Embarrassing and scary police story

Sunday, October 25, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Around our house, photo albums are in the embryonic stage. That is, photos are stuffed into shoe boxes, in no particular order. Not by year, not by subject, not by family, not by decade.

We paw through the boxes, shuffling and re-shuffling when we want to prove to our in-laws that the baby looks like our side. Photos are removed from envelopes, forever separated from their negatives. Pictures come up missing. Some of this is innocent. Some of it is not.

Censored photos

When nobody is looking, I remove the ones of me that are unflattering. This is nearly all of them. The ones with a clear shot of an extra chin. The ones of me on a spectacularly bad hair day. The ones that highlight my thighs. The fat ones. The pregnant ones. The ones where I'm laughing so hard that you can see the fillings in my back teeth.

This is why I am wondering why somebody would keep a bunch of pictures of herself around in "sexually explicit" poses. I am guessing that not very many people look good in this situation. Worse than a double chin, if you ask me.

But this is none of my business.

Now along comes Spc. John Horn of the Cincinnati Police Division and makes it all of our business.

He admits that last October he removed nude photographs of a woman from her apartment while he was there to arrest her boyfriend. In the residence were also a sawed-off shotgun, crack cocaine and ski masks. The police officers were there on serious business.

From which Spc. Horn apparently was diverted.

He told the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) that he noticed a stack of photographs inside a nightstand and decided to look through them in an effort to find more evidence against the boyfriend, who was thought to be part of a robbery ring.

B>A memorable occasion

He was looking, he said, for evidence -- the boyfriend posing with a gun or consorting with other known felons -- and accidentally took the photos. Another police officer testified before the Cincinnati Police Internal Investigations Unit that Polaroid photographs of a nude woman "may have been flashed in my face" but he did not recall who might have shown him the photographs.

For most of us, this would be a memorable occasion.

The entire incident might have ended with a minor theft and a mysterious flasher, except that the woman's father was a police officer who heard officers boasting about the pictures they had seen.

Then the fat was in the fire. An official complaint. An investigation concluded, "OMI does not believe that the removal of the photographs was an accident nor was it proper." A letter of reprimand was placed in Spc. Horn's file.

During last week's Law and Public Safety Committee meeting, several Cincinnati City Council members wondered whether the punishment was enough. No one else has been cited, including the officers who looked at the photographs, then looked the other way.

Do you get the feeling nothing would happen if some cop came into your house and removed pictures of you and passed them around? Unless, of course, you were related to one of them.

Do you suspect that Spc. Horn is not the only guilty party? Do you worry that none of the officers who saw the photos took them out of circulation?

Being a police officer is a tough and dangerous job, as we have been reminded all too often during the past year. We ask them to protect us from the sawed-off shotguns and the crack cocaine dealers. And we take it for granted that they will protect us from themselves.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail laurapulfer@enquirer.com or fax 768-8340 or call 768-8393, She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio and as a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.