A MINOR BUREAUCRATIC feud is going on among the various law-enforcement agencies in Prince George's County over who should and should not be a police informant - with the result that a former police informant now faces the prospect of being imprisoned with some of the felons he helped convict. As a story in The Post reported recently, a 23-year-old county resident, whom we'll call "Mr. x," two years ago was asked by county police to become an informant shortly after his arrest for housebreaking (at the time he was already on probation for an earlier crime). He agreed and performed what one police official termed "an outstanding job" that led to as many as 175 arrests. In the meantime, Mr. X was given a suspended sentence following his own criminal conviction, and his probation was continued. In the intervening two years, Mr. X, while working as an undercover police informant, has goeen a steady job and married.
Last week, however, Mr. X's probation officer told him to turn himself in for violating his parole. Mr. X's infraction - are you ready for this? - was said to be that as an undercover police informant, he associated with known criminal elements. (Apparently overlooked was the fact that Mr. X also associated with law-enforcement police "elements" - to the detriment of criminals. It seems that the rules of the county police department, the county probation department and the county prosecutor's office all prohibit persons on probation from working as undercover informants, though the comments of county officials lead us to believe that the rules are more honored in the breach. So now, Mr. X who by all accounts has become a law-abiding citizen, faces the possibility of having to his 10-year suspended sentence.
There's been a lot of finger-pointing from county prosecutors to county police to county probation officials over who's at fault here. But the nub of it was neatly summarized by a justifiably worried Mr. X: "I'm being spun around on both sides." Obviously, he is. And just as obviously, the interests of justice demand that Mr. X not be sent to jail for helping the police.