Source: Toronto Sun (Canada)
Pubdate: May 31, 1998
Author: MICHELE MANDEL -- Toronto Sun


OAKVILLE -- He looks like your typical teenager.

His brown hair is bleached a brassy yellow blond, a gold hoop hangs 
from each ear, and a multi-colored tattoo decorates one upper arm.
His Airwalk runners are fashionably untied. He's never without his 
smokes or his portable CD player blasting gangsta rapper Busta Rhymes.
He looks like a teen. Except that he's a cop.

For two months, Halton Regional Police Const. Rui Freitas, 27, had 
them all fooled at General Wolfe High School. Principal Tom Adam was 
in the know, but to his fellow classmates and his teachers, Freitas 
was just another 19-year-old former dropout, back to finish up the 
last two credits he needed in small engines and food preparation to 
complete his high school diploma.

They were unaware that all the while he was befriending them and 
partying with them, he was working as a high school narc, an 
undercover cop taking notes and preparing charges against those 
willing to sell him marijuana, hashish and magic mushrooms. In all, 14 
teens, including some non-students, were charged.

Freitas runs his fingers through his dyed hair. It's a few days after 
his first undercover operation has ended and he's suffering from 
adrenalin withdrawal and hair worries. The affable copper would like 
to keep it blond but he has a feeling that once he's back in uniform 
today, his superiors are going to want it toned down. The earrings 
will definitely have to go while he's on duty, but then there's always 
his navel ring, which he's keeping from view under a loose T-shirt.

The high school sting, says Sgt. Bruce Mitchell, was conceived to 
address community concerns about drugs and Freitas was chosen for his 
youthful looks and rapport with teens. He was so believable that they 
don't want him photographed in case he's used again.

It was, Freitas says, exciting, but gruelling. "It meant acting all 
day. It takes its toll. I was ready to come out after the two months."

High school hasn't changed much since he was there last. When he first 
arrived, everyone's first question was whether he smoked marijuana. 
"Pretty well everybody did, except the jocks," he says. He saw them 
smoke before classes, between classes, skipping classes, hanging out 
in the baseball bleachers outside or taking a walk into the nearby 
ravine. The terminology, though, had changed since he went to high 
school. Pot was called "smoke" when he was a real teen, now he had to 
make sure to call it "hydro" or "blunt."

Usually, he says, one would buy the joint for $10 and his friends 
would pay him $1 each for a couple of puffs of the drug. Besides pot, 
there were magic mushrooms and LSD at $5 a hit. On the weekends, many 
teens came back from raves in Toronto with ecstacy. Crack and heroin, 
though, were virtually unknown. "These kids don't have the money," he 

For two months, he gained their friendship and relived his teen years. 
He got into trouble with his teachers for smoking on school property 
and cutting classes -- although he did finish with an 87% in small 
engines. He hung out with his friends at the mall, skipped school and 
looked for summer jobs with them, even went out and bought Super 
Soaker water guns during the spring heat wave and started a massive
water fight at school.

"Yeah, that was cool," Freitas recalls with a smile.

But even then, he was working. "I was never relaxed. I'd go over 
things three or four times in my head so I could write it down later 
in my notebook and advise my handlers of what was going on."

In the end, he had enough to charge one of the school's major pot 
dealers and many more small-time sellers. It was certainly a success 
if the object was to scare these teens into going weedless for a 
while. Less certain is whether it is right or fair. One local paper 
has already taken the police to task for spending $6,000 on an 
operation that seized only $1,000 worth of illicit soft drugs while 
violating students' rights and privacy.


"Are they saying that schools should be sanctuaries for drug users?" 
Mitchell asks. "It's a necessary part of policing. We have information 
now on robberies, drugs heading to Maplehurst Correctional, what's 
happening in the community ... "

To concerns about violating student privacy, Halton police spokesman 
Sgt. Frank Phillips has little patience. Halton's drug stings, like 
their use of drug-sniffing dogs, are a necessary deterrent, he 
insists. "Students who don't use drugs have the right to go to school 
in a drug-free environment."

But Toronto, with an arguably greater drug problem, generally doesn't 
believe in undercover stings or drug dogs in high schools, says Det. 
Court Booth of the Central Drug Information Unit. "We're trying to 
build bridges with kids. We don't want them to think we're going into 
schools and investigating them covertly."

It's a tough call, one even the nice undercover cop admits he had some 
qualms about. "It was a real bad feeling at the end, when they'd been 
arrested and I went to see them. I felt bad for them and almost 
ashamed. They were really nice kids. It almost felt like I was 
stabbing them in the back. I mean, one guy wanted me to be his best 
man. It was hard ... "

His boss gives him a troubled look and his voice trails off. "Oh, but 
I do think it was a good idea."
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Checked-by: (Matt Elrod)