Managing human sources (confidential informants) is often perceived as a task that any officer can do and that every detective should do. However, despite significant evidence of the importance of training for officers involved in this role many agencies provide only the minimum, if any training, and then wonder why it goes horribly wrong. Even in the state of Florida in the USA where training for officers managing human sources (confidential informants) is a legislative requirement (following the death of Rachel Hoffman) officers there, often receive only the most nominal training. Managers, often untrained themselves, do not understand the difficulties in managing a human source (confidential informant) or cite the excuse of not being able to afford the cost of training as the reasons they don’t provide it for their staff. Where an officer has not been properly trained, allowing that officer to manage a human source (confidential informant) is negligence on the part of the law enforcement agency. Training should be delivered by a qualified person, delivered against a minimum set of standards and delivered to all staff involved, regardless of rank. Those supervising the management will require additional training. An introductory level human source course for an officer beginning to manage human sources will take an absolute minimum of one week to deliver. If staff are getting any less than a week no expert would considered them to be properly trained. [Note: this week of training is dedicated exclusively to managing human sources (confidential informants) as opposed to a one hour lecture included on a narcotics course!]
As a guide we have included ‘Ten things’ that should be taught on an introductory level, human source (confidential informant) management course. These are:
1. Civil liberties and human rights. Using human sources will always engage civil liberty and human rights; officers need to be aware what these issues are and how to justify their actions.
2. Ethics and morals. Managing human sources is fraught with ethical and moral dilemmas. Only by training officers in ethics can these matters be effectively addressed.
3. Corruption. Unfortunately, all too often officers involved in managing human sources become mired in corruption. Understanding the psychological process involved helps reduce the chances of the officer falling victim to this.
4. Risk management. There are significant risks in managing any human source. Officers need to be trained how to identify, evaluate record and manage the relevant risks.
5. Legislation and the agency’s policies and procedures for managing human spources. Officers need to know the relevant legislation and need the agency’s procedures explained to them.
6. Record keeping. Officers need to know what records to complete and the time frames for completion of those records.
7. Field-craft. Keeping both the officers and the human source alive involves equipping all with the skills necessary to make contact and meet safely.
8. Debriefing. Many officers have only the most rudimentary of skills when it comes to eliciting the maximum amount of information from a human source. Training officers in ‘relevant’ interviewing skills maximises the amount of information gained. Some common interview techniques currently in use are totally counter productive for this arena.
9. Writing information submissions. Officers also need to be taught the difference between information and intelligence. Many officers do not know this and as a result do not know how to write comprehensive and accurate accounts of the information they receive during a meeting. This results in inaccurate information being submitted or in the worst case, acted upon without any centralised control.
10. Psychology. Teaching officers even the most fundamental aspects of the psychology involved in managing human sources will increase the source's productivity and increase the control over that source, thus helping keep everyone safe.
While this article leans towards a USA perspective the content of any course anywhere is the same.