All eyes are on drug unit

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Oxford EAGLE has written on numerous occasions about the Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit using college students as confidential informants in its battle on drugs.

What brought the conversation to more dinner tables across Lafayette County was the attention “60 Minutes” gave to the use of CIs, and the television show also mentioned our narcotics unit, which is affiliated with the Oxford Police Department, Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and the University of Mississippi.

The show featured cases that went wrong from various departments across the nation when using college students as CIs. Those cases were deadly for the student involved.

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A student becomes a CI when he or she gets busted selling any sort of drug of any quantity and takes a deal with the narcotics unit to help bust others instead of taking the charge and potential jail or prison time. And that sale can be anything from a small marijuana joint to a single Xanax pill or a larger quantity of drugs.

Police say using the students as CIs helps them eradicate the drugs faster. They don’t have to go through dozens of steps in the process like infiltrating a group, viewing the drugs and watching them be sold, getting a seizure warrant from a judge and more. They also point out that the students are participating in illegal activity to begin with and are not innocent in this process.

The EAGLE has talked off the record to students who are now adults and got caught up in this process. Sometimes this process shatters a student’s life and ruins the direction he or she was going with his or her schooling. Sometimes, we hear, the narcotics unit takes students who were merely potheads and sends them out into the county to make buys off cocaine dealers, or to purchase guns. While college students often think they are invincible and they are technically adults in the eye of the law, we all know 18-year-olds can still be considered children in many ways. A parent would fight like hell if they knew their 18-year-old girl was going into a trailer full of men on meth to help the police because she made a mistake when so excited to experiment with life after not being under mommy and daddy’s lock and key.

Matching crime for crime and having a student go bust another student on a small scale is one thing, but we should be helping the students in general rather than placing them in danger.

Mayor Pat Patterson has called a 2 p.m. discussion at City Hall where representatives from the unit and the law enforcement agencies involved will address the “60 Minutes” report. We hope to get answers for you.