Confidential Informant Management - things that go wrong

Today I was asked for a list of things I thought were likely to go wrong in an informant management relationship. Having taken a look through some of my old research I came up with a list of fifteen different things. While it may not be the full list I can say these things happen on a regular basis, with confidential informants. I thought I would share so in no particular order:

  1. Creating false information from an informant to justify action against another party. For example: putting false information into the system to justify warrants.

  2. Submitting only parts of the information provided by the informant. This may be done as a deliberate act or through laziness.

  3. Failure to keep proper records in a timely manner. This will include managing informants “off the books.”

  4. Putting undue pressure on a individual with mental health problems or other similar vulnerability to become an informant.

  5. Theft of money intended for the informant or to be used in the management of a informant. 

  6. Both consensual and non-consensual sexual relationships with informant.

  7. Criminal relationship with informant.

  8. Relationship where there is personal gain for handler such as the informant giving them free tickets for football games, free drinks at a bar, etc.

  9. Unauthorised meetings with the informant and/or a failure to report telephone contacts.

  10.  A knowing failure by management to provide equipment or training intended to protect the informant relationship.

  11. Failure to notify risks to the safety of the informant. This often occurs because source safety is competing with another agenda which the officer deems more important, such as: “making the case.”

  12. Reckless disregard for field-craft.  This will include such things as not using defensive surveillance or meeting a source in a dangerous location for the informant because it is easier for the officer.

  13. Reckless disclosure of the informants name/identity by handlers, investigators or prosecutors.

  14. Managers turning a blind eye to wrong doing either consciously or because “It’s just to difficult to deal with.”

  15. Claiming to have informants that don’t exist to boost a promotion application.

If you think this isn’t happening in your agency, take another look just to be sure. Because if you are wrong the lawyers will be asking why you got it wrong.

These issues can be managed and the risk reduced if:

  1. There are comprehensive informant management procedures within the agency.

  2. All staff involved in informant management have received good training for all involved in the role.

  3. The agency uses purpose built confidential informant management software for its records.

  4. There is intrusive supervision right up the management chain to the Chief of Police.

If you need any help or want to add to the list please email us at We are here to help.