A ‘CHIS’ or Covert Human Intelligence Source is really important from a policing perspective. It refers to a person who provides information and intelligence to the police service about crime related matters. For example, a CHIS could be a public-spirited citizen who wants to reduce crime in their area, they could be someone with family involved in criminality or equally someone who is embedded within an OCG (Organised Crime Group).
Interestingly, their motivations can be wide and varied; they may have a high moral compass and want to help reduce crime in their communities, they may want to protect others who are being drawn into crime or they might be seeking revenge against someone. Any of these scenarios could be related to the ‘CHIS’ in Line of Duty.
Motivations are an important factor to consider in policing terms as it helps the police service evaluate the value of the information and intelligence, hence the disagreement in the first episode between DCI Davidson and DSU Buckles.
Being a ‘CHIS’ can be a risky business and great care is taken by the police service to maintain their anonymity. Another term used in the Line of Duty is the ‘Handler’, who is a police officer who generally works in the shadows in a covert role and has responsibility to gather the intelligence from the CHIS and manage or look after their welfare. This is another really important role in policing as they work between the lines of crime prevention and detection.
The role of the CHIS is highly valued by the police service and their role is taken extremely seriously, which is why there is a high degree of regulation that sits behind it. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000 (RIPA) is a framework that is used to ensure investigative techniques are compatible with Article 8 (Right to Privacy) of the European Court of Human Rights. This means that all activity with a CHIS must be authorised by a senior police officer and it must be legal, necessary and proportionate to the aims it seeks to achieve.
Returning to the Line of Duty, it would seem absolutely necessary and proportionate to have a CHIS providing intelligence on corrupt police officers.
Police corruption is highly damaging for the legitimacy of policing and fortunately corruption is very rare and isolated to just a few ‘bad apples’. Nonetheless, the public must have trust in the police service if they are to be confident that when they provide intelligence about crime in their communities it will be taken seriously and their identities will be protected.
The police service must be led by intelligence if they are to maximise their opportunities to prevent and detect crime and this is why CHIS are an essential part of policing as without intelligence from members of the community this would be made all the more challenging.
Richard Carr is the lead for the new two accelerated degree in Professional Policing and the BA (Hons) Policing Studies programme. As a former detective in Merseyside Police, he held lead responsibility for corruption, major crime, human trafficking and other investigative disciplines and has a wealth of knowledge in the policing and investigative field. Rich was the Force Authorising Officer with responsibility to authorise Covert Human Intelligence Sources across the force area.
The new degree programmes are due to take on the first cohort of students in September 2021, and will provide students with the qualification and experience to enter English and Welsh police forces at graduate entry level.
Find out more about our new and current degree courses in Policing.