A recent article published by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21939453 highlighted many of the concerns that have already been raised in the USA about the way in which confidential informants are currently managed in the US. What will be of interest to law enforcement is not the content of the report for similar issues frequently appear in US media, but the fact that the issues raised have reached a threshold that they are of interest outside the US.
In recent years there has been an increase in the amount of public interest and scrutiny applied to how confidential informants are managed. Increasing public concern will dictate how law enforcement manages confidential informants in the future. If the experience of UK law enforcement is anything to go by and all the indicators are that circumstances are being replicated then many agencies in the US need to take a good look at the structures they have in place to manage confidential informants. The UK experience began with one or two ‘bad cases’ coming to the public notice, increasing criticism from judiciary and other public bodies, greater interest from citizens and more adverse reporting in the media particularly with regard to confidential informant related corruption and privacy violations. In the UK this led to firstly the creation by police chiefs of national standards for confidential informant management and secondly the introduction of legislation pertaining to the management of confidential informants.
One only has to look at media reporting in the USA to see where there has been an increase in adverse comments about how confidential informants are managed to realize that there is significant debate going on. Added to this is the fact that both the Federal Government and a number of states have introduced legislation pertaining to confidential informant management and one can grasp that it is only time before other states follow suit.
There are a number of elements that form the core of public concern about how confidential informants are managed:
- The lack of accountability in regard to law enforcement actions with confidential informants.
- The potential violation of citizens’ privacy rights by law enforcement when using confidential informants.
- The risks that confidential informants are exposed to in return for limited potential benefit.
- Concerns about the administration of justice with regard to the uncorroborated testimony of confidential informants and ‘big fish’ walking free because they have passed information relating to ‘little fish’.
A significant number of US agencies have recognized that the expectation that citizens now have in relation to the interaction between law enforcement and confidential informants. Such agencies have introduced specific training for their officers, new and comprehensive policies relating to confidential informants, and software to significantly enhance record keeping pertaining to confidential informants thus providing appreciably higher levels of accountability in all aspects of the business.
Other agencies seem totally unaware of the change in public expectation or are unwilling to invest resources to meet those expectations. Burying one’s head in the sand or crossing one’s fingers may seem like reasonable options but such an approach did not satisfy a court in Florida when it awarded $2.6 million dollars for the mismanagement of Rachael Hoffman, a confidential informant working for Tallahassee Police Department.
John regularly advises ABM in relation to the development of abmpegasus software for managing confidential informants. He has written two books on managing confidential informants and is an internationally recognized expert on confidential informantmanagement. His latest title, Managing Intelligence; A Guide for Law Enforcement Professionals, will be published in June and deals with the structures necessary for an agency to have an effective intelligence system.
abmpegasus is a modular piece of expert-led software that helps law enforcement agencies and police manage confidential informants, intelligence and covert operations in accordance with best practice, policy and legislation.
If you would like more information on the abmpegasus confidential informant management software please contact Dawn Starling on firstname.lastname@example.org t: +1 703-326-1366 or complete an ABM Software contact form and a member of our team will get in touch.
If you would like advice or further information on confidential informant related matters please to contact John at email@example.com or contact +1 703-326-1366