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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 25, 2005

'L Word' screen saver gets police officer into trouble

Camden, Ohio--A police officer assigned to protect elementary school children may lose her job over a screen saver with characters from a TV show, The L Word.

The Camden Police Department put Officer Ann Smith, 24, on administrative leave March 16 after parents complained that their fifth graders saw �inappropriate� material. The department turned the computer she used over to the Preble County Sheriff for more investigation

Smith had been assigned to Camden Elementary School as a resource officer since April, 2004. The position is paid by a federal grant. Her duties included overall safety and security at the school, monitoring traffic on the streets around the building, and providing instruction to students on safety-related topics.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Richard Bricker, the desktop computer, owned by the school system, was located in Smith�s work area in a small conference room off the office.

Bricker said the screen faced a wall, and he is not sure why students would have been able to see it.

�I�m not sure how the students saw it,� said Bricker. �They said she showed it to them, I never heard her side.�

Bricker said the students are fifth graders, all officers in the school�s safety patrol, which Smith oversaw.

Preble County Sheriff Chief Deputy Terry Snowden said his department has taken the statements of �about ten� students. He expects that once the investigation is finished, the matter will be turned over to the county prosecutor for review.

Snowden said detectives are about half finished with their examination of about 50,000 images on the machine�s hard drive.

�I understand at this time there is nothing illegal and nothing pornographic on there,� said Snowden.

Snowden said that some students and their parents reported being shown pictures of �women rubbing on each other� and �a girl walking up behind another girl and rubbing her belly.�

�It�s what the parents think is appropriate for fifth graders that�s important here,� said Snowden.

Smith could not be located for comment on this report.

Her employer, the Camden Police Department, did not return phone calls.

Snowden and Bricker give similar descriptions of the screen saver, which are consistent with the one available on the Showtime network�s web site for The L Word.

That screensaver has photos of the show�s characters appearing and disappearing on the screen. They are dressed in attire one would expect to see at a cocktail party, some in suggestive poses. There is no nudity. One frame features a smaller photo box showing two women embracing. The show�s logo is displayed in the corner throughout.

�The kids went home and said they saw women in various stages of undress, women kissing, and women with bare midriffs,� said Bricker. �I guess their imaginations ran away with them.�

Regardless, Bricker said Smith�s use of the computer violated school policy, and if she was a school employee, there would be a disciplinary hearing on it.

�Shopping at Sears [web site] violates the acceptable use policy,� Bricker pointed out, adding that the policy forbids any computer use not related to the functions of the job.

�Our employees are only allowed to use screen savers that come with the computer,� said Bricker.

Bricker said the officer who replaced Smith at the school is expected to finish out the school year. He is not sure whether or not she will return next year.

�She�s not our employee,� said Bricker.

Camden, population 2,200, is 20 miles southwest of Dayton.


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