Target: U.S. Department of Justice
Goal: Protect confidential informants and regulate their use
Rachel Hoffman was both a college student from Florida and an informant for the police. Facing felony charges after two non-violent drug offenses, Hoffman was offered a deal by police—drastically reduced sentencing for her compliance as a confidential informant. Essentially, Hoffman was led to believe the charges against her would be dropped if she were to cooperate. Sadly, two days after a botched sting operation, Rachel Hoffman was found dead, murdered by the violent men police sent her to set up.
Rachel Hoffman’s tragedy is a far too common tale. Young people with troubled pasts have become pawns in the war on drugs. Police use the threat of serious prison time to persuade these untrained citizens to take on the responsibility of acting as informants for various narcotics units. Operations involving confidential informants (C.I.’s) are highly unregulated, and many end in tragedy due to mistakes made by police. As discussed by Sarah Stillman in an article that appeared in The New Yorker, “Many have been given false assurances by the police, used without regard for their safety, and treated as disposable pawns of the criminal-justice system.”
The fact is confidential informants are used in roughly 80 percent of drug busts in the United States each year. Most of these C.I.’s have prior non-violent drug offenses, many are minors, and all of them are untrained. Due to the lack of regulation, if something goes wrong—as it often does—the informants and their families have no legal protection or rights.
This is a very specific example of police officers—those charged with protection of the vulnerable—taking advantage of young people in a time of desperation. The U.S. Department of Justice needs to pass legislation that heavily regulates this currently unregulated, loose police practice of utilizing civilian informants. This regulation needs to ensure safety and security to informants by limiting the use of under-aged civilians, among many other provisions. Sign below to show that we will no longer tolerate this abuse of power.
Dear U.S. Department of Justice,
We will no longer tolerate the novice way in which the civilian informant program is currently being operated. Young kids are dying. Their lives are far more valuable than your failed drug vendetta.
If you hope to continue this program, then strict regulations need to be implemented to secure the safety and security of the civilian informants. These regulations must include restrictions regarding the enlistment of underage individuals. They are unable to maturely weigh the options given to them when facing minimal penalties for minor crimes, and provided with the proposition of walking away clean and working as a police informant. They lack the maturity and experience to make an informed decision.
Placing civilians in harm’s way without providing them adequate protection or training shows the government to be uninterested in the well being of its citizenry, especially in regards to the utilization of minors in the program.
Either disband this program, and realize that each numbered fatality you look at each year represents an actual human life, or enact legislation that keeps these individuals safe.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Infinite Unknown