If we want to discuss anything, it is always good that there is clarity regarding the words we will use. As this blog will regularly discuss ‘human sources’ let us start by defining a human source.

A human source is: “a person who has been deliberately recruited and is managed to collect information to satisfy an intelligence requirement.”

This definition of a Human Source was developed during research by Reid and Buckley and carried out as part of a UK Home Office funded research police award beginning in 2000.

In essence what we are going to talk about is ‘informants’ and whether you call them covert human intelligence sources (UK term) or confidential informants (USA terminology) or anything else, depending on what your role is and where in the globe you are, the term we will use is HUMAN SOURCE.

There were a number of reasons why the term of a human source and the associate concept were developed during that period of international research. These include:

1.       Human source is a neutral term which does not carry with it much of the negativity that is normally associated with other terms such as informant, snitch, snout, rat, etc.  All too often people involved in providing information that prevents crime and saves lives are vilified and pilloried. While this may be understandable if someone is involved in crime, as a general rule, speaking in derogatory terms, about a human source is uninformed and prejudiced. It is also unprofessional when derogatory comments about human sources are made by anyone involved in criminal justice, be they prosecutors or law enforcement officials.

2.       Human sources are a ‘source of information’. Law enforcement needs information to combat crime and protect the community from terrorism.

3.     Human sources are human. If one knows and understands how human beings function, then one can better manage a human source. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that human sources are in some way less than human, or different from any other human on the planet.

4.       Managing a human source, as one would manage any other human relationship, ensures that all involved are treated with dignity and respect and in an ethical way.     

We will explore what we mean by the words ‘intelligence requirement’ in a later blog but for now we will take it as a given that human sources would only be used where the Police Chief has identified that the information they are providing, helps address their identified policing priorities. But if you can’t wait you may want to look at our publications.