It is impossible to determine how widespread this law enforcement tactic is, but the four recent cases reviewed by The New York Times raise troubling questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the way the Police Department uses undercover officers. Officers neither arrested nor pursued the dealers who sold the drugs to the addicts. Instead, the undercover officers waited around the corner or down the block for the addict to return with the drugs before other officers swooped in.
The department’s tactics and prosecutors’ pursuit of such cases have drawn criticism from defense lawyers and juries. In interviews — and, in one instance, in a letter to prosecutors — jurors have questioned why the police and prosecutors would so aggressively pursue troubled addicts. The 21-year-old man and the 55-year-old man were both acquitted of the felony charges.