By Julie Ershadi
An undercover 25-year-old female police officer maintained an ongoing relationship with a teenager in order to pop his pot-selling cherry— and then arrest him for it.
Last week, Alternet shared this story, part of a segment on NPR's This American Life:
Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor 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 smoke marijuana, 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 was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn't want the money -- he got it for her as a present.
This is reminiscent of a story from September 2011, also featured on This American Life, where narcotics task force commander Norm Wielsch collaborated with private investigator and former SWAT officer Chris Butler to set up a high schooler who had been selling ecstasy in Contra Costa, CA. Butler hired two amateur actresses off of Craigslist to essentially offer group sex in exchange for the feel-good pill. When the kid came to make the deal, he was slammed against a car at gunpoint in an effort to "scare him straight," according to the story. Listen to the whole podcast, or click to minute 25 for the bit about the high school ecstasy dealer known as the Candyman.
Unlike the Candyman, who appears to have been at least already selling drugs, Justin from Florida had a clean record before this incident and repeatedly claimed to have had zero interest in the drug world, or the people who deal in it, before this officer instigated the whole scenario.
Wielsch and Butler are both currently facing charges for their corrupt antics, including selling large amounts of methamphetamines and pot from Wielsch's narcotics department evidence stash.
Yet these don't appear to be isolated incidents. The Huffington Post article cited two other cases in which police went undercover and hung out with teenagers and minors for extended periods of time:
In Brooklyn, New York, a 19-year-old student was charged with receiving stolen property after buying an iPhone from an undercover police officer in December.
The New York Police Department set up the operation to target people buying and selling stolen electronics, NBC New York reported. The sting led to 141 arrests, with Robert Tester among them.
But Tester said he was tricked into purchasing the phone after the undercover officer told him he needed money to feed his daughter for Christmas.
Police defend the arrest, but Tester is planning on filing a civil counter-suit against NYPD, according to the report.
In January, police arrested ten students at a Texas high school for selling prescription drugs and marijuana.
When interviewed for the NPR story, the female undercover cop said, "These kids need to wake up. They need to realize they can't be doing this."
But it's worth noting that in every one of the these stories, the undercover cops manipulated teenagers and took advantages of their vulnerabilities. In the end, it's worth wondering whether Robert Tester or Justin learned lessons about selling and buying contraband, or whether they just learned to distrust people a little more.
When the operation concluded at the Florida high school, "the police did a big sweep and arrested 31 students -- including Justin," according to the Alternet article. Justin has been convicted of selling pot inside a school, a felony in Florida. He is no longer eligible to join the Armed Forces as he had planned to do upon graduation and is now attending community college.
Read more about the failures of the drug war.