confidential informant

Confidential Informants - when the sh*t hits the fan

confidential informant risks. some guidance for police chiefs in trouble. what goes wrong and how to deal with informant mismanagement

Confidential Informant Management - things that go wrong

Things that go wrong with confidential informant management. Educating police chiefs and others involved in informant management.

Poor Risk Management of Confidential Informants

Confidential informant management risk. Discusses case where there is poor confidential informant management Suggestions for Chiefs of police in relation to n dealing with confidential informants, (Human Sources, CHIS, HUMINT)

Sexual Misconduct with an informant

Interesting story about an officers inappropriate sexual relationship with an informant ("human source", "confidential informant", "covert human intelligence source")

As always in these cases it is good to ask a few pertinent questions about the management of confidential informants and hopefully the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is asking itself how this situation occurred.

  1. What are the agency rules and regulations about contact with informants and how are contacts reported?
  2. Was there only one officer managing this informant?
  3. What supervision was there and what went wrong with it?
  4. What training did the officers involved have for this highly specialised role?
  5. What changes can the agency make to reduce the chances of this happening again?

It is easy to cast all the blame on one "bad apple" but if one wants to eradicate this type of behaviour one needs a full independent audit of what went wrong and not one carried out by people with a vested interest in sweeping the issue under the rug. 

Three things will help prevent this sort of event:

  1. Comprehensive policy and procedures for officers involved in managing informants
  2. Only trained officers involved to manage informants and those officers being properly trained.
  3. Good IT to record and manage all the records.

If you want to know more get in touch we provide audits and training. And we are significantly cheaper than $110,000!

Tragic and avoidable death of confidential informant leads to million dollar pay out by police

Here is a story that is unfortunately to common: the tragic and arguably avoidable death of someone who has agreed to be a confidential informant for law enforcement. Shelley Hillard was 19 year's old when she agreed to become a confidential informant after being caught with marijuana at a Detroit motel in 2011.

Follow this link for the story.

First, as human beings we must acknowledge that a person has lost their life and that a family is grieving that loss.

Second, as law enforcement professionals we must take the opportunity to see if their are any lessons that can be learned from such events to prevent a recurrence with some other person.

Often these events occur through two major failings:

  1. The agency does not have effective structures to manage confidential informantssafely. There is a lack of clear policy, record keeping is poor and supervision is far from adequate. INADEQUATE STRUCTURES = NEGLIGENCE
  2. The officers are not trained to manage confidential informants. Managing a confidential informant is a difficult task and there are numerous things that can go wrong including a failure to protect the person, the development of a corrupt relationship, and poor evidence collection. All staff involved int eh management of confidential informants need training with regard to how to do this. And the training should meet minimum standards. Quite simply you cannot teach someone how to manage a confidential informant in one or two days. And if an officer  is not properly trained they should NOT be allowed to manage an confidential informant. NOT TRAINED = NEGLIGENCE

And if you are a Chief worried about the cost of improving your training and structures, if the ethical obligation does not work for you, then you might find motivation in the thought of paying out $1,000,000!

If you need expert guidance on the structures required to manage the risks with regard to confidential informants or want help with quality training please contact us at HSM Training and Consultancy. Or have a read at some of our related publications listed on this website. 

Confidential Informant Audit Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

As some one who is always on the look out for material on how to better manage human sources (confidential informants) I came across this audit of some of the issues The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have had in managing confidential informants. 


For anyone involved in this business it is always good to read about what is and is not being done properly in other agencies. We should not be continuing to make the same mistakes. Take the time to read the full report and then check your own systems to ensure that you are not making the same mistakes.  Better do it now before you are audited or something else goes wrong and the lawyers come knocking at your door. 

Lets take a look at some of the recommendations here which I have paraphrased in more general terms. (My comments in italics)

  • Develop and implement a record-keeping system sufficient to maintain, in a single location, complete and reliable CI information.  - This is essential for every agency. All confidential informant records should be held in a central location.
  • Establish adequate procedures and controls within the system to ensure that all data is entered in a complete, consistent, and accurate manner, and that historical data is appropriately maintained.  Good training to manage informants and good supervision ensure good data entry.
  • Ensure that the system requires the capture and validation of additional confidential informant related information to assist in managing the confidential informant program. There has been be a way to capture any information to help the agency improve its capacity when it comes to managing informants
  • Implement a method to accurately and completely track all payment information for individual confidential informants. Money management is a serious concern in all CI programs. Good systems significantly reduce the risks to the officers and to the agency.

Managing confidential informants ( human sources ) is fraught with risk. Good systems reduce those risks. 

Confidential informants, undercover activity, negligence and lawsuits

Oh dear… the lawyers are coming…

For a senior police officer it is the stuff of nightmares. There has been an incident of some sort and now the lawyers want to paw through all your records pertaining some sort of undercover activity which your agency has been involved in. The incident may have involved the deployment of an undercover officer, or it may have been a surveillance operation or have involved the use of a human source (confidential informant). While in many cases the lawyer may be seeking only to get an acquittal for their client, unfortunately, and all too often nowadays, it is more likely to be that the lawyer is pressing a lawsuit against the law enforcement agency because some form of harm has come to their client. 

For the Chief of the agency it is not always obvious what the lawyer will look for and how the agency will be left vulnerable. Fortunately, no matter where you are in the world, the things that will cause the agency problems are very similar. At HSM Training we are regularly asked to carry out audits to find out what could go wrong or what has gone wrong.  We are telling you now, so that you can fix them BEFORE something bad happens (and before a lawyer raises them in court).

There are three things that will always lead to problems if they are not well established within any agency. A failure to have these in place will lead to negative events and are most likely to result in the agency being the wrong end of a successful lawsuit. They fall under three headings:

1.       Legislation, Policy and Procedures

2.       Training

3.       Records

It goes without saying that if you are not adhering to legislation as a law enforcement agency you are going to be in trouble. However, law enforcement agencies look at legislation in a very narrow way, for example they do not even consider that workplace safety legislation will apply to their covert operation and therefore they breach that legislation. Agencies fail to have policies relevant to the work they carry out. Policy is a public statement of what the agency intends to do and an explanation in general terms as to how they will do it. This informs the general public that the agency is undertaking the named activities and gives them an idea of the controls that will be in place. If you don’t have a public policy, then it looks like you are hiding something. Where there is national policy that should be adhered to. Procedures are different from policy. Because of the secret nature of covert activities these documents should not be made available to the public. They should be exempt under freedom of information as they expose law enforcement methods. Procedures are a standardised series of actions taken to achieve a task so that everyone who undertakes the task does in an agreed and consistent way to achieve a safe, effective outcome. Procedures have a lot of detail. They say exactly who will do the work and they detail the processes for how that work will be carried out. Generally speaking, where agencies fall down is lack of comprehensive, well written procedures that are reviewed on an annual basis and where compliance with them is intrusively and rigorously enforced by managers.

Whatever role an officer is undertaking they need to be selected and properly trained for that role and certified as being competent for that role. Details of how the officer was selected, and the training they have received, need to be recorded including both the content and duration of the training and the results of any form of assessment. Officers need to receive regular updates in their training and should be signed off one an annual basis as being competent for the task in question.  All officers regardless of rank, involved in the relevant task, must be trained.    The level of training required will come down to the risks involved with the nature of task being carried out. If someone might die, you are going to need a lot of training. If an officer is not trained properly, it is negligence to have them doing the task. There is no excuse such as not having the money to train them.

There need to be comprehensive records of all aspects of the activity being undertaken and these should be kept in one centralised location. Ideally they should be on a computerised secure system. [For covert activities if the computer system is not of sufficiently high security, stick with paper. Do NOT use your standard records management system that you use for patrol.] If the agency has not identified all the records that should be kept and if they are not all completed properly it is going a long way to suggesting either wrongdoing or negligence.

Having examined any agencies policy and procedures, their training and their record keeping it takes an expert minutes to identify if the agency could have done things more effectively. The expert then presents their opinion to the court. It is then up to the court to decide whether that amounted to negligence and whether or not that negligence resulted in harm to a person.

It is perhaps worth noting that in some jurisdictions the mere existence of the risk of harm to a person constitutes a criminal offence under health and workplace safety legislation! If you want advice, ask us or wait for the lawyers to ask.

Ten things that should be taught on an entry level HUMAN SOURCE MANAGEMENT course

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.