Alex Blaze

Two cruising sting operations suspended

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 02, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: cruising for sex, dean gaymon, essex county, LGBT, palm springs, police, sex, sex offenders

I posted a couple months ago about the particularly egregious sting operation in Palm Springs to palm-springs.jpgstop men from cruising in public get gay men on the sex offender registry. Click the link to read the details, but here's the short version of why it was pretty bad:

  1. Police made an arrangement with the DA to get these men prosecuted with sex offenses instead of misdemeanors.
  2. The undercover agents, to get them prosecuted as such, did not arrest people when they first broke the law. Instead they encouraged the men there to commit a sex offense and then arrested them.
  3. Officers called people being arrested anti-gay slurs.

It took an attorney going down there and defending 24 men arrested in the sting, asking for information about whether the same police department has sting operations for straight public sex and whether the city prosecutes them similarly, to get this information out. It led to the city agreeing to investigate other solutions to cruising:

Citing a need to "make some adjustments," Fontoura said that in addition to temporarily postponing the operation, he is working with local gay rights activists to see if both sides can develop a plan to bring an end to lewd behavior in the parks.

"We've temporarily suspended the undercover operation there, but we're increasing uniformed patrol at Branch Brook," he said. "It's on hold for now. We're looking to tweak it and make some adjustments."

Fontoura declined to specify any specific changes regarding the operation -- which cracks down on public lewdness and sexual activity at Newark's Branch Brook Park and South Mountain Reservation -- but said, "there will be a full review."

The 5-0 vote to support a new police policy came one week after police Chief David Dominguez announced he would ban the use of decoys during so-called lewd-conduct enforcement investigations.

The policy also promises to use more marked squad cars, as well as encourage better lighting in the Warm Sands neighborhood, where a controversial sting took place last year.

It's something, but notice that it took years to get the police to think, "Oh, yeah, some lights would have the same effect." It's almost as if they enjoyed the sting for other reasons.

The local paper also ran a column asking for an end to the sting, which is much more than mainstream media can be counted on to do (usually they're egging on the police, worrying about the children, without, really, any consideration for the victims of these stings).

These methods used by the police department bring back memories of pre-Stonewall thinking. We have not seen this kind of entrapment of gay men since the 1950s and early 1960s. Many in the community feel that the Palm Springs Police Department is, and has been for a long time, homophobic. The fact that the city is being run by some very prominent gay folk may be an anathema to some in the police department. Their actions the night of the Warm Sands sting speaks volumes to that.

All this in a town with a large gay population. I'd still consider it progress.

On the other side of the country, the county where a cop killed Dean Gaymon has also suspended its undercover sting operation:

Citing a need to "make some adjustments," Fontoura said that in addition to temporarily postponing the operation, he is working with local gay rights activists to see if both sides can develop a plan to bring an end to lewd behavior in the parks.

"We've temporarily suspended the undercover operation there, but we're increasing uniformed patrol at Branch Brook," he said. "It's on hold for now. We're looking to tweak it and make some adjustments."

Fontoura declined to specify any specific changes regarding the operation -- which cracks down on public lewdness and sexual activity at Newark's Branch Brook Park and South Mountain Reservation -- but said, "there will be a full review." [...]

Fontoura said he plans to meet with Goldstein and Newark's gay rights advisory committee on Tuesday to "see if we can come up with a solution to stop this kind of activity." One solution, he said, could be to have gay rights activists ride along with officers.

"Our parks have to be places that everyone can enjoy," he added. Rubin Sinins, a criminal defense attorney in Newark, said the sheriff's office appears to be on firm legal ground, at least on one aspect of the issue. "It's extraordinarily hard to prove selective enforcement, and that doesn't necessarily amount to a defense to criminal conduct. Just because you belong to a protected class doesn't mean you can violate the law with impunity," he said. "The bigger legal question," he added, "is whether the officer had probable cause to shoot Gaymon."

On the one hand, these cruising operations kill people (and Gaymon wasn't the first). On the other, think of the children!

At least that random criminal defense attorney in Newark can point to an important legal question in the press, unlike the county prosecutor and the state's AG who already seem to have decided that Gaymon was reaching for a gun, "lunging," and trying to disarm the officer at the same time. A federal investigation would clear the air here.


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I should be surprised to read about these sting operations but I'm not. The sad thing is from the way Fontoura speaks about it you know it someone hadn't caught them out then they would just keep on doing it.

But the main issue is not only the sting operation but the fact that the DA and police want these individuals arrested to be stigmatized as "sex offenders" and having to register with the state as such for life. What is the news on that part of the sting and will the police and DA get away with such biased and discriminatory action. Finally, what's with the old farts in Palm Springs??? Why are they not up in arms on this issue or are they so damn out of touch and forgetful of the Stonewall Riots and the persecution at that time that they do not care.

Some things are not likely to change: 1.) Cops will always look to gays (un-armed, and an easy takedown) to bolster their statistics when they are failing in other arenas, like rape and burglary. 2. Cops will not hesitate to lie - under the presumption that gays are not 'man enuff' to harness a defense. 3.) Gays will always be anathema and provocatuer (sp?) to those cops who have small penis's and insecure egos.
And my side comment? The gays in Palm Springs need to venture out from under the artificially produced mists that cool them and call to account this police force that their taxes pay for.

Oh, they're just suspending this until the temporary furor dies down. They'll be back next year, until the next time someone gets hurt bad.

Agreed. There never seems to be a real solution implemented in these cases - just a temporary decline in the number of arrests.

Yea, in Newark,NJ it is much easier to arrest,harrass and even(kill) accused gays than to solve the murder,Drug,Car theft or any other major crime problems Newark has! Makes it look like the police are doing something! I feel bad for Corrie Booker as his police have regressed! You all are right! This will slow down until they think eveyone has forgotten!