Addressing another of the concerns raised at the USA Trade & Investment breakfast seminars in Atlanta and Miami last week, confidential informant expert John Buckley advised attendees on how to tackle the problem of confidential informant ‘agency shopping’ across different agencies for the best deal.
Beginning by explaining the risks that were created, John highlighted concerns around officer safety, the distorted intelligence picture that ensues from this activity and the potential damage that could be done to the reputation of an agency and to subsequent prosecution cases. He continued that the extent and depth of the problem of informant agency shopping was often not fully understood. Many law enforcement agencies do not have structures within their own agency to stop an informant giving the same information to different members of that agency, let alone having measures in place to reduce the chances of an informant successfully agency shopping with different police forces in the same geographical area.
Although many involved in managing informants are aware that the problem of confidential informant ‘agency shopping’ exists, a lot of police officers are often not in a position to rectify it. To help address the growing concern, John provided several solutions on how the problem could be managed:
- Firstly, each agency must have robust procedures in place to make sure that all confidential informants, managed by any member of that law enforcement agency are properly registered with the force, in a central register.
- There must be agreements and structures between neighbouring law enforcement agencies that allow trusted parties to cross check all registered informants to identify where an informant is passing information to more than one agency. Such structures can often only be put in place with the agreement of the Chief or Sherriff but often fly below their radar until something goes wrong. Those with the knowledge need to make senior management aware of the risks involved and the mitigation needed.
- Records must be kept relating to where a person has been identified as trying to provide the same information to more than one agency.
- Standardised reward mechanisms should be created within a geographical area of operation ensuring that payments for information received become standardised thus removing one of the motivators for shopping around.
- Having centralised intelligence management structures also helps to identify where very similar information is coming from a number of different officers, a potential indicator that a confidential informant is selling his wares to different buyers.
- Accepting that there is often mistrust amongst agencies, all involved must seek to identify a ‘trusted’ agency that can hold a centralised register in a secure manner or one that can facilitate the de-confliction required. Advances in technology now make this much easier to achieve to everyone’s satisfaction as a computer can identify potential duplicate registrations without the need for human examination by third parties. Notifications can then be sent to both parties who have registered the informant.
John highlights that eliminating informant agency shopping and ensuring that all information is collected and processed in a professional manner is important if public confidence is to be maintained. In a later blog John will explain the real benefits of regionalised informant management structures and dispel many of the concerns that officers often have about such solutions.
If you would like advice or further information on tackling the problem of confidential informant ‘agency shopping’ please to contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact +1 703-326-1366