December 16, 2003


A Texas housewife is in big trouble with the law for selling a vibrator to a pair of undercover cops. . . . Joanne Webb, a former fifth-grade teacher and mother of three, was in a county court in Cleburne, Texas, on Monday to answer obscenity charges for selling the vibrator to undercover narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple in search of a sex aid.

I recommend laying off half the police force, and three-fourths of the prosecuting attorneys. The good people of Cleburne are obviously overtaxed, and overpoliced.

UPDATE: Andrew Lloyd emails: "I see that Texas finally has smaller government. So small, in fact, that it will fit inside your bedroom."

ANOTHER UPDATE: A Texas reader sends this extract from a Texas judicial opinion of some years back:

CURTISS BROWN, Justice, concurring.
Here we go raising the price of dildos again. Since this appears to be the law in Texas I must concur.

Regalado v. State, 872 S.W.2d 7 (1994). Meanwhile, reader David Radulski emails:

After a first cut analysis, your hypothesis that the City of Cleburne may be overpoliced appears correct.

City of Cleburne Police Department website says their police department has 47 officers and 16 civilian employees. Link

Given Cleburne’s population of 25,356, that equals 2.5 law enforcement employees per 1,000 population.

The FBI’s 2002 ‘Uniform Crime Reports: Law Enforcement Personnel’ (Link) state that Cleburne had 60 full time law enforcement employees in 2002. Perhaps Cleburne has hired 3 more people since then or some of the 63 mentioned on the City of Cleburne Police Department web site are part-time employees. Using the FBI’s more conservative number, it means that Cleburne has 2.4 law enforcement employees per 1,000 population.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports further state that cities comparable to Cleburne (Group IV cities in the West with populations between 25,000 and 49,999) average 2.0 law enforcement employees per 1,000 population. That extra 0.4 law enforcement employees per 1,000 population suggests that Cleburne has ten more law enforcement employees than other cities of its size.

Sounds like a round of layoffs is in order.

MORE: Eugene Volokh asks:

Seriously, folks, isn't it kind of silly not just to have such a law on the books, but to actually spend money, time, and effort enforcing it?

Why yes, it is.

STILL MORE: Long after this item was posted, I received this email:

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I am a Police Officer for the City of Cleburne and I recently reviewed your article dated December 16th, regarding the incident about the young lady arrested for having too many sexual toys. If I may correct you, this incident did not happen in Cleburne, it actually happened in Burleson, Texas, which is about 10 miles north of Cleburne, and the Burleson Police, in connection with our Drug Task Force, arrested and charged the lady for possession too many sexual devices. I would also like to correct you on your point of view that the city of Cleburne has too many officers. We currently have an unofficial poputlion of about 35,000 poeple, counting the illegal aliens who have overwhlemed our small town. Our department is too overwhelmed with calls for help to even worry about sexual toys being sold. Although, possessing too many sexual devices is still against the law in the state of Texas and the Burleson Police Department has every right to enforce that law, should it deem necessary. Thank you for your time and please correct the article in regards to the Cleburne Police Department.

Brandon Arriola

Why, exactly, it makes Cleburne look better is beyond me. What was the Cleburne Drug Task Force doing staging "stings" over sex toys ten miles from Cleburne? Especially when the department is "overwhelmed" with calls at home? Sorry, but this looks like a case of bad priorities no matter how you spin it.