Police use of confidential informants creates distrust in the Black community

Photo by Tony Webster published under Creative Commons License
Photo by Tony Webster published under Creative Commons License

As we are seeing a record number of people engaged in discussions centered on criminal justice reform, it is imperative that the Black community establish guidelines for police cooperation. Police across the world have been able to corrupt poor and vulnerable citizens (i.e., mentally ill) to turn on their fellow brother or sister, causing a lack of trust throughout the community.

Although confidential informants or “snitches” have been unreliable, they are given instant immunity and sometimes even monetary gains for providing information or crafting a “set up” of someone they have a rapport with (a family member, friend, and associate). This process of providing an instantaneous pardon for someone willing to cooperate has led to high levels of violence between people who once loved each other.

In extreme cases, informants have even been murdered. How culpable are the police in these scenarios? What should they be charged with?

In a perfect world, we would have a strong relationship with the people who have sworn to protect and serve us, but we don’t. There are thousands of cases in which drug offenders have been arrested on a possession or distribution charge only to be given the ultimatum of snitching or serving time. That’s always the first question, “How much time?”

Many have succumbed to the pressure or taken the bait, not realizing the social costs. Our community suffers tremendously when one of our brothers/sisters turns on another brother/sister and then continues to tear down the community. The impact of this process is devastating.

As a community, we need to demand that the use of informants who are committing crimes is abolished. I believe that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to contact the police whenever they see fit.

Second, we need to determine which cases our people should work with law enforcement to solve while being able to hold their head high in the community. Or should we refuse to help the police solve crimes at all until we have a formal system of holding law enforcement officials accountable?

We need competent officers who have the ability to draw direct correlations between events to solve crimes. Unethical police practices, including incentives for snitches, must be eradicated.

Most importantly, we need to help our people abstain from any forms of criminal activity. If we are going to create safer communities, we must determine what police/community relationships should look like in 2015 and beyond.

Jason Marque Sole, Ph.D. candidate, is an adjunct professor in Metropolitan State University’s School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. Connect with Sole on Twitter: @IamJasonSole.