(CBS) NEW YORK Last April, police targeted a sex-for-money operation at a well-known Brooklyn massage parlor. They sent in an undercover officer to catch them in the act. Instead, the cops involved were the ones who got stung.
Pictures taken from a series of hidden surveillance cameras show the undercover officer entering, standing in the massage parlor lobby and then walking out. He spends a total of 43 seconds inside. Yet the officer claimed that during those 43 seconds he was solicited by all eight women working there. Moments later the vice squad moved in and the workers and massage parlor owner were arrested for prostitution. Based on the surveillance photos, prosecutors now believe the undercover officer was lying.
Besides embarrassment, this case highlights the issue of police credibility.
When the police take shortcuts in cases they consider to be obvious or an embarrassment, it has a ripple effect in the tougher cases where misconduct can result in letting the most violent offenders go free or in locking up innocent people.
We need a strong and ethical police force.
That means more than a quick fix of firing the officers who were caught doing wrong. It means identifying the contributing factors and changing those factors until it is easier for the police to be ethical and harder for them to be unethical.
If contributing factors are lack of funds for investigations, evidence handling or training, then we as members of the public need to decide if we are willing to pay for a strong, ethical police force.
I missed something about this story the first time I read it, but the sophisticated surveillence system likely captured much more than the activity of the police. Every customer who entered the premises must have also been recorded. The only question is whether everything was recorded.
I wonder how many of their customers have realized this and whether that's keeping them from getting a peaceful sleep.
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