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.