Collateral Damage

Drug informant outrage


Earlier this year, police in Tallahassee, Florida, raided the home of college student Rachel Hoffman. Her friends say Hoffman was a bit of a hippie-ish free spirit, and they concede that she shared and sold small amounts of marijuana and ecstasy within her social circle. Hoffman was at the time undergoing compulsory drug treatment after another run-in with the police, in which they found 20+ grams of marijuana in her car during a traffic stop. The raid turned up another five ounces of marijuana, six ecstasy pills, and assorted pot-related paraphernalia.

The cops threatened Hoffman with prison time, then agreed to let her off easy if she'd become a police informant and set up a deal with her supplier. They never informed Hoffman's attorney or the state prosecutor of the arrangement. They wired Hoffman and asked her to arrange to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, cocaine, and a gun, a deal that would have run well over $10,000. Hoffman's friends and family report that all three purchases would also be drastically out of character for her—which means the dealers she was buying from were almost surely on to her.

Tallahassee police found Hoffman's body not long after. The first thing they did was call a press conference in which they blamed Hoffman for her own death, stating that the arrangement she made with the police was consistent with department protocol, and that she agreed to meet with the dealers in a different location than the one previously agreed upon.

After public outrage, the city is now walking that back a bit, and has asked Florida's attorney general to look into the Tallahassee Police Department's procedures for dealing with drug informants. In the meantime, add Hoffman's name to ever-growing list of non-violent, non-threatening Americans killed by the drug war.