Recent revelations concerning the methods and tactics by which police in Carmel set out to arrrest employees of a local massage parlor in Hamilton County has raised concerns.
The undercover officer leading the investigation as to whether a professed Chinese massage facility in question was legitimate and not a front for a sex trade operation is reported to have allowed one of the woman targets of his investigation to fondle his genitals on numerous occassions.
The Carmel Police Department, and not the anonymous officer, quickly responded that this activity was a legitimate means by which to illicit trust among women potentially victimized into forced sexual labor. Such trust gained through such sexual contact is stated to be essential in determining whether higher ranking pimps were illegally enslaving woman in the sex trade through facilities such as the one under investigation.
The anonymous officer participating in the sexual act(s) alleged was lauded by the department as a hero who in no way welcomed sexual contact but viewed the activity as a needed cost of a thorough and comprehensive police investigation.
In may be somewhat alarming for citizens to discover that at the present time in Indiana, there exists no legal prohibitions on undercover law enforcement officials allowing themselves to accept the sexual initiation of investigated individuals so long as the activity has been couched as one in the course of a police undercover sting investigation.
From personal experience in defense of those prosecuted as a result of such sexual sting operations, I can thankfully report that instances of actual sexual contact between the investigator and investigatee are in the minority.
However, in several notable cases I have fought egregious practices of sexual participation on the part of law enforcement toward the ultimate arrest and prosecution of a client. More often than not such a targeted individual has been further victimized by arresting officers who have used the cover of a police investigation to further their own sexual gratification.
In many instances the woman targeted for such prosecutions are in no way affiliated with some international sexual cartel, but often single mothers working locally and in need of financial support for a family where they see little alternatives elsewhere.
Without fail such cases are usually favorably settled when it dawns on such police officers and their departments that it will be my intention to expose their investigative tactics to the public review of a jury and local media. However, although such legal strategies have been successful, I believe it is time for there to be more teeth behind curtailing the potential for such unethical police conduct beyond mere public shaming and/or embarrassment.
For cynics or even those typically firmly in the corner of law enforcement, there is a fine line between lawful police conduct in this area and a a potentially drawn out investigation motivated by an investigator’s own sexual gratification.
It is precisely this difficulty in determining an officer’s subjective intent that has lead many police departments to clearly spell out the rules of engagement sort to speak in the area of sexual sting operations.
Absent such clear and communicated policy standards, the general public must be left to simply trust that their tax dollars are not being spent to further the sexual desires of investigators couched as a means of accepted police procedure.
Under Indiana law there is no need for consumated sexual contact to be evidenced in order to further a prostitution related conviction. Once an agreement and exchange of currency has been proven, most reputable police procedure will enable investigators to halt further action toward the intended sexual contact.
Ironically, police operations that allow initated sexual contact to continue after a provable agreement has been made are in effect perpetrating the victimization of woman they so sanctimoniously claim to be protecting.
I believe the time has come in Indiana and elsewhere for laws to be enacted to prevent the continued unsavory perception of police activity such cases represent. At the very least it should be the requirement of all police departments to enact codified police dictates in regard to detailed policies for how sexual stings will be conducted. In so doing, civil liabilty can more readily attach against police departments who stray from such approved guidelines; rules that will no longer enable unethical officers from furthering their own sexual desires through the means of arbitrary and subjective police practice.