Ten things you might want to consider when auditing your Confidential Informant Management System

In a previous article we highlighted the need for audit of the systems for managing confidential informants.  Here at HSM training we believe in providing solutions so we are giving you a few points to set you in the right direction.

For many agencies the task of managing confidential informants is a task that is routinely carried by their staff on a daily with little apparent need for checking as to how well the system in place is actually functioning.  A mindset will often prevail that as long as things appear to be operating without a problem then there is no need to potentially upset the apple-cart by actually checking to see if they are. All too often anyone that suggests such an action is perceived as working to some personal agenda or inferring that the staff are doing something wrong. Carrying out an audit of how confidential informants are being managed within an agency involves looking at the informant management system as a whole and examining how individual informants are being managed on a case specific basis. I often find that within any agency’s confidential informant processes there are often good things and bad and while finding the good is always reassuring finding the bad has left many a Chief with a few sleepless nights.

‘Ten things’ that should make you think about carrying out an audit are:

1.       It is better to do your own audit now, rather than such an audit being carried out in the public domain. It would not be the first time that an agency’s methodology was subject to public scrutiny as a result of judicial proceedings or public pressure.

2.       You will find wrong-doing. The extent of such wrong-doing will vary from minor failings in record keeping to potentially criminal wrong doing. It is better for all that corrective measures are quickly put in place for the minor issues and that any major ones are expeditiously investigated.

3.       You will find misinterpretation and misunderstandings of the agency’s informant policies. Many police policies are poorly written and open to misinterpretation, this leaves the agency, its members and the public vulnerable.  Finding short-comings in policy at an early stage means that corrections can be made before harm results.

4.       You will find people that are being managed as if they were confidential informants but that the officers involved have never properly documented as such. This is one of the major origins of risk with regard to informant management.

5.       You will discover which officers are being productive and which officers are merely talking the talk when it comes to managing informant.

6.       You will find confidential informants that are being productive and which are merely talking the talk.  You may also find a few informants that your agency really should have nothing to do with because they are very likely to cause harm to the agency in the longer term.

7.       You will find significant amounts of information submitted from informants never gets to where it needs to go to and istherefore not properly auctioned by the agency. When something does go wrong there is very little that will make an agency look quite as bad as the discovery that there was information available prior to the event that could have prevented the event.

8.       You will find where informants can be much more effectively managed and tasked against identified priorities.  Those managing informants need to take cognizance of the limited resources available to law enforcement and be more circumspect in the time and effort that are expended in managing confidential informants.  Few agencies manage their informants in a proactive way that meets the well recognized principles of intelligence led policing.

9.       You will find inconsistencies, often significant ones, in the way informants are paid or rewarded across the agency.  If there is more than one person responsible for financial management of informant rewards then there is very likely to be a difference in what is being paid out , to who and for what. If you find that there is not an efficient way of tracking informant money across the agency then be prepared for the worst.

10.   If you find the potential problems before they are real problems then you will have a much happier Chief and you will have done a professional job.

People are often reluctant to undertake an audit out of fear for what they may find or because of the hostility with which such an undertaking may be met.  If carrying out an initial audit it can be well worth well to examine all the agency’s informants and decide which ones are worth reregistering and which ones the agency should cease contact with; starting again in this way means that the agency is at significantly less risk than before such an audit. Start with an initial audit of the informant management system and then pencil one in on an annual basis. If you find that audit is all but impossible because the agency’s informant records are all over the place well that is the first thing you may want to speak to the Chief about the problem.