Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Compromising Positions

I made the mistake the other night of laying aside some good reading material to go channel surfing and ended up on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. I don’t know if I was spinning in circles by the time it was over, but I was certainly disoriented. One segment’s content reminded me of an earlier post by Lydia McGrew in which she says that a man ain’t a man “unless there is at least one thing, one good thing, for which he would die in a ditch, knowing that his side is lost but fighting to the last.”

She’s right - we need to be willing to lay it all on the line for the greater good. But before we even get to a literal, physical martyrdom, other, smaller sacrifices might be demanded. That must be what’s going on in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where, “authorities say, some police detectives here walked up these stairs to this massage parlor, paid for and received oral sex,” which sort of takes “job satisfaction” to a new level. Spotsylvania, by the way, is “a family place,” according to the transcript, just south of D.C., though what a family place is doing with massage parlors is one of those American anomalies we haven’t figured out yet.

If you thought the police detectives were putting in a little extracurricular, extra-legal overtime, you’d be wrong. They were just doing their duty, which in this particular variation is the brainstorm of the county prosecutor, William Neely. In his own words, here’s what he’s up against: “The officer obviously can’t wear a wire because he’s naked. So, you know, the primary way to build evidence is to use marked money and to follow that transaction. That’s the only way you can shut a business like this down.” The emphasis is mine, in an effort to remind myself that once a particular course of action becomes the only one possible, I can justify anything. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t mean to belittle the sacrifice these officers are making. After all, they’re giving up a lot to put a whore in jail. But the only way?

Saith the sheriff: “…prostitutes are wise to the law, won’t say anything that could put them in jail. So… paying them for sex acts — and again, receiving what they pay for — is the best, maybe the only way to prove what these women are up to.” There it is again. The qualifier “maybe” in front of it probably shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“If I thought we could get the conviction without that, we wouldn’t allow it,” the sheriff continues. To you and me this utterance might bespeak a guilty conscience, but before rushing to judgement we would do well to remember that his cops are only getting their rocks off so that other fellows – otherwise upstanding Joes like you and me – won’t have to suffer the same indignity.

Furthermore, you might be comforted to know that “the program…relies only on unmarried officers.” Well, that’s a relief, because I was thinking of applying. I was wondering if this police department had a lot of detectives from robbery and homicide wanting to transfer to vice, or if their recruitment numbers were coming out of the tank.

On the other hand, I am somewhat miffed that the policy discriminates against married officers. It’s nice of the department to look out for my marital vows, but if only unmarrieds make the busts, their resum├ęs get longer at my expense, not to mention that the memory of how they achieved it makes typing out the police report less of a chore. Well, the married guy can do the drug busts. But I don’t want to do drug busts. I want to shut down massage parlors. The eradication of moral turpitude is my life’s mission. God told me. As prosecutor Neely puts it: “having police pay for a few private moments is the best way to protect and serve the public.” So there.

In case your mind has begun taking note of the moral complexities (all right, so it’s not that complex), raising such questions as - “Couldn’t the cop be arrested for soliciting an illegal act? After all, he’s breaking the law in order to enforce it” – well, Mr. Neely will set your little mind to rest: “officers paying for sex acts is legal.” So there.

And furthermore: “He’s used the technique before and police often buy drugs to nab dealers.” Now if your morally subtle mind again raises a protest: “but the cops (supposedly) don’t use the drugs they buy, nor (supposedly) do they enjoy the experience in quite the same way, for it is a peculiar thing about sex, that it is difficult to participate in it without actually…participating in it,” well, just stop right there. Sacrifices have to be made, and though it’s not quite the ultimate sacrifice, it’s still a pretty good one. The fight against pornography and lasciviousness of all kinds in this country has been “lost”, but there are still a few good men among us willing to give their…all. This is America, the can-do country and, distasteful as it might sometimes be, we do what we must to prevail over evil.

When the segment was over, the camera returned to Anderson Cooper at the anchor’s desk. He’s a deep guy, so I was afraid he might heap some kind of moral outrage all over those good cops’ valiant efforts to rise to a sordid occasion, but instead he just looked into the camera with a twinkle in his eye and said in a sort of bemused (or amused, hard to tell) tone, “What do you know?”

Not much, Anderson, but I do thank you for sparing us the analysis. Those cops have it tough enough as it is.

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