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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

St. Petersburg police to review informant policies after officer scandal

Police have nearly unfettered discretion when creating and handling informants. That authority is coming under scrutiny in St. Petersburg, Florida, after the FBI arrested Detective Anthony Foster for extorting thousands of dollars in cash and goods from his informant. Story here: St. Petersburg police to re-evaluate policy on confidential informants:
The FBI's criminal complaint against Foster depicts a detective with near unlimited discretion in his dealings with an informant. Foster texted and called the informer to demand payments in cash or gifts, such as a widescreen TV, Nike shoes and groceries. The FBI alleges Foster made clear in recorded conversations that, in exchange, he would get a reduced sentence for the informant, who had been arrested on a grand theft charge in Hernando County. . . .
The criminal complaint against Foster suggests that there are either few regulations in place or that they aren't always followed. For example, in Foster's effort to convince the assistant state attorney that the informant had helped him solve some cases, Foster had his sergeant call to corroborate his informant's value. The supervisor, according to the complaint, told the assistant state attorney that the informer helped in major homicide cases and was "more of a benefit out of jail rather than in jail." Later, the sergeant faxed a list of four major investigations -- including a March 23 murder -- in which the informer assisted. When the FBI showed the informer the list, however, the informer denied assisting in any of those cases.