Law enforcement creates criminals out of the most vulnerable
In an attempt to simply make friends at his new school, autistic teen Jesse Snodgrass found himself trapped by Deputy Daniel Zipperstein of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department when the undercover cop requested marijuana.
Snodgrass explained to Rolling Stone that he told Zipperstein he would get him marijuana because of to his desire for a friend. In actuality, he had no idea where he would be able to lay his hands on marijuana. A distinct and rather large difference exists between an individual who is capable of getting drugs and a drug dealer. However, Zipperstein didn’t seem to acknowledge that when he decided to target autistic high schooler Snodgrass as a drug dealer.
Although Zipperstein was fully aware of the fact that Jesse is autistic, he continued to relentlessly hound him for marijuana by sending a total of 60 text messages requesting he deliver the marijuana like he had promised.
“He was pretty much stalking me,” Jesse recalled, “with the begging for the drugs and everything. It was kind of a drag.”
Zipperstein’s actions towards Snodgrass were insensitive in every way. Not only did he know Snodgrass was autistic, but he continued to pressure him to deliver on his promise, pressure Snodgrass felt so intensely that he inflicted harm on himself for not knowing where to get marijuana and not wanting to lose a potential friend.
What’s even more disturbing is it is just as easy to target an individual with autism as it is to target a minority.
Snodgrass was placed in a situation where even an individual with no disabilities had a very strong likelihood of failing. The school board was fully aware of the situation in which Snodgrass had found himself, yet it chose to let him fend for himself, even though he was autistic. It is the duty of the school employees to care for the welfare of individuals they teach and serve, not condone and watch from the sidelines as their students fall victim to law enforcement.
The story of Snodgrass's entrapment grows more tragic as you become aware of the various faults made by others which forced Snodgrass to become fully trapped and unprotected against he relentless requests of Zipperstein. Snodgrass was arrested in December, after managing to obtain small amounts of marijuana and selling it to a deputy.
Unfortunately, this story seems to lead many individuals to believe that law enforcement departments care more about the number of arrests they make than the value of the arrests. Snodgrass did not arrest an already existing criminal but instead created one.
The actions he and his police department, along with the school district, took are shameful and truly a failure to society.
Reach the columnist at Brooke.Ramos@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @brookesramos