Sean Kosofsky

Police Stings in MI Leave Nasty Itch

Filed By Sean Kosofsky | September 20, 2007 9:22 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACLU, police entrapment, sex, sting

In recent years there have been substantially fewer undercover sting operations targeting gay men. But recently the Michigan State Police (MSP) partnered with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department to do stings in two public parks near Traverse City, a northern Michigan resort town.

Triangle Foundation has been a leader in fighting police entrapment. You can also read our groundbreaking "Bag a Fag" report.

Here is the story of the recent police operation. Originally police charged these men with felonies (Solicitation of Gross Indecency between Males) but later dropped them to misdemeanors. There is no need for felony charges for any crime that does not involve a victim. This would have required lifetime registration on the sex offender registry. Triangle Foundation has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to get the names of the men arrested so we can find them effective legal counsel.

I was very excited to see recently that the ACLU has come to the aid of Sen. Larry Craig. In what has to be the boldest statement ever by the ACLU about the constitutionality of sex sting operations, it has given me and many sex-positive activists added ammunition and resolve to tackle these operations when they are performed.

In the case of the MSP, they actually put out a press release bragging about busting perverts and made it sound like they were being so "tough on crime." You would have thought that they had uncovered a house full of kiddie porn. But no. All they were able to do was prove that adults sometimes ask other adults to have sex outside of the home. So much for the war on terror. Instead, police stings like these terrorize gay men.

Too often our community has sat back and cringed when they read about these cases. But rarely do we have a real call to action. We have pickets and protests over Eminem or Dr. Laura, but we barely write a terse letter to the editor when members of our community are threatened with 5 years in jail for basically nothing. That has to end.

Our tax dollars are being used to subsidize profiling against our own community and because many of us are too nervous to take a stand on matters that deal with sexual freedom, police get away with harassment, entrapment and other misconduct.

Encourage your local GLBT organizations to challenge these operations. Demand that local media not run the names of anyone caught in these operations until they are convicted. It helps no one to know the names of these individuals. Publicizing these arrests are about grandstanding and punishing and marginalizing gays. I believe that the Senator Craig situation has emboldened police to re-initiate these operations. And we must be on guard to stop them.


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Too often our community has sat back and cringed when they read about these cases. But rarely do we have a real call to action. We have pickets and protests over Eminem or Dr. Laura, but we barely write a terse letter to the editor when members of our community are threatened with 5 years in jail for basically nothing. That has to end.

Yes, yes, oh yes! There is so much misdirection about things like these, as if Dr. Laura having a radio show was the end of the world or something for us. (Not to take away from the importance that issue had for some, but there are definitely other ones as well that need attention.)

I especially like this line from the report you linked to:

Law enforcement agencies routinely claim that their entrapment operations are in response to citizen complaints. Just as routinely, when requests are made to produce these complaints (under the Freedom of Information Act), no legitimate complaints are provided.

I need to remember that every time people (like Dan Savage, and others)talk again about how police need to enforce the law when complaints are made. COOL!

Sean, thanks for this important work! I would add that I don't think people's names should be posted in the paper after a conviction either.

And Alex, does Dan Savage really say that police need to enforce the law when complaints are made?

Here's the link, Mattilda.

Apparently I now have a reputation as a Dan Savage hater, just because I've written three blog posts about some of the stupid things he's said.

Ugh. I've heard from someone who had heard from him, since I have this reputation as a Dan Savage hater for some reason (I don't hate him, I just think that he says some stupid things sometimes), that he's going to have an interesting column this week. Some big-time classism. I'll wait and see and respond. But the guy who told me that wants me to use the word "banal" to describe Dan Savage, so I think that I just might have to.

And no, I'm not up this late at all.

I tend to disagree with you.

As a community we have to be honest with ourselves. There is a large population of our community that participates in very disgusting and disturbing behavior. Perhaps the people involved should not be charged with 5 years imprisonment, but their behavior should not be written off as basically nothing. It is time to clean up our community, not deny our wrong doings.

When I was a student in New Orleans I would often run in Audubon Park. After the sun went down, I would avoid that park for this particular reason. The park became a literal gay orgy. It was disgusting. Because the park was so close to the school, there were pleny of gay men there looking for the holy grail, "straight frat dick". As hot as this may sound, it was not. The majority of "cruisers" were gay men in their 40's and 50's. And yes, they were gay. I recognized them from the gay bars that I would frequent.

These men were out to take advantage of younger "not out yet" gays. This type of behavior is so destructive to our community. Gay rights groups should not be condemning the police, they should be assisting them. This is not just a case of public cruising. A friend of mine eventually gave into temptation and cruised the park. Unfortunately for him he pick the wrong night to cruise and the wrong cruiser to hook up with. The man cruising young men in the park was a notorious "gift giver" in the bars. Yup, my friend contracted HIV during his first experimentation with anal sex. He was only 19 years old.

There is no justification for this type of behavior. HIV has completely destroyed our community, yet we are unwilling to clean it up. Stereotypes of sexual deviations plague our community, yet we do nothing to set boundaries upon ourselves.

I'm of mixed minds on this one. I don't like the idea of oodles of gay men out having "orgies" in the parks, but at the same time solicitation is NOT a crime. If every time someone hit on another person and/or made a specific pass for sex, every damn bar in America would have to be shut down - and even some grocery stores and other retail establishments...

The newspaper printing the names (and sometimes addresses) of people rounded up in these "raids" really pisses me off though. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Sorry UAFA, but I find statements like this completely moronic.

A friend of mine eventually gave into temptation and cruised the park. Unfortunately for him he pick the wrong night to cruise and the wrong cruiser to hook up with. The man cruising young men in the park was a notorious "gift giver" in the bars. Yup, my friend contracted HIV during his first experimentation with anal sex. He was only 19 years old.

There is no justification for this type of behavior. HIV has completely destroyed our community, yet we are unwilling to clean it up. Stereotypes of sexual deviations plague our community, yet we do nothing to set boundaries upon ourselves.

Your friend didn't contract HIV by "giving into temptation." He got HIV by being stupid and not using protection. It's always amazing to me how so many people use excuses like this to explain away how they contracted a disease that's been around for two decades with TONS of information on how to avoid it. You're right when you say there's no justification for that type of behavior - but it has nothing to do with cruising in the parks. No matter where you pick up your trick you should be practicing safe sex. Would it make you feel better if he'd picked the guy up at the bar? Or a bath house? Or a grocery store?

I'm sorry about your friend, UAFA, but I'm not really sure that public sex can be blamed for that. Bil says it's stupidity that he didn't use a condom, I think it's probably more complicated than just stupidity, but either way that probably has more to do with it than the fact that the sex occurred in public. Whether he had unprotected anal sex with this person in the woods or in the privacy of his own home, he had just as much of a chance of contracting the virus.

Also, how did he pinpoint seroconversion to that one event? It seems pretty hard to do, and most HIV activists I've read from will say that it can't be pinpointed to one event.

But I think this is a question of goals, and you raise two, UAFA. Reducing AIDS is a worthy one, but I don't see how throwing people in prison will reduce HIV infection rates. I had a link to a great article, but I'm not going to look for it now, that showed that people are far more likely to contract HIV in prison than outside of it. If we really wanted to reduce HIV infection rates, it wouldn't really make sense to throw people in prison.

If the goal is to look good in front of straight people, well, then , I would advise you to pack up your bags and go home. It would be great if we could impress them with simply being kind and generous people, and we often do if the letters to Dear Abby this past week were any indication, but if they can't be impressed with us doing that, then they're probably not going to be impressed with anything else, and we'll always be just a bunch of faggots to those people.

Also, where are these public gay orgies? I always hear about them, and I've even asked about specific places where they occur, but it seems that they must know when I'm coming and all disperse when I approach!