According to Jacksonville Daily News it has been revealed that Jacksonville Police Department used a fugitive who is suspected of breaking a 5-month-old child’s left arm as an informant in a major drugs bust last year. This was in clear breach of the police department’s policies that prohibit the use of fugitives as informants.
45 suspects were charged in the undercover operation in which the informant was involved. The revelations about the informant’s status may lead to cases against them being dropped.
The department should review its policies and how they are enforced in order to prevent such occurrences from being repeated.
The Metropolitan Police paid Covert Human Intelligence Sources £1.9m in 2009/10, a small rise from the the £1.86m figure that was paid out in the previous year. The Independent also reported that a further £176k was spent on travel, accommodation and meals for police informant handlers.
Should the police be paying such sums of money to the crimals? Or does it reflect a truly cost-effective method of gathering and acting upon intelligence? The moral dilemma of paying informants to provide information on other criminals is always going to be present but if the alternative is to spend many more hundreds of thousands of pounds on undercover surveillance, then it must remain a crucial tool for modern-day policing.
The Guardian reports today that Jackie Selebi, former chief of the South Africa Police Service and president of Interpol, has been given a 15 year jail sentence for corruption. The corruption charges relate to Selebi accepting bribes worth over £100,000 from convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti.
The whole case is a real set back for the South African police service and an embarrassment for Interpol – let’s hope that both organisations can put this behind them and look to a less controversial leadership.
The Chief Inspector of Constabulary this morning has published a report detailing what everyone else has been thinking these past weeks. The fact of the matter is that anything over a 12% cut in police funding cannot be achieved without re-engineering the way in which UK police is organised and functions. The reality is that over the last 10 years we have created a police service which has been dogged by bureaucracy, red tape and, at times, a risk averse approach. All of this, as in any organisation that suffers the same level of hand tying, results in increased costs and increased inefficiency.
Sir Dennis O’Connor is therefore right that we should now look at the whole picture in terms of UK policing structure and service and go back to basics in terms of delivering core services. One solution to the problem may well be an acceleration of merging territorial based policing within regions and moving more specialised services to the centre. Do I dare to say a return of the Regional Crime Squad in disguise..? At least under this model, the public get their territorial and local based service whilst major crime investigation and other specialised services are concentrated where it counts. The biggest hurdle to cross now is that of investment. The merger process and setting up of central service incurs significant investment against long term savings. The question is will there be political commitment to spend now and save later? The plot thickens and it may well not come to any conclusion until after the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October where the real devastation by cuts may eventually be revealed.
The latest British Crime Survey reveals that crime in England and Wales is at its lowest levels since 1981; but how long can this downward trend in crime last with talk of ‘budget cuts threatening 60,000 police jobs’? According to former Gloucestershire Chief Constable Tim Brain this is the number of police officer, civillian staff and community support officer posts that could be axed by 2015. Reducing bureaucracy and police collaboration/ regionalisation may allow more to be done with less to a certain extent but surely no-one can expect current levels of front-line policing to be maintained if this worst case scenario is realised.
As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on 30th June, a second suspected officer has pleases guilty to corruption charges which involved planting drugs on suspects, making flase arrests and lying on police reports over a period of over two years between May 2007 and October 2009. Five police officers are suspected of being involved.
Not only has the Camden Police Department suffered a major loss in reputation, the investigation has led to the release of many prisoners as over 200 cases have been overturned. In many cases, the released prisoners may indeed be criminals but the failure of the police department to adhere to proper standards means they are now free to walk the streets.
The former commissioner of the South Africa Police Service and four year president of Interpol has been found guilty of corruption by South Africa’s High Court. As reported on the BBC website, Jackie Selebi, the former chief of police, has been convicted of corruption charges relating to organised crime and accepting bribes to the value of over £100,000. Selebi now faces a 15 year jail sentence.
The main allegations surround Selebi’s relationship with Glen Agliotti, a convicted drug smuggler and police informant, who gave Selebi valuable gifts in exchange for him ignoring drug smuggling activity.
There have been many reports recently of the potential for 25% cuts across the Home Office and Policing in the UK. But where should cuts be made and what is the impact?
The Home Secretary announced this week that the Government wish to protect frontline policing as a policy and through the cuts that need to be made there is a view that Frontline policing should even increase. So with this push for visibility of the police in the community, where can you cut?
Undoubtedly, the answer will be within areas of policing that conduct specialised tasks. There is no doubt that, with the Uniformed element of policing being somewhat protected, the axe will fall on those departments that have been looking at major crime, serious and organised crime, counter terrorism and other areas of specialised operations. John Yates of Scotland Yard has already warned of the threat posed by reducing the work being conducted on anti terrorist operations and no doubt that others will also cite areas of concern, such as serious and organised crime. It is still unfortunate that the true relationship between these specialised areas and the impact these have on communities is not fully appreciated. Reducing the effectiveness of these specialised areas will only have the impact of increasing issues in the community relating to drugs, violent crime, identity fraud and the myriad of other community based activities that go to funding these organisations. John Yates is also right in his assessment of the increased threat of terrorism. Terrorist organisations will be watching and looking for the weak points in countries where financial issues are reducing the state’s ability to respond.
So in conclusion, we have to be very careful where we focus cuts and make sure that we do not specifically focus on politically expedient areas such as frontline visibility. At the end of the day, the majority of the public are not particularly bothered as to whether they see a police officer on the beat or not. What they really care about is that an officer comes to their assistance quickly at that very rare time of most need.
Confidential informants are useful because they associate with criminals. But this also makes them liable to engaging in criminal behaviour themselves.
The Wenatchee World reported at the weekend that a confidential informant in Colorado has pleaded guilty to pocketing $300 that the Drug Task Force had given him to make controlled drug buys. Although it is a relatively minor theft, it does illustrate the need to keep a close eye on confidential informants and to choose them carefully.
According to wcax.com, the Vermont Supreme Court has had to revserse convictions in two marijuana cases. One of them has been chucked out because the court found that too much weight was placed on information provided by a confidential informant in support of the search warrant that led to the defendant’s conviction.
Such mistakes waste public time and money as well as leading to the release of people that may otherwise have been legitimately convicted from narcotics offences. US law enforcement needs to adopt policies, processes and software to improve the way that intelligence from confidential informants is handled.