Last week’s Miami Herald article bothered me.
You know the one, “Karma caught up with these sex offenders and predators, Florida cops say”. It was called Operation Karma, the totally unnecessary round-up of registrants, in this case, 26 of them, whose only “crime” was neglecting to follow through with some tiresome registration requirement, listing a new home address, registering a motor vehicle, a media account, updating employment information, etc. I suppose this “operation” served two purposes, it gave the police of Polk County, Fl. something to do that particular day instead of fighting “real crime” and it produced a headline story for the Miami Herald. As we all know, any headline with the words “sex offender” in it is sure to grab the public’s attention.
Operation Karma, the title of this sham operation already tells you that the police presume registrants should get what they deserve, after all, that’s what karma is according to the Urban Dictionary, “getting what you give or reaping what you sow”. In this instance it’s bad karma for the registrants.
But what this article did was to re-expose registrants and their families, including their children, to cruel and needless humiliation and that’s exactly what my letter to the editor of the Miami Herald stated.
None of the registrants rounded up during this bogus “operation” were picked up on new sexual offenses, although that’s what the headline would like the public to believe. Minor errors such as failing to register motor vehicles or forgetting to update a change of address were interpreted by the sheriff of Polk County as registrants being “up to no good”. Evidently in his mind there is some weird correlation between not updating information and sex offenses.
This leads me to wonder how many people who aren’t on the registry are out there driving unregistered vehicles and whether or not they are all “up to no good” too. Don’t they deserve a special “Operation Karma”? Aren’t most people who are caught driving an unregistered vehicle just issued a summons instead of being hauled off to jail?
In my letter to the editor I asked what was the point of printing mugshots of registrants whose offenses were decades old. What purpose was served by printing their names, ages, addresses and details of their past offenses? Chances are that all of this information had made its way into some newspaper at the time of the original offense, again, for many, decades ago. Why humiliate them and their families again?
And what about the children? We hear that phrase so often from those who are pro-registry, those who claim to be only concerned about the welfare and safety of the children.
Well, I asked the editor, what about the children of those registrants whose pictures you’ve just plastered across the newspaper? How will you feel when a registrant’s child is bullied, teased and ostracized by their peers or worse yet, commits suicide, because of the embarrassing effect of this kind of article?
Was the editor aware of the domino effect this continued kind of punishment of registrants has on other family members? When husbands and wives, parents and grandparents and employers see these mugshots and details of past crimes printed again, decades later, for no good reason other than to gain a news grabbing headline, bad things can happen. People can lose their jobs, stress can cause family issues, health issues. Nothing good comes of this. All bad karma.
As for registrants not registering their vehicles or updating their particulars with the registry, let’s talk about that. Yes, maybe there are a few that are up to no good, just like some non-registrants who don’t register their vehicles. But, not all. They’re not all “up to no good”.
Many registrants have difficulty finding work. They have difficulty locating housing, especially in Florida. It’s not a far reach for anyone to understand that sometimes the paychecks they do have will go to put food in their children’s mouths or a roof over their families heads rather than to the DMV to register their car or to the registry office to pay fees associated with making changes to their registry info. Anyone who isn’t a registrant might be guilty doing the same thing, but that wouldn’t make headlines now would it?
While updating particulars like social media accounts or the number of tattoos and piercings one has is a registry requirement, we all know it’s a ridiculous one and hardly something that one should be arrested for.
I’d like the editor of the Miami Herald to use some plain old common sense and discretion when writing/printing articles like this one. It served no purpose except to “puff up” the feathers of a police department that seems to have had a lot of time on their hands and to make a news headline for the Miami Herald which suggested that “karma” had come around again to these registrants.
What they seem to forget is that there are real people behind those mugshots. People with families, with jobs, with lives that they are often tenuously managing to hold together because of the registry. The article and accompanying mugshots was a calculated and punitive way to again humiliate all those registrants and families involved.
The Miami Herald owes them an apology.
And I’m still waiting for a reply from the editor.