I think I might be a john, or maybe a pimp: I've been paying Columbus vice officers to have sex.
Not with me, of course, but with women they meet at strip clubs and escort services.
Strangely enough, it's always the strippers and escorts who are arrested.
For the cops, who can get naked, be masturbated and "momentarily" engage in sex, the transaction is merely a perk.
One officer used my tax dollars to purchase a total of five lap dances in one week from the same woman.
Other reports show detectives putting their mouths on strippers' bare breasts, touching the ladies' groins and being masturbated. And the cops can drink during the festivities.
"On the surface, it appears officers are engaging in sexual contact," said Deputy Chief Antone Lanata, who knows hanky-panky when he sees it.
Lanata, after viewing vice-squad reports from 2002 and 2003, tried to put a stop to the fun. But he was overruled by Chief James G. Jackson.
Perhaps the chief feared that the police union would balk at losing a long-standing fringe benefit.
In 1999, reported that at least one vice officer regularly had sexual intercourse with prostitutes before arresting them. Vice-squad rules were tightened, but Jackson relaxed them in 2000.
The Police Division's ethics board, made up of citizens and officers, suggested more-conservative guidelines in 2000.
"If the public perceives us doing something wrong to catch something wrong, it doesn't help our cause," Sgt. Michael Woods told The Dispatch.
But the suggestion was ignored and the ethics board disbanded.
I'd prefer my tax dollars go to fighting real crime. Strippers and escorts operate behind closed doors, where customers presumably are consenting adults. And prostitution is only a misdemeanor, anyway.
Cops can arrest streetwalkers who are disturbing peaceable neighborhoods on charges of soliciting, which requires no physical contact to prove. So why are the police putting so much time, effort and money into chasing strippers and escorts?
Perhaps the booze, the naked chicks, the sex?
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But paying cops to engage in the same activities that working girls are arrested for seems hypocritical, at the least.
And vice officers seem to target just working girls. What about working boys? Are our men in blue willing to do their professional duty and be masturbated by and engage in "momentary" sex with gay male prostitutes?
Sgt. Brent Mull, the Police Division spokesman, said he really couldn't tell me.
"But you can assume there are minor changes depending on the sex of the individual" suspect, he said.
Some police officials insist that vice officers' actions are not as sordid as reports make them sound. Officers are not now having intercourse or oral sex, said Lt. Larry Champlin of the vice squad.
So what kind of sex are cops "momentarily" engaging in?
Mull said that information is classified.
"We're not going to tell you how to beat us," he said. "If the general public knows, then the idiot (prostitute) out there will know."
Maybe so. But I always like to know upfront what I'm paying for.
-- April 28, 2003