In 2019, Matthew Klaus died of a drug overdose while working as a confidential informant for Minnesota police. He was a recovering heroin addict who relapsed while working for the police; he was instructed to buy from the dealer who eventually sold him a fatal dose. His parents, John and Denise Klaus, are advocating for a new law that would protect recovering addicts like Matthew from being used as drug informants. See the Star Tribune story here: After son’s fatal overdose, Oronoco couple champion law reforming police use of informants. The proposed legislation is here.
Eye-popping series of articles on whistleblowing Officer Murashea Bovell. Bovell recorded fellow Officer John Campo who admitted that he helped an informant continue to sell drugs in exchange for help arresting low-level buyers. This is exactly backwards: protecting big fish dealers who turn in their little fish users. From the article:
“Campo’s claim that he personally safeguarded the drug dealer’s bundle of crack was made in one of several phone calls secretly recorded by Bovell between 2017 and this year. In that and another recording, Campo claimed that members of the department’s narcotics unit allowed favored drug dealers to sell with impunity, get deliveries, and control territory. In exchange, he said, the dealers, serving as confidential informants, gave them information leading to the arrests of their own low-level clients.”
“Lawrence Mottola, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, said police should be very cautious about using informants involved in domestic violence. ‘It’s natural to feel that you’re emboldened by this because you have the backing of the police and they’re going to help you if you get stuck in a situation,’ he said. ‘It’s potentially very dangerous for everyone in that household or in that relationship. And domestic violence cases are already extremely dangerous.'”
Check out this interview with Nick Taiber, former City Council member in Cedar Falls, Iowa, who became an drug informant when he was a teenager, and Luke Hunt, former FBI agent and now professor. Taiber describes how police pressured him at age 17 to become an informant after a car accident. Hunt says “What’s most troubling to me is a very common scenario in which the police compel an informant to do certain operational acts because they have a tremendous amount of power and leverage over the person.” More here from Slate: How Police Turn Teens Into Informants.
This story from Tennessee reminded me of the high profile snitch debacle in Hearne, Texas in which a confidential informant working for the local drug task force set up dozens of innocent African Americans. Similarly, in Tracy City, Tennessee, the city and the police department are being sued by an innocent couple who–along with 29 other people–were set up by an unsupervised drug informant. Here is an excerpt from the story:
“Tina Prater walked into the police station with a reputation as a drug addict and a con artist. She walked out with a tape recorder, some cash and a mission: help the police chief arrest anyone whose name made it onto their list. Prater, 47, has admitted in a sworn affidavit that she framed people while working as a confidential informant for the Tracy City Police Department in 2017. She recruited imposters to act as other people, recorded audio of purported drug deals and turned the tapes over to Chief Charlie Wilder, who oversees just four officers in one of Tennessee’s poorest and most drug-addicted counties.”
And here is another story just like these two, in which a Florida drug informant admitted that she set up innocent people by fabricating drug deals: she did it in exchange for money, a home, and custody of her children.
Bloomberg recently explored the State Department’s Narcotics Reward Program which offers bounties for information on high-ranking drug traffickers: America’s Multimillion-Dollar Bounty Program Just for Drug Lords. As always, the program accepts the risk of rewarding and protecting serious, violent criminals in exchange for information about other potentially more serious, violent criminals. As the article notes, “[c]ritics of the government’s rewards programs warn that huge cash bounties increase cartel violence and encourage corruption among U.S. law enforcement personnel. But the program’s success is hard to dismiss, its proponents contend.” Other agencies, including the IRS and the SEC, offer large bounties to informants as well.