Google Search Ends Kan. Undercover Operation

Feb. 15, 2013
A 22-year-old Concordia police officer posing as a senior at Concordia High School was reportedly found out after someone googled him, authorities reported.

Feb. 14--CONCORDIA -- A 22-year-old Concordia police officer spent nearly a month posing as a senior at Concordia High School while collecting information on drug trafficking, Principal Quentin Breese said Wednesday.

"I can say there was a lot of information gathered," he said.

While he didn't release any names, Breese said, "There will be some consequences for some of the students, for some of the drug issues."

Those included "issues" that occurred on the school campus, he said, and others that took place within 1,000 feet of a school.

Officer Levi Herring enrolled as a part-time student under the assumed name of Tom Anderson, a member of the senior class. He was on campus from Jan. 7 through Feb. 6, Breese said.

Breese said that in visiting with police after Herring was removed from school, it was apparent that he'd been found out.

"We were told by the police department that it involved security being breached because somebody Googled him," Breese said of the reason the operation ended.

Students and staff also were informed of the undercover operation Feb. 7.

In a statement released Feb. 7 to Concordia media, Concordia School District officials wrote that the undercover operation was hatched a year ago when the police department invited school officials to be part of placing an officer in the high school "to collect information regarding drug traffic with a goal to identify local sources of drugs in the community."

With or without you

When school officials learned that the operation would take place with or without their permission, "We chose to be an active partner in the undercover operation," the statement reads.

"Our goal in the joint effort was to make our school safer for our students and staff," Breese said.

The district has one school police officer to cover three schools and an alternative learning center, Superintendent Bev Mortimer said.

"We saw this as an opportunity to increase the security in our high school," she said. "We realized it was going to be a temporary situation. There was no set time period for this operation."

Mortimer said the district had the power to stop the undercover work.

There is drug activity

Only Breese, Mortimer and Bryce Wachs, assistant high school principal, knew of the operation, Breese said.

"We know there is drug activity. The site council has talked about it. Parents have talked about it," he said.

Keeping Herring's identity secret was not easy for Breese.

"I try to keep a pretty transparent building with many of the decisions," he said. "It was difficult to keep that information from the staff."

Those in the know at the high school "kept a pretty close eye on Mr. Anderson (Herring)," Breese said. "He was just an active participant during school days, during lunch time. I didn't see him at any activities."

Didn't care for him

Senior Angelica Mares, 18, said she remembered that the student -- who she now knows is an officer -- once attended a state government class with her during the first hour of school, but she said they never spoke.

"He showed up one day. I saw him around the school, but he never showed up to the first-hour class again," Mares said.

Some students didn't care for Herring/Anderson.

"One of the kids wanted to punch him and beat him down," Mares said. "He just was, like, staring at them. He was trying to talk to them and find out stuff, I guess."

Herring's enrollment fees and other costs "were handled internally," Breese said.

The chief's problems

The undercover operation ended on the same day that a protection from stalking order was filed in Cloud County District Court against Concordia Police Chief Chris Edin.

A Concordia radio station reported Wednesday that Edin had resigned, attributing that information to City Manager Larry Uri. Neither Uri nor police department officials could be reached by the Journal.

"I can't comment on whether the chief's issues caused (Herring) to be pulled out," Breese said.

'21 Jump Street'

Mares said students were comparing the fake student to the 2012 movie "21 Jump Street," starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

They play "underachieving cops that are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring," according to the Internet Movie Database.

"I think the teachers are more shocked than we were," Mares said.

-- Reporter Tim Unruh can be reached at 822-1419 or by email at [email protected].

Copyright 2013 - The Salina Journal, Kan.

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