Earlier this year, police in Tallahassee, Florida raided the home of college student Rachel Hoffman, who friends say was a bit of a hippie-ish free spirit, and concede that she shared and sold small amounts of marijuana and MDMA within her social circle. Hoffman was at the time undergoing state-forced drug treatment after police found 20+ grams of marijuana in her car during a traffic stop. The raid turned up another five ounces of marijuana, plus six ecstasy pills and assorted pot-related paraphernalia.
From this, Tallahassee police apparently 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 ten thousand dollars. Hoffman’s friends and family have told me that all three purchases would also have been 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 last week.
It should be noted that these kinds of tragedies aren’t uncommon in many inner-city African Americans neighborhoods, but this might be what it takes takes to raise some serious questions about the drug war, and specifically police use of informants in that war.