Isaiah Wall was 19 and, according to his friends and his phone, working as a police informant. He was killed by a gunshot to his head. The Idaho State Police have not acknowledged whether he was working for them, or whether his death was related to his undercover activities. Here is the ongoing investigation: Unfinished Business.
Families & Youth
Rachel Hoffman was a young informant who was killed in 2008. Her parents’ activism and lobbying led to the passage of Rachel’s Law in Florida, which created new, more thoughtful police guidelines for handling informants. Rachel’s mother, Margie Weiss, has remained a vocal activist and educator on the issue of informant reform. As she put it, “[s]cared kids get talked into assisting the police department or some law enforcement agency for some smaller crime, and then gets sent into a much larger, much more dangerous situation. Initially my daughter was arrested for having less than an ounce of pot…and she received a death sentence.” Here is the interview with her: How One Mother Turned Tragedy Into Triumph: The Rachel Morningstar Hoffman Story.
This Buzzfeed article– Welcome to America–Now Spy on Your Friends — describes how the FBI routinely interferes with the immigration process in order to exert pressure on immigrants from Muslim countries to provide information. As the article puts it, “[w]hen Muslim immigrants apply to become citizens, they often find the process delayed for years without explanation. Then, when they are at wit’s end, they get a visit from the FBI, with an offer they don’t dare refuse.”
See also this 2013 ACLU report, Muslims Need Not Apply.
On Sunday, 60 Minutes ran this segment entitled “Young people going undercover in war on drugs.” The story covered several examples that have been in the news, including the recent Buzzfeed investigation into the student informant program at Ole Miss, the death of college student Andrew Sadek in North Dakota, and the death of Rachel Hoffman in Florida. More examples are here. For a thorough look at the ways that young informants are pressured and used, read the New Yorker article The Throwaways.
BuzzFeed has been running a revealing investigation into how police–including campus police at Ole Miss–in Oxford, Mississippi have been pressuring students and college-age residents into becoming informants. Here are links to the most recent articles:
How Mississippi Discovered The Drug War’s “Golden Egg” (April 20, 2015): A small-town narcotics unit has built a team of confidential informants by arresting low-level-offender college students and pressuring them to flip.
How Mississippi Cops Threaten College-Age Kids Into Becoming Informants (Oct. 1, 2015): A recording of two officers from Oxford, Mississippi’s Metro Narcotics unit sheds light on how the unit pressures college-age suspects into becoming informants.
“[E]ach year Metro Narcotics enlists an average of 30 informants, most of whom have little connection to the drug scene other than as low-level buyers. Around half of the 240 or so people arrested by Metro Narcotics in 2014 were first-time offenders, and the unit made three times as many arrests for marijuana as for any other drug. To get these young men and women to cooperate, the unit’s four agents often threaten them with prison sentences or a life-long drug record.”