The city of Tallahassee, Florida, has approved a $2.6m settlement after the parents of Rachel Hoffman sued the city for negligence leading to the death of their 23-year-old daughter in 2008. Hoffman had been arrested for minor drugs offences and agreed to act as a confidential informant for police in order to get leniency in her sentencing. Unfortunately, the drugs sting went disastrously wrong, ending up with Hoffman being shot dead by the drug dealers that the police were trying to incriminate.
Since these unfortunate events, the state of Florida has introduced “Rachel’s Law”, requiring law enforcement agencies to provide specialist training for confidential informant handlers and implement better safeguards.
Some law enforcement agencies have taken the example of Tallahassee very seriously, implementing robust management processes to reduce the risk associated with confidential informants. However, other agencies still need to take a more proactive approach towards ensuring that informants are used more carefully and intelligently. Rachel’s Law is a good step forward in improving US practices regarding informants, but there is still more progress to be made. Let’s hope that other states take some of these lessons on board and that every effort is made to enhance the requirements under Rachel’s Law to ensure that opportunities for risky practices are further removed.