Officer Alex examines street sociology on both sides.
She’d gone wiggy on me.
“Just who all knows about me? I want every email, every phone message. Every tip I passed on,” Angela asked. I worked on soothing her, which was tough because she was high as a kite on meth at the moment. As frustrating as that was, though, that’s also why she was passing me information. Users have an agenda.
There are all kinds of informants, of course. Some are genuinely good people in bad situations trying to make things right. Others are bad people in bad situations who recognize things as going too far from even their perspective, however fractured it may be in comparison to what the courts refer to as “a reasonable person’s.” And more often than not, they tend to be criminals trying to stick a thumb in the eye of another criminal.
But it all results in the same thing to El Puerco: Information gained we did not have before and a bad guy or girl we can take off the street. And depending on the information, maybe a whole group of them.
There’s a sliding scale of ethics for people that wind up in the world mom and dad didn’t intend for us (more on that in a second; don’t let me forget). To most people, there is right and there is wrong; we all went to school with or work with (or God help us, work for) “that guy” who knew no gray areas, no rounded curves or gentle slopes.
To my regular customers, however, there is “more right” and “more wrong,” and the two are offset by their own unique set of mores formed by their environment. A crime (or bad thing) to you is something that may be commonplace to them, yet while you can easily brush off an insult with a recital of “sticks and stones,” it may seem perfectly reasonable to that same person to kill the offending party in response.
The informant type I find I deal with the most is the one trying to intentionally do something nice to balance having intentionally done something bad. And if they happen to have a kind word given to the district attorney the next time they’re hauled before a bench, or if they’re even paid cash for their risk or risks, hey, all the better.
With my informants I stayed away from cash. The problem with money is that, well, it’s money, and in this profession only one thing gets you in deeper trouble faster, but women are this whole other topic. No, money really is the root of all evil, and I see quite enough of that on my own; why invite it into the house?
My peeps have always been lost souls trying to right a wrong in their minds and good does come of it, until like air in a balloon or water from a jug, the information eventually runs out. Or, in Angela’s case, the informant’s willingness to participate once the karmic balance in their soul has fallen below a certain threshold and they go to ground again.
Confidential informants. Every good cop has them, at least one, you just need to take Street Sociology into account when dealing with them.
Epilogue: Regarding “mom & dad’s hopes for you” and that sliding scale of ethics? As soon as I wrote that, it made me think of something my dad once told me about my job, long before the academy. About how he wouldn’t want me to be a cop because you’re surrounded by blood and filth, the dregs of society and how it can pull you down.
He was right, of course, on every count, and we had that discussion again more than a decade later—specifically about how as cops you begin your own sliding scale of ethics, because 57 MPH in a 55 MPH zone is speeding, but 80 is really speeding.
How you hear about a fatality crash on the news and make a frowny-face between bites of salad, but when a cop hears about it and responds they get the fatality on his or her boots, then they go have a few bites of salad. Big difference.
In other words, like our customers’ mores and perspective on things, so do the cops’ change. It’s nature, it’s mental defense. Unlike our clients though, it’s all about remembering to stay grounded and keep a firm hand on the rope that leads to where we came from.
That’s what separates us, because that rope leads to accountability.
I’ve still got a grip on that rope, Pop…I promise.