As a consultant, managers often ask me how they can improve the level of return they get when using confidential informants. Managing a confidential informant incurs significant expense, in terms of the amount of officer time involved in managing them and the actual rewards paid to informants. Add to this the inherent risks that the agency carries when using confidential informants and potential cost increases. Given the expectation that law enforcement is continually being asked to do more with less resources, it is hardly surprising that Chiefs expect significant returns for their agency when allowing their staff to take on costly and potentially high risk activity such as managing confidential informants.
There are a number of things that an agency can do to increase the productivity and maximize the benefits of using confidential informants (and the officers managing them):
- Every agency should have a comprehensive centralized list of all registered informants. Too many agencies still keep informants in ‘silos’ with confidential informants being viewed as the property of individual officers or specialized units.
- There should be a single point of contact from which all confidential informants registered within the agency can be centrally tasked to meet intelligence requirements. The capability should exist to instantaneously identify which confidential informants have the potential to address the requirement and the agency should be able to deliver such tasking at the touch of a button.
- Confidential informants who are not providing intelligence that meets the Chief’s policing priorities should be deregistered. Meeting informants who aren’t addressing intelligence priorities wastes valuable resources. If a requirement for their services arises in the future they can be reactivated. Informants should be viewed as an integral part of any ‘intelligence-led policing’ strategy.
- Officers managing confidential informants need specific training on how to interview informants to obtain the maximum amount of information from them. Obtaining information from a confidential informant should not be viewed as ‘having a chat’ but as a structured debriefing process.
- The agency must have software that takes the information obtained by the officer handling the confidential informant and conveys it to an intelligence unit where it can be properly assessed, stored and disseminated to those requiring it. Paper-based systems are time consuming and do not have evidential integrity of software-based systems as information is often lost or misplaced,
- The agency should have performance metrics in place, both for officers and confidential informants, which enable managers to readily identify who is being productive and what is being produced.
- An analyst should be tasked on a regular basis with identifying gaps in the coverage provided by existing confidential informants so that new informants can be proactively recruited to fill the intelligence need.
- Larger agencies should consider setting up proactive recruitment units with highly-trained officers to proactively recruit and manage confidential informants in organized crime gangs and terrorist organizations.
Most of these changes can be undertaken by any agency willing to make a limited investment for a significant return. However, there is little point in taking all the risks in managing confidential informants only to waste most of the potential benefits that confidential informants can bring because of a limited paper-based management system.
John regularly advises ABM in relation to the development of abmpegasus software for managing confidential informants and has written several books on intelligence management and confidential informants. His book ‘The Human Source Management System’ provides detailed insight on the proactive recruitment and management of confidential informants. John he can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org
abmpegasus is a modular piece of expert-led software that helps law enforcement agencies and police manage information, intelligence and covert operations in accordance with best practice, policy and legislation.
If you would like more information on maximizing the benefits of confidential informants or the abmpegasus confidential informant management software please contact Dawn Starling on email@example.com or +1 703-326-1366. Alternatively, please complete an ABM Software contact form and a member of our team will get in touch.