Last Thursday, the day after allegations of illegal searches and seizures against six officers were made public and as gang tensions mounted in the Mission district, police station captains received a message on their department BlackBerrys to stop using confidential sources -- known on the street as snitches -- until further notice.
The directive came from the head of investigations, Cmdr. David Lazar, and was rescinded within an hour, according to interim police Chief Jeff Godown.
"It was an error," he said. Lazar also acknowledged the mistake, calling it a "premature blast out."
But before the order could be reversed, complaints rained down from captains. Capt. Greg Corrales was trying to stop retaliatory gang warfare in the Mission when the order came in. It would have made police work nearly impossible, Corrales said. The department announced that it will review its use of confidential informants this week and officers will receive additional training. . . . "Confidential informants are done on a daily basis and there are administrative issues," Godown said. "We started looking into this months ago."Informant policies are often intimately associated with police misconduct, in part because informant use is secretive and easily subject to abuse. In the Los Angeles Rampart scandal, for example, police used informants to plant evidence and cover up police shootings. Part of the post-Rampart reform involved curtailing informant use by street officers. See Los Angeles Times story here: LAPD Eases Rules on Street Sources.