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?

Porn Should Never Be Viewed in Public

The BBC News recently wrote an article, “Is it OK to watch porn in public?” To me, it is a no-brainer. Absolutely Not! Porn, in general, should be something in the privacy of your own home and never in the workplace. I remember taking a domestic flight, and the passenger next to me decided he wanted to watch a “bit of porn” on his smartphone but at least had the decency to use his headphones. At first, I didn’t know if he was trolling for a response, mentally disturbed, or just plain desperate? However, there should be a standing rule that porn on any device should not be visible or audible to anyone else in a public setting.

 

A few years ago I remembered a case in North Carolina where a motorist was stopped for “displaying pornographic materials” in his own SUV. What occurred was the driver had entertainment screens in his SUV that could clearly be seen by passing motorists. I guess some people want to bend or test the rule of law to see what applies to them? I am unsure if the case was thrown out, but it draws the question about appropriate behavior. It is bad enough listening to loud stereo car systems that rattle every wall stud and picture frame. But now we may face a brief moment of stopped traffic to glance in the vehicle in front of us displaying porn? Yes, it is somewhat a private space but on public roads.

 

I keep hearing about porn addiction and the need to regulate Internet porn. I think we need to start with the regulation of clearly labeled rated X or homemade videos visible in public spaces. There are plenty of laws regarding public decency but rarely enforced. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites have attempted to push the envelope by allowing porn to filter and become somewhat the norm in today’s society. Sexting, another issue, has morphed from a private space to being shared all over public spaces and schools. Have we come to the level in our life that open space is a rarity?

 

A problem with displaying pornography in public places was difficult to catch and difficult to prosecute. The American justice system seems more concerned about embarrassment and humiliation rather than education or providing a dissolvable punishment. Additionally, citizens won’t get involved because it puts them squarely in the middle rather than sensible law effectively working as the law is written. Public porn will become a debate as art versus vulgarity by differing critics. But I’d like to point out that any rated XXX film should never be publically displayed because you feel the need to exercise your first amendment right. It should always be a personal space in the privacy of your home and never accessible to children. After all, membership to the “Mile High” club is behind closed doors.

Internet Porn Addiction

Recently Pamela Anderson wrote an Op-Ed on the addictive dangers of pornography. I agree that internet porn addiction is an issue. However, I would interject that internet addiction is just as critical. While I am out eating at a restaurant, I will notice people sitting at a table not engaged with each other but texting or playing on a mobile device. The recent storm of Pokemon Go may be adding to our internet addiction. There is a problem because on the go internet applications used on mobile devices have led to an increase in injuries because people are not paying attention.

Let us go back to internet porn addiction. I would argue that relationships, in general, could be one reason for internet porn addiction. After all, pornography, in general, is all about fantasy and desire. When a couple has differing sexual norms then, of course, there will be an imbalance of sexual needs. For example, the recent movie Fifty Shades of Gray highlights some role play of pain versus pleasure. If a Fifty Shades scenario were brought into every bedroom, there would be an increase in separation or divorce rates. Not to mention a possible increase in police calls for claims of domestic violence. I think it is important that books like Fifty Shades of Gray are not the Kamasutra but a catalyst. This is where the internet porn has become the online version of the Kamasutra. The fact is society has forced many sexually based conversations into nearly scrubbed political correct conversation making it nearly impossible to discuss. Perhaps this is a reason internet porn addiction is raising because we are not addressing the core forms of sexuality. When people cannot discuss a matter, then it creates a false safe place.

It should also be a far cry that Pamela Anderson should be discussing internet porn when one of her homemade videos surfaced causing a curiosity storm to see it. Sarcastically speaking I guess Pamela was making a homemade film to look back on. The fact is that humanity has interests and questions. The problem is that we have attempted to become this strict standard in an internet world. The hazard I see is there are many addictions without an open dialog or safe space to discuss remedies. American culture is the birthplace of Playboy, Hustler, and internet porn. It won’t go away until we begin discussing why millions of viewers enjoy it and are addicted to it. Just banning porn will only shift content to the underground where it will become an easier black market.

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