Alex Blaze

Looking for male love

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 10, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: HIV disclosure laws, HIV/AIDS, Jan Kolp, lansing, law, Michigan, police, police entrapment, power, sodomy, Todd Heywood

If you all haven't been following, there's been a completely fucked up story developing in Lansing over the city's use of undercover cops to crack down on cruising and the abuse of power going on there.

I don't believe for one second that the tactics they're using in Lansing have been isolated in that city. The police know that people arrested in those stings won't fight back so, without any real check on their power, they go wild.

Todd Heywood's been doing a great job investigating the May stings in Lansing and uncovering some of the corruption involved. And the only way that these sorts of stings will stop is through outside exposure, since the men who get arrested typically aren't willing to apply that pressure themselves. As we saw with Larry Craig, even a sitting US Senator will avoid talking to his lawyer about these charges.

The specific sting he's been investigating happened last May, and, per usual, the police said that they were responding to citizen complaints. I always wonder about these citizens who complain in these cases, and here the person who complained was actually a police commissioner. That's right - those complaints from citizens actually came from within the police department.

The commissioner said that she was acting outside of her role in the police department, where she oversees departmental budgets, but an email reveals that the officers knew exactly who was asking and how they were expected to respond:

I'd also like to get Police Commissioner, Jan Kolp off my back and help out Lt. Nosotti. Apparently the fella's are out in full force at Fenner looking for male love. I'd like to set up some surveillance and see if we can catch a couple of them servicing one and other, so they can be charged with Gross Indecency.

Well, apparently they didn't catch anyone in the act. So they sent undercover cops in there to get people to break the law.

The released arrest reports raise serious questions as well. Neither of the two men arrested during the sting attempted to have sex with the officers in the nature center. In fact, both reports show both men agreed to follow the decoy officer to an apartment to have sex. In one case, the man was rubbing his groin through his clothing, the report shows, and the undercover officer asked him: "Can I see it?" That action lead to the man exposing his penis to the officer. In the other situation, the officer used nonverbal communication cues to entice the man to expose himself. In that report, the officer discusses at length his knowledge of nonverbal cues to initiate exposure.

Both men have been arraigned and have plead guilty to charges.

Indeed, there isn't anything wrong with discussing sex in public and then going back home to do it. And when an officer of the law, even if you don't know he's a cop, asks you to expose yourself in public, it's not a crime either. It's entrapment.

Well, the crimes don't stop there. The Lansing Police Department, either in a punitive move against one of the men, or through complete sloppiness, included the fact that one of the men was HIV-positive in their police report. Reporting someone's HIV status without their knowledge is illegal in Michigan, and police only found out about it after a search of the man's apartment.

Not only is there an immense amount of stigma associated with cruising for sex in public, even if one doesn't have that sex in public, there's still plenty of stigma associated with being HIV-positive. There's no real reason for them to have disclosed it either, since he wasn't charged with anything that had anything to do with his serostatus.

These cruising stings often have little to do with actually helping the public and a lot to do with officers who like to prove what men they are by going out and arresting a few queers. No one in the public cared about the cruising that was going on there, so the police themselves planted complaints so that they could entrap men. And entrap they did, and then they arrested guys who were clearly not out to have sex in public, but were just searching in public for that sex.

It doesn't matter, though. Like Larry Craig, I'm sure these guys just wanted for this to all go away, and they pleaded guilty. Too bad for them, since it's going to be impossible to get that overturned. While I will, as always, throw out my warning to guys who cruise in public that they should have a plan if they get arrested, the police bear responsibility here as well. They're supposed to be acting responsibly on behalf of the residents of Lansing, not using their power to crack down on people they don't like. They know that these people are unlikely to fight back, and, ultimately, that's the reason they entrap.

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O.k. I'm going to rant because police and society continue to stalk and target gay folks. Here's some insight into my own experiences.

In San Antonio, the media did a "sting" of sorts on a park titled "Perverts in the Park" about men having anonymous sex in the bathrooms at the local parks.

A month or so after the incident, a friend and I decided to go to the park for a hike (it's a wooded park with hiking trails not a swing set and merry-go-round type of park). We drove into the park and were confronted by a fairly large group of 30 or so people who swarmed our car carrying signs that said, "perverts" and the like - some showing the infamous stick figure sex image. Of course, they did not approach the car until they saw two men in the front - because obviously, two men going to the park indicates they are there to have sex. I was floored. I had no idea that hiking was a pervert activity.

Obviously, the media report lead to several police stings... most of those arrested were married "straight" men.

On another occasion, a lesbian friend and I pulled into a different park to turn around. Her car was a rolling pride sticker. In less than a minute police had pulled us over for "going too fast." We were both checked for warrants and the like and released, no citation for speeding, no warning ticket (which would be typical if no citation is issued), nothing. We both mused at how shocked the cops were to find out we were a girl and a boy upon seeing us up close (we both had somewhat androgynous appearances at that time in our lives).

After other incidents, I eventually stopped going to public parks all together. I've never had sex in a public restroom or at a park - or anywhere public for that matter... never even picked someone up at a park to go somewhere else and have sex. Yet, because I'm openly and outwardly gay, I'm a target. I'm presumed guilty - it is always the "wrong place at the wrong time."

We had the same problem here in Roanoke, Va. several years ago. The 12 men arrested were primarily "straight" married men charged with soliciting sodomy from undercover officers. Most didn't want the embarrassment of a public trial and plead guilty or no contest and accepted suspended sentences.

The late gay activist Sam Garrison, former Virginia Commonwealth Attorney and one of Richard Nixon's Watergate attorneys, took on the case and appealed the convictions. Three were acquitted when the jury accepted their claims that they were only responding to flirtatious, sexual advances made by under-cover cops. Two more had their charges dropped in light of the ruling.

See? You can fight back and win.

One more thing, and I can't believe this even needs to be said:

Use the knob at the end of your neck and not the one in your pants!

If you know where the cruising spots are, I guarantee you the cops do too. Cruise at your own risk.

Out of curiosity, if a woman asks me to pull my penis out in a restroom, and I do, is that entrapment, too? (Man, I'll be sure to use that one on my wife!)

Seriously, I'm sorry but it's hard for me to sympathize if the two cases cited are the most egregious examples. A guy is rubbing his penis in one case and another guy actually whips it out because he's asked to?!? Sorry, but that's not entrapment. Why is it so hard (no pun intended) to just wait until you're behind closed doors?

I know that a lot of police have homophobia, but shouldn't part of the analysis here be whether heterosexual men or couples who are caught exposing THEMSELVES are arrested? Can anybody show they aren't? It appears that most of the guys caught in these sting operations ARE heterosexual, and when they are "discovered" to be such, they are still prosecuted. And I guarantee you that guys who expose themselves in public (without a partner for the fun of it) are always prosecuted.

It's not entrapment, Chris, if you apply either the subjective test of the Defendant's state of mind, or the objective test as to whether officers would only catch those who were willing to commit the crime. Rubbing his crotch when the undercover officer came in made perfectly clear the Defendant's propensity.

A lot of people are adamant in their belief that if you use any sort of undercover police action, it's entrapment. The law, thankfully, disagrees.

Advocating for the right of men to have sex in the public parks does not help our community. While I disagree with the methods often used by law enforcement, the fact is there are numerous other-and safer-outlets for sexual activity than this.

in nyc there have been over 30 men arrested (since Oct 2008) coming out of porn/video stores. they were hit on by an undercover officer to have sex and just as they left were told it will cost $__ and immediately swarmed by officers and arrested. almost 100% have never had a criminal record (let alone for soliciting prostitutes) and almost all were over 40 y/o.
unfortunately, most took whatever charge they were given just to get the hell out and back home or to the hotel (few were tourists). this is still being investigated as a few brave men refused to be entrapped by the nypd.

Again, taking everything you say as true, that is not entrapment. That is false arrest, as no crime was committed. In entrapment you DO commit a crime, you just have a defense that coercive police action caused you to commit the crime you otherwise were not inclined to commit.

I encourage those men arrested to file a civil suit.

A. J. Lopp | July 11, 2009 7:33 PM
A guy is rubbing his penis in one case and another guy actually whips it out because he's asked to?!? Sorry, but that's not entrapment.

The first example is questionable and might constitute voluntary lewd behavior, but the second situation is definitely entrapment. Entrapment is when the undercover officer is the first to suggest that a crime should be committed.

BTW, I do not condone or encourage public sex. However, before putting oneself in a compromising situation, you might ask, "Are you a law enforcement officer?" The courts have ruled that the undercover officer must answer honestly if the question is asked explicitly, and if they lie it is grounds for false arrest.

Also, I find it rather amazing that a man showing his penis in a restroom is grounds for arrest, while showing his penis in a public locker room is totally routine. Does that mean I can't change my underwear in a public restroom? What a fucked up society we live in!

But I do agree with you, Chuck, on this point: To avoid problems, why not just wait until you both are behind closed doors?

"However, before putting oneself in a compromising situation, you might ask, "Are you a law enforcement officer?" The courts have ruled that the undercover officer must answer honestly if the question is asked explicitly, and if they lie it is grounds for false arrest."

Good grief. This thread is turning into a segment of "Entrapment Myths."

No, undercover police do not have to identify themselves as cops if asked. That would make the whole purpose of being an undercover cop worthless. The case law in that respect is clear.

"Entrapment is when the undercover officer is the first to suggest that a crime should be committed."

Wrong again. The mere suggestion that someone commit a crime does not constitute entrapment. There must be an element of coercion. If the officer were to ask repeatedly would probably be the most common instance in a situation like this.

Why don't we have someone (preferably a lawyer) write a post regarding entrapment and the LGBT community?

My son and I had a discussion a few days ago about this subject. I was rushing him out of a theater so that I could get home to use the bathroom. He asked me why I didn't just use the restroom in the theater and I told him that I don't like public restrooms and try to wait until I am home. He immediately starts analyzing this new discovered phobia and wants to know why. I told him that I don't feel like being arrested for being in a public restroom and not being straight. He didn't know that gay and bi men are targeted in this way by cops and that simply walking in and not being straight is enough for cops to charge you.

Erich Riesenberg | July 11, 2009 8:17 AM

I didn't know that either.

Learning lots about gay oppression here!

Lucky to live in Iowa!

I live in Mass but the jerks will still try to nail you claiming that you entering a public restroom is cruising.