Levi Pulkkinen reports:
Thirteen teens associated with Redmond High School are facing drug charges after a long-running undercover operation involving a police officer posing as a student.
In charging documents filed earlier this week in King County Juvenile Court, investigators describe the months-long operation that saw a Redmond police detective enroll in the high school and buy drugs from students there.
Enrolled as a senior in August 2009, the detective described herself as a transfer student who’d recently moved to Redmond from California. She attended classes, ate lunch at the school and lived as a high school student until 11 students were arrested in February.
According to charging documents, the undercover officer was able to buy a wide variety of illicit drugs at the suburban high school, including ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
Investigations like these are upsetting to me on a number of levels. For starters, if there are 13 different students dealing drugs at your suburban high school, arresting those students will – at best – provide a short window of time where those drugs are hard to obtain. In other words, if there’s enough commerce going on that it requires 13 different drug dealers to satisfy the demand, other sellers will quickly fill that void.
That said, I don’t really believe that there were 13 separate drug dealers supplying the students of Redmond High with drugs. What often happens in investigations like this one is the following scenario:
The female undercover officer enrolls in the school with the intent to seek out the “dealers”. With a little effort, she’s able to locate students who are occasional drug users. She then approaches a 16-year-old boy who perhaps some other students have told her smokes pot. This kid isn’t a drug dealer, but he knows the people who are. The undercover officer approaches him about acquiring drugs, asking “hey, do you know where I can buy drugs?” The 16-year-old, who thinks this new girl from California is kind of cute and now thinks she also likes to smoke pot, wants to impress her and decides to be the middleman himself. He visits someone he knows he can get some drugs from, buys them and brings it to her. He’s now a potential felon.
Without knowing any of the details of the cases against these 13 young people, no one other than the accused themselves has any idea how many would fit the profile I gave, but I have trouble believing that this one undercover cop managed to bring down over a dozen truly dangerous drug dealers in a single high school. Yes, drugs are widespread in our high schools, whether they’re in the city or out in the wealthy suburbs. But for the student in the scenario I gave, while his parents should rightfully be upset that he’s able to find drugs in high school, getting arrested will be far more detrimental to his prospects in life than the drugs were.
As a parent myself, this weighs heavily on my mind. I’m not happy about the fact that it’s so easy to get drugs in our schools (and it’s the main reason why I fight for regulated sales of softer drugs like marijuana and ecstasy – so that they can be as hard to obtain as alcohol), but sending in undercover officers to entrap at-risk teenage boys is not the right solution. In fact, it generally ends up being more of a threat to young people than a benefit.