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: info@hsmtraining.com

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: info@hsmtraining.com  

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

Undercover Policing - Training for the real world

At HSM Training we have been working recently with several psychologists who are actively involved in creating safe learning environments for officers engaged in such high-risk activities as undercover policing or managing human sources (confidential informants). Frequently, these psychologists are having to deal with the paradox that officers are being asked to operate in high-risk environments, but the agency’s training regime refuses to allow training that simulates real life.

With an increasing number of law enforcement educators advocating the stance that training should take place in an environment where officers are not allowed to feel uncomfortable, one where they will rarely be challenged as to their behaviour, and not even allowed to fail a course, there is a real problem as to how to get staff up to standard to operate safely in the real world.

Here are ten questions you might want to ask your training department when you talk to them about designing the type of training course that is required to keep officers safe:

  1. In the real world will officers be asked to make decisions under pressure?

  2. In the real world are officers likely to be subjected to verbal attacks?

  3. In the real world will officers have to cope with significant, sometimes seemingly overwhelming, work load?

  4. In the real world will officers encounter aggressive and offensive individuals?

  5. In the real world will officers sometimes feel isolated and alone?

  6. In the real world will officers potentially feel high levels of anxiety?

  7. In the real world is the stress encountered likely to be prolonged and/or have a cumulative effect?

  8. In the real world might someone could an error by an officer lead to their death?

  9. Do you believe everyone can perform the role in question? (If the answer given to this is “neither” the person you are talking to does not know what they are talking about. Not everyone has the aptitude for specialised roles.)

  10. Would you rather officers failed in the classroom or failed in the real world? (If the answer given to this is “neither” the person you are talking to does not know what they are talking about. If an officer’s vulnerabilities are not identified in the classroom they will be come out in the real world often with catastrophic consequences.)

Often, reluctance to build role appropriate training stems from fear: Fear of a complaint from a student, fear that the instructors themselves would not cope well with the type of training, or fear from those outside of the learning environment (such as managers or human resource staff) objecting to the nature of the training. It also shows a lack of knowledge of the law.

Failure to provide training that prepares an officer to deal with the real world they will encounter is a failure to protect the officer.  It is an ethically bankrupt strategy, based for the most part, in self-protection. Furthermore, it is negligence and where the risks faced may lead to the physical or mental harm such omissions may amount to an offence under Health and Safety or Workplace Safety legislation.

Muhammad Ali once said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

For those involved in high risk police duties a shorter version suffices: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life....”

At HSM Training we strive to provide training that ensures officers are ready to deal with the world they will face: Better hard training, than hard ending.

The Human Source Management System

When it comes to managing human sources ( confidential informants, HUMINT ) many of the problems that arise occur because staff involved do not work to a structured system. Our Human Source Management training is based on 4 behavioural models which create a structured pathway to recruit and manage a human source in the most effective and productive way while ensuring adherence to legal and ethical principles.
The first of these models (© Buckley and Reid 2005) The Human Source Management Framework is explained below. This model is supplemented by Targeting, Recruiting and Handling models.

  The Human Source Management Framework  ©

The Human Source Management Framework ©

Need - This is where the intelligence requirement against which the source will gather information is identified.

This need generates two responses:

  1. Planned Approach – An operation is planned to recruit a source. This will lead to the Targeting Stage

  2. Unplanned Opportunity – An opportunity arises for the handler to attempt to recruit someone who can satisfy the need. This leads directly to the Recruiting Stage where the handler can employ the generic social psychology.

Targeting – The targeting of particular potential prospects. This is carried out at two levels social psychological information and the intelligence case. This will allow the handler to develop ‘Targeted Psychology’ for the individual. 

Recruiting – This is the recruitment stage where the handler interacts with the potential source with a view to getting the them to meet with the handler and become a source.

Handling – This stage takes the handler from the post recruitment meeting through the development process to the effective use of the source and ultimately to the termination of the source.

This simple model provides a structure that guides officers and can indicate what psychological techniques can be used to achieve the best results and when it is the best time to use them.

Details of the model and how to use it are contained in the publication The Human Source Management System ( see publications).

Sexual Misconduct with an informant

Interesting story about an officers inappropriate sexual relationship with an informant ("human source", "confidential informant", "covert human intelligence source")


As always in these cases it is good to ask a few pertinent questions about the management of confidential informants and hopefully the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is asking itself how this situation occurred.

  1. What are the agency rules and regulations about contact with informants and how are contacts reported?
  2. Was there only one officer managing this informant?
  3. What supervision was there and what went wrong with it?
  4. What training did the officers involved have for this highly specialised role?
  5. What changes can the agency make to reduce the chances of this happening again?

It is easy to cast all the blame on one "bad apple" but if one wants to eradicate this type of behaviour one needs a full independent audit of what went wrong and not one carried out by people with a vested interest in sweeping the issue under the rug. 

Three things will help prevent this sort of event:

  1. Comprehensive policy and procedures for officers involved in managing informants
  2. Only trained officers involved to manage informants and those officers being properly trained.
  3. Good IT to record and manage all the records.

If you want to know more get in touch we provide audits and training. And we are significantly cheaper than $110,000!

Power, police officers and the human brain

As a keen amateur photographer I enjoy spending some time browsing the photos posted on Instagram wishing I had the "eye" to have captured some of the amazing shots posted there. Inevitably, given my professional background, I do tend to drift to law enforcement photos and end up following some officers as they post their daily events on line.  I thought it worth raising what one officer had posted there. The photo related to giving citizens a ticket for not pulling over when a police car was trying to pass them in an emergency. The officer who owned the post said she often gave out "tickets" to motorists who failed to pull over. This raises the interesting question about when, and if, a police officer should use the powers they have been given and what will be the benefit or consequences of using these powers. 

Every police officer who has ever been en route to an emergency call with the "blues and twos" blasting, is well aware that the world is full of motorists who it feels are deliberately impeding the police vehicle. There they are driving along in their own little world, oblivious to what is behind them. And what is behind them is a police officer getting more and more stressed and more and more frustrated.

Now let's try and add a few facts to the situation that might help anyone involved:

  1. As soon as the officer gets an emergency call, stress levels rise instantaneously. The activity in the brain changes significantly and the way the officer perceives the world changes.
  2. In reality, the motorist is oblivious to all but what happens to be in their world, at that  particular moment. [Rarely do people deliberately try to impede the police in such a manner.]

Assuming that the police officer continues to the emergency, (if they don't their stress level has already removed the ability to think logically) and that they note the licence plate/vehicle number returning to speak with the motorist at a later time, what occurs then is:

  1. The officer is still likely to be in an annoyed/frustrated state, whether they realise it or not.
  2. The motorist may still be totally oblivious to what they have done. If they are aware the are likely to be:  a) Feel sorry for their actions,  and/or   b) feel that, as their actions were unintentional, an apology is sufficient to make it right. 
  3. The officer decides to issue a ticket because that's what the frustration in their brain is telling them to do.
  4. The police officer alienates a citizen.

Just because a police officer has the power does not mean they have to use it.  If the officer writes a ticket nothing is gained except the 'power buzz' for the officer. The motorist learns nothing, except resentment.

That said, how often do we equip officers with understanding of the human brain and how to develop their interpersonal skills to use that knowledge? The fault  often begins, not with the individual officer but with the training that is provided to them, when they are recruited.

Want to know more: ask about our basic interpersonal skills course

Countering Violent Extremism in Schools

HSM Training recently joined up with Imodality Australia (Imodality.com) and  Commission for International Justice and Accountability, US  (CIJA)  to deliver an awareness program relating to countering violent extremism. The lectures were delivered to a number of staff derived from the Albanian Education sector.  The training was delivered during a number of two day training events in Tirana, Albania and covered a basic understanding of terrorism and its root causes and the likely indicators of a school student being drawn into involvement in extremist behaviours.  This part of an inter agency approach to protecting vulnerable school students involving law enforcement, schools, social workers and psychologists.   If you are interested in further details please get in touch. 

albania college.jpg

Tragic and avoidable death of confidential informant leads to million dollar pay out by police

Here is a story that is unfortunately to common: the tragic and arguably avoidable death of someone who has agreed to be a confidential informant for law enforcement. Shelley Hillard was 19 year's old when she agreed to become a confidential informant after being caught with marijuana at a Detroit motel in 2011.

Follow this link for the story.


First, as human beings we must acknowledge that a person has lost their life and that a family is grieving that loss.

Second, as law enforcement professionals we must take the opportunity to see if their are any lessons that can be learned from such events to prevent a recurrence with some other person.

Often these events occur through two major failings:

  1. The agency does not have effective structures to manage confidential informantssafely. There is a lack of clear policy, record keeping is poor and supervision is far from adequate. INADEQUATE STRUCTURES = NEGLIGENCE
  2. The officers are not trained to manage confidential informants. Managing a confidential informant is a difficult task and there are numerous things that can go wrong including a failure to protect the person, the development of a corrupt relationship, and poor evidence collection. All staff involved int eh management of confidential informants need training with regard to how to do this. And the training should meet minimum standards. Quite simply you cannot teach someone how to manage a confidential informant in one or two days. And if an officer  is not properly trained they should NOT be allowed to manage an confidential informant. NOT TRAINED = NEGLIGENCE

And if you are a Chief worried about the cost of improving your training and structures, if the ethical obligation does not work for you, then you might find motivation in the thought of paying out $1,000,000!

If you need expert guidance on the structures required to manage the risks with regard to confidential informants or want help with quality training please contact us at HSM Training and Consultancy. Or have a read at some of our related publications listed on this website.