In Tennessee last year, a 22-year-old policewoman emerging from 10 months undercover credited her mom's job as an acting coach as key to her performance as a drug-seeking student, which was convincing enough to have 14 people arrested.Other operations go even further to establish veracity, like a San Diego-area sting last year that practically elevated policing to performance art, in which three undercover deputies had "parents" who attended back-to-school nights; announcing the first of the sting's 19 arrests, Sheriff Bill Gore boasted this method of snaring teens was "almost too easy."The practice was first pioneered in 1974 by the LAPD, which soon staged annual undercover busts that most years arrested scores of high schoolers; by the Eighties, it had spread as a favored strategy in the War on Drugs.To be sure, public-relations speed bumps have appeared now and again, like when a female LAPD narc allegedly romanced a high school football player, which surfaced via her steamy love letters, or when a developmentally disabled child was swept up in another L. bust after selling worth of marijuana to an undercover.But until now, no department seems to have gone so far as to lay a trap for an autistic his seat at a worktable in the art room, Deputy Daniel Zipperstein observed his target and tablemate, Jesse Snodgrass."Jesse, OK," Taylor instructed, holding up a piece of cardboard."Today's task will be to cut out six cardboard squares of this size." Taylor took pains to pare down each assignment into bite-size chunks for Jesse, but even so, he'd need to keep circling back to remind Jesse to stay on his single small task."This is not about public safety – the public is no safer, and the school grounds are no safer.
The Great Marijuana Experiment: A Tale of Two Drug Warshough it smacks of suburban myth or TV makebelieve, undercover drug stings occur in high schools with surprising frequency, with self-consciously dopey names like "Operation D-Minus" and, naturally, "Operation Jump Street." They're elaborate stings in which adult undercover officers go to great lengths to pass as authentic teens: turning in homework, enduring detention, attending house parties and using current slang, having Googled the terms beforehand to ensure their correctness.Zipperstein watched Jesse slowly pick up the scissors and get to work.No one at Chaparral High School knew that transfer student "Daniel Briggs" was in fact a cop in his mid-twenties; as is typical in such an investigation, only a few top district administrators were aware of the operation.A 2007 Department of Justice-funded meta-analysis slammed the practice of police sting operations, finding that they reduce crime for a limited time – three months to a year – if at all.
"At best, they are a stopgap measure," and at worst, an expensive waste of police resources, which "may prevent the use of other, more effective problemsolving techniques." The federal study concludes that sting operations reap little more than one consistent benefit: "favorable publicity" for police.Once he regained his composure, he followed the spray-painted Chaparral Puma paw prints on the ground, his gait stiff and soldierly, and prayed that his classroom would materialize.