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November 10, 2009

Posted by Alexandra Natapoff at 06:27 AM

Recruiting new informants

Here's a revealing article in the Buffalo News: Walking thin line in Village of Attica: Would-be informant says police coerced her into cooperation. It's about Bianca Hervey, a 20-year-old college student who got pulled over by police for failing to pay her traffic tickets. The police threatened to put her in jail for the night, unless she agreed to become a drug informant. Although Hervey did not use drugs or have any connections to the drug world, police told her it didn't matter--she could still work as a snitch and try to set people up. Frightened of going to jail, Hervey signed the informant agreement. When she told her father, attorney Richard Furlong, what had happened, however, he "went ballistic." Furlong went to the police and to the City of Attica and complained about the recruitment of young people into the world of drugs, but the police and the Village Board refused to change the policy.

This story illustrates how snitching has quietly become such an immense part of the criminal justice system. Many cities have policies like Attica's, in which police can recruit any potential offender as a drug informant--even a 20-year-old guilty of nothing more than a traffic violation. It was this same type of policy that led to the death of 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman in Tallahassee, Florida, and triggered Florida's ground breaking legislation on the subject of informant-creation. See post: Florida's "Rachel's Law" offers some protections for informants.

Comments

This policy allows a state sponsored institutionalized threat to potentially endanger the lives of individuals that may or may not be in violation of minor misdemeanors. This reprehensible policy should be attacked by community leaders. It should be challenged on the basis that law enforcement should not be allowed to coercively enlist otherwise law abiding citizens in their so-called war on drugs; especially, in a capacity that could endanger their lives.

A jailhouse snitch was used and coherced to framr billy scott for a murder he did not commit and an eye witness was coherced the same way. it is a terrible injustice to all families concerned and thier snitch was a real killer. billy needs to go home after almost 18 years being wrongfully imprisoned and his parents near broke after 18 years of investigations to prove his innocence, now we just need an honest justice system to bring him to real justice

I was surprised by the follow up story, where they did recruit another young man who also had no history of drugs, and had a similar unpaid ticket. He however was not that lucky.

The drug war has turned America into a nation of informants. Where everyone watches and reports on everyone else, guilty or not.

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Snitching by Alexandra Natapoff A Barnes & Noble Best Pick of 2009

2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books
2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award
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