Life Imitates Art: Cop Undercover at High School

By McCarton Ackerman 03/19/12

In a true story weirdly like new movie 21 Jump Street, a 22-year-old cop busts a high school drugs ring.

Art imitates life: scene from 21 Jump Street
Photo via

Exeter Union High School in California is reeling from a drug sting in which an undercover police officer arrested 12 students—after posing as a student there for eight months. The 22-year-old officer, who was known as "Johnny Ramirez" on campus, attended classes and completed tests and homework assignments like any other student. He also used his assumed identity to witness and carry out the purchase of drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Only the Interim Principal, the school superintendent and one other administrator were aware of the his real identity. Eighteen-year-old Eli Perkins, the alleged ringleader of the drug deals, was arrested at his home; the school was put on a 90-minute lockdown while another 11 students were cuffed. "We made the campus safer today," says Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush. "And for those who think they got away with something, I hope they rethink their behavior." The arrested students face possible suspension and expulsion on charges of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy and accessory. The officer was recruited only after parents complained to police about drugs on campus. But some students feel violated by the nature of the sting, with at least one teenager saying he thought the undercover cop was a friend. The arrests coincided with the release of 21 Jump Street, a movie about two undercover police officers who embed themselves at a high school.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.