Friday, December 09, 2005

Who's A Rat?

In response to yesterday's post on snitching, a commenter points me to the controversial website Who's a Rat?.

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."


Anonymous said...

A "real" snitch is someone who selflessly observes others wrong doings and reports them to authority for the sake of obeying the law - is the polar opposite of the paid informant/rat. From a law enforcement perspective, "Snitches" or "C.I.s" are NOT average citizens who witness crimes, but people who've committed crimes for which they want to avoid prosecution.

Because you think it places the blame on the snitch, instead of on the prosecutors and cops who coerce and condone their problematic behavior. Well apparently that person broke some type of law to be asked by the DA or the cops to be a "rat."

Would you be against a site that published stories and pictures of bad cops? What about a site that published names, address and telephone #'s of bad cops or bad public officials?

Maybe people will afraid to snitch if they know their name and picture will be on a "Rat Site." Guess what if a lot more people stopped "snitching," then that would mean that the DA's and cops would actually have to start working for their paycheck! Oh Boo Hoo!

I'm guessing you want this country to become another Nazi Germany? The Nazi's were good at getting their public to rat and snitch out people.

I say screw the people who don't have enough money to hire a good attorney, to get out of being a SNITCH for the government. That's the American system.

Just remember "snitching" could cost you your life! Is it worth it? Is your life worth risking for you government? I don't think so. Those DA's and cops don't give a rats ass for snitches. They could care less if you lived or died.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Personally I think a "real snitch" is somebody who is compromised by a criminal charge. Somebody who "selflessly observes others wrong doings and reports them for the sake of obeying the law" is merely a "witness," in my book.

Anonymous said...

I'm for a bad-cop website, posting each bad cop with his name, description, last address, updated annually with his most recent photograph. They should be hounded more than snitches or child molesters.

Anonymous said...

Snitches or C.I.'s can lead a hard and dangerous life, even long after the government makes them point the finger at someone.

An example would be a friend I know, he got into some trouble over a "domestic" argument/pushing of wife. Mother n law called the cops. Wife agreed it was much her fault, if anyone's. "which I know to be true, since I know them." Wife didn't want charges and he probably wouldn't have been charged, except for the mother in law had friends, the chief of police and DA, in that small town. Which both were called by the mother in law right then.

The DA made a deal, he would send the guy to prison for a few years for domestic abuse or he could wear a wire tap and bring down three people, over a year time. What choice did he have, newly married and a one year old child.

The three people went down. My friend was promised they wouldn't be out for about 10 years. My friend, his wife and child have had to move twice so far in the last year, because one of them has gotten out after only 4 years and he seems to have a knack for tracking and seems also like to dish a little revenge.

Snitching isn't worth it! That government that makes all those deals with you to save your ass at the beginning, are never be there at the end to protect you. Why should they, you were just another piece of meat for them to, chewed, use up and spit out.

Oh a great police site for all those dirty, crooked bad cops can be located here-

Anonymous said...

For insight into snitching, study what you can find about East Germany and the USSR. Now those guys really understood the secret police culture.

Anonymous said...


Snitching needs "reformed".

If you're going to comment on this subject, you need to be correct:

Confidential Informants (CI's)
Confidential Sources (CS')
Cooperating Witnesses (CW)
Sources of Information (SOI)

"Snitch" is only a slang term used by law enforcement.

This blog isn't long enough to competently define all four but they all four cooperate with the police or prosecutors but with significantly different motives.

Now comes the tricky part.

There's federal, state, and local jurisdictions. All three are significantly different and that's why you don't see federal judges hearing state and local cases; state judges hearing local or federal cases; or local judges hearing state or federal cases.

Then there's prosecutors. When was the last time you saw an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecute a state or local case; a local prosecutor try a federal case; or a state prosecutor try a local case?

You don't and the reason judges and prosecutors don't is because these three jurisdictions were created because the judicial processes are completely different.

Then there's the third rail; law enforcement. Today federal, state, and local drug law enforcement fly one flag. They pool resources. They mutually cooperate. They form partnerships. They work together and all of these concepts are task forces by other names.

They all get together and target the very targets that created their differences; and they do it by setting aside the important jurisdictional/operational differences that separated them.

The task force approach is inherently corrupt because it blurs individual responsibility, accountability and purpose.

Informants aren't handled properly in the task force approach because it's a task force; not because informant handling needs reformed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Confidential Informants (CI's)
Confidential Sources (CS')
Cooperating Witnesses (CW)
Sources of Information (SOI)

That's the federal jargon, but they're framed differently in each state, where I tend to focus, and sometimes at the local level, too. Also, the same person can float from category to category, which is one reason why I prefer to look at the overall institution of snitching encompassing all these meanings. I'm no fan of the task force system, either, but I'm broad minded to think that both can be abused! Best,

j said...

Thank you to the first person who commented anonymous under "Who's a Rat". A snitch is a piece of crap if you ask me-Someone who rats a person out for doing the same thing they are doing but just got caught and who is now going to roll over on three of their "friends" most likely (b/c its hard to get close enough to someone to get info on them if they don't like you) is no good. And yeah, I do blame men and women of working law enforcement who encourage this sort of thing too. They play on peoples weakness. I know a guy-actually I dated him-and he at least used to cook dope and he has gotten busted several times in the last two years and every time he has only done a few weeks in jail and somehow he's out again-Of course he's a snitch! And I can tell you that the guy is a freakin meance to society! Before I finally ditched him he set my house on fire a couple of times almost burning it down-He's about as ate up in the head and don't give a flip about nobody but the police would rather continue letting him turn in other people than lock him up! I don't care to see the guy go to prison again(yep, he's on parole as it is) but if anyone I know should go, it's him-But instead, people like the father of my friend Cassie's baby- who only got busted once and is doing at least 15 years in prison for his first manufacturing charge-is setting in a cell tonite wishing he could just see his little girl on Christmas but can't and won't because he failed to "work with them" and snitch like they asked him to! Now, how messed up is that! Cya Dani

Anonymous said...

America is about free speach. Snitching someone off to the police or prosecutors is a form of free speach. Crime is not about free speach. Crime is about hurting innocent people, exploiting children, murder, rape, and many other despicable acts. If you arent committing crime, then you would not be worried about snitches. Anything a snitch has to say to the police or prosecutor is only a part of an is not the whole investigation. If a snitch says you did something, then the investigation will determine if you did something. Who cares where the snitch comes from? Dont do the crime if you are not willing to do the time. Snitches are a fact of life, and they are exercising free speach.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"If you arent committing crime, then you would not be worried about snitches"

That's just silly. Tell it to the folks in Hearne falsely accused by Derrick Megress! Snitches false testimony is the single biggest source of wrongful convictions in this country.

Anonymous said...

What about the right to privacy, to feel and be secure in yor home, papers, and person....a snitch, rat, or whatever despicable name can be placed to identify them with, has the ability to strip that right from you with one condtion being met......reliable! Now, how can a law breaking person be considered a reliable source? How can the gospel word of a rat, turn the life upside down of a person free of a criminal record? Does he have to admit to wrongdoings in order to entrap his victim. Does he receive punishment for what he has admitted to have knowledge of? Why would someone convict himself to get a conviction he may not have needed had he remained silent? As far as a freedom of speach issue, i would agree if it did not cause violations of several other amendment violations on others.

Anonymous said...

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Be responible for your actions and don't blame others if you get caught commiting a crime.

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