Thursday, November 08, 2007

Unnecessary Evil: ACLU launches campaign to limit snitching

National ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project (DLRP) has launched a website to promote a campaign against law enforcement abuses related to confidential informants, including a new blog devoted to the subject. (As a self promoting aside, this project first began based on work here on Grits back when I still worked for the organization.) DLRP also compiled examples of policies from federal state and local agencies related to informants along with other resources, and is soliciting stories from the public about snitching-related abuses. From the overview:

Unlike witnesses, informants are motivated by self-advancement. Informants work for the government, often secretly, to gather and provide information or to testify in exchange for cash or leniency in punishment for their own crimes. Preliminary research indicates that up to 80% of all drug cases in America may be based on information provided by informants.

An informant can be a useful law enforcement tool – a necessary evil – if used properly.

But putting police work in the hands of known criminals and blindly trusting that justice will be done is an unnecessary evil.

6 comments:

Anjuli Verma said...

Just wanted to let all the Grits readers know that Scott Henson played a hugely important role in building a foundation for the ACLU's campaign to address the critical flaws of our nation's informant system. Much thanks goes to him for laying the groundwork.

Glen Graham said...

There are many good public articles on this subject in the Champion (NACDL) available on the web at: http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/$$searchChampion
Retired DEA special agent, Dennis Fitzgerald, author of The Informant Law Deskbook (West 1997), stated: Many police managers view informants as a necessary evil, (1) time bombs waiting for the wrong moment to explode. The catastrophe that follows their detonation may include the death or serious injury of citizens,(2) civil law suits and destroyed police careers.(3) The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that the "failure in the management of cooperating individuals constitutes, perhaps, the most obvious single cause of serious integrity problems in DEA and other law enforcement agencies."(4)
Notes
1. Confidential Informants - Concepts and Issues Paper, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement Policy Center.
2. Carlson v. United States, 93-953G, see also Alvord, Snitches, Licensed to Lie?, San Diego Union Tribune, May 30, 1995, at A-7.
3. Commonwealth v. Lewin, 405 Mass. 566, 542 N.E. 2d 837 F.2d 727, 731 (6th Cir. 1988).
4. Integrity Assurance Notes, Drug Enforcement Administration, Planning and Inspection Division, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Aug. 1991). See also United States v. Gardner, 658 F. Supp. 1573, 1575 (W.D. Pa. 1987). See his article:
http://www.nacdl.org/CHAMPION/ARTICLES/98may03.htm
Yours in the Defense of Fellow Human Beings,
Glen R. Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
http://www.glenrgraham.com

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Cool! Thanks, Glen!

And thanks to you, too, Anjuli, for the kind words. Good luck with your campaign.

Ken Sparks said...

"Preliminary research indicates that up to 80% of all drug cases in America may be based on information provided by informants."

This statement that you quoted is absolutely wrong. I would say that more than 80% of drug arrests are based on a traffic stop. The role of informants is vastly overstated.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ken, this is from national ACLU - I think that stat may be for federal cases, where the incentives for snitching are overwhelming.

Even so, the 80% from traffic stops figure is a stunner (I know it's a guesstimate). If true, it means most drug enforcement is essentially random, not the result of a PC-based investigation.

So our strategy in the Drug War is ... what? ... succeed by accident?

Anonymous said...

KEN SPARKS NEEDS TO DO SOME HOMEWORK BEFORE POSTING COMMENTS, THERE ARE PROBABLY 95 PERCENT OF PEOPLE WHO GET BUSTED WITH DRUGS IN A TRAFFIC STOP, THEY ALSO NEED TO DO SOME HOMEWORK BEFORE TAKING A CONVICTION. BUT THE FACT DOES REMAIN THAT 80 PERCENT OF FEDERAL DRUG CASES INFORMANTS ARE USED, AND ATTORNEYS ARE OFFICERS OF THE COURT WITH OBLIGATIONS TO THE COURT, SO THEY DONT TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO THE INSIDE THE INFORMANTS FILES, AND THE MAJORITY YOU WILL FIND THE INFORMANT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BLACKLISTED FOR DISHONEST OR VIOLENT CRIMES