What motivates confidential informants.

The issue of what motivates an informant ( AKA: a human source or a CHIS) is central to effective confidential informant management and on which unfortunately is misunderstood. I recently spent a bit of time researching what is being taught to law enforcement at informant management training classes. The general consensus seems to be some variation of the list below:

  • Fear

  • Money

  • Revenge

  • Jealousy

  • Repentance

  • Ego

  • James Bond

It can safely said that if you were at an informant training class and this is what you were taught, you were in the kindergarten class. The construction of such a list is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face os the underpinning psychological theory.

Motivation is an extremely complex psychological subject and what this type of training does is reinforce negative stereotypes of people who give information to the police and provide the informant handler with the illusion they have control over the confidential informant. Motivation is complex and ever changing. We are motivated by different things at different times. Motivation situation-dependant. If you change the situation and a person will be motivated to change their behaviour.

When managing a confidential informant the officer needs to continually asking why is the informant doing this thing at this time? In order to do this the officer must have a good understanding of human motivation. This will come through psychology books on motivation. You can do worse that starting with Abraham Maslow’s: ‘ A Theory of Human Motivation’ and then progress to more up to date and detailed books such as The Oxford Handbook of Motivation. In my book The Human Source Management System there is over 40 pages dedicated to the topic of confidential informant motivation.

Good training will bring the theory to life and lets the officer know how to apply the relevant theory when managing a confidential informant.

If officers do not know what motivates a confidential informant, they have little chance of managing that informant in a safe and productive way, When police managers ask their officers what is motivating a confidential informant, and are then satisfied with a one word answer, they show their lack of knowledge about informants and about people in general.

At HSM Training we spend a lot of time training officers in the motivational theory. We show them what motivates their behaviour then allow them to extrapolate that understanding to the behaviour of a confidential informant (human source). Our training is underpinned by knowledge gained through academically validated research.

If you want to discuss anything in our blogs drop me a note at: info@hsmtraining.com We are always happy to discuss ideas and perspectives.