Rachel's Law: Is it making a difference 10 years later?

Rachel's Law: Is it making a difference 10 years later?
Rachel's Law: Is it making a difference 10 years later?
Posted at 6:30 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 15:09:28-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Monday marked 10 years since the death of Tallahassee Police confidential informant Rachel Hoffman, who was killed during an undercover drug buy.

Her body was found 10 years ago today, in a swamp in Taylor County.

The men convicted of killing her, are behind bars for life.

The police officers who were part of the buy-bust were fired, and the city was held responsible, made to pay Rachel's parents $2.6 million.

But why did Rachel become a confidential informant to begin with?

Former State Attorney Willie Meggs says it was to work off her drug charges.

"Rachel was, in my opinion, motivated by not wanting her father and mother to know that she had been arrested. That would just be the end of the world to her," said Meggs. "Well it became the end of the world to everybody."

Her death prompted the passage of Rachel's Law, which was signed one year later.

Rachel's parents attorney, Lance Block, says there's no way to measure how successful Rachel's Law has been because we don't know how many confidential informants there are, or any of the demographics, so we don't know how many people have been injured or killed.

"Some police officers are not exercising good judgement," said Block. "They're willing to play Russian roulette with these people and their lives."

Confidential informants can help police solve crimes and bust drug dealers, but at what cost?

"Undercover work is the most dangerous type of police work there is," said Block.

For Rachel Hoffman, that cost was her life.

"Her death was, for Margie and Irv [Rachel's parents], the way they got back up off the floor from this, was to fight for other people," said Block.

It's what prompted the passage of Rachel's Law on May 7, 2009, one year after her death. The bill lists factors that law enforcement agencies should consider in deciding whether someone should be used as a CI.

But has it changed anything?

"We know there have been people killed as a result of working undercover since Rachel died, but we don't know how many," said Block.

And police may not want to reveal how many.

"The last thing police departments that want to use civilians to do undercover work want to do, is admit that they're loosing their CI's, because it has a chilling effect on recruitment," said Block.

While Lance and Rachel's parents will continue pushing for stronger legislation, they feel comfort knowing it's a step in the right direction.

"That's Rachel's legacy, is what her parents did in responding to her tragic death," said Block. "Maybe there's been a life that's been saved and if so, what Rachel's parents and I did was worth it."

The Tallahassee Police Department declined to go on camera, but told us their policies go beyond what Rachel's Law calls for, and they keep records of all their confidential informants, but they don't want to release any information, not even how many they use, because they say it could compromise their confidentiality agreement.

TPD also says they've made several changes since the passage of Rachel's Law.

They include tougher training for officers and no promises to informants in exchange for information. The State Attorney, Police Chief, and the CI's attorney are made aware of the use of the CI.