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UNDER AND ALONE
By William Queen
Fawcett Books, 2006 ($7.50)
Reviewed by Rick McMahan
UNDER AND ALONE is the true story of Billy Queen, an ATF agent who spent more than a year of his life undercover with the Mongols Motorcycle gang in California. Unlike in the movies and books, it's rare for a police officer to assume an undercover role where they live for months and even years on end amongst the criminals they are trying to catch. There are a myriad of reasons that law enforcement officials are reluctant to put an officer in a "deep cover" investigation. First, there is an increased risk to the officer, because for days and weeks they are completely alone with no backup, no cavalry of cops or agents to rescue him if the criminals turn on him. Long-term undercover has another risk, the psychological toll the officer suffers from living the life of a person completely made up, and many officers, including Queen find themselves not only identifying with the criminals, but genuinely befriending these people who they spend most of their lives with. In turn, the cops begin questioning who they are. In Billy’s case, he found himself thinking of himself as Billy St. John, his undercover persona, not as Special Agent Billy Queen. Toss in the fact that in addition to all of this strain to a cop’s psyche that he or she has to be the consummate actor, portraying themselves a criminal while maintaining certain legal and moral lines that can’t be crossed. It’s a tough tight rope to walk---being a believable criminal and still being a cop.
Billy Queen raised his hand and volunteered to go undercover against one of the most violent motorcycle gangs, the Mongols. For over two years, Billy immersed himself in the violent subculture of outlaw bikers where he survived on his wit and luck. At the end of the investigation, Billy had gained the trust of the Mongols to the point that he was made a full-patched member and given duties and responsibilities. The investigation Queen spearheaded against the Mongols landed a blow to one of the most violent outlaw motorcycle gangs in the country; outlaw motorcycle gangs like to boast that they can not be infiltrated by law enforcement, but Billy Queen not only gained their trust to do business, he actually was awarded status as a member of the gang. Billy’s investigation was a stellar case that brought a hard blow to the Mongols, but the price to Billy was far greater. While under, Billy Queen started identifying with his targets, these criminals who if they knew he was a cop would kill him, but at the same time they would lay their own lives down for Billy St. John, Queen’s undercover persona. Billy questioned who he was, Billy Queen the cop or Billy St. John the biker thug. The strain on Billy’s personal life and his family was heavy, and for those two years under, Billy missed many of the important events in his family’s lives, especially his two sons.
UNDER AND ALONE gives a rare insight into the psychological and physical dangers of undercover cops, and the physical and mental toll such harrowing work exacts on the men and women who volunteer for undercover work.
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