Here we go again. Undercover cops pose as students, make friends, build trust, and then arrest teenagers for selling mostly small amounts of marijuana. Yesterday nearly two dozen students were busted at two southern California high-schools, according to Riverside County Sheriff officials.
Two undercover cops, a woman and a man, had been posing as students since the beginning of the year. The majority of the drug buys were small amounts of marijuana, but there were some other drugs seized including cocaine and prescription pills.
The campus was shaken yesterday, according to a story in the Press Enterprise. Students were shocked to see their friends arrested in class and left wondering who they can and cannot trust in their peer groups.
I’m disgusted by the trend of undercover cops infiltrating schools and targeting our kids. Last December, "Operation Glass House" made national news. Police officers, posed as ordinary students, were stationed in three California high schools. It led to the arrest of 22 children, the majority of whom were special needs students, including the autistic son of Doug and Catherine Snodgrass.
The Snodgrass family was delighted when their son had finally made a friend in school. The new friend would call and text him all the time. What they didn’t know was that the new friend was hounding their son for his medication – and that he was an undercover police officer. After finding and selling a small amount of marijuana to his new friend to keep him happy, Snodgrass’s son became one of the 22 arrested for “dealing drugs.”
Now the Snodgrass family is fighting back. They are suing the school district, the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance, and the Director of Special Education. They are sending a message not only to their son’s school, but to schools around the country: you should protect, not prey, on our kids.
Then there is the story that was featured in the nationally syndicated show, This American Life. In three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends with students, and won their trust. An 18-year-old honors student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting, and flirting with each other.
One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn't, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally Justin obtained a small amount for her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said that it was a present and he didn't want any money.
A short while later, the police swept in and arrested 31 students, including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.
Sending police and informants to entrap high-school students is sick. So often we hear that we need to fight the drug war to protect the kids. As these despicable examples show, more often than not the drug war is ruining young people's lives and doing much more harm than good. Enough is enough.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org).