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Topless Woman Police Entrapment Sting

Columbus, Ohio police are using hot, topless women to seduce men into exposing themselves in public so that they can arrest them.

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.

Topless Woman Entrapment Photo Law enforcement officials say that sting operations like these are an extremely effective means of lowering crime rates and stopping the criminally minded before they commit worse offenses. Opponents call it entrapment. (ABC News)

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.

The case is just one of the more extreme examples of police stings aimed at luring people into committing crimes, a tactic that has resulted in hundreds of arrests, many convictions and plenty of controversy. Law enforcement officials say that such sting operations are an extremely effective means of lowering crime rates and stopping the criminally minded before they commit worse offenses. [...] But such operations veer dangerously close to entrapment, say lawyers, civil libertarians and defendants who’ve been caught in sting operations.

Patterico guest poster DRJ presents a lawyerly explanation for why this isn’t technically “entrapment.” Further, he “like[s] the policy of stopping small crime before it becomes big crime.”

Ed Morrissey argues, though, that this pretty clearly crosses a line.

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.

Quite right.

Where’s the evidence that Garrison, absent very active enticement by a hot, topless undercover cop, was likely to commit any crime whatsoever?

It’s one thing to have a female officer pose as a prostitute on a corner where solicitation is known to occur and wait for prospective “clients” to proposition them. Or for a plain clothes detective to pose as a drug buyer to gain evidence against a known drug dealer. Or, heck, to have cops sit in known gay solicitation hangouts, tapping their feet in case Larry Craig drops by.

In this case, though, we likely merely caught a lonely guy who exhibited poor judgment when given an opportunity that I suspect he didn’t get very often. Why are we using police resources for this?

UPDATE: According to the Columbus Dispatchs account of the story (via an update to and comments in DRJ’s piece, linked above) the woman was not a police officer, making entrapment a harder sell. At the same time, however, she was apparently attracting — and happily encouraging — quite a bit of lewd attention:

Detective Dick Elias said vice officers had set up the video because they were targeting men who were having sex or masturbating in the park — not men who had come to see her.

The woman had been sunbathing topless near the front of the park for days, he said, and “had become a spectacle” with men driving by to watch.

It is legal for women to be topless in Columbus.

So Elias asked the woman to move to the rear of the park, which she did. But men still drove by to see her. Another man, whose name wasn’t mentioned, was charged the same afternoon as Garrison for exposing himself to the woman.

Essentially, this was the equivalent of a speed trap: A situation existed where lawbreaking was quite likely and the police were there hoping to make arrests.

While I’m sympathetic to the community’s interest in not having parks become havens for lewd activity, I’m still dubious of this particular use of police resources. Indeed, it would seem that the city of Columbus would be far better off not encouraging women to sit around the park half naked.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    With all due respect to DRJ, I think he missed the boat on the question of this being entrapment.

    “The definition of entrapment is police activity that induces somebody to commit a crime that they otherwise wouldn’t do,” said Gabriel Chin, law professor at the University of Arizona. “It’s not entrapment to give somebody an opportunity to commit a crime.”

    Chin explains that entrapment involves an officer cajoling and persuading someone who’s resistant to the idea of committing a crime. “Just preying on a predisposition is not necessarily entrapment.”

    Now consider that the topless police woman asked him to show his penis. It was not that he offered to expose himself (showing a predisposition), but that she introduced the idea into the conversation. At that point, while he should have kept it in his pants, the predisposition comes from the cops.

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  2. Tlaloc says:

    Why would it be illegal to expose yourself to a someone who wanted you to, anyway? Seems kind of stupid. And wouldn’t the woman have been violating the law by being topless in the fist place? Are sting operations allowed to break the law to enforce the law.

    This story is dumb on so many levels.

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  3. Michael says:

    Now the question is, if a Police officer tells you to drop you pants, is it both illegal to comply and to not comply?

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  4. Anderson says:

    Agreed w/ YAJ that, commonsensically, where the 1st mention of anything criminal is the cop’s asking you to do it, that shouldn’t be legal.

    However I would not be surprised if the law were less commonsensical. IIRC, the recent trial of the “Sears Tower jihadis” involved similar enticements, with an undercover informant’s being the one to propose illegal deeds, help equip for them, etc.

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  5. Patterico says:

    I think it’s entrapment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Patterico says:

    Actually, that opinion is based on the way I originally understood the story: that the sunbather was a cop and asked to see the guy’s privates.

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  7. vnjagvet says:

    If I were the judge, I would tell the accused to keep his zipper zipped, sin no more, and dismiss the case becaused he was entrapped as a matter of law and all things considered this is his lucky day.

    Then I have a conference with the DA and suggest that he confer with the Police Chief and cut this sh** out. After all, using a half naked siren who likes to see di**s in the park as a lure could even catch the son of a prominent politician. Then what would they do?

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  8. vnjagvet says:

    The update changes things a bit. As a Judge, I would let the police put up their case, and then rule as above after hearing the evidence.

    Legitimate speed traps don’t use a bevy of speeding red corvettes going through the trap just to entice leadfooted followers.

    That is just too much to resist for red-blooded american drivers of a certain age.

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  9. Alan Kellogg says:

    First, we need to work out the protocol for such situations, which would not include public genital exposure. But I must disagree with James whereto topless women in public places. The problem here is not that it occurs, but that it occurs so rarely. Along with inculcating appropriate behavior at such times, we need to encourage more women to go topless. That way people will get used to it and be more inclined to take it as a matter of course.

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  10. Tlaloc says:

    Indeed, it would seem that the city of Columbus would be far better off not encouraging women to sit around the park half naked.

    Whoa… whoa… Whoa!

    We do NOT need the law discouraging that at all

    :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. lunacy says:

    Crime must be minimal in Columbus for them to create the circumstances, and thus the revenues.

    We should all be so lucky to live in such a low crime environment.

    Me…I can limit my toplessness to my own back yard only because there are too many robbers and carjackers around.

    Did SHE get arrested for exposing herself?

    Can the PD get fined for coercing crime by asking her to go topless?

    Lunacy

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  12. Alan Kellogg says:

    Lunacy,

    She … wasn’t … breaking … the … law. What she was doing is legal in Columbus Ohio parks. Arresting people for engaging in legal behavior is counter productive.

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  13. Media Hype says:

    I think it sucks that the media either a. missed the fact that this woman was NOT A COP or involved in a “sting”. or b. worded their article carefully enough to give the impression that she was a cop.

    This is exactly what I would want my cops doing if this were going on in the park near my home. Like it or not the topless woman is legal. The guy was not. She did provoke the guy though so its too bad that she didnt get some sort of punishment too.

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