Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Life as a snitch for a drug task force

Regular readers know I've a keen interest in the use of "snitches" by law enforcement, which is one of the true gray areas where dirty cops and criminals often merge purposes in ways that don't always seem to serve justice.

Case in point: A Durango, CO drug task force officer
allegedly extorted sex from a female confidential informant (CI) and burned her identity with drug dealers she was setting up, placing her life in danger. Officers threatened her with jail if she called her lawyer. When she finally blew the whistle and passed a lie detector test regarding the officer's misconduct, the CI's deal was revoked, sending her to prison despite having fulfilled the terms of her agreement. That's some slimy stuff, right there.

A sidebar to the article describes the drug task force's snitching policies:

[T]o District Attorney Craig Westberg, informants are somewhat of a "mixed bag." Some are meth addicts who want to kick the habit and help law enforcement. Others have long criminal histories and care only about helping themselves.

What’s more, Westberg says, juries don’t always look favorably upon informants. Some informants have long criminal records and hope for leniency in exchange for testifying.

So Westberg is hesitant to put informants on the witness stand."We’ve always got to be careful that this is done in a situation where the defense cannot claim entrapment," he says

Rarely are offenders offered a plea bargain before becoming an informant, Westberg says. It’s more common for informants to work with the Task Force under the assumption that investigators will pass along a good word if they do a good job. ...

Informants are not paid, and they must sign a contract not to consult a lawyer, says Davis. That does not violate their constitutional rights because they already have waived a Miranda right to be represented by counsel.

"If they plan on working with us," Davis insists, "we don’t want them talking to anyone." The contract generally offers no rewards or leniency for their cooperation.
No lawyer and no promise for leniency? My God, what half-wit would sign THAT contract? Now that the Texas legislative session's behind us, one of my goals over the next few months is for this blog to examine more closely confidential informant practices by law enforcement, both in Texas and the drug war generally. If y'all see stories or resources out there on this topic, please send them my way.


Anonymous said...

I was of the people screwed by this women. I am not a meth dealer or user. All she had to do is give our names no evidence of her claims was ever investigated. They just kick your door in. These rednecks have no business in a postion of authority. That woman got #$!@ed literally by them and then ended up going to prision anyway....someone should kill them all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anonymous, if you have any more information about this informant, why don't you email me with more background at shenson@austin.rr.com? I'm not a lawyer and can't do anything for your case, but we're gathering case studies of informant-related abuses and I'd like to know more about this CI.