December 28, 2007

Topless Woman Propositions Man In Park -- And Who Gets Arrested?

Police have a tough job, especially when it comes to vice-squad details. They have to keep areas free of predators in order to allow law-abiding citizens to enjoy public places. However, they also have to take care not to entrap people in behavior that they ordinarily wouldn't commit. In Columbus, Ohio, it seems very clear they crossed that line:

Robin Garrison, an off-duty 42-year-old firefighter, was walking in Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio, in May when he saw a woman sunbathing topless under a tree.

He approached her and they started talking and getting comfortable, the woman smiling and resting her foot on his shoulder at one point.

Eventually, she asked to see Garrison's penis; he unzipped his pants and complied.

Seconds later, undercover police officers pulled up in a van and arrested Garrison; he was later charged with public indecency, a misdemeanor, based on video footage taken by cops who were targeting men having sex or masturbating in the park. While topless sunbathing is legal in the city's parks, exposing more than that is against the law.

Right off the bat, the hypocrisy here is apparent. The police want to clean up the park -- and how do they do that? Have topless women laying around to attract supposed perverts. I can see where that would make the park so much more family-friendly than before this particular sting operation.

Undoubtedly, Garrison should not have exposed himself. However, would he have done so had it not been for the interaction with the "undercover" police officer? Rubbing his shoulder with her foot constitutes a serious come-on when done by a half-naked woman in public. Garrison only popped out Mr. Happy after that physical contact, which strongly suggests that Garrison thought this an unusual opportunity, not that he prowled the park looking for opportunities to expose himself.

Columbus should ask whether they have created more problems than they solve in these cases. Rounding up perverts who masturbate in public places is a good use of police resources and allows people to use community assets as intended. Having topless women laying out in the open and caressing men who act on understandable signals of sexual openness turns these places into precisely what they're hoping to avoid.


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