Newport News Police Department are apparently making positive changes to improve witness protection in the city. According to the Newport News Daily Press, the police department have introduced a Witness Protection Protocol which puts processes in place to provide protection to witnesses facing intimidation.
The protocol is intended to act as a less extreme local version of the US federal witness protection program which is run by the US Marshals Service. Funding for the protection will come from the police department’s $100,000 confidential funds which also gets used for rewarding confidential informants and undercover drug buys.
This is a good example of a law enforcement agency taking the initiative to try to get over the “no snitching” culture that is so damaging to cooperation with the police. If residents feel that police can act quickly and affectively to protect key witnesses, the fear of providing information will be diminished.
Dr Hume Johnson and Dr Joseph Soeters write have written a two part article for the Jamaica Gleaner which highlights the culture of fear that surrounds witnesses to crime in Jamaica. The article cites recent examples of informers and testifying witnesses being killed for cooperating with police (Linval Thompson in 2005, Leslie Brown in 2006 and Kadian Campbell in 2007). In such a climate it is unsurprising that Jamaican police struggle to get cooperation from witnesses to crime. In the second part of the article, “State weakness and informerphobia“, Johnson and Soeters identify the need for Jamaican police to guarantee anonymity of the provenance of information as well as the introduction of new laws designed to improve public confidence in the legal system.
In the USA, the witness intimdation problem has been termed in some areas as the “Stop Snitching Phenomenon” – a report was written on the subject by the Department of Justice and Police Executive Research Forum. ABM’s response to the Stop Snitching phenomenon report highlights some of the ways in which the issues may be addressed.