected to the undercover barber's negligence during this time.