CI's are probably the most dangerous people. They are doing the job for purely selfish reasons. How many have been put behind bars because informants have lied to save their own skin? 15 people were released from prison recently because the informant in those cases lied.
It is sometimes said that snitches are the lifeblood of police work. The question is: Are they also a poison?
Formally known as C.I.’s, for confidential informants, they are a detective’s best friend. They act as eyes and ears. They serve as secret tipsters. They take the police, by proxy, to the dangerous and privileged places where badges cannot go.
At the same time, they present problems of administration — and sometimes of temptation — to those who uphold the law. Petty crime is often tolerated in exchange for information. Detectives can be duped by an informant’s agenda. While cases of corruption are rare, it is fairly common to have more “give” in this delicate give-and-take.
The issue of confidential informants was thrust into the spotlight last week by news that four narcotics officers in Brooklyn had been arrested, in a case that involves accusations of paying informants with drugs seized from dealers the informants had pointed them to.
The officers are not suspected of making any illegal profit, and one law enforcement official has said police officers’ trading of drugs for information in the pursuit of arrests could be described as “noble-cause corruption.” The practice would, however, shatter police policy, break the law and, in the view of police commanders and prosecutors, erode the integrity of officers.
The scandal has led the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to seek the dismissal of about 150 drug cases, with hundreds more under review. Besides the arrests — of a sergeant, a detective and two officers in the Brooklyn South narcotics bureau — six additional officers were suspended and several others were placed on modified or desk duty, barred from doing enforcement work. Four supervisors were transferred and a new commander was assigned to the Police Department’s Narcotics Division.
Confidential sources are generally recruited and managed in secret, and their numbers are hard to determine in large police departments like New York’s.