informant | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

An informant is a person who provides helpful information to the police.

An informant is a person who provides helpful information to the police or law enforcement agencies. However, it is important to distinguish between different types of informants, as not all informants are the same.

A confidential informant, for example, is a person who provides information to law enforcement agencies in secret, often in exchange for some form of compensation, such as reduced charges, immunity from prosecution, or financial compensation. Confidential informants (CI) may be used in a variety of contexts, including drug investigations, organized crime investigations, and counter-terrorism efforts.

The use of CIs is a controversial practice, as it can raise serious concerns about due process, privacy, and civil liberties. In many cases, confidential informants may be incentivized to provide false or misleading information or may be coerced into providing information against their will. Additionally, the use of confidential informants can raise concerns about entrapment, as informants may be encouraged or coerced into engaging in criminal activity in order to obtain evidence against a target.

Other types of informants may include eyewitnesses, victims of crime, and concerned citizens who provide tips or information to law enforcement agencies. Eyewitnesses may provide valuable information about a crime or suspect, such as a description of the perpetrator or a license plate number. Victims of crime may also provide important information about the circumstances surrounding the crime, as well as about any potential suspects or witnesses.

Concerned citizens may provide tips or information to law enforcement agencies about suspicious activity or individuals in their community. These tips may be used to initiate investigations or to supplement ongoing investigations and may ultimately lead to the identification and apprehension of suspects.

In general, the use of informants is a common practice in law enforcement, as it can provide valuable information and intelligence to investigators. However, it is important for law enforcement agencies to use them in a responsible and ethical manner and to balance the need for information with the rights and privacy of the individuals involved. The use of confidential informants, in particular, requires careful oversight and regulation to ensure that the rights of all parties involved are respected and that the information obtained is reliable and accurate.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/12/20233


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