It often happens that crimes are committed with very few witnesses present or direct evidence linking the perpetrators are left at the crime scene to enable the police to trace and apprehend suspects. As we wrote previously, policing does not take place in isolation, but is a combined effort by the community and stakeholders to assist in providing information that can lead to the successful arrest and prosecution of suspects.
The use of informants by the police plays an integral role in helping to report and combat crime and is accepted as standard both locally and internationally.
What is an informer?
An informer is any person who gathers or supplies information to the police regarding:
The commission of an offence
An alleged offence
A suspect or accomplice
Exhibits or any preparations to commit any offence or, evidence which can be used in criminal proceedings or evidence concerning the prevention of such commission of offence
Every person in the community is a potential informer and they can be seen as whistle-blowers of crime.
We find three types of police informants. These are fulltime, temporary and occasional informants.
A fulltime informer is a person who is employed in the police service with the permission obtained from the office of the inspector general and can be paid a salary according to the discretion of the Inspector General, after appointment for the period of employment.
A temporary employed informer is a person who only discloses information from time to time and is compensated according to the value of information together with the occasional informer. An occasional informer only discloses information that he or she may come across and they have nothing to do with the case apart from the interest to assist the police.
The police have to measure, test and evaluate the reliability of an informer for recruitment. This may be tested on the basis where facts from such an informer can be verified
An informer only has to provide t important information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators or that the case may require and not investigate the matter. The entire investigation remains the duty of the police and is steered by the investigating officer.
Section 202 of Act 51/77 Criminal Procedure Act provides for informer privilege regarding disclosure of identity.
The identity of the informer is protected by the police and classified as highly secret information. This ensures that members of the public will not be afraid or fear reprisals because their identity will be fully protected. At any given time, the informer must be protected against the revenge of the accused.
For registration purposes, any person who is willing to be an informer must provide truthful contact details and particulars of capabilities and movements to the police. Investigators may recruit their own informers.
Nowadays, offenders are perceived to be specialised and therefore commit crimes on an almost scientific basis. Today’s life is much faster, and the criminals are more sophisticated than a few years ago. Police officers will be unable to achieve a high rate of success on their own and require increasing assistance from the public to give information.
Policing in general cannot exist on its own. There is a need for community support to solve many other crimes, hence the need for informers.
*Compiled by the Namibian Police Public Relations division.