UMass Amherst Ends Controversial Confidential Student Informant Program

UMass Amherst announced the decision to end the hotly debated program that uses the university’s students as confidential informants to aid campus police in investigations on campus.

The program’s end comes after a nearly three month long review by a team of 11 people from the campus and is effective immediately, according the announcement on the Umass Amherst website.

“After careful consideration, I’ve concluded that enlisting our students as confidential informants is fundamentally inconsistent with out core values,” Subbaswamy said in a press release. “Building trust, sharing common goals and demonstrating compassion in a safe and care environment creates the foundation for a vibrant educational community. Through this process, we have determined that our Police Department and Student Affairs division can employ other approaches as it continues to combat illegal drug use, possession and sales and protect the members of our campus.”

The report drafted by the review group reports that campus police have consistently used confidential student informants in drug cases for a long time with almost half of the arrests made for drugs in the last 18 months involving cases where informants were used.

The program came under intense criticism after the 2013 death of one student informant who overdosed on heroin in his apartment. The student became an informant to stay out of trouble when caught with drugs, but his family was never informed of his substance abuse and he never received any treatment for his addiction as a result.

Chancellor Subbaswamy went the extra mile and consulted Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard Leone. Leone practices law with Nixon Peabody LLP and has an extensive amount of experience prosecuting cases involving drugs and various other cases at some of the 26 surrounding colleges.

His impressions of the situation is, “Our strong present and ultimate conclusion and recommendation is that UMass Amherst discontinue the present practice of [UMPD] officers handling and using students as confidential informants.”

Leone also says, “Our conclusion and recommendations take into account a suggested more global approach to how UMass Amherst will handle student drug issues on its campus.”

The report says, “It should be emphasized that if UMass Amherst were to end use of this particular law enforcement tool – the confidential informant program – it would not be ending the anti-drug activities of either UMPD or other offices on campus. UMPD would continue to enforce drug laws, and the Dean of Students Office and the BASICS program in particular would continue their own anti-drug efforts.”

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