Confidential informants - numbers matter. Risk management in managing confidential informants. Some information for Chiefs of Police
Confidential informant motivations. What motivates someone to work as a confidential informant?
When it comes to managing human sources ( confidential informants, HUMINT ) many of the problems that arise occur because staff involved do not work to a structured system. Our Human Source Management training is based on 4 behavioural models which create a structured pathway to recruit and manage a human source in the most effective and productive way while ensuring adherence to legal and ethical principles.
The first of these models (© Buckley and Reid 2005) The Human Source Management Framework is explained below. This model is supplemented by Targeting, Recruiting and Handling models.
Need - This is where the intelligence requirement against which the source will gather information is identified.
This need generates two responses:
Planned Approach – An operation is planned to recruit a source. This will lead to the Targeting Stage
Unplanned Opportunity – An opportunity arises for the handler to attempt to recruit someone who can satisfy the need. This leads directly to the Recruiting Stage where the handler can employ the generic social psychology.
Targeting – The targeting of particular potential prospects. This is carried out at two levels social psychological information and the intelligence case. This will allow the handler to develop ‘Targeted Psychology’ for the individual.
Recruiting – This is the recruitment stage where the handler interacts with the potential source with a view to getting the them to meet with the handler and become a source.
Handling – This stage takes the handler from the post recruitment meeting through the development process to the effective use of the source and ultimately to the termination of the source.
This simple model provides a structure that guides officers and can indicate what psychological techniques can be used to achieve the best results and when it is the best time to use them.
Details of the model and how to use it are contained in the publication The Human Source Management System ( see publications).
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.