By STEPHEN OLSCHANSKI
Capital News Service
LANSING — Criminal informants in Michigan could be in for a larger payday if a recently introduced bipartisan bill increases the limit on payouts by 10 times.
The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, and 17 co-sponsors who say a larger reward amount could make witnesses to crimes more willing to come forward. Three co-sponsors are Republican.
Currently the maximum amount that could be given to an informant is $2,000, and it comes from a county’s general fund. This legislation would increase the limit to $20,000. There is no particular reason for the proposed limit, Cochran said, although it seemed to be a figure counties could afford.
As for why there is any limit, Cochran said it was precedent. The law sets the limit at $2,000. However, Cochran said he would be open to an amendment to the bill to get rid of the limit and allow counties to figure it out themselves.
“The idea being the reward would be a little more substantial and possibly someone would come forward with information,” Cochran said.
A former sheriff approached him about increasing the reward for police informants after one of his deputies died while chasing a suspect, Cochran said. No witnesses to the crash came forward, and he thought a greater incentive might have made a difference.
“He felt very strongly in working with the Sheriffs’ Association that they would like to see this raised to $20,000,” Cochran said.
The money would be controlled by county commissioners and be doled out of the county general fund. Each county would select how much to reward witnesses up to that amount, Cochran said.
“This is permissive. It doesn’t require the county to put forth that much reward but it could be up to $20,000,” Cochran said. “Obviously they have to work within their budget constraints, but this allows for local control.”
Cochran said he has the backing of the Ingham County Sheriffs’ Department and the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.
Typically, the money doled out to criminal informants goes to persons informing on drug dealers or those involved in racketeering, said Blaine Koops, the executive director of the Association.
Rewards for criminal informants typically do work, he said. The money goes to those who divulge information leading to arrests or convictions of people for high- level felonies.
“The problem is, money is a great motivator,” Koops said.
Co-sponsors are: John Chirkun, D-Roseville; Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor; Pam Faris, D-Clio; Tim Sneller, D-Burton; Eric Leutheuser, R-Hillsdale; Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Scott Dianda, D-Calumet; Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon; Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township; David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids; Brian Elder, D-Bay City; Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township; Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township; Leslie Love, D-Detroit; Andy Schor, D-Lansing; and Patrick Green, D-Warren.
The bill was referred to the Law and Justice Committee, where Cochran says his Republican colleagues said they felt optimistic about getting the bill pushed through for a hearing.
By STEPHEN OLSCHANSKI