Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Professor Bret Asbury on "stop snitching"

The Oregon Law Review has published an article by Professor Bret Asbury entitled "Anti-Snitching Norms and Community Loyalty," 89 Or. L. Rev. 1257 (2011). Here's the abstract:
In recent years a troubling trend has emerged within a number of poor, black communities. Termed "Stop Snitching," it has manifested itself in the form community members' refusing to cooperate with police investigations of community crimes. The result of this widespread refusal to cooperate has been a reduced number of crimes solved within these communities; without cooperating witnesses, it has proven exceedingly difficult for police to make criminal cases. 
Reactions to Stop Snitching have taken two predominant forms, both of which are mistaken. The first, most often attributed to law enforcement officers, is contempt. To them, community members who do not assist in criminal investigations are violating the ethical obligation all citizens have to aid in the arrest and prosecution of criminal actors. The second reaction to Stop Snitching, most often coming from citizens largely isolated from poor, black communities, is confusion. Assuming the police to be allies of the citizenry, they wonder why anyone would even entertain the notion of refusing to help the police solve community crimes. 
This Article suggests a different understanding of Stop Snitching, arguing that poor, black community members' refusal to cooperate with police investigations should be viewed as neither ethically condemnable nor inexplicable, but rather as a natural extension of the innate human aspiration to be loyal. It does so by situating Stop Snitching within the existing literature on loyalty and asserting that the refusal to cooperate with police represents a privileging of community loyalty over loyalty to the state. Throughout the various strata of contemporary society, such privileging of the familiar over the remote is common, and Stop Snitching is neither puzzling nor reprehensible when viewed as a manifestation of this manner of prioritization. 
Once Stop Snitching is understood as a reflection of the weak loyalty bonds that exist between police officers and the poor, black communities they serve, it becomes clear that it can only be curtailed and ultimately eliminated through police efforts aimed at strengthening these bonds. This Article closes with a discussion of the steps police should take in order to succeed in this regard.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FOX News story on informants in Boston

FOX Undercover in Boston ran this story on the dangers of informant use: Informants cutting deals to continue lives of crime. Congressman Stephen Lynch was interviewed for the story. Lynch is the author of the Confidential Informant Accountability Act, see this post. When asked whether he was worried that informants get a "free pass," here is what he said:
It's worse than that. They get a free pass to continue their criminal enterprise. They get protection, basically amnesty. I just think there's a corrosive element to this confidential informant program.
By contrast, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan focused on the benefits that informants can provide when investigating corrupt organizations:
Particularly as you're looking at things like organized crime, they played a critical role with regard to putting matters together in order to infiltrate the organization. It took a long time for the government to penetrate these organizations, and they did it initially by using informants, finding people who had some vulnerabilities and then exploiting those vulnerabilities and getting them to become government cooperators.