Ethics of Undercover Stings

Today I spoke with a neighbor about what I do as a researcher, student, and advocate for justice reform. I summed my duties by this phrase. “I learn, apply, research, and continue to learn about the cause and effects of criminal justice by applying a dialog of reason, discourse, and compromise.” My neighbor responded with, “that sounds complicated.” I replied, “it sure is because there is no easy way to explain it.” We continued to talk more openly, and she finally shared a story about someone she knows that is currently incarcerated. She began to escalate her tone because she felt the sentence her friend received was excessive and unfairly applied. I chimed in to say, “what would have been fair?” She paused but couldn’t provide an answer. Instead, she said, “all I know is his sentence was too much and not in line for the crime he committed.”

I then began sharing the stories of many people currently on the sex offender registry. I started a story about the thousands of registrants that were caught up in police sting operations of underage porn or similar circumstances. I began explaining that “police posed as an underage person, but there was no underage person harmed or physically present. Sure, the intent may have been to meet an underage person, but nobody was harmed. However, the individual is listed either for life or a period for a crime that could have happened, but in actuality didn’t because it was a crafted operation to net people.” She began to understand those sex offenses are often not offenses at all. Instead, it is a method to target a crime with deception but to charge individuals with an age bracket of a fictitious person. It is as if someone in authority creates an operative of a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” but gives that character an age with a mental underlying and false image, those netted have pedophilic tendencies. Naturally, law enforcement nor district attornies attempt to do their part to educate the public better. In fact, it could be assumed that both law enforcement and district attorneys encourage such thoughts and rhetoric? However, society only sees teenage even if the person is of legal adult age but from the viewpoint of society, not the perpretrator, the teen age is viewed as early teen ages. The net has been cast to capture as many potential people as a threat to communities because the actor is posing as a 15-year-old, but in actuality, there is no 15 year old at all. Instead, the actor is a 37-year-old police officer targeting any age possible through the internet. Eventually, something will be caught in the net, exposed, and criminally charged. While the operation intends to capture illegal underage solicitations the act alone brings ethical question if the person accused could in actuality be targeted by a guilty plea of a person that is not actually 15, but 37? Sure, it is a stretch of the imagination. But if illegal drugs test not to be unlawful or harmful, arent the charged dropped? This may be orange to apple issue, but I certainly would like to understand how we can return to ethical behaviors on both sides of the justice coin.

Law enforcement officials are expected to comply with a code of ethics outlining general guidelines to ethical behavior of police professionals. To be effective, the code of ethics should become part of each officer’s demeanor and officers should learn to live and think ethically in order to avoid conflicting behaviors. The failure by police professionals to act ethically could result in the loss of public trust, jeopardize investigations, or expose agencies or departments to liability issues.

Naturally, I am not attempting to justify that underage solicitation is not severe. I am only raising the issue that I find it puzzling that a person that is not an actual age is being charged for solicitation of age – even with electronic evidence. It would seem more prudent and perhaps ethical that the criminal charge would be attempted solicitation of a minor because no real minor was present. Other charges could be escalated if there was indeed an actual minor present and naturally if other indiscretions occurred, then additional charges would be applicable. All I am suggesting is a better truth in reporting scheme.

There will always be water-cooler debates about how laws should be enforced or applied. There is no real clear answer or remedy to tackle these issues that appear to be ordinary day by day. However, these are the discussions that we should be having about criminal justice reforms and how to perhaps recodify our policies.

Charge stacking” is a process by which police and prosecutors create a case with numerous charges or numerous instances of the same charge to convince the defendant that the risk of not pleading guilty is intolerable.

Lastly, laws and policies seem to be stacked by the prosecution as a universal benefit. An example is when an initial charge is introduced at the highest felony charge possible to dwindle for a potential plea bargaining agreement. Additionally, many prosecutors will stack charges by adding other unnecessary charges to accompany additional charges. It is somewhat similar to a drug charge, but adding a paraphernalia charge on top of distribution with the intent to do something else mambo-jumbo. The court goes through a gambit of offers to scale back the charges as if it is benefiting the defendant? Not true! It is always helping the prosecution because they will always have the leverage to play outside the rules of law to get their way. Similar to how underage sex sting operations are handled. It’s a big lie with the intent to sell a fear that never happened. It is perhaps something we should also be discussing how to return a bit of truth into criminal justice reforms?

Unique Double Entendre

Sometimes in life, we may experience an event or circumstance where we are accused of something that didn’t happen, or we were not responsible for but cannot seem to shrug the allegation. All too many times we hastily read a splash headline where someone is charged with something and naturally our perception and sensation rush to judge just because there is something reportable. Either way we are either consumed by noise or the noise consumes us.

What we fail to realize is that partaking the sensationalistic and judgemental journey is no different than a sidelined lynch mob forming judge, jury, and executioner well before any established facts are assimilated. Regardless of narrative we either enjoy watching power being used in hopes for good or are overpowered in an attempt to recover the good from within ourselves. Often when we discover that truths are twisted or false allegations are discovered an immediate reaction is to become angry for a swift moment at the accusor but briefly feel remorse for the accused adding “I bet he/she learned a lesson.” But we as the observers learned absollytely nothing only to put unnecceary energy into the next upcoming news allegation.

The recent highlighting of sexual assault or sexual allegations has become so weaponized that despite all the warnings from high profiled cases as the Duke Lacrosse scandal didn’t teach or instill any valuable lessons learned that people, in fact, lie or misrepresent circumstances. Today, truth, reality, evidence, and motive have been significantly replaced by dishonesty, fabrication, concealment, and agenda. Why would people lie is perhaps that first plausible argument? A supporting fact is selling and technique. A salesperson may bend, adulterate, or skew the truth about something to convince and persuade others to rid of a problem or product. After all, corporatism is an integral part of our American DNA. While ethos, value or other attributes may be instilled upon all of us, we do have a nasty habit of cutting ethical corners where lies, deception, and opportunity become opportune weapons tucked away in our arsenal despite how insignificant it may appear to self or others. A common mantra for some is “just don’t get caught!” That alone can be a double edged sword or a unique double entendre.

A majority of individuals on sex offender registries or incarcerated are there because of plea deals created and expedited by a legal system with its own politicized agenda. This is not to imply that every person on the registry or incarcerated is innocent. What it does suggest is based on two stages. The first is the state possibly reduced a criminal charge for convenience to a judicial system without actually reflecting the merits of the crime. If it is convenience to the legal system then why not allow prayer for judgements as an alternative? Perhaps a reason is the legal system doesn’t make money from dismissals or set aside cases. Second, most sexually based offender crimes are either technologically related or he said-she said disagreement with a developmental phase towards the creation of violative standards. What that means, is interpretation instead of facts are introduced with the baggage of emotion, tissues of lies, and a hunch of what occurred. Examples could be where people arrested for possession of child pornography are deemed equal or similar to those that create and promote it. It brings to mind drug dealers versus drug users. Both are treated in the eyes of justice as criminals yet we rarely witness the prosecution or pursuit of drug lords or manufacturers. Why? Because of our clinging to the corporatism model that we disrupt one business opportunity to shift towards a newer and vastly improved business model much harder to pursue and capture. Therefore, law enforcement will continue to seek the little man because it creates an opportunity to rush judgment to hopefully develop a credible case and argument. 

New Year Resolution

To begin a prosperous New Year’s, it is essential to reflect on past events.

A few months ago I was assisting an ‘adoptive relative’ with his educational pursuits. Each semester he would receive a refund from his community college Pell grant into his own personal bank account. He accepted a student loan to purchase a laptop to continue the remainder of his junior/senior at a 4-year institution. What he didn’t know, at least what he said to me, was his “adoptive mother” had been siphoning his bank account unknowingly to pay for utility bills. A little over $7K was supposedly saved to continue college, not including the $2,250 student loan for a future laptop, and supposed inheritance money left by the person he knew as his grandfather. When he attended his recent student orientation, the money he had saved or thought was saved was gone entirely; except 90 cents.

When I confronted missing money issue I was repeatedly told by the adoptive mother “there was no refund” and continually barraged with no knowledge of a distributed college loan. Again, when confronted about the money I was told, “I only get a petty social security check each month” as to assert she was privileged enough to take from others with no restitution plan but also admitting to taking money from his account. His college plans and savings he thought was being saved over time been in exploited for other uses. She owns her own home, has no house payment, received child support payments, receives SNAP, worked part-time, and gets a social security check, and taking handouts from other family members. It wasn’t enough for her.

The money was in the bank the whole time and spent by her as she had custody and control of his bank cards the entire time.

When the onion is peeled back more, I learned that she had illegally opened a credit card account in her own daughters’ name twenty years ago before this incident. The daughter would eventually end up telling her “brother” everything that happened. The information was enough to break the camels back. He decided he had enough and needed a restart and safe, trusting place to influence his life.

He decided to move out and into his biological mothers home in Virginia. However, the drama escalated as he mentions the gifts and presents he acquired over the years were no longer legally his. He said, “they don’t want me to have anything or be successful moving forward. They want to sweep everything under the rug and blame me!” The texts he showed me was heartwrenching and hurtful, especially during Christmas. It wasn’t the “adoptive mother” that was texting or calling making him feel like a second-class family member. It was nearly the whole side of his adoptive family. Why? Because they only were privy to a one-sided story without listening to his accounts severe misdeeds and abuses.

Instead of making an issue right and being supportive of a young man and his decision making. The tables were turned to demoralize him with screaming filled emotions, anger, deceptions, and blame assessments. However, a positive light to all of this drama is that he made a choice to be safe from future abuses, mistrust, deception, and being labeled as second-class. He is now safely with a family starting over to learn about the true meaning of family and where one fits in the assimilation of generations.

New Years has a tradition each year where individuals make resolutions to better themselves. Sometimes a resolution is a decision that either is relevant or a timidity based on either emotion or fact. It is our personal stuck point in the decision making to choose either to be a better individual or want to sustain what we define ourselves by the level of our own transparency.

A lessons learned moment for me and resolution is to become a stronger advocate and remove myself from defamation of others so that I do not become a denigration and calumniation towards others. It is bad enough the world is already filled with more anger, hate, and blame assessment entrapping others to join in on the hate-filled drama train of emotional instabilities. If anything was learned from this observation was that a young man made a critical choice in his life and gave me the ability to pursue my future choices which I am grateful for and proud of his decision and wish him all the best in future outcomes.

To me, that is what resolutions should be in our transparent lives so that we are no longer second-class factual or feeling. Preferably we are bonded as unified individuals with a purpose to be better to ourselves and one another.

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