Managing risk in confidential informant management

When it comes to managing human sources (confidential informants, CHIS, HUMINT) it is critical to get the balance right between the benefits that can be gained from the source and the risks involved in managing the source. Generally speaking, within law enforcement risk management is a poorly understood concept, with officers paying the amount of attention to it that at best can be described as tokenism. Here are a few key ideas in relation to the managing risk with sources:

  • Risk should be managed in away that ensures compliance with local legislation. This will include, privacy legislation, health and safety legislation and any local laws that pertain to managing sources.

  • The method used for managing risk should be an internationally recognised method, such as contained in the International Standards Organisation ISO 31018 and have an agreed vocabulary within the agency.

  • Risk should always be stated using two terms likelihood (probability) the chances of the thing happening, and consequences (impact) the result of it happening.

  • Values for likelihood and consequences should be agreed with five levels for each – very low to very high.

  • There will be a broad range of potential consequences which must be enumerated. These can be covered across four areas. Think rope – then there is less chance of hanging your self or being hung out!

1.       Reputation – the reputation damage to the agency.

2.       Operational – The operational harm to the agency such as the compromise of investigations.

3.       Physical Harm – the injury to any person.

4.       Economic – the potential financial cost to the agency.

  • Each risk should be clearly document in the risk section of the source file.   One form for each risk. If you have too many forms (Approximately +20) it is a clear indicator the source is too risky to manage.

  • A simple model will guide the completing officer through all the potential risks. A commonly used model is 3 P L E M:

o   Public risks – How would the public view what the law enforcement agency is doing?

o   Physical risks – Will anyone get hurt? Informant, public or officer?

o   Psychological risks – Will anyone be psychologically damaged?

o   Legal risks – Is there a conflict with the law or agency policy in what is proposed?

o   Economic risks – What are the potential financial implications?

o   Moral and Ethical – What moral or ethical dilemmas are involved?

  • Where a risk is documented it can be managed in one of four ways:

1.       Avoided. The proposed course of action is not followed.

2.       Retained. We accept there is a risk but the cost of treating the consequences outweighs the potential loss.

3.       Transferred. The financial cost of the event going wrong is transferred to another party. For example: as we do with car insurance.

4.       Treated. A series of control measures are put in place to reduce the likelihood and/or the consequences. This will be the common strategy for most risks.

  • Risk should be continuously monitored and updated at each review.

Our book Invest Now or Pay Later provides detailed instruction on how the risk relating to confidential informants should be managed. The methods outlined will stand up to international scrutiny. Our two day course on managing risk for confidential informants will ensure that all your staff are identifying and managing all the risks. We also provide consultancy services to agencies to make sure your structures for managing confidential informants are appropriate. If requested by Chief of Police or Chief Constable have a limited number of free consultancy slots available. (You pay only travel and accommodation.)

We will also provide expert testimony in relation to risk management in the area of confidential informant management.

Confidential Informant Management - things that go wrong

Today I was asked for a list of things I thought were likely to go wrong in an informant management relationship. Having taken a look through some of my old research I came up with a list of fifteen different things. While it may not be the full list I can say these things happen on a regular basis, with confidential informants. I thought I would share so in no particular order:

  1. Creating false information from an informant to justify action against another party. For example: putting false information into the system to justify warrants.

  2. Submitting only parts of the information provided by the informant. This may be done as a deliberate act or through laziness.

  3. Failure to keep proper records in a timely manner. This will include managing informants “off the books.”

  4. Putting undue pressure on a individual with mental health problems or other similar vulnerability to become an informant.

  5. Theft of money intended for the informant or to be used in the management of a informant. 

  6. Both consensual and non-consensual sexual relationships with informant.

  7. Criminal relationship with informant.

  8. Relationship where there is personal gain for handler such as the informant giving them free tickets for football games, free drinks at a bar, etc.

  9. Unauthorised meetings with the informant and/or a failure to report telephone contacts.

  10.  A knowing failure by management to provide equipment or training intended to protect the informant relationship.

  11. Failure to notify risks to the safety of the informant. This often occurs because source safety is competing with another agenda which the officer deems more important, such as: “making the case.”

  12. Reckless disregard for field-craft.  This will include such things as not using defensive surveillance or meeting a source in a dangerous location for the informant because it is easier for the officer.

  13. Reckless disclosure of the informants name/identity by handlers, investigators or prosecutors.

  14. Managers turning a blind eye to wrong doing either consciously or because “It’s just to difficult to deal with.”

  15. Claiming to have informants that don’t exist to boost a promotion application.

If you think this isn’t happening in your agency, take another look just to be sure. Because if you are wrong the lawyers will be asking why you got it wrong.

These issues can be managed and the risk reduced if:

  1. There are comprehensive informant management procedures within the agency.

  2. All staff involved in informant management have received good training for all involved in the role.

  3. The agency uses purpose built confidential informant management software for its records.

  4. There is intrusive supervision right up the management chain to the Chief of Police.

If you need any help or want to add to the list please email us at We are here to help.

What motivates confidential informants.

The issue of what motivates an informant ( AKA: a human source or a CHIS) is central to effective confidential informant management and on which unfortunately is misunderstood. I recently spent a bit of time researching what is being taught to law enforcement at informant management training classes. The general consensus seems to be some variation of the list below:

  • Fear

  • Money

  • Revenge

  • Jealousy

  • Repentance

  • Ego

  • James Bond

It can safely said that if you were at an informant training class and this is what you were taught, you were in the kindergarten class. The construction of such a list is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face os the underpinning psychological theory.

Motivation is an extremely complex psychological subject and what this type of training does is reinforce negative stereotypes of people who give information to the police and provide the informant handler with the illusion they have control over the confidential informant. Motivation is complex and ever changing. We are motivated by different things at different times. Motivation situation-dependant. If you change the situation and a person will be motivated to change their behaviour.

When managing a confidential informant the officer needs to continually asking why is the informant doing this thing at this time? In order to do this the officer must have a good understanding of human motivation. This will come through psychology books on motivation. You can do worse that starting with Abraham Maslow’s: ‘ A Theory of Human Motivation’ and then progress to more up to date and detailed books such as The Oxford Handbook of Motivation. In my book The Human Source Management System there is over 40 pages dedicated to the topic of confidential informant motivation.

Good training will bring the theory to life and lets the officer know how to apply the relevant theory when managing a confidential informant.

If officers do not know what motivates a confidential informant, they have little chance of managing that informant in a safe and productive way, When police managers ask their officers what is motivating a confidential informant, and are then satisfied with a one word answer, they show their lack of knowledge about informants and about people in general.

At HSM Training we spend a lot of time training officers in the motivational theory. We show them what motivates their behaviour then allow them to extrapolate that understanding to the behaviour of a confidential informant (human source). Our training is underpinned by knowledge gained through academically validated research.

If you want to discuss anything in our blogs drop me a note at: We are always happy to discuss ideas and perspectives.

Happy and safe 2019 to all our customers

Just to wish a ll our customers a happy and safe 2019.

We saw quite a bit of the world in 2018 and we spoke to a lot of different people.

Hopefully, we provided you with quality training. Whether the training you get from us is in countering violent extremism, managing confidential informants, undercover work or intelligence led policing we will always strive to give you the best product to meet your specific requirements.

Our training is primarily about creating long term behavioural change in your officers and staff. We want to help you do a better job protecting the public and protecting your agency and staff.

Keep coming back here in 2019 for what we hope are useful tips. And to learn about our new books coming out in 2019.

And if you have questions or comments please let us hear them :

Poor Risk Management of Confidential Informants

And as 2018 draws to a close an interesting story from Palm Springs Daily Sun relating to confidential informants:

“DHS cop's sexually-charged relationship with off-the-books informant central to internal affairs investigation”

My preference is not to discuss the specifics of a case because I am not fully aware of the details but from reports such as this and I am sure the reader can make up their own mind. However, Chiefs of Police must learn lessons about managing confidential informants from such reports. At HSM Training we spend a lot of time researching the psychology involved in the management of confidential informants (human sources) and in sharing that research with law enforcement. The sentence in this report that tells and important story is the quote from the officer at the centre of the allegations:

“We don’t have any documented confidential informants,” . “Anybody who provides us with information is doing so as a concerned citizen.”

This statement in and of itself speaks volumes about the culture of informant management within an agency

  1. Only the Chief of Police should ever make public statements about confidential informant policy within a LEA. That the officer feels at liberty to discuss informant policy at will means the integrity of informant management within the agency is already compromised.

  2. The officer speaking here has resorted to a play on words when they state they don’t have “documented confidential informants” only “concerned citizens. If this is the agencies policy it is a recipe for corruption and ineffective policing. This remark is designed to justify the officers actions and confuse the issue. What they are saying is “I didn’t do anything wrong, I followed our policy. So just ignore everything else.” It is a psychological trick.

  3. What legal difference is there between a concerned citizen and a documented confidential informant.? In effect what this tells us about the agency is probably that they have confidential informants they just don’t document them. Why? i’m guessing at best lack of knowledge but more likely laziness, cost savings in training, a head in the sand approach to risk, a lack of caring for citizens who give information, etc. Some may interpret it as corruption…

Informant management is a high risk business. Opportunities for corruption are always knocking at the door.

If a citizen is giving information to law enforcement the agency MUST have a clear set of procedural guidelines as to when a person should be documented as a confidential informant. If someone is in regular contact with the police and giving information they should be document as an informant and managed by properly trained officers.

So if by any chance you are a Chief of Police and you are unsure about: How well your informants are being managed or if your confidential informant training is sufficient please get in touch we will help you out. And for the Chief in Desert Hot Sun Department we would even do it for free!

Alternatively, you could enter 2019 waiting for the lawsuit or the local news headlines.

Training for managing confidential informants - What constitutes negligence

The Manatee County Herald tribune recently carried a story about the death of a confidential informant Christopher Boston:

While all the details of this case are not clear I will not comment on the specifics of the case though it does make for tragic reading. What I do want to focus on is the comment with reference to the training that the officers involved in informant management allegedly undertake prior to being allowed to manage informants namely:

“Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives who deal with confidential informants are required to take a one-hour online course and pass a subsequent test.“

Florida has legislation that mandates the training of officers undertaking the management of confidential informants. This legislation known as Rachel’s Law was introduced following the death of another confidential informant in 2009 in nearby Tallahassee - Rachel Hoffman.

The fact that any professional police officer believes that one hour of on-line training is sufficient to train an officer to manage informants is sufficient, beggars belief. Quite simply - there is no way that any officer can manage a confidential informant safely with such limited training. The fact that someone thinks they can is a clear indication that those in charge have no comprehension of the risks to all involved in managing confidential informants.

Managing confidential informants is a high risk activity and as this case and many others clearly indicate if it is not done properly people can die. Failure to implement proper training regimes for all officers involved in managing informants, including supervisors constitutes negligence. How can an officer properly identify and manage risks if they have not been trained to do so? And you cant learn what the risks might be in one hour on line.

The limited amount of training provided is also a strong indicator that the systems being used to manage informants are also poor. [Training officers to properly complete the records necessary for the safe management of informants takes days not an ‘hour’.]

I do not use the word negligence lightly. I use it because I have studied the management of confidential informants for many years and I have written extensively on the subject. I know the risks involved and what must to be done to protect the informant, the officer, the agency and the public. Training forms a key element of effective informant management.

The minimum training for an officer to manage confidential informants safely is 35 hours ( 1 week) of classroom based learning. I stress this is the minimum. Good training that will leave an officer competent to manage high risk informants takes 70 hours (two weeks). If a law enforcement agency wishes to prove that their officers have been trained properly then they should be able to evidence the content of the each lesson that has been delivered and that it has been delivered by a subject matter expert.

If an agency wishes to manage confidential informants then the Chief of Police or the Sheriff needs to invest in training their officers to do it safely. This will cost money. However when it comes to protecting life it is a reasonable investment to make. And if the ethical justification is not sufficient then surely the thought of the negligence suit that will follow should focus minds.

Managing informants will always carry with it difficult decisions in terms of ethics and risk. The choice whether to use someone as a confidential informant or not needs to be made by properly trained officers operating with in a properly constructed informant management system where there can be ready oversight by properly authorised persons of all records pertaining to each informant.

If you are a Chief or a Sheriff and are interested in how to construct an effective system to manage confidential informants please get in touch. Better talking now that in a court room, when you are trying to justify why you didn’t train your officers. And if you are worried about the costs involved take a look at how much was paid out in damages to the family of Rachel Hoffman.

At HSM Training we are here to help law enforcement avoid such tragedies. If you are looking for expert advice or training e-mail us on

Political correctness and law enforcement training - Essential reading.

I rarely recommend books but here is one everyone involved in training law enforcement and intelligence officers should read. Increasingly in recent years the training of police and intelligence officers has become blighted by the mindset that: no one can be upset during training, no one can feel under pressure and no one, ever, can fail a course. Rather than articulate the reasons why this attitude prevails and the problems with it I will let you work it out for yourself.

So, step one, start by reading Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s excellent book: “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure" 

The second step is to compare what is happening in universities, to what is happening in the training for law enforcement and intelligence officers.

The final step is to remember that, while Haidt and Lukianoff highlight the serious consequences that results from this coddling for university students, those involved in training law enforcement and intelligence officers are responsible for preparing officers to work in highly volatile, stressful and often very dangerous environments.

Training providers have a moral obligation to prepare staff for the world they will encounter, not some fantasy land where everyone is good and kind, and no one hurts anyone’else’s feelings.

The Coddling of the American Mind

The Coddling of the American Mind

Hiring consultants for law enforcement.

At HSM we provide consultancy and audit services in relation to topics including intelligence management systems and countering violent. Undoubtedly a consultant can provide invaluable advice saving an agency time and money and preventing serious harm to the agency. A good consultant’s knowledge will have taken years to accumulate. When it comes to specialised policing few agencies have real internal expertise. However, when it comes to hiring a consultant in these highly specialised areas it is often apparent that many managers have very limited knowledge about what they should be looking for. Here we provide ten things that will get you started thinking about what to consider in hiring a consultant..

  1. Select your consultant well. Make sure they have the breadth and depth of experience they are claiming. Look for evidence to back their claims. Many “consultants” have limited experience. Previous rank is rarely am indicator of depth of knowledge.  For example: just because someone was “in charge” of undercover police officers does not make them an expert in doing undercover police work.

  2. If you want the consultant to also provide training on the topic of their expertise they should be a trained trainer.  Consultants may have knowledge but sharing that knowledge in a classroom requires different skills. If they can’t deliver training that is required remember to factor in any additional cost to pay a trainer.

  3. Make sure you check to see what options are available. Compare and contrast what each consultant is offering. Many large consultancy firms offer clients services, claiming to have expertise. They then sub-contract the work to an independent consultant who really has the expertise. This means that the client often ends up paying many times the cost of employing the expert directly. Why pay an accountancy firm to provide consultancy on confidential informants?

  4. Be clear about the problem you want them to solve. It helps if you have done the research that clearly identifies what is at stake and what you want the consultant to fix.

  5. Be open to the fact that the consultant may find additional problems. Often, people look at an issue in isolation. A good consultant looks at a problem holistically, considering both the specific issue and other interdependent matters.  They do this to provide a better solution.

  6. Be aware costs can escalate. A consultant may be asked to solve a specific problem but because of their expertise they unearth more related problems that are part of the solution.  These then require more time to explore and fix. While some may perceive it as the consultant chasing money, more often it is just that the client initially had no real idea about the scope and depth of the issue first identified.

  7. If someone in your agency tells you, they have enough knowledge to solve the problem explore the depth of their knowledge. Often, their experience will be limited to that which they have gained only in-house. “Big fish – small pond!” “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king!”   Would you not be better with someone with both eyes who has previously swam in a lot of ponds to solve your problem?

  8. Rarely do people know the whole cost per hour of their officers – at best they calculate the cost of a project based on the officer’s hourly pay rate. An officer’s hourly pay is not their actual cost. As a general rule:  A junior officer costs about £60 per hour. (Its similar in all western countries - just do the conversion to your currency) Only by looking at the costings in this light can you get an accurate comparison with what the consultant is charging. Do the mathematics.

  9. When it is the agency’s own staff doing the job there is often limited incentive to get the job done quickly. A consultant wants to get in, get it done and get on to the next job. If they are working to a fixed timeline and budget there is a big incentive for them to not to waste your time.

  10. Make sure the consultant is clear about expenses permitted before the work starts. Some consultants (rightly, depending on flight duration) will settle for no less than business class air travel and high-quality hotels, especially if this is what the agency’s senior officers get.  Make sure you are clear on the permitted expenses as they can easily overtake the consultant’s quoted fee.

At HSM we provide a wide range of consultancy services including constructing human source (confidential informant) management systems, training needs analysis for counter terrorism, undercover, witness protection and intelligence led policing. If you think you have a problem get in touch we will let you know in what ways we can help. We will ensure any investment you make is value for money and we will probably a whole load of heartache that is just over the horizon.

Intelligence Training in Developing Countries

At HSM Training we pride ourselves on our ability to develop and deliver bespoke courses to meet the specific needs of our customers. There is little point in delivering a course that has been developed for a sophisticated agency in the UK to an under-resourced agency in the developing world.  Training needs to be specific to the resources of the receiving agency and the specific problems they are facing.  


Prior to delivering training we engage in a period of consultation with the client and we research the specific problems they are facing. This in-depth preparation has allowed us to deliver training in countries on all five continents. With destinations as diverse as Philippines to Niger, and Cameroon to Sri Lanka are training courses have been designed to address the many diverse problems faced by law enforcement and intelligence agencies working in these countries.


Our training covers a wide range of subjects including counter terrorism, intelligence led policing, recruiting and managing human sources (confidential informants), protecting critical infrastructure and leadership.  All our courses include as core themes the topics of human rights, teamwork, ethics and diversity. The training is delivered in a highly interactive manner equipping the attendees with the skills necessary to problem solve within their own areas of responsibility.


If you are interested in our training courses, please get in touch:

Receiving Information in Confidence from Citizens

One problem we at HSM Training regularly encounter is that of how an agency can take information from a citizen in a secure and legally compliant way. Often within individual agencies a plethora of terms is used to try and cover the different circumstances in which a person provides information to a law enforcement agency. Terms such as: confidential informant, informer, informant, casual contact, confidential source, confidential contact, agent, CHIS, human source and even witness are often used interchangeably by members of an agency. Not only does this lead to much confusion it means the limited resources of the agency are often wasted with needless bureaucracy. More seriously, it can often mean that people who put themselves at risk by providing information are not properly protected by the agency.  

When it comes to passing information law enforcement needs to identify and use specific named categories into which they can place the individual who is supplying information. When placed in the identified category the agency can then manage that individual according to an agreed and document set of standards. Using identified clearly identified categories and working to agreed standards ensures that the risk to the person and the agency are managed effectively. They will also ensure that there is legal compliance.

There are three categories that command an adequate starting place all of which will fall within the broader understanding of the often, used term 'confidential informant'.

  1. 'Registered Human Source.' This term refers to a person with whom an agency enters a relationship in order to obtain information over an identified period and under specified set of circumstances. This relationship is authorised by someone in a management position within the agency and all aspects of that relationship are documented. [In Canada, this term also includes a person who has “agent” status.]

  2. 'Witness.' This term refers to a person with whom the agency enters into a relationship with the intention that the person will give evidence in court against another person. Such a person may or may not be serving a prison sentence at time of passing the information. The person knows they will be testifying.

  3.  'Member of the public.' This term refers to all other persons that do not fall within either Category 1 or 2 above and refers to any person passing information to the law enforcement agency in the expectation that their identity remains confidential (i.e. the intention is the identity of this person will be protected except when there is a legal requirement to disclose it).

At HSM Training we work in many different jurisdictions with different legislative processes. However, we have yet to encounter a legislative regime where this method of classification will not work. This system may need minor tweaking but it will help you address this problem in a cost effective manner. If you need help with this problem please contact us at:  

Save yourself some time and trouble and get a system that protects everyone involved.