There is an awesome NY Times story about how the police "covertly join in" various city protests, possibly to rile things up. Gothamist knew that those ads for NYPD recruitment were to attract a hipper, younger force, sort of like a 2005 version of 21 Jump Street! It seems that the operation has been to surveil crowds ever since the start of the Republican National Convention, back at the end of August 2004. The NYPD claims that the undercover officers are trying to keep the peace, not "investigate political activities." The Times looked at some footage that showed "at least 10 officers...incognito at the events," seeming to affirm what civilians are saying:

Ryan Kuonen, 32, who took part in a "ride of silence" in memory of a dead cyclist, said that two undercover officers - one with a camera - subverted the event. "They were just in your face," she said. "It made what was a really solemn event into something that seemed wrong. It made you feel like you were a criminal. It was grotesque."

And there's a bit in the article about a mysterious blond protester who might just be a police officer (he's not handcuffed when others are). Dunh dunh DUNH. This comes at the NYCLU is trying to get the NYPD to stop videotaping demonstrations. And can you imagine the police officers who get this undercover duty? Is it like Donnie Brasco, where they start to really feel for the protesters? And remember the Fox show, New York Undercover?

Photograph from Jake Dobkin