The lack of oversight for the San Francisco Police Department’s use of confidential informants and the recognition by other authorities that some informants were out of control point to a culture of impunity within certain branches of San Francisco law enforcement that cries out for scrutiny and reform, experts tell SF Weekly. “When you get in bed with characters like these and give them a pass on crimes they’re committing, it’s a form of corruption,” said Peter Keane, dean emeritus and professor of law at Golden Gate University, a former San Francisco public defender and police commissioner.
The newspaper examines how local law enforcement in San Francisco let the situation get out of control. Cases described in the story “tell you that, at a minimum, [the San Francisco Police Department] has become very irresponsible,” says Keane. Rather than the informant being beholden to the police for allowing him to stay on the street in exchange for keeping them in the know, Keane says that when authorities turn a blind eye to serious crimes, it “gives the criminal a view of himself that he’s untouchable — and he is.” Keane and others believe the existence of rogue informants for the police department’s specialized Gang Task Force and Narcotics Bureau indicates serious flaws in the department’s internal checks and balances. (The police department wouldn’t comment on the its handling of violent informants for this story.)