Sunday, December 23, 2007

What do Cleveland, Dallas and Hearne, TX have in common?

Speaking of informants, since I've been harping on the topic this week, here's a case from out of state where a federal informant wrongfully accused innocent people of crimes in exchange for informant fees ("Informant admits to lying about drug deals," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dec. 20). Though no officers have yet been charged, it sounds a lot from the news accounts like one or more undercover officers participated in the set up: Otherwise, you'd have to believe the undercover who purchased drugs from the informant's friends did not later recognize that a different person entirely was accused in court in every instance!

The case reminds me a great deal of the Dallas Sheetrock scandal, where a drug dealing informant packaged up minute amounts of cocaine and fake drugs to set up innocent people, as well as setting up at least one person with real drugs. These cases are always treated as isolated incidents, but soon after the Dallas scandal cropped up we saw the informant-driven debacle in Hearne, leading the Texas Legislature to require corroboration for informant testimony in undercover drug cases in 2001. (Personally I think corroboration should be required for all incentivized informant testimony, at a minimum.)

Bottom line: It happens often enough to make you wonder how many times informants set up innocent people when it's not discovered. Mendacious informants are the second leading cause of wrongful convictions behind erroneous eyewitness testimony. In the Cleveland case, the informant used his insider power to set up a woman who refused to date him as well as a competing drug dealer, among others, reports the Plain Dealer.

1 comment:

W W Woodward said...

In my experience, an informant wants something:

He wants to feel important.
He wants to enjoy special privileges the average crook or citizen doesn’t have.
He expects to have his misdeeds overlooked by law enforcement.
The informant who can never be a police officer wants to experience what he thinks is “being a real police officer”.
He wants to place an officer into a relationship where the officer will feels he “owes” the informant.
He wants revenge for wrongs, real or imagined, committed against him by the subject of the officer’s investigation.
He wants his “big brother in blue” to protect him from the rest of the kids on the playground.
He does not want to be called a “snitch”. Snitches are the lowest form of life on the planet.

When an officer uses an informant it is incumbent upon the officer to determine exactly what the informant expect to glean from the officer/informant relationship. The officer then should determine if the relationship is going to be both ethical and legal. Unfortunately, officers often overlook these requirements and figure the ends justify the means. That’s when the excrement tends to come in contact with the rotating blades of an electrical, oscillating device.

Also, in my experience, an officer wants certain things, including but not limited to:

He wants to feel that he’s enforcing the law fairly and equally among citizens residing in his jurisdiction.
He wants acknowledgement (recognition) from his peers and the community that he is doing a good job.
He wants to rid society of the person(s) he perceives as the “bad guy(s)”.
He wants to “make a difference”.
He wants to keep his supervisors off his back, and feels the only way to accomplish this goal is by making arrests and writing citations.
He wants to show the public he is doing his job by arresting and making cases on whatever criminal element is on the public’s mind at the time.
He wants a stable home life.

Some officers want, including but not limited to;
free food,
discounts from store purchases,
free or cut rate admissions to performances, movies, stage shows, and etc..,
other special privileges,
unquestioned obedience to his orders, legal or otherwise, whether in the public or in his home,

Officer who are frustrated in obtaining the things they desire often turn to questionable (illegal and/or unethical) means in order to achieve them. That’s where most officer/informant relationships end up costing the officer, the informant, the officer’s agency, the officer’s family, and the public considerably more than anticipated at the beginning.