Officers Easily Blend Into School Drug Scene!

Officers Easily Blend Into School Drug Scene!
Posted by FoM on June 03, 1999 at 12:20:13 PT
Undercover, they make 228 buys on L.A. campuses!
Source: LA Times
Over the last five months, undercover Los Angeles police officers have made more than 200 drug buys at area high schools, department officials said Wednesday.
Officers posing as students said they easily purchased marijuana, LSD and cocaine at a number of local campuses. The operation, they said, shows that drug use continues to plague the city's secondary schools.   For Officer Eric Eppolito, a slender, boyish-looking 23-year-old, the task of fitting in and buying drugs was fairly simple.   "You could buy [drugs] in the gym, in the bleachers, in the hallways, by the lockers," he said. "Any part of the school, you're going to find drugs. It's unfortunate."   Eppolito bought drugs from 57 people--mostly students--at University High School in West Los Angeles. He said there were occasions when students became suspicious of him, but he managed to deflect their concerns.   "Your job is to get them to think you're one them, that you want drugs," said Eppolito, who is going back to a patrol assignment. "I had to be an actor."   During his undercover assignment, Eppolito attended classes like the students. His teachers were unaware he was a police officer. He even did homework at times, but, like other undercover officers, was careful not to excel in class and blow his cover.   "We weren't on the honor roll," said Eppolito, wearing loose-fitting khaki pants and a white sweatshirt at a news conference about the operation, showing how he blended in on campus.   Undercover officers this year found that marijuana remains the drug of choice on campus. More than $20,000 worth of marijuana was seized during the operation, which involved 228 drug purchases. Of the 189 dealers identified by the undercover officers, 184 are students, and most of them are juveniles. Thirty suspects are alleged gang members, police said.   Capt. Kirk Albanese, the commanding officer of the Police Department's juvenile division, said officers started arresting suspects in April. Other arrests still are pending, and investigations are continuing in some cases.   For example, he said, a 16-year-old student accused of dealing drugs was found to have a gun at his house, which the student said was given to him for protection by the person who supplied him with the drugs. Police are searching for the supplier, Albanese said.   In a sign that drug use may be getting worse on campus, the officers this year found nearly twice as many dealers as they did last year over a similar time period. Among the schools targeted this year were Franklin High, Gardena High and North Hollywood High.   The so-called School Buy Program was established in 1974 and has proved to be an effective method of combating drug sales on and around the city's high school campuses, police said.   Twelve years ago, the program was mired in controversy when a female undercover officer allegedly maintained an "improper" romantic relationship with a Granada Hills High School football player, whom she later arrested. While some civil libertarians have challenged such undercover operations as a violation of the students' rights and privacy, the courts have upheld their legality. Some critics contend that undercover programs overly punish and stigmatize students, few of whom are serious drug dealers.   Police and school officials said that the undercover operations are just one of many tools--including educational programs--aimed at curbing drug use and sales on campus.   Albanese said he hopes the recent operation "sends a strong message" to students in every high school that the person "seated next to you, in front of you, or behind you in class may be a Los Angeles police officer."   Schools, he added, "are not a place for narcotics use or sale."
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: