UPDATE: UMass Police Department and Student Affairs officials to conduct review of confidential informant policy

By Aviva Luttrell

(Stephen Treat/Daily Collegian)
(Stephen Treat/Daily Collegian)

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 12:40 a.m.

The University of Massachusetts Police Department and Student Affairs officials will conduct a review of the University’s confidential informant policy to determine whether informants in drug cases should be required to receive a mandatory referral to an addiction specialist, according to a University statement released Sunday night.

The statement comes in response to a Boston Globe story published Sunday morning about a UMass student and campus police informant who died of a heroin overdose in his off-campus apartment last October. He was a junior.

According to the Globe, the student had been caught selling LSD and the club drug Molly a year before his death. Police also seized a hypodermic needle during the bust. However, instead of informing the student’s parents and suspending him, UMPD offered to keep the offense a secret if the student became a confidential informant, according to the Globe.

The story raised questions about whether the University did enough to help the student who was struggling with addiction, and whether officials failed to recognize a heroin problem on campus.

“The death of a UMass Amherst student following a drug overdose last year, as reported in the Boston Globe, was a terrible loss for his family, friends and the UMass Amherst community,” the statement said. “In the case reported by the Boston Globe, UMass Amherst reached out to the student on two occasions to offer resources and assistance, keeping in mind the university’s legal obligation to respect the privacy of students who are legally adults. However, the student decided not to seek assistance. He successfully concealed his use of heroin from a wide variety of people.”

In an updated statement Monday night, the University said it learned for the first time from the Globe that the person who allegedly sold heroin to the deceased student reportedly still attends UMass. The Amherst Police Department has jurisdiction over the off-campus apartment where the student died, according to the statement, and the University received no information indicating that the alleged dealer was a UMass student after a follow-up investigation.

However, UMPD requested an update on the investigation from APD Monday to determine the accuracy of the report in order to “take prompt and appropriate action as needed,” according to the statement.

The statement said the confidential informant review is in preparation for a scheduled police accreditation review within the upcoming year. The University’s current policy meets the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies standard. According to Monday’s statement, the review will include input from students. Officials will also consider whether parents should be notified when their student becomes a confidential informant.

“The assessment will help determine whether the confidential informant program can operate successfully with a mandatory referral to an addiction specialist, providing an intervention for a student in need while maintaining a program that deters distribution of illegal, lethal drugs,” the statement said.

According to the University’s statement, confidential informants are only used when it is believed that such informants can lead to the apprehension of a major drug dealer who poses a threat to students, especially in residence halls. Currently, there are no active confidential informants working with UMPD.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell.