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Palm Springs: Was Police Department's gay sex sting unfair profiling?

Critic


A June 2009 gay sex sting by the Palm Springs Police Department netted 19 indecent-exposure arrests. But it has also sparked outrage and debate ever since.

Talk back L.A.The latest chapter involves the resignation of the city's police chief. The Times' Inland Empire bureau chief Phil Willon examined the controversy and how it exposes the unique demographics of the city:

This is Palm Springs, "the gayest city in America," a gay tourist destination governed by an openly gay mayor and home to the sexually charged White Party, a dance and music festival that attracts tens of thousands of gay men every year."The sting was an egregious case of entrapment, a technique that has been used by law enforcement against gay people for decades," said Robert Stone, co-founder of the Warm Sands neighborhood association and one of the most vocal critics of the undercover operation. "Gays move to Palm Springs to get away from that."

Should the police have conducted the sting? Did it amount to profiling? Share your views below.

Photo: Robert Stone, co-founder of the Warm Sands neighborhood association in Palm Springs. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (20)

Law enforcement is law enforcement if you're out trolling you're gonna get caught and it doesn't matter what your sexual preference is .

No.

The question is not whether the profiling was unfair. The question is whether those arrested should have been charged with indecent exposure, which requires those convicted to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Their crime was NOT indecent exposure. It was lascivious behavior. They weren't charged with this because the city considered the penalty for this crime insufficient. But allocating penalties is not the city's role.

I want to know if the men who were arrested are going to be let go? That was blatant entrapment motivated by homophobic police. In Palm Springs of all places!!

What the police did was a form of entrapment. They specifically got a good looking cop to seduce passers by and convince them to expose themselves. Then they went one step further and are trying to convict them as sexual offenders - which will mark them for life if they are convicted. They can't be sexual offenders if they were having sex between consenting adults.

The police will now suffer the consequences for alienating 1/2 of Palm Spring's population.

First of all, the police chief retired because of a verbal slur caught on tape, not the sting itself.

Complaints to police about lude sex acts in public has been ongoing for years in the Palm Springs area. In my case, the complaints were verbal and not called-in to make the police blotters and began around 1994. The compaints stemmed from sexual acts being performed in our parks' public restrooms.

After parents and police got involved and sweeps were conducted (which by the way netted arrests of married men having sex with other men, as well as homosexuals), the activity seemed to subside.

After awhile, I remember hearing from parents of children in the Warm Sands neighborhood who were concerned about men giving "hand jobs" to each other on their street at night. This dates long before 2009. The complaints escalated to being about the police not doing anything about it.

When you have to check the bathroom at the soccer park to make sure no one is having sex in it before your children can go in, something is very wrong in the community. When you have to rid the old Angel Stadium of used needles and condoms from The White Party held the night before, before your kids can play football on it, something is very wrong in the community. When your kids can't play in your front yard, something is very wrong in the community.

I have a gay friend who once told me, "Until the gay community separates itself from the sexual sicko's who are out there committing these acts, these people will always get a free pass because of the gay community." Gary, you were absolutely correct!

With the exception of the slurs, this is not a gay issue. This is a sexual sicko issue. Once again, the sickos will get a free pass on the backs of the gay community.

I have tremendous respect for the police departments in the Coachella Valley. The police were acting because MANY citizens were complaining. I was one of them. I am anxious to read the facts on this case when it goes to trial.

Being enticed into an unlawful sexual act BY A POLICE OFFICER is WRONG. It doesn't matter if a bejillion people complain about bad behavior, IT WASN'T the PERSON you were complaining about, but the BEHAVIOR.

Punishing person A for the behavior of person B is WRONG. Or are we only moral against gay people???

If you want to arrest people who are committing lewd acts in public DURING THE ACT, that is fine. I have no problem with that. Put policemen in the bushes with binoculars if need be. BUT DO NOT have policemen entice the behavior. It may be legal. But it is disgusting. It is immoral. It is inhuman. AND IT IS WRONG.

The big problem is that the Palm Springs Police Department used a tactic on the Gay Community that they have never used on the heterosexual community. No where in its history has PSPD lured, entrapped and sought these kinds of charges against anyone heterosexual. They delibertately targeted the gay community and therefore the inequity of the charge is a major question. These men were not having sex. This was about fondling and indecent exposure and nothing more. Now these poor men, afer being entrapped, are going to have to register as sex offenders for life on a list visible to law enforcement only but when doing a criminal background check for future employment etc. it will show and therefore become a huge problem. The only hope is that these charges are dropped by the District Attorney.

It is now offical. A person or group CANNOT critize in anyway shape or form homosexuals without severe retribution in the media or, in this case, loss of employment.

I think that regardlesss of their sexual orientation these stings happen all of the time and the fact that they happen to be gay is the excuse they're using to try to get out of it. Heterosexuals are set up on these stings all the time and if you can't do the time then don't do the crime.

I'm gay. I go to Palm Springs quite often. I don't have sex in public, in restrooms, in parks, in cars, etc. I follow the law. When I see it happening as I'm walking down the street I'm just as disgusted as anyone else. There are kids in that neighborhood. AND... I don't have a single gay friend that I know of who is giving hand jobs or performing other sexual acts on the streets of Palm Springs. And we're all VERY open when talking about what we do and don't do - trust me. Most gay men are like that. We have no shame about talking about sex. Sex is natural. But that doesn't mean we're screwing around in public places. SO... who are these guys? They're not "gay" and they're not part of the general gay community. They're closeted "straight" guys, bi-curious guys, prostitutes, etc. So - once again - a huge majority of law-abiding gay people have been lumped-in with those who choose to ignore the law and we're all branded as sexual perverts for no reason. THAT'S what's unfair here. I'm sorry, Julianne, that you have to endure that kind of behavior in your streets. It's shameful. You're doing the right thing by complaining. Keep doing it! The sexually repressed and shame-ridden men that are having sex outside your front door need to know it's NOT cool. I hope justice prevails and it's made clear that this is NOT a gay issue.

RE: I have a gay friend who once told me, "Until the gay community separates itself from the sexual sicko's who are out there committing these acts, these people will always get a free pass because of the gay community." Gary, you were absolutely correct! --
That's a stupid statement and pretty gay in of itself. So are you really sure that most gays are staying at home like Ward and June Cleaver? Being Gay and having promiscuous multiple sex partners pretty much go together. Being gay is pretty much all about the clubs, public restrooms, anonymous sex, etc. Isn't that why AIDS spread so quickly? So are there really two Gay Communities in America? One is with all the sickos and the other the stay at home gay couples? Sort of but not really. I think the majority of the gay community are the perverts and not the other way around.

i think the people charged with indecent exposure should be let go or not charged with anything because sometimes people do stupid things and make mistakes. but now im wondering what exactly was said to these people to even get them to that point where they exposed themselves. if this undercover cop asked them to show him there "business" they may have felt brave and went for it. you have to have both sides of the story.

This was obviously entrapment on the part of the police, and they should know that. Sheriff Dominguez not only showed himself to be a bigot, but a liar as well. Who wants a liar as their Sheriff? He puts in question the integrity of his entire office, that is to say everyone who is under him. He should be ashamed and it's no doubt he resigned as that would do less damage than an internal investigation including a review of his past conduct, who knows what they might find there.

If he had been arresting an African-American and the "n" word just happened to slip out and it was on tape all of Southern California would have imploded

Any police officer who can't help having discriminatory slurs slip out should even be on the job.

This seems more complicated than I originally thought. At first, I am thinking that it is not right to commit sex in public places, and not right to also tempt or seduce others (come on, a little common sense here: anyone who has read the Bible can quote multiple locations where tempting others is wrong in God's eyes [I am allowed to say that., ain't I?]). But, if there have been long-term complaints with children and families being forced to endure other's public sexual activities, how would the police deal with that? I am glad I do not have to make that decision.

There was a case with Santa Barbara Sheriffs where an exclusive male-only sting was conducted above Bates Beach, Carpenteria ten years ago. If I remember correctly the cops were told that kind of thing is illegal.

This case is going to trial. Although the D.A. made an offer that would not require registration for sex offenders, the defense attorneys were unprepared to take the deal.

The facts will come out during the trial. I am anxious to hear the truth.

The local news following the story:
http://www.mydesert.com
http://www.kesq.com

Imagine that you are a straight person and you behave exactly like all warm-blooded humans do. You get to 3rd base or even go all the way in your dad's beat up car, at your local look out point. Sure some cops might bust you, maybe they give you a citation at most.

But you don't get arrested for a sex crime on the same level as rape or child sexual abuse and required to register as a sex criminal for life. Us straight people don't have to worry about that. That is why what the PSPD is illegal. You can't pick and choose who to use the law against - it must be applied equally in a democratic society.

You simpletons don't even understand the law. Just turn up your tvs and continue to know nothing, have no vision for moving forward as a more enlightened humanity. Or better yet, apply to be police officers. Just list dimwitted and violent on your resume so that you are sure to get the job.

Of course it was profiling and homophobic!

The former chief not only spent months with this "sting" but thousands of man power hours to do it. His and the City Manager that approved it both should have lost their jobs. This was nothing more than a constant harrassment of a neighborhood and its visitors.
I live a mile from the street, and its on my way to our local hardware store. For nearly 6 MONTHS, not days, the police were camped out DAY & night for this operation. They would watch where you were driving then follow you out of the neighborhood to see where you would go...then two blocks down circle back to the Warm Sands street. I did call and complain about the inordinate amount of wasted time they were spending...the answer was very typical of PSPD dispatch, "they were there investigating an incident"...This is the same police department that three years prior neglected to tell residents about a crime spree of breakins and also the same that refused to investigate my TWO autos stolen ......I'd say we need to find a police chief that isnt interested in biting the hand that feeds him/her and one that truly LIVES IN and PROTECTS its paying city citizens !


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