CWA's chief counsel, Jan LaRue, conducted this interview with Robert Navarro, a retired Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective. Bob served 28 years with LAPD including 20 years in the Pornography Unit in the Organized Crime and Vice Division. He retired as Officer-in-Charge of the unit. Bob and his wife of 37 years, Teri, have three children and four grandchildren. In South Pasadena, California, Bob and his son, Aaron, operate Navarro Private Investigations, which has 20 retired police officers as investigators. Jan and Bob have been good friends since 1992 and worked together in California combating pornography.
Q: Bob, please tell us about your work in the Porn Unit at LAPD.
A: We were a small unit of detectives that proactively sought material the City Attorney was willing to prosecute, identified the distributors, and prepared prosecutable cases against them. Our investigation always culminated with the service of a search warrant. The material our City Attorney was willing to prosecute was so disgusting that we seldom ended up in court. Most defendants accepted plea bargains rather than face a judge and jury.
Q: Not every police department has a pornography section. Why does LAPD have one, and should police departments make this a priority?
A: Los Angeles is the pornography capital of the United States. Before the Internet, 80 percent of all adult material was produced and distributed from Los Angeles. Making the prosecution of obscenity a priority in all departments would be great. I would be satisfied right now if it was on the "To Do" list. Most police agencies do not enforce obscenity statutes at all. Some try but are not trained and do not always have prosecutors' support. Most prosecutors are not trained and are very reluctant to take on the pornography industry.
Q: Please explain as discreetly as possible how you distinguished pornography that you considered in violation of federal or state obscenity laws.
A:Most, if not all, of the hard-core material violates state and federal statutes. I think the best way to answer the question is to discuss what our prosecutors were willing to prosecute. In Los Angeles, the material we prosecuted cannot be described discreetly. (Material depicted humans having sex with animals, scenes with people urinating or defecating on other people, bondage with sex, adults pandered as children, themes of rape or incest, sadomasochism.) The remaining hard-core material found its way into just about every community of the country. Some communities like Oklahoma City and Cincinnati said "no" to obscenity and were spared.
Q: The porn industry claims and some people say this is a victimless crime and a harmless pastime. You disagree. Why?
A: Ask a molested child, a battered wife, a person dying of AIDS, an exploited stripper, or an estranged husband whose wife has lost all respect for him. I love the "Pornography Tree" depicted on the brochure of Oklahomans for the Protection of Children and Families. It shows pornography as a contributing factor of so many of our social ills, like sexually transmitted diseases, rape, promiscuity, divorce, child molestation, abortion, and on and on.
I recently spoke with an old friend, a parole agent for the state of California, who deals with the hard-core inmates entering and exiting the prison system. He told me he has found a remarkable statistic that is causing shock waves. Interviews with inmates have revealed that more than 90 percent of the total inmate population were molested as children! He said that 99.9 percent of female drug addicts entering the system have been molested! When are people going to wake up to how devastating this is for children?
Q: You and I know Dr. Victor Cline, an expert on the addictive nature of pornography. In your work in the LAPD, did you encounter individuals who were obsessed with porn? How did you come in contact with them?
A: Pornography obsession is part of the overall sexual obsession. A person addicted to pornography usually will seek out other ways to satisfy his/her urges. We would find these unfortunate souls in bathhouses, park restrooms, in vehicles with prostitutes, in adult bookstores and in strip joints. They would be arrested and, if convicted, would have to register as sex offenders. I remember a schoolteacher we found in a compromising position with a prostitute in a vehicle on a public street. We arrested them for lewd conduct and he ended up losing his job.
Q: Since we agree that porn is so addictive, how did you and the officers in your unit keep it from happening to you?
A: We viewed the material from a very different perspective, almost like the mindset of a surgeon operating on a patient. We did not focus on or ponder the prurient nature of the material. As a supervisor, I was very careful whom I brought into the unit and would keep a close eye on the guys. We also had a viewing room that was off-limits to vice detectives assigned to other duties. We had a volunteer retired disabled detective who was brought into our unit to assist us. I caught him taking videos home and he was reassigned.
Before I was assigned to the unit, we did have one detective who became addicted and acted out beyond pornography. He ended up getting AIDS and killing himself.
Q: Please give us some examples of cases where pornography was involved with sex crimes.
A: We had a case in Los Angeles that involved a man who was watching porno movies and took time out to sodomize and murder his 12-year-old son. He returned to the movies after the murder.
It is common knowledge that pedophiles use adult pornography to lower the inhibitions of their intended victims. The pedophile also uses the pornography as a training manual for the children. I am unaware of any study about the use of pornography by rapists, but I have heard many cases where pornography was found in the perpetrator's home and/or vehicle. There have been scientific studies done on the effects of pornography on men's attitude toward women. Obviously this would impact the nature and frequency of rapes. We can look at a study done in Oklahoma County and see how enforcing the state's obscenity law reduced the number of adult businesses and significantly lowered the rape rate in Oklahoma County for five straight years. In the same period of time, the rape rate increased in the rest of the state.
Q: Your section at LAPD participated in some major federal obscenity cases involving multiple jurisdictions. Please tell us about a couple of them and any involvement with organized crime.
A: We worked hand-in-hand with the FBI, Customs and the Postal Service on many cases and many task forces. One of the most successful task forces was code-named "Operation Woodworm." Twenty-six Los Angeles-based companies were prosecuted in federal courts for interstate transportation of obscene material. The owners of several major distributors spent time in federal prisons and were fined millions of dollars.
Q: How did the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) laws help in taking down pornographers?
A: Because obscenity is a predicate offense under RICO, we were able to apply the statute in many of the cases by showing the connection with various stages of the production, distribution and retail sides of the business. Ruben Sturman, the reputed "King of Porn" who ran the porn industry with the protection of organized crime, was convicted of RICO violations. [Sturman pled guilty in April 1992 to one count of racketeering and seven counts of shipping obscenity, including child porn and bestiality, across state lines.]
Q: Hard-core porn floods the Internet. Is most of it prosecutable, and what will it take to get it under control?
A: The manner of distribution does not make it less prosecutable, only more difficult to investigate. Based on some of the pornography ads (spam) I get on a daily basis, I think it is like shooting fish in a barrel. There has to be a federal agency willing to take it on. It would be difficult and expensive for a state police officer in San Diego to take on an Internet company in Muskogee, Oklahoma. This federal agency could begin by identifying the violators, having a judge make an obscenity probable-cause determination and then sending out a cease-and-desist notification. At least we would be doing something. Right now these sites operate without any fear of prosecution.
Q: There's so much child pornography available over the Internet and sexual predators are online after children. Some people say that law enforcement resources should just focus on this and not obscenity. What's your response?
A: Should we also forget about burglary and car thefts? Investigating one crime does not mean you need to forget all others. Protecting our children from these animals should be the number- one priority. As I said before, prosecuting obscenity must at least be on the "To Do" list.
Q: To your knowledge, is organized crime still involved in the hard-core porn business?
A: Before the Internet, most of the industry was controlled in one way or another by organized crime. I would say the percentage is now quite a bit less but still significant. The "adult" stores once owned by Ruben Sturman have passed on to other organized crime associates.
Q: There is a Web site, www.obscenitycrimes.org, where people can file a complaint about hard-core porn-spam and Web sites with hard-core porn. Do you think this will be helpful to police and prosecutors?
A: The tips are a good place to start. These companies are changing Web sites and relocating host computers all the time. Citizens can be very useful as a "Neighborhood Watch" for the Internet. I think it also helps citizens understand that it is not okay to distribute obscenity.
Q: When you were with LAPD, you also worked "white-collar crimes." Corporations such as AT&T, GM's DirecTV, Time-Warner, Marriott and Hilton, are advertising and distributing hard-core pornography, and credit-card companies such as VISA are financing it. In addition to making big profits, why do you think they've gotten involved in this dirty business?
A: During the Clinton years, there was a clear message that obscenity enforcement was not a priority, and it slowly became an acceptable mode of entertainment. These companies don't want to be left behind and I would imagine some of their executives are users.
Q: At the conclusion of his written statement in the Final Report of the Commission on Pornography, Dr. Park Elliott Dietz, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., stated that when he came to serve on the Commission, "the morality of pornography was the farthest thing from my mind."(1) He described his personal evolution at the conclusion of his statement: "I, for one, have no hesitation in condemning nearly every specimen of pornography that we have examined in the course of our deliberations as tasteless, offensive, lewd and indecent. According to my values, these materials are themselves immoral, and to the extent that they encourage immoral behavior they exert a corrupting influence on the family and the moral fabric of society."(2) What is your response to his statement?
A: On the morality issue, I can agree openly now that I am no longer a police officer. I used to have to keep my words focused on the law. It's interesting, this message was printed over 20 years ago, and it's almost prophetic when you look at where we are today. Morality does count and we need to keep that message out there.
Q: Dr. Dietz also wrote about the serious adverse effects of pornography on public health and safety. He discussed the abuse of persons used in production, injurious products, vice centers, sexual disinformation, the encouragement of social behavior with adverse health consequences, instruments of sexual abuse, and the presumed corruption of children. He wrote: "We do not need research to tell us that such persons [who follow the patterns of social behavior promoted by pornography] on the average contribute more than other persons to rates of illegitimacy, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases."(3) Is this an over-statement?
A: It has become more relevant and less over-stated since the Internet has put more of the worst possible pornography into the hands of our young. Can you imagine what happens to anyone's mind when this pollution is allowed to fester and rot? This is especially true with young children whose minds are like fresh cement ready to be impacted in a very permanent way. I think even liberals can join in on this issue because of the upsurge of sexual harassment in the work place.
Q: You've retired from your job with LAPD. Why and how are you still involved in fighting porn?
A: I am honored to sit on the board of directors for the National Law Center for Children and Families. I contribute in any way I can. Locally, I teach an hour a week in the Catholic grade school I attended as a child. The students get an earful. In my family, I make sure my children and grandchildren know it is not all right to view pornography.
Q: Anything you would like to add in conclusion?
A: I would like to thank you and your organization for fighting the good fight. I think we need to fight for the minds and hearts of the American people by educating, pushing the prosecutable envelope, and letting our combined voices be heard loud and clear. We need to support organizations like CWA, the National Law Center, Citizens for Community Values, and individuals who fight in the trenches. Obscenity is illegal and should be prosecuted. Pornography is harmful and must be dealt with as the pollutant it is. The Internet is a public place and must be treated as such.
On behalf of CWA and our constituents, we want to express our deep appreciation to Bob for his many years of excellent work enforcing federal and state laws against pornography. His dedication to a very difficult task has spared countless children and families from suffering the adverse effects of pornography and sexual exploitation. You can express your personal thanks to Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography 488
(Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1986).
ibid, p.p. 491-92.
ibid, p.p. 488-91.
This article can be found on the Concerned Women of America website. Reprinted with permission.