C.I.'s, or confidential informants, are a detective's best friend, says the New York Times. 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, petty crime is often tolerated in exchange for information. Detectives can be duped by an informant's agenda. Confidential informants were in the spotlight last week when four narcotics officers in Brooklyn were 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 an illegal profit. One law enforcement official said police officers' trading of drugs for information in the pursuit of arrests could be described as “noble-cause corruption.” The practice would 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 to seek the dismissal of about 150 drug cases, with hundreds more under review. The list of what informants do for police is long and varied: They infiltrate criminal groups that investigators cannot personally approach; they vouch for undercover officers trying to establish credibility on the streets; they identify safe houses, stash houses, and cellphone numbers; they help set up surveillance and save the police countless hours of work and significant amounts of money.