28 September 2007

Indecent Charges

In my hometown (Boulder, Colorado), I'm sorry to say at least one of our police officers expressed a prurient interest in a high school senior by writing him a ticket for indecent exposure after the boy tried to streak (mostly) naked across a football field. He (the boy, not the officer) was attired in purple paint and stylish racing flats. I say the officer's interest was "prurient" because indecent exposure requires that the boy "knowingly expose(d) his genitals to the view of any person under circumstances in which such conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm to the other person."

Now the only people who apparently might have been offended were the officers themselves, because the lad was arrested in flagrante but not delicto, before he had actually started to streak the field. As far as I can tell from the newspaper account, there were no other witnesses to this shocking, absolutely shocking behavior. And we all know what kind of affront or alarm it must have caused the officers to prompt them to scotch-tape snack napkins over the child's purple pubescence. It is devoutly to be hoped that our guardians of public decency allowed the boy to apply the sticky strips himself.

The law itself presupposes circumstances that are NOT likely to cause affront or alarm. Surely streaking is one such circumstance, where the only alarm one might experience is that the poor kid will trip and suffer a debilitating turf-burn.

Other students have started a campaign to free the misdemeanant. Of course, free him. And in the spirit of giving people the benefit of the doubt, let's free the officers too, and cease this fruitless speculation about whether they're spending their off-hours in a museum somewhere, ogling a Michaelangelo.

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