They give police the location of a drug buy, a lead on a witness, the name of a killer, says the St. Petersburg Times. In exchange, confidential informants get cash or a good word put in with a judge to help reduce a criminal sentence. “Informants are incredibly necessary to solve crime,” said retired Pasco County sheriff’s Lt. Bobby Sullivan. “Nobody knows crime like the criminal, but you have to keep in mind that they are a criminal. They are on the other side.”
The distinction was blurred last week when the FBI arrested St. Petersburg police Det. Anthony Foster on charges that he extorted $8,000 in cash and goods from an informant who was trying to avoid jail time. The detective’s arrest has raised questions about how the department handles confidential informants and whether police have too much leeway in the largely clandestine world. Police Chief Chuck Harmon said investigators will review all confidential informants Foster handled. They also will review department policies that dictate how informers are handled and how much oversight is given to the detectives who use them.