CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Otis L. Sanford: Cops posing as kids just does not seem right

OK, I get it.

This is about creating a safe school environment and protecting students from the scourge of drug dependency.

It's about zero tolerance, or something close to it, for peddling even small quantities of drugs on or near a school campus.

It's about keeping kids from making a stupid mistake that they will regret, and perhaps pay for, the rest of their lives.

And it's about closing a door that could lead to more serious, even violent criminal activity down the road.

I get all of that, and more.

So why do I feel a slight twinge of uneasiness about what went down last week at Millington Central High School?

A fresh-faced Millington police officer posed as a high school student for four months. The "student" attended classes, took exams, did homework, tolerated cafeteria food -- and allegedly bought drugs from other students.

The undercover sting ended Tuesday with the arrest of 13 students on charges of selling marijuana, Ecstasy and prescription drugs. The charges also included peddling fake drugs as if they were the real thing.

That's 13 students nabbed after a four-month sting at a school where 1,500 students attend.

Millington Police Chief Rick Jewell, who is leaving office next month, set up the undercover operation with permission from Shelby County Schools Supt. Bobby Webb. Millington Central's principal and assistant principal were the only ones at the school in on the ruse.

It was the second major undercover drug sting at the Millington school in less than three years. In April 2006, police arrested 26 students and former students after they sold drugs to undercover officers. Those cops, however, did not pose as students.

In fact, Jewell said, the latest sting is likely the first time in Shelby County that a cop has posed as a student to nab suspected high school drug pushers. [Mark Godsey]

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