Things that go wrong with confidential informant management. Educating police chiefs and others involved in informant management.
One problem we at HSM Training regularly encounter is that of how an agency can take information from a citizen in a secure and legally compliant way. Often within individual agencies a plethora of terms is used to try and cover the different circumstances in which a person provides information to a law enforcement agency. Terms such as: confidential informant, informer, informant, casual contact, confidential source, confidential contact, agent, CHIS, human source and even witness are often used interchangeably by members of an agency. Not only does this lead to much confusion it means the limited resources of the agency are often wasted with needless bureaucracy. More seriously, it can often mean that people who put themselves at risk by providing information are not properly protected by the agency.
When it comes to passing information law enforcement needs to identify and use specific named categories into which they can place the individual who is supplying information. When placed in the identified category the agency can then manage that individual according to an agreed and document set of standards. Using identified clearly identified categories and working to agreed standards ensures that the risk to the person and the agency are managed effectively. They will also ensure that there is legal compliance.
There are three categories that command an adequate starting place all of which will fall within the broader understanding of the often, used term 'confidential informant'.
'Registered Human Source.' This term refers to a person with whom an agency enters a relationship in order to obtain information over an identified period and under specified set of circumstances. This relationship is authorised by someone in a management position within the agency and all aspects of that relationship are documented. [In Canada, this term also includes a person who has “agent” status.]
'Witness.' This term refers to a person with whom the agency enters into a relationship with the intention that the person will give evidence in court against another person. Such a person may or may not be serving a prison sentence at time of passing the information. The person knows they will be testifying.
'Member of the public.' This term refers to all other persons that do not fall within either Category 1 or 2 above and refers to any person passing information to the law enforcement agency in the expectation that their identity remains confidential (i.e. the intention is the identity of this person will be protected except when there is a legal requirement to disclose it).
At HSM Training we work in many different jurisdictions with different legislative processes. However, we have yet to encounter a legislative regime where this method of classification will not work. This system may need minor tweaking but it will help you address this problem in a cost effective manner. If you need help with this problem please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Save yourself some time and trouble and get a system that protects everyone involved.
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.
- What are the agency rules and regulations about contact with informants and how are contacts reported?
- Was there only one officer managing this informant?
- What supervision was there and what went wrong with it?
- What training did the officers involved have for this highly specialised role?
- 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:
- Comprehensive policy and procedures for officers involved in managing informants
- Only trained officers involved to manage informants and those officers being properly trained.
- 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!