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Cops Turning College Students into Snitches, Getting Them Killed

The use of low level drug offenders as "confidential informants" is on the rise in America's War on Drugs, and it's a disgrace.

A confidential informant is a person who police use to go undercover in their place, to gather evidence that can be used to make arrests and prosecutions. Generally these informants are people who've been caught possessing or selling small amounts of drugs, who police convince to act as informants in exchange for having their charges dropped or reduced. In many cases, police don't formally arrest the person, which creates a legal grey area as police are not required to read their rights.

60 Minutes recently featured a piece on confidential informants, and it's disgusting. It features the parents of a 20 year old college student Andrew Sadek, who was pressured into acting as a confidential informant (C.I.), threatened with a possible 40 year prison sentence for selling $80 worth of pot - to one of his peers, who was already a CI. He made 3 successful drug buys as an undercover CI, but then stopped.

The officer who was working with him threatened that he would be arrested if he didn't continue. He disappeared from his dorm room, and was missing for 2 months. Then he was found in a river with a bullet in his head. Police claim his death was a suicide, though his parents are convinced he was murdered. Either way, this situation is absolutely sickening. A 20 year old with no priors was caught selling a small amount of weed, pressured into going undercover without any proper police training, and died for it.

The 60 Minutes piece features interviews with a former CI, as well as attorneys who have fought against the use of CIs, particularly in cases where the criminal is a low level drug offender. Their stories indicate that police abuse their power, manipulating and threatening young people to pressure them to become CIs. And, perhaps even more disturbing, there are many accounts of police encouraging CIs to convince their friends to commit crimes they wouldn't have ordinarily committed - essentially entrapment.

For example, a CI named Velma would be pressured to ask her friend Shaggy to sell her some weed out of his personal stash. Shaggy isn't a drug dealer, he only has the weed for personal use - which is in most states is misdemeanor possession or less. But Shaggy does Velma a favor by selling her some of his stash, because they are friends. Now Shaggy is a felon, who can in turn be threatened with decades in prison, and pressured into becoming a CI himself. Cops know Shaggy isn't a dangerous criminal, but the more CIs they create, the more arrests they can make, and the more arrests they make, the more funding their departments get.

Check out a preview and both parts of the 60 Minutes story below:

For some additional commentary on the use of confidential informants, and a wealth of other great information about the terrible consequences of America's failed War on Drugs, head over to the Drug Policy Alliance:


Image: National Geographic

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