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Keystone cops and the shame game

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 30, 2003


"The only thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them." — Oscar Wilde

Before I weigh in on the current comedy of ethics being pursued by the Oceanside Police Department with publishing the names of those busted for solicitation, I must preface it with an open disclaimer. I believe prostitution should be decriminalized. People should be free to market their bodies however they see fit. And if that includes walking dark streets in ill-fitting clothing? So be it.

Free market capitalism demands nothing less.

Sex workers have always been part of the human economy, hence the reason it is called the world's oldest profession. A victimless crime if ever there was one, the prosecution of prostitutes is really about male dominance over women, and giving cops something to do in between donuts and dalliances. Prosecuting sex is ideal for job security, as Police departments require criminals to justify their paychecks. And criminalizing the world's oldest contact sport provides a lot of bang for the taxpayers buck.

This is not to let the prostitutes and johns off the hook. The reason prostitution is criminalized is partially due to the complete disregard prostitutes show for the overall community. Aggressive prostitutes, brazeningly conducting business along Coast High Way 101, and other roving red light districts, undermine other businesses while stressing surrounding residents. In areas of known prostitution, condoms are found in front yards and sidewalks, women are propositioned by "johns" looking for a "date" while walking in the their own neighborhoods, and property values diminish due to the social blight reflecting badly on public opinion.

Speaking of public opinion and bad reflections. It would be nice if Chief Poehlman would spend as much time confronting the antisocial behavior currently dominating the Oceanside police department.

The fact that OPD can not get a handle on the misogynistic oppression of women within their own ranks, leads me to think the decision of Oceanside's Chief of Police, Mike Poehlman, to publish the names of men arrested for engaging in sexual commerce, is nothing more than a media stunt to divert attention from the ethical corruption within the OPD, and the recent $600,000 settlement regarding sexual harassment of female employees. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Smoke and mirrors…baby.

It seems rather convenient, that as the Oceanside City Council once again voted to settle an unflattering lawsuit within the police department, the chief of police would blow a lot of smoke about taking a bite out of crime by buying space in local print media.

And what makes anyone think publishing the names of prostitutes is going to make a difference. People who sell sexual favor do so for economic reasons. Sex sells, and people need money. Listing their names in the classifieds is actually free advertising. If these folks didn't want people to know they were prostitutes they wouldn't be selling themselves on the street.

Trying to shame people into better behavior never works, it merely forces them to seek inventive ways to avoid detection. Chief Poehlman may believe he has claimed the moral high ground by outing "johns" as a form of deterrence, but he couldn't be more wrong. By publishing the identity of community members caught in the act of trying to purchase physical intimacy, entire families could be ripped apart, as wives and children are publicly forced to deal with daddy's walk on the wild side. Then there is the specter of employment hassles. What if "John" Smith looses his job because his boss saw his name on Chief Poehman's list of shame? Lives could be ruined.

Finally, something needs to be said about the selectivity involved in Chief Poehlman's decision to signal out prostitutes and their clientele. I suggest the shame game would be better directed at the perpetrators of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and child abuse. Drunk drivers, date rapists, dead-beat dads, litterers, illegal dumpers, and corporate polluters could have their own quarterly list of shame. And why he's at it, Chief Poehlman should run a list of blame for everyone with a warrant.

Sadly it's come to this. Who knows, maybe Chief Poehlman's next bright idea will include stockades and public flogging. Or perhaps the OPD will soon require scarlet letters for johns and the hookers who service them.

That would show them the errors of their ways.

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