In Rolling Stone, a particularly heartbreaking slice of drug war insanity, in which an undercover police operation targeted an autistic kid who was merely looking for friends.


At last, Jesse found his art class, where students were milling about in the final moments before the bell. He had resigned himself to maintaining a dignified silence when a slightly stocky kid with light-brown hair ambled over and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” Jesse answered cautiously. Nearly six feet tall, Jesse glanced down to scan the kid’s heart-shaped face, and seeing the corners of his mouth were turned up, Jesse relaxed a bit. The kid introduced himself as Daniel Briggs. Daniel told Jesse that he, too, was new to Chaparral – he’d just moved from Redlands, an hour away, to the suburb of Temecula – and, like Jesse, who’d recently relocated from the other side of town, was starting his senior year.

Jesse squinted and took a long moment to mull over Daniel’s words. Meanwhile, Daniel sized up Jesse, taking in his muscular build and clenched jaw that topped off Jesse’s skater-tough look: Metal Mulisha T-shirt, calf-length Dickies, buzz-cut hair and a stiff-brimmed baseball hat. A classic suburban thug. Lowering his voice, Daniel asked if Jesse knew where he might be able to get some weed.

“Yeah, man, I can get you some,” Jesse answered in his slow monotone, every word stretched out and articulated with odd precision. Daniel asked for his phone number, and Jesse obliged, his insides roiling with both triumph and anxiety. On one hand, Jesse could hardly believe his good fortune: His conversation with Daniel would stand as the only meaningful interaction he’d have with another kid all day. On the other hand, Jesse had no idea where to get marijuana. All Jesse knew in August 2012 was that he had somehow made a friend.

Though 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. 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.”

You should read the entire story. But you should probably pour a strong drink, first.