A former Seaside Police Department officer has just been acquitted of 33 charges relating to his alleged sexual abuse of six women while in uniform. The ex-officer, who was fired last year after an internal investigation, initially lied about meeting one of the women because he ignored police department advice not to meet informants alone. After one of the confidential informants made her complaint against the officer, he was arrested – another five women also made similar complaints.
The case highlights two important aspects of police procedure. Firstly, policies and procedures need to be firmly implemented to ensure that officers do not make unauthorised or unaccountable contact with confidential informants. Secondly, confidential complaints by citizens need to be carefully stored to prevent officers’ free access to information that may include allegations against them.
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Governor Jerry Brown of California has approved bill SB687 which will require prosecutors to corroborate jailhouse witness testimony in court. The statements of jailhouse witnesses, prisoners that inform against fellow inmates, will no longer be sufficient evidence to find a defendant guilty of a crime. Prosecutors will now have to ensure that additional independent evidence is gathered to support charges against the defendant.
Whilst some people have argued that this will make it harder to secure criminal convictions, supporters of the new legislation argue that it will help to prevent miscarriages of justice based on jailhouse informants who may have reasons to fabricate statements against fellow inmates. 17 other states have already introduced similar legislation.
Police forces and prosecutors will now face the challenge of putting processes are in place to make sure that appropriate evidence is gathered following witness statements from jailhouse informants. ABM’s abmpegasus Debrief module is designed to do just that.
The California Assembly has passed bill SB 687 which would prevent criminal conviction based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse informant. The bill recognises the need for informants in the fight against organised crime, yet it also accepts the inherent pitfalls of confidential informants who may have hidden agendas in testifying against other suspected criminals.
SB 687, which is supported by San Francisco and Los Angeles County’s District Attorneys, aims to reduce the potential for wrongful convictions based on informants’ testimony.
The bill is now awaiting approval by the governor of California and it will have implications for law enforcement across the state. Law enforcement agencies will have to take more care in the collection and management of intelligence to ensure that evidence against suspected perpetrators of crime is sufficiently strong.
More at http://sfappeal.com/news/2011/07/jailhouse-informant-bill-passes-assembly.php
San Leandro Police Detective Jason Fredricksson has been charged for giving over one pound of marijuana to an informant he was having a relationship with, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The detective’s wife, who also works for the police department, has also been placed on paid leave during an internal investigation. Jason Fredricksson was highly respected by fellow police officers and this case illustrates the need for police departments to improve general oversight of interaction with confidential informants and narcotics investigation. Read more at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/21/MN3S1JILUK.DTL
An appeals panel ruled this week that the case against John Garcia, a US attorney, was justified. According to Courthouse News, two California police officers searched Garcia’s officers and arrested him after a confidential informant revealed details of a methamphetamine smuggling operation. Following his release, Garcia sued the officers, arguing that the search warrant and his arrest relied too heavily on the testimony of the informant. A three-judge federal appeals panel declared that Garcia’s arrest was lawful, stating that the police officers had various corroborative reasons to conduct the search and arrest. The decision makes it clear that the use of informants is a justified tool for law enforcement.
Read more at http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/05/05/36375.htm
Californian 17-year-old Chad MacDonald was arrested in 1998 by police when they found 11 grams of methamphetamine in his car. He was given the option of either a prison sentence and a criminal record or becoming a confidential informant for Brea Police Department. MacDonald wore a wire and made controlled drug buys for almost two months before he was dropped by police due to his continued use of drugs. However, word had got out on the street that MacDonald was working for the police and 10 days later he was beaten and strangled to death and his girlfriend narrowly escaped death after she was shot in the face.
Police claimed that it was MacDonald’s involvement in drugs that ot him killed. MacDonald’s family argue that it was his cooperation with police. Either way, the case raises a number of questions about how juvenile informants are managed.
abmpegasus Source Management provides a number of safeguards to assist law enforcement in managing the risks associated with juvenile informants. For more information go to http://www.abmsoftware.com/Products_abmpegasus_Source-Management.html