Pubdate: Fri, 21 Feb 2003
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Author: Brian Russell, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)


An Albany Officer Is Lauded For Putting The Hurt On Pot Dealers At An Area 

ALBANY -- It was unlike anything Westover High School's principal had seen 
in his 12 years at the school. And it's definitely not something he wants 
to see again.

Principal Gene Melvin is grateful to Cpl. Freddy Baker, the school's 
resource officer and the "COP Officer of the Month" for finding and 
stopping marijuana possession and sales beyond anything uncovered in 
Westover's history.

Melvin hopes Baker's success in taking down the perpetrators, who were all 
male and in grades ranging for freshman to senior, will spread the message 
to their friends that marijuana is not tolerated.

Over a four-day period earlier this month, Baker said, she arrested eight 
students for possession of marijuana on the school grounds. Some of the 
students had just purchased the marijuana at school while others were 
arrested for selling it in a bathroom.

Baker, who has served as Westover's resource officer for three years, said 
there are rarely any drug cases coming from the halls of her school.

Melvin couldn't recall another case of drugs at the school this year.

Baker said this month's incident started as she was patrolling the hallways 
one morning and noticed some of the students' eyes were glazed and they 
smelled of pot. Other students told her people were smoking and dealing pot 
in a boys bathroom.

On Feb. 4, the officer made her first bust after entering the boys bathroom 
on a tip. She found two students in the middle of a drug transaction.

Over the course of the next three days, Baker recovered more than 24 bags 
of marijuana on the school grounds and arrested six others.

Now that a few of their classmates have been arrested, Baker said, she 
expects any students who are thinking about bringing pot to school will at 
least give more thought to the consequences.

Baker has also been in touch with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit about the 
need to bring drug-sniffing dogs to school so the animals can identify 
lockers and cars where drugs may have been kept. Just when they'll come 
will be a surprise, she said.

While Melvin could not directly comment about the punishments for the 
students arrested, he did say being caught with drugs on school property 
typically results in school disciplinary action as well as criminal charges.

After a student is caught with marijuana, their parents are notified, he 
said, and the student can face up to a 10-day suspension from school - each 
day counting as an unexcused absence. If a student has more than nine 
absences during a semester, he may lose credit for the term.

Students caught with marijuana also will be called before the discipline 
tribunal, which can enact stiffer punishments.

If a student is caught with more than a small quantity of marijuana, the 
tribunal is more likely to expel the student, Melvin said.

Brian Russell can be reached at (229) 888-9360.
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