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Attica police officer accused of trying to drag GCC student into undercover work

By Howard B. Owens

Bianca Hervey, a 20-year-old student at GCC and former Batavia resident, was put in an awkward, and potentially dangerous, situation by the Attica Police Department recently, according to the Buffalo News.

Hervey, who's only apparent criminal record is a traffic ticket or two, and who was not known to police as a drug user, was apparently coerced into becoming a snitch -- going undercover to help catch drug dealers.

Now, there is little disagreement that illegal drug dealing is a bad thing, but the News rightly editorializes against the Village of Attica Police Department for employing tactics that sound much like those used by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police.

... the apparent drafting of a neophyte drug informant is not only cruel behavior, it is astoundingly bad police work. If the relevant officials are unwilling to strongly renounce what could have been an anomalous misstep in an otherwise professionally run operation, then their own professional judgment must be called into serious question.

The idea that law enforcement officers chasing drug dealers can do absolutely anything they want is itself a kind of drug, one that is as addictive and as destructive of society as any amount of heroin or cocaine.

Hervey was saved the fate of entering an underground world she knows nothing about because her attorney father was able to intervene, but the News reports an unnamed young man was not so fortunate, and now he fears for his safety.

Officer Christopher Graham, who is also the officer accused of trying to recruit Hervey into undercover work, reportedly told the young man that the minor charges against him could keep him out of the military. He offered the youth a way out -- help catch a drug dealer. The young man followed through, according to the News, but when the police asked him to get involved in a second drug deal, the informant refused to cooperate. A short time later, he was arrested for failure to appear on the original charges.

Informants are used by law enforcement all the time. It was an informant that helped local law enforcement break up an apparent meth ring here in Genesee County last week. But reliable informants are usually people who step forward on their own because they know something, or are people recruited from the drug world they already know. 

It seems to smack of incredibly poor judgment and an abuse of power to try and recruit informants from among young people who have little experience either in the drug world or in dealing with the criminal justice system. We trust our local law enforcement officers use better judgment.

Karen Miconi

I'm curious what the young girls family has to say about this. I also wonder if the officer considered what would happen, if the girl was hurt, or god forbid, killed. I also wonder if the officer has been suspended, or taken off the streets for now, until this is resolved. If he did this to one of my girls, he would surely suffer a mother's wrath.

Nov 18, 2009, 12:53pm Permalink
Robert Tretter

A friend of mines kid was also approached and the police officer tried to coerce him into doing the exact same thing until my friend, the father, found out and intervened. From what I'v heard the board has been approached and they are all for it. A while back on the news somewhere else this was done and the police lost track of the individual who they convinced to do it and was found dead later. Very scary for a parent. Lucky the kid told his parents.

Nov 18, 2009, 11:54am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Tangentially related ... got a link to this video this morning about how being a drug dealer, it turns out, is the worst job in the world.

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Nov 18, 2009, 12:11pm Permalink
William Buckley

I have to agree as well, knowing my local PD (Irondequoit, suburb of Rochester) fairly well and how certain things are supposed to be handled, this is ridiculous and unacceptable for an officer or department to do (based on information available so far). The worst part is the quotes in the Buffalo News article which make it sound as though the Attica PD Chief is in full support of this tactic. This is one case where I'm not likely to back up the actions of the office or department any time soon, though I would find it interesting to see what the department has to say beyond the quotes from Smith.

Nov 18, 2009, 1:21pm Permalink
Bruce Wiseley

Does anyone on this site think that this story might be a little too one-sided? If this story stands as reported, then I agree, but I wonder if there are any other facts regarding this young lady, that her "Attorney" Father might be protecting? Afterall, he is an ATTORNEY, and they never dance around the truth, now do they! I have a sneaky feeling the young lady is more involved that she's willing to admit, and as any Parent would do, the Father is acting out of Paternal emotions.

Nov 18, 2009, 1:56pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

I've been holding back my comment on this all day, but the more I think about it, the more it disgusts me. The Attica Police Department and Town Board should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

The very idea of taking a non-drug affiliated misdemeanor offender and injecting them into a violent and dangerous sub-culture of dealers and users is simply unconscionable. People get killed over this crap...KILLED!!!

The language I would need to use to properly dress down this officer, his Chief and the Attica Town Board isn't allowed on this site, so let me say this:

Officer Graham and Chief Smith, your department is has made a mockery of itself and its mission. Turn in your badges and go to work somewhere where it's impossible for you to do any more damage to your community. I could be persuaded recommend you for a toilet scrubbing job in the fast food industry if you ask nicely.

To the Attica Town Board:

Government exists to protect its citizens. By allowing your Keystone Cops to put non-violent offenders in harm's way, you have failed in your appointed task and your entire legislative body should be saddened at the loss of its dignity. Retire in shame, you disgust me.

Nov 18, 2009, 2:10pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

Bruce, I don't blame you for having doubts, but if you read about the other recent occurence involving a young man who was enlisting in the military you'll probably start to see teh pattern here.

I have a real concern that there are other citizens with overdue traffic tickets who are too deeply involved in this compulsory snitching fiasco that they can't come out with it for fear of their safety.

If someone gets hurt because of this there's going to be hell to pay.

Nov 18, 2009, 2:22pm Permalink
Bruce Wiseley

Hey Chris, Like I stated before, if this is the whole and complete story, than they should be ashamed. Maybe these small town cops have been watching too much TV, but my radar was still alarmed when I read that the only info was coming from the kids involved, and the attorney Father. Hopefully we get the accurate story, but I doubt it. Between the "Main-stream Media", a lawyer, and the police, there will be enough BS to go around!?

Nov 18, 2009, 4:21pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

I read in The Buffalo News when this first came out that the chief is a retired Buffalo Police officer and is employing tactics he learned there.

Nov 18, 2009, 4:47pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Bruce, it's not like the Attica Police are in full denial mode. There is plenty of leeway in open records laws and such to fully explain themselves and even deny it and show why the accusations are false. This has been in the news a week now and I don't see the chief falling all over himself to cast any sort of doubt on the story. So what doesn't smell right is the scent of the PD not proclaiming the story to be false.

Nov 18, 2009, 6:33pm Permalink
Bruce Wiseley

I think that the Attica Police have stepped on their collective ..., and now they are tap dancing. Thanks guys for the feed-back.

Nov 19, 2009, 8:55am Permalink
Bob Harker

You compounded the GCC student's dilemma 10 fold when you published her name. What the hell were you thinking?!?!?! I'm a full time student at GCC (at 54 years old) and everybody is talking.

You did a disservice to this young lady. You did a disservice to this community. You did a disservice to journalism. And you severely harmed your reputation and your endeavour to publish news as opposed to being a gossip column. The Batavian is already being referred to as a blog.

Yes, the gossip abounds at GCC due to your article. At the same time, we are "circling the wagons".

I think a public apology by you is not just appropriate, but neccesary.

Given the fact that this young lady's father is an attorney, you may very well risk more than my lowered opinion of your journalistic abilities.

Bob Harker

Nov 19, 2009, 3:54pm Permalink
Rita Kautz

I am hoping this comment area will remain accessible through tomorrow when I will have time to comment on the police problem in Attica. There is an entire "other" scene besides drug chasing. We have a great police department when it comes to service to accident victims, elderly medical patients, ambulance and fire service etc. BUT: as for being stopped for "traffic violatons", it's a whole 'nother world over here. The traffic stops lead to other events. I am clueless as to what Bob Harker is talking about. The Batavian merely commented on what had already been exposed by journalists in the Buffalo News for 2 successive Sundays (front page) plus an editorial last week. The links included in the Batavian's article took you to what had already been published. The Batavian's journalistic abilities are just fine. I hope they will print what was said by Bianca Hervey at the Attica Village board meeting last night. We need more exposure of this problem in this village.
KaitlynK, Attica, NY

Nov 19, 2009, 4:17pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Bob Harker also e-mailed me. Here's my reply to him:

Bob, I can only guess that you're talking about the story involving Bianca Hervey.

You'll note that I got the story from the Buffalo News, which reported her name and her dad's name and the fact that she used to live in Batavia and is a student at GCC. The Buffalo News reported that first. Not once, but three times, and twice with a picture of her and her father.

Think about that -- the only way the Buffalo News got the story is because HER FATHER CALLED THE PAPER. And you're yelling at me about it? Her father called the paper, agreed to an interview for himself and her, and consented to a picture, with her in it -- and you're yelling at me? Even if he didn't call, he certainly could have kept the story out of the paper if he wanted. There's no public record of this. The only way the BN gets the story is with her and his cooperation.

For the record, the Buffalo News has a daily circulation of 181,000. We reach about 40,000 people in a month. What do you think motivated her father to call the most read newspaper in the region instead of the smaller Batavia Daily News or The Batavian?

Further, the Daily News had a story today about Bianca Hervey attending a PUBLIC MEETING last night, after our story that supposedly embarrassed her so much was already out (not her father, but her) and talked OPENLY about the issue.

I have nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of. That's a ridiculous notion.

As for calling the site a blog, thanks for the compliment. We've always called ourselves a blog. It's a term of honor for what we're trying to do journalisticly -- Ironically, I'm at Bloomsburg University at the moment, where I was invited by the Society of Professional Journalists to talk about "reinventing journalism." It's all about blogging.

Nov 19, 2009, 5:15pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Bob Harker needs to look at all the facts before he goes blasting Howard ..Did he call the Buffalo news and bitch..did he call the daily and bitch..this women wants to get the word out of this kind of behavior by the Attica police dept..Go circle the wagons Bob..just make sure your in the center so noone can hear you bitch...who do you know on the Attica PD or town board..If it was my child i would be pissed off..I would want heads to roll..Staring with that cop...I hope the people of Attica ask for this man to leave...Remember it could be your child next..

Nov 19, 2009, 7:12pm Permalink
bud prevost

Bob Harker- if anyone owes anyone an apology, it's you to Howard. Man up and do what's right. Admit you spouted off without knowing all the facts, and it will be water under the bridge. Turning into a blog...priceless

Nov 19, 2009, 8:19pm Permalink
Bea McManis

Bud, I agree. An apology is in order.
One nice thing about blogging is that there is redemption. We have all apologized at one time or another either to Howard or each other.
Stand up, Harker. You were out of line.

Nov 19, 2009, 8:25pm Permalink
Beth Kinsley

This all reminds me of a story that took place in LeRoy 15 or so years ago. There was a guy who was pretty much a low level drug user/dealer. Not really a dealer but if he could get something for someone and shave a little off for himself or overcharge, he wouldn't hesitate. He voluntarily started working for the NYS police as an undercover informant and they paid him a little for his work. He eventually decided he no longer wanted to be an informant but one state trooper in particular wasn't about to let that happen. He threatened him that if he didn't continue, they were going to blow his cover. When he refused, they did just that. I don't recall all of the particulars of how they did that but I think the protocol was for the narc to introduce the drug dealer to an undercover officer who would in turn introduce the dealer to another undercover officer so that the narc was somewhat removed from the situation when the bust went down. What the trooper did was cut out the middle guy and when the narc introduced the undercover officer to the dealer and a sale was made, the dealer was busted so he knew exactly who set him up. The narc did eventually get a good old fashioned butt kicking from one of the dealers that he set up.

But the story gets better. The narc was related to a high level local law enforcement officer who testified in the eventual civil suit that he didn't care for him much. Even though he wasn't fond of him, he felt that what the trooper was doing by threatening the informant to make him continue working for them was illegal and he began to tape phone conversations between the trooper and the informant. Eventually the informant sued the NYS Police for putting his life in danger and purposely blowing his cover but he was unsuccessful. The judge stated, more or less, (I tried to find the decision online but couldn't) that informant are pretty much scum and that law enforcement could use whatever tactics were necessary since they were dealing with criminals who were less than honorable. I was working in a local law office at the time and my boss was kind enough to let me sit in on part of the trial. I saw the informant's relative who taped the phone conversations testify. He was very well respected in the community and I thought he was very brave for turning on "his own" because it was the right thing to do.

There is a huge difference between that case and the instant case. Ms. Hervey isn't a drug user or drug dealer and her charges were relatively minor. The Attica Police Department should be ashamed of themselves. I applaud Ms. Hervey and her father for making this public. Hopefully it will make the police dept. take a closer look at their procedures.

Nov 19, 2009, 9:44pm Permalink

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