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Friday, November 12, 2004

Cops pretend to be students; students pretend to be dealers

(The piece below will be distributed through Drug Sense Weekly later today, but the hep cats who hang out here get a special sneak preview.)

Playing Cops And Dealers At School

Out of all the heinous things that happen in the name of the drug war, one kind of story never fails to wash a wave of nausea over me.

The stories involve a young-looking, undercover police officer who infiltrates a high school to save it from drugs. Usually, it leads to a headline, like one in the Knoxville News-Sentinel last week: "Drug-dealing students busted by undercover cop."

The headline may sound noble, but the details aren't.

From the story:

Students sold the drugs, many of which may have been taken from home medicine cabinets, for a pittance, Police Chief Rick Scarbrough said.

"'They (students) are not as street-savvy and business-savvy as ourusual street dealers are. They almost give the drugs away."

Really? Why would that happen? Is that what a ruthless pusher would do?

Sounds to me like some kids are looking for friendship, social acceptance and approval. Because police can pretend to be students looking for drugs convincingly enough, some students pretend to be drug dealers as well as they can. It would be a silly game, if the consequences for students weren't so real.

The reason these stories bother me so much is that I remember high school. I didn't use illegal drugs, and probably wouldn't have recognized many had I seen them up close.

But it was fairly common knowledge who did use drugs. When some self-confident, interesting new student with a hint of danger tried to befriend me in class, would I have eventually pointed him in the direction where I thought the drugs were? Would I have tried to get some myself and pass it along if he or she had encouraged me?

We didn't worry about such questions back when I was in high school in the middle Reagan years. It didn't seem like a bastion of constitutional protection then, but we didn't even have drug-sniffing dogs in the hallways. Now these operations happen all the time; search the MAP archives from all years using keywords like "undercover" and "high school" to find more examples.

In fact, such undercover programs have been in use for so long in the Los Angeles area, most of the student who have been "caught" (or is it more appropriate to say "entrapped"?) recently are in special education classes.

There's no question that the war on drugs is a war on young people at their most vulnerable, but it occasionally offers a real lesson. When a new baby-face narc comes to school, students quickly learn they can't put too much faith in anyone, particularly the police.

1:25:31 PM | permalink | comment []

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