- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - Officer Chad Wilson hasn’t worn a uniform in more than eight years. Until this month, he hid beneath his beard and a faded muscle shirt. His aged blue jeans mostly covered his flip-flops, and a bandana tamed the fly away hair that escaped his ponytail.

“I’m going back to the police department, so I’ll be back in uniform,” he said just before Studio M Salon Owner Misty Anderson snipped off the first of four 8-inch sections of his hair, the Log Cabin Democrat (https://bit.ly/1KcXvlo ) reported.

He worked in narcotics with Conway police for six years and spent the last two and a half with the DEA in Little Rock.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for controlling pharmaceutical and controlled chemical sale and abuse. Recently, its New Orleans Field Division, including the DEA Little Rock office, charged 140 individuals with prescription drug crimes in the culmination of its “Operation Pilluted” drug initiative.

Wilson was a case agent for the Perryville section where Chris Watson, a pharmacist at Perry County Food & Drug, was arrested after filling a DEA fabricated prescription with 120 hydrocodone tablets and 60 alprazolam tablets.

The operation netted 94 federal defendants in five separate indictments and 46 state defendants, including four doctors, four nurses and five pharmacists.

“We were a nine-person group tasked with looking into cases involving registrants who prescribed and contributed,” Wilson said.

“We focused on doctors and pharmacists who are looser with prescriptions, who are known to prescribe anything.”

During his work in narcotics investigations, Wilson saw what he called collateral victims - a narcotic user’s family - of what is often called a victimless crime.

“I’ve seen some kids in some really bad scenarios,” he said, describing a trailer he entered where one of four meth labs was located in the food pantry, and meth jars were placed next to baby food jars.

The most difficult situations, however, were violent crimes related to narcotics.

“I’ve rarely dealt with theft or even murders where narcotics weren’t a factor,” Wilson said. “If it’s a crime of passion, it’s often related to narcotics. There are probably stats that refute this, but in my experience, in situations where a male kills a male, narcotics were involved. Not usually when a male kills a female.”

He said prescription drugs are the single largest drug problem in the nation, with more people dying from prescription drug overdoses last year than from any other drug. Additionally, Arkansas is among the top five states in the U.S. for hydrocodone abuse.

Wilson has taught at the Criminal Justice Institute and was hand-selected by his supervisors to give talks in schools on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Though he isn’t sure how big of an impact he has on the students, he said visiting schools is still worth the time.

“If one is impacted, it’s better than none,” he said.

He has seen arrestees recover, often after “proffering,” or admitting guilt without fear of additional charges.

“You get to see them a few months after the arrest. They’ve gained weight, they got some of their color back. They’re relieved to leave the cycle, and the arrest and potential jail time is worth it to them. It sounds weird, but they’re thankful sometimes.”

Working undercover in narcotics is a 24-hour job, Wilson said, and with his promotion to sergeant on Monday comes a more regular schedule. There is also no longer a need for anonymity, so he shed his disguise for a good cause.

The salon will donate his hair to Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths” program, which gives real-hair wigs to women fighting cancer. It was Wilson’s second donation in two years.

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Information from: Log Cabin Democrat, https://www.thecabin.net

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