The saying "snitches get stitches" comes up just short when it's applied to college students working as drug informants. In many of those cases snitches get more than stitches—they get killed. The flawed judicial system that persecutes low-level drug offenses—the likes of which Barack Obama has forgiven now on two separate occasions—more than the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old unarmed boy at the hands of a police officer is one of the factors which leads college students to become reluctant informants. But to blame the system alone would be foolish, so here's more on how that exactly happens, in Alabama at least.
AL.com did an extensive report, interviewing former informants, about the whole practice which law enforcement is said to get criticized for because of its legal and ethical issues. One of the informants just identified as "Ryan" a University of Alabama student told AL.com how one day police searched his apartment eventually finding marijuana and marijuana pipes after a drug informant—a friend of Ryan's who also went to UA had told police he was a drug dealer. "It was a lot of threats, just trying to scare me, and I was 19 at the time and I had never even had a speeding ticket," Ryan told AL.com saying police handcuffed him to his dining room table at his off-campus Tuscaloosa house. "They were yelling at me and saying if I didn't help them they were going to screw me and my friends over. I had to get, like, four or five people for them," said Ryan. And so he became an informant in order to not be arrested.
The executive director of the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy Betty Aldworth explained how students like Ryan are easily swayed because of intimidation tactics like the ones mentioned above. Moreover, Aldworth says students feel forced to cooperate because they aren't informed. "The problem is that when they are in that situation, they don't understand that they have a right to a lawyer, that they don't have to talk to police – whether or not they are under arrest," Aldworth told AL.com. "The entire confidential informant system is broken in that sense, and especially when it comes to young people, because police assume, often correctly, that young people are going to be too terrified to assert their rights, if they even know them in the first place."
But law enforcement officials think having drug informants is necessary to control widespread drug abuse on college campuses like this one and elsewhere. In fact Lt. Teena Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Tuscaloosa Police Department AL.com was redirected to after Capt. Wayne Robertson the commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force declined an interview said: "We don't tell how our informant program works. Confidential informants are essential to investigations to obtain information that can't be obtained anywhere else...Even the information that comes from a confidential informant, you still have to verify and confirm that the information is reliable."
Informants are forced to go undercover and buy drugs among doing other things to gather information for police. Ryan told AL.com police ordered him to buy marijuana from people, wiring him and following him around to drug deals. Police would then use evidence, like audio recordings, against sellers. These informants are said to be paid AL.com reports citing documents it obtained that stated the task force used $50,000 "to pay confidential informants and execute controlled drug deals in pursuit of drug investigations in 2014."
Ryan told AL.com he regrets ever becoming a snitch. "I hated doing it. It's not me. I wouldn't do it again," said Ryan. "It's not worth all the s***. I'd rather have to get my record cleared and pay a fine and get in trouble than do all that."
Per AL.com New Jersey and Florida have laws in place that prohibit the use of these young, untrained, uninformed police informants. According to AL.com U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen is trying to get these laws on a national level. Read the rest of the AL.com story here.