As anyone who was closely following the #myNYPD fracas knows, police departments haven’t fared so well on social media lately. Yet the Prince George Police Department in Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., apparently hasn’t learned their lesson from the #myNYPD debacle: they’re planning to live-tweet a massive prostitution sting“sometime next week,” and include photos of those arrested.
Here’s the statement from the PGPD’s blog, which they also posted on Twitter:
We won't tell you when or where, other than it's somewhere in the county sometime next week. The PGPD's Vice Unit will conduct a prostitution sting that targets those soliciting prostitutes and we'll tweet it out as it happens. From the ads to the arrests, we'll show you how the PGPD is battling the oldest profession. Suspect photos and information will be tweeted. We're using this progressive, and what we believe unprecedented, social media tactic to warn any potential participants that this type of criminal behavior is not welcome in Prince George's County.
Yes, PGPD. This is a totally progressive and unprecedented social media tactic. Except when it was used here, by the Richmond, California police force. And here in St. Louis. And here, in New York’s Nassau County. But hey, publicly shaming adults who have consensual paid sex is a great idea anyway, no matter who came up with it first! Here’s your cookie, PGPD.
Not surprisingly, the PGPD’s announcement of the sting was met with intense criticism on Twitter from sex workers and their allies. Some of them retweeted a photo that PGPD’s Twitter had posted along with their tweet announcing the upcoming sting, which shows a sex worker being escorted by a police officer in handcuffs, with the hashtag #PGPDVice:
As a culture we should seek better conditions for sex works, including health and safety. #PGPDVice is not the way to go. Shame on cops.— Shawn Selders (@ShawnSelders) May 2, 2014
In response to the outcry, the PGPD released a follow-up statement on their blog yesterday, clarifying that the sting will be targeting clients of sex workers, rather than sex workers themselves:
The announcement of the operation sparked intense discussion on social media, due in part, to the spread of misinformation. Our Vice Unit will target those who choose to solicit a prostitute, not prostitutes themselves. The intent all along has been to put on notice and/or arrest the very people who exploit women and even young girls in our community.
Journalist Melissa Gira Grant also interviewed PGPD’s public relations director Julie Parker about the sting last night, tweeting the following this morning:
Putting aside the idea that the public could probably benefit from less “transparency” on sex worker arrests, and more transparency on, say, the history of misconduct and police brutality within the PGPD itself, the idea that shaming johns for buying sex as an effective method for curbing prostitution is pretty ludicrous.
If anything, the PGPD publicizing its upcoming john-shaming initiative in what seems like a pretty bald-faced PR grab could have the effect of driving these transactions further underground, thus putting the “women and young girls” they’re so eager to save at further risk. But hey, what’s the big deal if a few sex workers and their clients get publicly shamed or worse, when the PGPD is getting all this awesome free publicity out of it?!?! Hashtag #winning, amirite?
If nothing else, at least there’s one good thing to come out of all this whole mess:
The one grain of light in the depressing #PGPDvice raids is watching the awesome, united backlash.— Vex Ashley (@ohvex) May 2, 2014