Riverside County cops — the same guys responsible for
tricking an autistic teenager into buying marijuana as part of a
drug sting last year — are back on high school campuses.
Apparently undeterred by
firestorm surrounding last year’s arrests and a
lawsuit charging the department with negligence, the Riverside
County Sherriff’s Department of Riverside County, Calif., has
decided to continue its controversial undercover drug investigation
program. Under this program, officers spend their days in local
high schools pretending to be students. Over a semester, the
officers try to build their underaged “classmates'” trust, then
arrange drug deals with a few dozen students and ultimately arrest
On Dec. 12, officers arrested 25 students from Perris and Paloma
High Schools for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including
cocaine, prescription pills, and marijuana. According to Lieutenant
Paul Bennett, most of the drug buys were for small
amounts of marijuana.
Students say the officers walked into classrooms with photos of
the teen suspects and handcuffed them in front of their peers.
Twenty-three of the suspects are juveniles and two are 18 or
According to several students who were interviewed
by the Press Enterprise, the scene was “scary” and
made them suspicious of their peers and teachers. “You think you
can trust people – you just never know,” Bruce Hollen, 16,
The investigation was carried out with enthusiastic support from
Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of the Perris Union High School
From the Press
Greenberg said he had no reservations.
“It was a question of what we could do to assist [the
officers],” he said.
“This is a very well-researched program,” he added. “The people
in it are all professionals.”
Greenberg said there were only three district officials who knew
about the investigation. No one on the two campuses was told. He
said he informed school board members Wednesday night [the night
before the arrests].
Unlike last year’s arrests though, Lt. Bennett clarified that no
autistic or learning-disabled teens were arrested; only “mainstream
students” in general classes were. Bennett said the deputies
selected to go undercover this year had received additional
training about dealing with developmentally disabled students.
The Los Angeles Police Department pioneered undercover high
school drug stings decades ago but
discontinued the program in 2005 when school officials
noticed eerily similar patterns to now: Special needs kids were
increasingly getting busted and police typically found small
amounts of pot.
Despite objections from parents,
drug policy reform groups that the program is ineffective,
“sick”, and emotionally damaging to teens, the Riverside County
Sheriff’s Department stands by it. From the department’s press
release announcing the arrest of the teens:
One of the goals of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s
Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) is to maintain a drug-free
living environment for the community. Because our neighborhood
children are the future, our objective is to keep children
productive and drug-free and provide a safe learning
The underage students were taken to a juvenile detention hall
while the two adults, 18-year-old Serina Ramirez and 19-year-old
Erick De La Cruz, were taken to a detention center.
Watch a Reason TV video on Riverside County cops tricking an
autistic teen into buying pot:
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/16/riverside-cops-pretend-to-be-high-school