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 ( 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. 

The risk from freedom of information requests - covert human intelligence sources

Many UK police services have to deal with the problem of ongoing requests from journalists under the Freedom of Information Act. While many of these journalists may be genuinely seeking information which will be of interest to their readers and which form part of living in a free and democratic society, a failure to deal with these requests in a professional manner creates a risk to both individual covert human intelligence sources (informants) and to sensitive methodology. 

North Yorkshire police recently refused a request and were very precise in their use of the correct legislation to legitimately refuse the request. Well done them!  See the following site:

If a police service gives out to much detail it is quite possible for a person to be identified as a human source or for a person to be wrongly identified as a human source. I both such cases there is a real risk to the life of the person concerned. 

This risk is increased where journalists mount what is often referred to as a 'mosaic attack' where they send in a large number of separate requests for information in order to hide just how much information they are requesting.  If the member of the receiving police service is unaware of the nature of human source (CHIS) work or fails to identify the existence of a number of related requests then very sensitive methodology can be exposed. All the journalist has to do is put the answers from the number of requests together and put each piece in place as one would a jigsaw puzzle.This is a risk to policing throughout the UK as it is the same methodology that is used across the country. 

Police services need to recognise this risk, document it and put in place control measures to deal with it.

Active Listening for Police Officers

Many of have heard of the term "Active Listening" and some of us may have a vague recollection of attending some training entitled 'active listening' or some such moniker.  However, how much of what we were taught do we actually remember and how often do we put it into practice?

In delivering training to police officers on an international basis it is evident that many officers have little or no understanding of this basic skill that will help them do there job much more effectively and keep them much safer into the bargain. 

One problem with training in relation to active listening is that the theory is relatively easy to teach  - the main points can be covered in a few PowerPoint slides. This means that many Police Chiefs and Heads of Training are fooled into thinking that there officers have been trained in active listening.

Teaching a few theoretical points is not teaching someone how to listen effectively. Those new to the subject must learn how to use their ears and there eyes effectively.  Much of communication is visual.  They must be taught a basic understanding of what motivates human behaviour and they must be given significant time in role plays to practice and understand the application of their new skills. 

Investment in such training brings significant returns with regard to public confidence, enhanced community policing and effective policing.  The skill of active listening should be taught to all new police recruits and should run as a core theme throughout their initial training.  Introductory and refresher courses should be provided to other officers of all ranks. 

If you are interest in effective training designed specifically for police officers please get in touch with us at HSM Training.

Confidential Informant Audit Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

As some one who is always on the look out for material on how to better manage human sources (confidential informants) I came across this audit of some of the issues The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have had in managing confidential informants. 


For anyone involved in this business it is always good to read about what is and is not being done properly in other agencies. We should not be continuing to make the same mistakes. Take the time to read the full report and then check your own systems to ensure that you are not making the same mistakes.  Better do it now before you are audited or something else goes wrong and the lawyers come knocking at your door. 

Lets take a look at some of the recommendations here which I have paraphrased in more general terms. (My comments in italics)

  • Develop and implement a record-keeping system sufficient to maintain, in a single location, complete and reliable CI information.  - This is essential for every agency. All confidential informant records should be held in a central location.
  • Establish adequate procedures and controls within the system to ensure that all data is entered in a complete, consistent, and accurate manner, and that historical data is appropriately maintained.  Good training to manage informants and good supervision ensure good data entry.
  • Ensure that the system requires the capture and validation of additional confidential informant related information to assist in managing the confidential informant program. There has been be a way to capture any information to help the agency improve its capacity when it comes to managing informants
  • Implement a method to accurately and completely track all payment information for individual confidential informants. Money management is a serious concern in all CI programs. Good systems significantly reduce the risks to the officers and to the agency.

Managing confidential informants ( human sources ) is fraught with risk. Good systems reduce those risks. 

Managing Risk - Using a paedophile as an informant

There has been much written in the UK press recently about the use of a covert human intelligence source [CHIS]  (UK legal term for a confidential informant) in connection with a child abuse investigation.

Northumbria Police have come under substantial criticism for using a convicted child rapist to provide information on a group of paedophiles preying on young girls in the area.  18 people were convicted as a result of the investigation. 

Much,  if not all of, the criticism has been ill informed. While the specifics of the management of the human source have, of necessity for his safety, remained secret one can speak in general terms about the management of any human source under such circumstances.

When managing any human source one must balance the risks of adopting a course of action against the benefits to be gained. However, what is often forgotten about is the risk of not doing something. In this case, there were risks in managing a source who has serious previous convictions for sexual assault and this had to be balanced against the benefit that could be gained from obtaining his information namely the prevention of further sexual assaults taking place and the conviction of offenders. That in itself is a fairly strong case for using the source, however distasteful it may be. But what if we choose the path of not using the source - we accept that there is a very high probability the offending will continue and many other children will be subjected to a high degree of physical and mental harm.  We allow the sexual abuse of children to continue because we feel bad about paying someone money for information.  

Chief Constable Steve Ashman was right to authorise the use of this human source and should be praised for his robust defence of the tactic. What the public should be more concerned about is the fact that there are senior officers out there who would not authorise the use of a human source under these circumstances. Such a risk averse approach means that offending of this type which could be stopped is not stopped. 

This type of scenario is one I often raise in our training on managing risk in covert operations as it causes students to open their minds and  understand what effective risk management is about.  If you are interested in risk management training for using human sources (confidential informants) we have a two day course which covers this and many other topics and provides a robust defensible system for managing risk.   For further reading see our publication:  Invest Now or Pay Later  - The Management of Risk in Covert Law Enforcement.  If you have any comments or questions please get in touch. 

New informant legislation in North Dakota - a lesson for all

AN ACT to create and enact chapter 29-29.5 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to the use of confidential informants; to amend and reenact section 12-63-04 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to the powers and duties of the peace officer standards and training board; and to provide a penalty