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BuzzFeed News Reports on Metro Narcotics Using University of Mississippi Students

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Two investigative reporters at BuzzFeed News wrote a 4,266-word news article on Lafayette County Metro Narcotics’ use of collegiate confidential informants.

Albert Samaha and Alex Campbell reported that the four-person Lafayette County Metro Narcotics team average around 30 CIs, many of them college students. Half of those CIs were first-time offenders arrested last year, three times more likely booked on marijuana charges. When the federal funding shrank for that team, local institutions stepped in to keep the unit operative. University of Mississippi was named in this article as one of the monetary supporters.

Here is a passage from the article:

Within the last decade, the state’s Department of Public Safety shifted away from funding narcotics task forces and more toward rehabilitative programs. In 2009, Metro Narcotics’ allotment began to shrink. Last year, the unit received $54,000. This year, it received nothing. “Funding was not available for drug units after 2014,” said Tim Wilkinson, program manager at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s planning division. At least two drug task forces disbanded when the funding went away, he said.

So Metro Narcotics turned to the local institutions for funding. When the unit was receiving federal grant money, the county, city, and university chipped in a 25% local match, around $20,000 each in the years of peak funding. This year, Oxford, Lafayette County, and Ole Miss each provided $100,000, which in all covered nearly three-fourths of the unit’s current $425,000 budget.

“We have one of the best relationships you’re gonna find with the three [local law enforcement] departments,” said Danny Blanton, Ole Miss’ communications director. “If an investigation occurred that involved students, [local authorities] always let the university police department know and bring them to the table.”

Blanton said he had never heard anything about confidential informants on campus. “I’d be very surprised if that was an issue at the University of Mississippi.”

And yet the university has continued to help bankroll the unit that has turned many of its students into confidential informants.

“If Ole Miss doesn’t know, it’s because they’re willfully blind and they don’t want to know,” said one local defense attorney, who, like several other defense attorneys BuzzFeed News spoke to, requested anonymity to protect his clients from any bias by police and prosecutors. “They’re funding it. They’re part of the reason their students are in this situation. But you think they want parents to know about this? Hell no.”

The rest of the article can be read at BuzzFeed.

Callie Daniels is a staff reporter. She can be contacted at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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