Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Drug Wars' Golden Egg appears at Ole Miss

Buzzfeed published an in-depth article about allegedly heavy-handed tactics Lafayette County law enforcement uses at Ole Miss.  The feds provide drug war money, the Metro Narc Unit decides it needs a piece of that action, and voila, Ole Miss suddenly has a huge drug problem.  Next comes the targeting of college freshman as they are first busted and then flipped into confidential informants.  Buzzfeed reports:

Now here he was, in June 2011, sitting at a table across from two stern-faced agents from the Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit, in a small room in a squat brick detention center down the road from Oxford Square, the city’s main hangout spot, where Ole Miss students and young locals gather for Tuesday morning coffees and Sunday brunches and Friday night beers. (BuzzFeed News put together Andy’s story through interviews with him, his lawyer, his father, and a review of court documents.) The agents had not arrested him, he said, and he was not in handcuffs or detained against his will. The agents had simply stopped him as he left a friend’s house and told him they’d wanted to speak with him. They told him they could send him to jail today if they wanted, and Andy said he imagined his future swirling down the drain.....
Then the agents gave him an out, one that would spare Andy any punishment.

Each year, the tiny four-person Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit recruits on average 30 confidential informants, many of them college students. Around half of those arrested by Metro Narcotics in 2014 were first-time offenders, and the unit made three times as many arrests for marijuana as for any other drug. For two decades those arrests helped win nearly half the unit’s total budget from federal grants designed to help fight America’s War on Drugs. When the drug war began to cool down, and the federal funding dried up, local institutions stepped up to keep the unit alive. Thanks to money from the city and county governments and the University of Mississippi, Lafayette County Metro Narcotics continues busting college kids and turning them into informants by threatening them with hard time or the shame and lifelong burden of a drug record.

“Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit is a mill that functions exclusively through the recruitment of college student CIs to rat out other students,” said Tom Levidiotis, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases in the local district attorney’s office. “It’s such an enterprise here.”

Andy was about to become the latest recruit....

 Scores of college-age young people in Oxford have sat in the same room as Andy and faced the same choice. The Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit has used around 300 confidential informants over the last decade, the agency’s captain, Keith Davis, told BuzzFeed News. And in Oxford, a tightly knit college town, word gets around....

To get the federal money, Metro Narcotics has to send a petition each year detailing its crime problem to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which slices up a pie of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant money to distribute among local law enforcement agencies across the state. Last year, the department had around $2 million to dole out. In its most recent petition, the task force noted that Oxford “is experiencing a marked increase in arrests” and listed a detailed breakdown of drug arrests: nearly half of the unit’s 228 drug arrests in 2014 were for marijuana, and around half of those arrested on a drug charge were first-time offenders. In the competition for a share of the funding, “you have to show that you have a real problem,” said Michael Levine, a former DEA agent who has written two books about his cases. “To show that you have a real problem, there’s only one way, and that’s to show the number of arrests that you’re making.”

Up until recently, Metro Narcotics received around $200,000 annually, which covered nearly half of its budget. “It’s clear local law enforcement agencies have identified the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Ray Strack, a former U.S. Customs special agent in charge of narcotics cases. The unit met the rest of its budget with its other revenue sources. For years, suspects arrested on drug offenses had the option to pay a fine — sometimes as high as $25,000 — directly to Metro Narcotics and plead guilty to a lesser charge, according to court documents. The practice had ended by 2009, after Ken Coghlan, the public defender, threatened to sue District Attorney Ben Creekmore and his office for discriminating against poor defendants. And like other law enforcement agencies, the unit collected money from property seized through civil forfeiture laws. In 2014, for instance, the unit collected $130,701.50 worth of seized assets....  Rest of article.

Read the rest of the article. There is much more information in the story.  Just put your hearing protection on if you are around Marshall Fisher and he reads it.  There might be some screaming. 


Anonymous said...

I disagree with the tactics used by police, which screw over the lives of college kids because of a little pot. I actually think the majority of police are shitheads on a power trip that are not to be trusted.

But I don't believe anyone who attended Ole Miss will claim there isn't a drug problem. Ole Miss is the cocaine capital of the SEC, with prescription drugs making a rise as well.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks to money from the city and county governments and the University of Mississippi, Lafayette County Metro Narcotics continues busting college kids and turning them into informants"

Thanks Dan Jones!

BTW - have any of these Keystone Kops made an arrest in the case of the girl who got set on fire up there yet? Just asking where our law enforcement money is going, and what we're getting for it.

Anonymous said...

These LEO qual's weapons test are stupid easy. You just stand still and shoot at a static target. 50 rounds for pistol shot from the 3 yrd line out to 25. One should easily shoot a 90%, that's 5 misses on a man size torso target Like you see in the picture above.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, not sure I like the tactics, but there is no such thing as a "little drug problem". I suppose the same percentage of people who go on to abuse alcohol holds for those who lose all ambition and imitative from abusing pot. No drugs are compatible with maturing and brain development. Cocaine in any form is highly addictive and prescription drugs also. We don't need to make the dealers richer and the students dumber. Even if you get away with using for several years, eventually it catches up with you in broken marriages, angry behavior, and children continuing the cycle.

Anonymous said...

So OM students are a bunch of sniveling snitches. Sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

If this story ended by an 18 year old student smoking some Spice and dying, then everyone would be jumping up and down asking where the local narcotics detectives were. First time offender does not mean first time user/seller. Why would local police waste their time with a freshman who just rolled into town and bought a joint, sounds like they were focused on people who were the habitual local dealers in Oxford, which is what everyone expects local cops to focus on. And of course a local defense attorney is going to complain about the program when it provides an air-tight case for their client. If you want to smoke pot while you are in college, move to Colorado; if you want to roll the dice and possibly have a criminal record that will haunt you for the rest of your life, smoke pot while at a Mississippi college.

Anonymous said...

10:09 Keystone Kops over Jessica Chambers case? Duh. She was murdered in Panola County. This is about Lafayette County. And they dope does bad things to the brain. Yep. It does.

Ole Miss is the Substance Abuse capitol of Mississippi. SAE frat boy drags a cop to death on drugs and this defense attorney publishes an apology for druggies? Hmmm. Did a Northwest Rankin Coach run a family drug ring out of Ole Miss? How many more deaths and destroyed lives do we need to point out?

Or is this just free PR for the poor little 4some arrested recently?

Sick of paying for dopers and drinkers thievery destruction, free rehab, and endless whining and self pity.

Anonymous said...

This is a disgrace. Metro Nartotics should receive 0 funding next year.

Anonymous said...

"She was murdered in Panola County. This is about Lafayette County. "

Duh - the money for this comes from the State of Mississippi, not a single county. That is why I used the phrase "up there" when referring to the late Jessica Chambers. Panola, Lafayette - who cares? No one has solved this egregious crime - our money is being spent on more heinous crimes that "shock the conscience" - like possession of weed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe these "kids" could... oh, I don't know... not do drugs in the first place so they don't get in this situation? Nah, that's crazy talk. I forgot that EVERYBODY smokes a little weed now and then. Unless you're a loser, of course. See, it's all good if you burn a little when you live in Oxford, but don't you dare do it if you live in an Oxford House.

Anonymous said...

Nobody goes to prison for a first time possession of a joint. These kids need to ask for a lawyer at the first hint of exploitation. Somebody is going to get shot trying to play FBI.

Anonymous said...

these local task forces rarely arrest anybody other than consumers and set up people to make "buddy buys" that never target much of a "dealer". they aren't sophisticated enough or well enough trained to do much more than coerce kids into making recorded buys.

I've been a lawyer for 36 years and spent substantial time both prosecuting and defending criminal cases. You would think that with more educational opportunities, special training, better equipment, that law enforcement would have improved over the past 36 years. It hasn't, at least in northeast Mississippi and Metro Jackson areas where I have experience.

The drug units have never been effective at much more that a few headlines when they do a "roundup" which is a feel-good photo op event only. follow those cases to the final adjudications and very few do much time in jail. an LEO that spends much time as a narcotics officer usually winds up a pretty rotten excuse for an officer.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps law enforcement would be making better progress if gaggles of lawyers without any principles weren't disrupting their efforts

Anonymous said...

this is 3:36 again.

you are insane. I have defended LEOs charged with crimes and I have prosecuted LEOs charged with crimes. I know what I'm talking about. I doubt you do.

Law enforcement is always poised to run amok. As a prosecutor, I spent lots of time trying to explain to them why they couldn't simply break into homes without warrants, question people in custody without Miranda warnings, and currently importantly, why taking confessions off video/audio is a very bad idea in the age of everyone's phone being a recorder. Sure, defense attorneys are pretty much slimeballs, but its pot meet kettle most of the time.

Anonymous said...

OMG, this happened to a kid I know at Miss. State. First offender Kid 1 was busted by a friend, first offender Kid 2, because the narcs told Kid 2 it was his only way out. Drugs had been prescribed to Kid 1 for a shoulder injury, so he had no one to turn in to get himself a deal. Kid 1 had to quit college, and it cost his parents a lot of money. DA in Starkville is ruthless. Miss. State students need to check his record before making a decision to sell or use drugs.

Y'all Be Stretchin' said...

Cop dragged to death by SAE member? That was what, fifteen years ago?

Hydrocodone Henry said...

What, 8:10? Slow down and try to make sense. Are you suggesting that selling prescription medication is somehow an unfair hit by the PoPo? By that time, your friend, kid 1, was a dealer, albeit a rookie one.

Anonymous said...

If it were my kid, facing somebody dealing and exposing him to drugs, I would hope the police use any method possible to stop it. All this high-brow complaining about tactics is what causes problems. If there is such a known drug problem at Ole Dan Miss, then they should be trying everything to stop it. Period!

Anonymous said...

At 2:50, this is not the State Bureau of Narcotics. It is the local narcotics task force funded by the local city, the county, and the university. All of the dollars and jurisdiction are from and in Lafayette County.

Anonymous said...

Its a flawed system that so directly incentivizes an agency to increase/create arrests, especially when all they do is bully and make criminals out of 18 year olds pursuing higher education that bought small amounts of weed (which will be legal in 10 years). I for one would rather my tax dollars go to roads, teacher salaries, etc than imprisoning someone for this, or funding the absurd "war on drugs." How about a war on poor education or any of the multitude of need in MS. And Ole Miss paying for it? Ridiculous. Also, Oxford law enforcement is tough on this junk, but has ignored my friend who was forceably raped recently. She cant get them to care.

Anonymous said...

You wiiukd agree to your kid to be a snitch to stop the drug war? No professional training? Warlords know what they're doing and will mercilessly end your child's life if they caught wind. Let the professionals do their job. Now that I have seen 60 min on 12/6/2015 I am appalled!!! Our kids lives gone so this agency can make their money!!

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