The term has been in use for ages. Today it means waiting for bad guys so that when they arrive, or conclude their activities, you can arrest them...but in a time not so long ago it was interchangeable with the term "ambush".
Today many guys on the job are true peace officers that can meet with high school teachers and give presentations to church group without uttering a single "fuck you". But in times past some were much more "primitive"...not Phds in Criminal Justice and Global Security...but rather "good" thugs, polished and presentable, with guns...and badges.
Argue if you wish, but that was a perfect description.
The stakeout was a time honored tactic. And it yielded great results.
One would arrest a petty hoodlum...a thief or doper...or dope dealer. Then we would turn him like spies are turned into double agents. In essence make him and informant. And nothing was out of bounds for us. If the guy was married we would dangle him seeing his kids grow up from prison in front of his eyes. If he had a family the thought of his mom being deported and his father being cited for selling flowers without a license would bring him around.
Heartless? Maybe...but those were rough days and it was the norm for the era we lived in.
For what its worth...I never carried out on my threats if they turned me down. There was no point in doing that. And really, from the POV of the day...no honor in it.
Its true that many informants ended up dead afterwards from those they informed on. Things were tough all over.
Once they provided credible info, we vetted it as much as possible in the pre-Google days. Then the Ops plan. A cowardly supervisor can kill many ops plans. Case in point...we had a guy stalking and raping old ladies...like seventies and eighties "looks like your granny" old ladies. He used knives and guns and physical violence. And without getting graphic, they were very ugly sexual assaults.
We though he was about thirty, probably ex-military police and clever as hell to never leave any DNA evidence.
I came up with a plan that would place a grizzled "looks like your granny" female detective as bait and then we would swoop down and shoot the living shit out of the rapist before handcuffing him...stakeout style. Exciting times and when a plan is brought together there is an energy in the unit that is like a fever. Eventually everyone catches it and it is amazing the things you can accomplish.
Then Captain Chest-less denied it, emphatically shocked that we were simply setting up a shooting. We were redeployed to watch an old hippy grandmother growing pot on her balcony. Amazing I know...but there were were watching a Janis Joplin look-alike harvesting weed through binoculars.
The bad guy raped three or four other grandmothers...one with the husband thrown into the trunk before he melted off never to be seen again. One wonders if the last few victims would have appreciated me "executing" the rapist before he got to them.
But we learned from that. We eventually developed the concept of UNODIR. We stole it from Marcinko in his classic Rogue Warrior. Marcinko, whom I actually met a few years ago, would wait until the "no-load" pencil-necks had gone for the day, plan his op when they would be gone, and send a transmission to the effect that -
"UNless Otherwise DIRected, we plan to do this and that on such and such". The result was that by the time Admiral Dingleberry got back on Monday, the mission had been completed.
So, my email with the plan was always sent just as Captain No-Penis or Sergeant Sand-In-His-Panties was seen driving off into the sunset, giving us at least 24 hours to deploy on the bad guys with alacrity and elan before anything needed to be explained....or written down.
Using this methodology we roped in many robbers, rapists and assorted violent bad guys...most of them (but not all of them) alive.
The name of our pistol grip only 12 ga firearm, The Stakeout, comes from the weapon I carried in those halcyon times, and for the joy of hunting evil men in dark places.