HOUSTON — To cops and the courts, they are confidential informants and cooperating co-conspirators. In the streets, they are snitches and rats.
They make deals to avoid prosecution or do less time, sometimes paid with tax dollars to burrow in where undercover officers cannot. But once deals are made with authorities, what may seem like a stroke of luck can become a life imperiled.
Countless criminals, lovers, brothers and friends havegone down in part on the word of an informant or government witness, a high-stakes turn-of-play that fuels distrust and sometimes leads to death.
Authorities do not track how many informants are working for local, state and federal officers; nor are there standard guidelines for how they are used or protected.
But their secretive roles in law enforcement increasingly are being made public in Texas and elsewhere as the collateral damage plays out in killings, arrests and attacks.
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