The combination of the 24-hour cable news glut and the internet causes some significant distortions in public perception. The public periodically thinks that sharks are mounting an organized assault on humanity, for example, which is bad for sharks. The public believes that gun violence is suddenly worse than ever in the U.S., when it is in fact dropping dramatically, which is good for hysteria-based gun control efforts. It believes that storms like the recent tornadoes are more frequent and more deadly than they have ever been, leading ignorant news reporters and Congressmen to link the deaths to global warming. This good for Al Gore. In my case, stories like this one, which I would have blissfully been unaware of earlier in my life, come across by computer screen every day, leading me to contemplate moving to Pago Pago, or Mars out of despair for the decline of fairness and intelligence in the human race. I will steady myself and presume that without more detailed evidence, it is foolish to conclude the police and the schools are not, in fact, in league with Satan.
Only some of them are.
In Temecula, California, an undercover cop masquerading as a student orchestrated a drug bust in a Temecula Valley Unified School District high school by befriending and manipulating an autistic boy into obtaining small amounts of marijuana. You can read the whole awful tale here (the boy’s family is suing).
I have always been troubled by the ethics of sting operations, including those, like Abscam, that uncover dangerous corruption in high places. The courts have allowed law enforcement authorities to walk an imaginary ethical line by not calling it entrapment if the object of a sting has a demonstrable proclivity to engage in the fictional illegal opportunity being presented by the police, but disallowing arrests where it appears that an innocent-minded citizen was tricked into committing a crime. In truth, these two categories often blend into one. Most people, much as they believe otherwise, can yield to temptation under the right set of circumstances. That “proclivity” is there lurking all the time for most and perhaps all of us. I will accept the premise, without agreeing with it, that law enforcement can be justified in manufacturing such deceptive and manipulative fake crimes by utilitarian balancing. Involving an individual whose emotional and cognitive disabilities make him unusually susceptible to manipulation, however, in inexcusable.
I wouldn’t use the horrible judgment of an undercover drug agent in exploiting and entrapping a trusting, vulnerable autistic student to conclude all such operations are too unethical to allow, but I’m close. Obviously one wouldn’t seek out the most savvy of students to infiltrate the drug market in a school; picking the most gullible, least experienced or dumbest is just common sense. Choosing a special-needs student whose emotional well-being may well be permanently damaged by the experience, however, is worse than unsporting. It’s cruel, and it’s irresponsible.
The school that allowed and the agent who perpetrated this despicable act deserve to be condemned and punished. No utilitarian balancing can justify it.
Pointer: Alexander Cheezem
15 thoughts on “The Worst Sting Of All”
What the hell is with schools these days? And cops?
My oldest son got fired because the cops figured they’d trick him into selling to a minor. They sent an adult? cop in to buy booze and he sold it to her without asking for ID even though it was obvious she was of age. They said he must check for ID at all times even if the patron is elderly. My boy is very ethical and mindful of the law…almost to a fault if that’s possible. He’s one of those who doesn’t smoke or drink and doesn’t go with (or marry) girls who do.They just had to fill their quota for the day and he was the unlucky one. Of course,that’s not the same as this poor autistic kid but it still made me nad.
There is no one involved in this in any official capacity that should not be drug out into the street, beaten savagely with boards that have nails in them, tarred, feathered, and then SET THE FUCK ON FIRE.
That we haven’t heard about the citizens of Temecula, California marching on both the School District Offices and the police station with pitchforks and burning torches with gibbets being erected in the center of town tells me everything I need to know about that blighted shithole of a city…
A few of the writers over at Popehat (Linked to from here, from time to time) have a much more succinct way to get your point across:
They have that luxury, being smart-assed lawyers/humorists who don’t have to lecture about ethics. I’m obligated to be a little more circumspect.
I actually meant Meatshield’s point about the fires and the gibbets etc. I know you will always work your way through a well-reasoned discussion and merely IMPLY what I said 😉
That was my error—I get the comments separate from the post, and with notation saying which comment they were replying to. For some reason, your comment was flagged as replying to my whole post, not Meaty’s comment. I apologize.
If that’s the harshest thing you ever say to me on these comment boards I’m lucky, haha.
It’s California. Everything there is ass-backwards. I had the most bizarre day at the only DMV for at least 50 miles in that horrid city.
I’m not defending the police or sting tactics but what does the story mean by ”autistic boy.” I think the news story wants us to think that the boy is a simple “Rainman” type individual with a disability exploited by police. Lots of individuals fall within the autistic spectrum, Bill Gates falls within spectrum. So is this individual profoundly disabled or is the family playing the victim card here by exaggerating circumstances?
It doesn’t matter – someone on the autism spectrum, at that age, would be unable to properly resist an undercover cop’s inducement to commit a crime.
That’s not necessarily true… but, honestly, irrelevant.
It is relevant if you are in the midst of heating up tar and tearing up pillows.
No, especially when this is taken in conjunction with some of the *other* stories from that sting. The tar and feathers are fully deserved, regardless.
As a note, this situation is still ongoing. Reason.com just offered an update here: http://reason.com/reasontv/2013/10/09/riverside-cop-tricks-autistic-teen-into .
Yes, it’s that bad.