Handling informants is tricky and dangerous. The most valuable source of information are typically Defendant Informants, meaning you hold criminal charges over their head so they travel the path of least resistance at the moment you interrogate them. They roll-over on their boys to some extent to save their own hides. Working face to face with criminals in a cooperative sense brings danger on many levels. They can never be trusted. Every time you meet them you should treat them tactically as if you are encountering them for the first time. Always remember, they are criminals.
There are legal pitfalls too. Actually, to many to name here, but trust me you need to do some research. As I write this I can think of at least one LEO I worked with who is currently going through a federal trial facing a laundry list of indictments for allegedly mishandling an informant. Another officer pursued affairs with informants, while another was persecuted for allegedly tampering with evidence. Working in the underworld is dark, murky and dangerous, but absolutely essential, especially if we are going to tackle the War-On-Terror.
So, if handling CIs is politically risky, to hard and legally complex, if not downright dangerous, why bother as a patrol officer? Because our lives depend on it. Infiltrating the criminal underworld is the only way to effectively destroy organized criminal enterprises such as drug gangs and terrorist groups; those institutions with the propensity to cause mass casualty events. With the vast majority of municipal police forces in America having a sworn staff of ten officers or less, leaving the in-depth policing measures to the lone detective, or two or three, for the department is not efficient. Allowing officers to pool their strengths, efforts and pursue the criminal/terrorist element beyond their normal traditional bounds so that they can assist the bureau is effective. Patrol officers must be first, allowed to work like that, and second trained to do so while being administratively supported.
If your agency does not work like what is described above, and is progressive enough to seriously consider changing to fully pursue CI handling at the uniform level, then where would you start? Listed below is the very least you need to know:
- Call your prosecutor and hammer out an agreement with clear expectations (you to them and them to you) regarding CIs.
- Seek out our federal partners in law enforcement. Do this for a couple reasons. They like to help when invited, have a ton of funding, and often have full time trainers focusing on state and local agencies (see link below). Because federal law enforcement does not do general policing they tend to devote their entire time to investigations using CIs. In short, don't recreate the wheel. Use theirs, in terms of CI handling protocols. (Check out the DEA link below).
- If you are outside the effective travel zone for training from the feds, start by getting your hands on their publications. This can be accomplished through any number of means, but one in particular The International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) I found especially useful to facilitate the appropriate contacts. The organization is a smorgasbord of "Who's Who" in cop knowledge worldwide.
- In some rare cases, agencies will from to time post on the web their policies and procedures. If you can find a good reference and apply the core of what another police agency is using that will fit within the defined admissibility parameters of your particular jurisdiction then do that (See CI Management and Control pdf listed below from the Cincinnati, OH., Police Div.).