I think the whosarat database of informants and drug agents, like the stop snitching t-shirt phenomenon, is a disturbing bellwether cultural reaction to the negative influence of police use and abuse of confidential informants. Snitching has turned into its own weird, but well-funded sub-industry, a shadowy, corrosive, virtually unregulated but officially sanctioned collaboration by police with known lawbreakers, especially in drug enforcement. What's not to dislike?
Still, as political strategies or statements, neither the t-shirts nor the database, to me, seem wise, especially to the extent that they are aimed at intimidating witnesses en masse. (The t-shirts I view as a more generalized, certainly less dangerous expression of discontent -- e.g., I received one as a gift not long ago from a friend with no drug dealing motivations.) Despite its stated aim to be a resource for defendants and attorneys, the whosarat database has the effect of intimidating people and creating fear that if you do snitch your photo will go on the web and your life may be in danger. Whatever the intent, the tactic risks becoming a stalking horse for thuggery -- protected by the First Amendment and existing case law, to be sure, but irresponsible, I think, to say the least. Bottom line, I think we shouldn't stop snitching, but reform it.
Awhile back in the comments to this Grits item, I wrote the following about the whosarat database, which still reflects my views:
"I don't actually question their right to do what they're doing at all, and where CI's names have been made public in court or through the media, I don't think it's improper to publicize snitches' identity or their activities in any individual case. I just don't think gathering such a database of informants and making it public on the web is a wise activist strategy, which is an entirely different criticism. Mostly that's because I think it misplaces the blame on the snitch, instead of on the prosecutors and cops who coerce and condone their problematic behavior. The former are criminals and will not respond to the details of legislation. It's the public officials who we can properly hold accountable by requiring disclosure of witness statements and deals before trial, requiring corroboration for snitch testimony, etc."