Written by Linda, a CAGE member and supporter.
You’re a Washington State Patrol officer with Operation Net Nanny. It’s an Internet Crimes Against Children task force and you’re on your way to arrest an innocent man.
The dirty jokes fly during the ride but the scripts your commander writes for you to lure these guys in sometimes make you wonder. It’s worse than the shit you watch when the wife’s out of town.
As the van parks behind a house, you high-five each other and grab your gear. Everyone is armed and wearing a flack vest with the Net Nanny logo on the back. Some guys write tallies on their hats in permanent ink.
This time all of the equipment seems like overkill. The 19 year old kid you talked into driving to meet you won’t know what hit him because you’ve got him thinking up is down.
You’re allowed to lie and deceive and your tactics work best on the vulnerable. You troll for your targets in adults-only forums where they’ll assume they’re talking to other adults. When they ask, you send them a photo of an adult female police officer – minus the uniform, of course. Some of these guys are still in their teens and many have underlying developmental issues that affect their judgement so they get confused when you suddenly tell them you’re underage.
This one stopped texting you so you approached him again and again until he relented, skeptical of your claim and knowing role play is common in online forums.
You know he’s guilty of bad judgement and you also know he’s not a predator. There’s a difference between a man who’s dumb enough to follow the wrong head and the guy who plans ahead. Still, you’re going for attempted rape of a child.
You had no probable cause when you first engaged him but once you got him to talk sex you were able to begin collecting evidence. You coached him into driving to meet you. You even told him what to bring so you could arrest him with the evidence you’d need to put him away.
Only a handful of the dozens of guys you arrest have a criminal record, photos, or any other incriminating evidence in their possession but a bunch of Joe Schmoes is easier and cheaper to round up than the real thing – and the numbers make for great headlines.
You stoke hysteria in hyped-up press releases where you call those you’ve arrested sexual predators and publish their names as if they’ve already been convicted. You use language that elicits fear – and donations.
Manipulation is your Modus Operandi.
You falsely report that the stings involve victims in order to procure federal grant money and the overtime you spend on them boosts the value of your retirement pension.
You know it’s a racket and you don’t give a shit about the wreckage you leave behind.“How old’s this one again?” someone asks. “Too young for you” someone else says, followed by laughter.
You crawl out of the van and take your positions in the house. Someone asks you what you’re ordering at the Chinese restaurant you’re hitting after the sting. You call out “Sweet and Sour, baby; like your Grandma”. You hear groans.
Your mind wanders as you shift in your vest and your finger twitches against the trigger of your weapon. A part of you wishes the target would draw a gun on you…As you hear a car approaching, you pat yourself on the back for the skill it took to lure an innocent man into spending the rest of his life in prison.
A car door shuts. You get the signal and you move. Gun drawn, you watch in disbelief as your teammates take your son into custody.