...but somebody has to do it. Talking with criminals and pushing them for useful information and then figuring out how to use them so that citizens are spared from becoming crime victims is even harder. We're talking about source development, handling Confidential Informants (CI), intelligence gathering activities or whatever you want to call it. I call it aggressive policing.
Does your agency develop sources of intelligence at the patrol officer level and aggressively use the information to hunt down criminals before they have an opportunity to victimize? I suspect they do not. In my travels as a trainer I have encountered hundreds of officers who tell the same tale: We've never been taught how to do that. Why not? That's a detective thing. I would argue that if you are wearing copper on your chest and carrying a gun it's a your thing, not just for the bureau. At the same time though as a patrol officer, it's not your fault you have not been trained in how to develop intelligence. The command staff has failed in their duties and here is why:
Need I say anymore? Both internal and external, it’s there. On the inside detectives, at times, can feel threatened when a uniform starts doing what is often perceived within the traditional police hierarchy as being bureau work. The gold shield is often a sought after position in policing. Unless they are a team player, understanding the big picture, and are secure with themselves on an emotional level, then they do not want competing influences. How many of you have worked for detectives who are happy to keep you just answering car crashes and generating reports for them to sift through on day shift?
Outside of the department politician's start feeling anxious when their local police engage in clandestine operations. The last thing an elected official wants is for a constituent to call his or her office complaining that the police are out of control. Politicians by nature are self-serving. They don't have your back. In their re-election campaign filled thought process they view the police more as Sheriff Andy Taylor than Detective Harry Callahan. If they knew their police force was out hunting down criminals using informants and conducting aggressive clandestine operations that they don't see or have control over then you better believe they will be on the phone pulling the plug on the event at the executive level with their political appointee (police chief). The only way, in my experience, politicians support aggressive policing is if they think that by not supporting the police they would lose their jobs. In other words the crime problem is so bad that something has to be done, not to protect the public at large, but to insulate them from voter backlash.
It's tough work. Filtering through fact or fiction when seated in front of a dirt bag who tells lies for a living is time consuming and the process certainly is not an absolute science. Vetting intelligence has been on the front page lately since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a commercial jet liner over Detroit on Christmas Day. Blame was placed squarely on those tasked with this nearly impossible job, namely DHS and the CIA. The truth is that anyone who has ever debriefed sources and then pieced together proactive policing operations based on what they think they determined to be actionable knows that it is easier to sift through dirt and find a gold nugget than break a case wide open. It takes a lot of resources and a huge time commitment where success daily is measured in bits of intelligence moving the case forward rather than tangible evidence or arrest statistics. Most police agencies are stretched thin and the bosses would rather have cars out on the street keeping nuisance complaints under control instead of valuable time spent doing intelligence gathering actions. Keeping uniforms handing the petty stuff every day keeps the elected officials away (see a common denominator here?).