Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jul 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Diane Dimond

Police Departments Are Forcing College Kids to Work As C.I.S in 
Exchange for Leniency in Their Own Cases


This is the time of year parents start worrying about back-to-school 
stuff. For those with college-age kids who will soon go off to live 
by themselves, there's an extra bit of preparation to think about.

You may not realize it, but police departments across the country, 
especially those near colleges and universities, often "flip" 
students caught with even a tiny amount of marijuana and recruit them 
into the ranks of "confidential informant."

At some universities, there is a wide circle of these 
student-tipsters who have all been made to promise to turn in other 
campus drug users in exchange for leniency in their own narcotics 
case. Here's how it works. Narcotics officers, working on information 
from one of these C.I.s approaches a particular student, asks to 
search their room and, when they find the expected evidence of drug 
use, they haul the student to the stationhouse.

He or she fails to notice that the officer hasn't actually placed 
them under arrest. If they had been, the student would be told about 
his or her rights to an attorney and to remain silent. The scared kid 
doesn't realize that the threat of a decades-long prison term is just 
a tactic to get them to talk.

Sitting in a bleak interrogation room, being questioned by a 
stern-looking officer and worrying about what mom or dad will say if 
they find out, these first-timers are desperate to grasp at any 
solution to their dilemma.

Then the answer is presented: Wear a wire and turn in other students 
willing to sell you drugs.

While on the hot seat, the student is told they may not tell anyone 
that they are part of the C.I. squad. They are often made to sign a 
document promising to turn in as many as 10 other students. Now for 
the other side. Police working these details will tell you this is a 
bona fide tool in the ongoing War on Drugs. Who better, they say, to 
make a monitored buy from a drug-dealing student than another 
student? When asked if all this drama isn't a bit of overkill for a 
small amount of marijuana, the officer will likely answer that the 
law is the law. Marijuana is legal in only four states and the 
District of Columbia, and it is likely not legal on your child's 
campus. But here's the rub. Sometimes, while departments are 
increasing their drug bust rates and qualifying for more federal 
funds, these kids die on the job.

It happened in 2008 to a Florida State graduate named Rachel Hoffman. 
She had been caught with drugs - twice. The last time Rachel had five 
ounces of pot, and ecstasy and Valium pills. She agreed to C.I. 
recruitment to avoid prison time.

Rachel agreed to wear a wire, carry $13,000 in cash, 1,500 ecstasy 
pills, some crack cocaine and a gun to a meeting with two known drug dealers.

The location was a public park and some 20 officers, including one in 
a DEA plane overhead, were on hand to protect her. When the location 
was changed at the last minute, officers lost contact with Rachel. 
Her body was found in a ditch 48 hours later. In November 2013, a 
North Dakota State College of Science scholar named Andrew Sadek was 
confronted by members of a local police task force with evidence that 
he had earlier made two small pot sales - $20 and $60 worth - to an 
undercover student.

Andrew had never been in trouble before but, once in the 
interrogation room, threatened with "40 years in prison and a $40,000 
fine," Sadek agreed to flip. The interrogation video shows he was 
encouraged to find dealers who offered heavier drugs than marijuana.

Six months later, the 20-year-old's body was found in the Red River 
bound to his rock-filled backpack, a gunshot wound in his head.

While those are extreme cases, these campus recruitments have been 
widespread, at the University of Alabama, the University of 
Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and others.

Last year, it was reported that the narcotics squad near the 
University of Mississippi recruited about 30 C.I.s, most of them 
students. One, named Greg, told "60 Minutes" he was forced to inform 
after a friend left a package in their room for a second friend to 
pick up. Student #2 captured Greg's voice on a recording. The package 
contained LSD.

To the families of college kids setting out to start their own lives, 
do them a favor. Cut out this column and send it with them.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom