Police reveal tipster to suspect

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The city is facing possible legal action after a Crime Line tipster’s name was inadvertently given to the man he had turned in.

City spokeswoman Debbie George said the Suffolk Police Department was made aware that a man believed his information had been given to a criminal suspect he had helped arrest. The man said he has been harassed and had to move because of the release of his information.

The tipster called to give police the location of a man who was wanted on warrants for felony hit and run, George said. A clerk who took the call recorded the information given, printed the form and put a copy into the warrant jacket.

Email newsletter signup

“That form should have only gone to the Crime Line coordinator,” George said.

When the suspect was arrested, the arresting officer “was not familiar with that form,” and inadvertently gave it to the suspect along with the arrest warrants, George said. The form contained the caller’s name and phone number.

Although Crime Line callers are not required to give their name, some volunteer the information so that the coordinator can call them back and let them know if an arrest was made, George said.

Immediately upon learning of the incident, Police Chief Thomas Bennett conducted an internal investigation to determine what happened. As a result of the investigation, the “chief made some changes within the department,” George said.

From now on, Crime Line calls will be taken only by the coordinator, she said. It makes the system less efficient but is a needed measure to ensure such information is not released again, she said.

“We need that control in place,” she said, adding that people who call with tips when the coordinator is unavailable will receive a message inviting them to call back later. The message also tells people who are calling with an urgent tip — such as a wanted person spotted in public — to call police dispatchers at 923-2350.

Bennett also has invited experts from other regional departments to inspect the city’s Crime Line program and ensure it is operating as it should.

George, a former police detective, said a tipster’s information has never before been given to a suspect or anyone else in the 25 years Suffolk has been involved in the Crime Line.

The Crime Line is a regional program governed by an independent board of directors and funded with donations. Tipsters are promised anonymity, and are eligible for cash rewards if their information leads to an arrest or recovery of stolen property.

The man whose information was released also told police he believed a shooting near his home in July — which killed a woman and injured a man — was meant for him. However, police do not believe the incidents are related, George said.

Police hope citizens realize the incident is isolated, George said.

“Obviously, there’s a concern this could have an impact on the Crime Line program,” George said. “This is not standard operating procedure.”