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by Peter Moskos

September 15, 2008

Only in Hollywood (Florida)

A Baltimore reader emailed me this:
Michael Verdugo is a police officer in Florida who was on the HGTV show Design Star. He's openly gay and a porn blog revealed that five years prior to becoming a police he was in a gay porn film. The police department he is in suspended him to investigate these allegations. Apparently he could be fired for this depending on how the investigation goes. This is what I don't understand - how can you be fired for making a legal product?

Gay porn is legal, right? A lot of people (on the internet) say that he is being fired for being gay, but he has been out at his workplace for four years. I don't understand how you can be punished for something legal that occurred before you were even at a job. I feel like there is something I don't understand about police culture that is at the heart of this situation.

I can see the anti-gay lobby chomping at the bits! "See, first they made it legal... then they think it's normal to be in a gay bondage films! Next they'll be tying down our boys! Grab the torches and pitchforks!"

While homophobia isn't the heart of police culture, I think it's safe to say that police culture is not generally very liberal or gay friendly (neither are most Americans, it should be noted). There is an active gay NYPD association. And there are openly gay officers in the Netherlands and nobody seems to care.

But I knew of no openly gay (male) police officers in Baltimore (or closeted ones, for that matter). And yes, I used to joke all the time with my colleagues about their sexual orientation. (Gosh, you know what, I still do. And I'm about as gay friendly as a guy as you can be without... oh, jeeze, there I go again.)

Police, at least in theory, agree to uphold certain standards of morality in their personal life. And there's the rub. Is it immoral to be in a gay porn film? Most people would say yes. And don't forget, in 2003 sodomy was (and maybe still is) illegal in Florida!

Legal or not, police can get dismissed for actions that aren't illegal. For instance, in the P.D., being a "coward" isn't just an insult, it's a disciplinary offense. And occasionally officers are (and should be) brought up on charges of being a coward (like if you watch your partner get his or her ass kicked and don't do anything).

If you're a cop and they really want to get you, "conduct unbecoming" is generally the catch-all. Now applying "unbecoming" to pre-job "conduct" is a bit of a stretch.

If they want to fire Verdugo for being in gay bondage files, they'll probably get him for lying on his job application. What did he list as his previous employment? It would be interesting if he did list "film career" or "actor" or something on his application. Because then he was open about it and it would be hard to blame him now (and he could place the blame on the background check).

I do wonder if any straight male or female police officers were "porn before police"? Would they get fired for it? In most of America--Hollywood, Florida, included--I doubt it.


jeff said...

Peter, no they would not. I know a young lady that did pose nude and was in some provocative shots. No she was not fired. She would receive some extra looks by the young officers. Some of us would tell them and other would ask.

PCM said...

I agree. But there is a difference between a few nudie shots and hardcore porn.