Several narcotics officers impersonated students in a California high school for the entire fall semester of classes — a sting operation that led to the arrests of two dozen kids whose friends are now worried that everyone in the schools are actually undercover cops.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department made the arrests last week after officers spent months inside classes at Perris High School and Paloma Valley High School, making friends with students suspected of illegal drug activity, according to local news.
Some 23 juveniles were arrested for possessing or selling marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, hashish and prescription pills. Two other students over the age of 18 were also arrested.
The sting operation bears a striking resemblance to the plot of former TV show and recent movie “21 Jump Street,” which also featured undercover cops trying to out drug dealers by posing as high school kids.
What happened at Perris and Paloma were very real, however–and if students have learned any lesson, it’s never to trust anyone.
“You think you can trust people – you just never know,” said one student, Bruce Hollen, in a statement to The Press-Enterprise.
Another student called the arrest of one of her close friends, “scary.”
District Superintendent Jonathan Greenberg was an enthusiastic supporter of the sting operation, and had given the go-ahead when asked by police some months ago. He characterized the operation as an “opportunity.”
“We didn’t hesitate to jump aboard,” he said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Greenberg told The Daily Caller that undercover drug operations are an important tool for curbing drug abuse in schools.
“Having undercover officers from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department posing as students is one more way of dissuading students from bringing drugs to school,” he said in an email. “If the undercover program keeps some students from buying and falling prey to the horrors of drug addiction, then our efforts have been successful.”
Not everyone is so thrilled with police efforts to dupe impressionable young people. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance called undercover operations like this one “sick.”
“More often than not the drug war is ruining young people’s lives and doing much more harm than good,” he said in an interview, according to The Huffington Post.
At least this time, it seems no autistic kids were entrapped by police. Last year, Riverside police conducted undercover sting operations in three other county high schools, eventually arresting 22 students. But the parents of one of those students said their autistic son was tricked into procuring drugs by an undercover police officer posing as the boy’s first and only friend. They have sued, alleging that their son was emotionally damaged and will forever have trust issues.