Why Should You Care?
| By Rudy Serra
A good measurement for "quality of gay life style" in a metropolitan area is incidences of entrapment. When gay men are actively targeted for "special attention" by the local police and prosecutors, you can be sure you do not have a "gay friendly" atmosphere.
Undercover police entrapment operations are the sort of abuse that local civil rights ordinances are intended to eliminate. When entrapment is on-going, it is unusual to find a commitment to human rights, diversity, good community-police relations, domestic partnership benefits, and other factors that affect EVERYONE's quality of life.
Some people wonder why they should care about entrapment cases. They never "cruise" and they see reports claiming that these cases are about "public sex." They feel that people who have "public sex" deserve to be prosecuted. A recent local survey revealed, in contrast, that nearly a quarter of the openly gay men responding had used parks, bookstores and other usual "cruising" venues to find a mutually interested adult sex partner at some point in their life.
Although a few cases may actually involve "public sex," others involve sex that is actually "private," but that occurs in a "public place." Even more cases involve men whose only "conduct" has been verbal. An undercover cop acts and talks like a gay man interested in going to a private place for a non-commercial sexual encounter. The gay man responds favorably, confirms his interest, and is then arrested. This constitutes being arrested for BEING gay.
Undercover anti-sex operations invite police corruption, and are rife with misconduct. Police typically "embellish" their reports to make sure the defendant gets convicted of something.
There is a "war on sex" going on in Michigan, including Detroit. This could be because the new police chief is the former head of "vice" operations. Every sexually active single person is at risk, but gay men are objects of "special attention" from both the Detroit Police and the City Law Department.
They are attacking EVERY citizens right to talk about sex or to seek mutually compatible sexual partners. Both gay and straight men are being arrested for confirming that they have a sexual interest in another, apparently mutually-consenting adult.
An Inkster undercover sex sting operations has criminalized more than 1600 (mostly straight) people over the past five years. Many complain that they were arrested for mere presence when others committed some arguably illegal act. Others confirm that they were arrested for verbal remarks. So far, the suburban community has raked-in more than $1.6 million.
Likewise, the gay community is being financially raped by prosecutors extorting guilty pleas with threats of felony prosecutions, probation supervision fees, impoundment of cars and other heavy-handed punishments. Dozens of men have been enticed, entrapped, coerced, stigmatized and exploited by their own government. The Detroit Police have sent covert cops into gay bars.
The actions of our local governments convey the attitude that gay men are detestable and loathsome. We are worthy objects of "anti-vice" projects. These attitudes readily extend to lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons. Our sexual conduct is "immoral," which makes it acceptable to arrest and prosecute us.
Such attitudes significantly contribute to the violence and discrimination gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals encounter. We have no hope of ever achieving national equality until we demand that our local and state leaders respect existing laws by stopping the operations consciously directed at our community.
In 1935 the number of African Americans lynched in the U.S. "topped out" at 20. Most years between 1950 and 1960, an average of ten African American men were lynched per year. In 1996 alone, 21 gays and lesbians were murdered. The carnage is even bloodier if you add the transgender people murdered.
Racists justified the murders of black men by claiming they had a compulsive sexual interest in white women. Likewise, the murders of gays are justified by the pronouncement that we are "immoral." By flouting the human rights of gays in general, entrapment by the Detroit Police contributes to the victimization of local lesbians, transgender persons and even sexually active heterosexuals.
If the police were really trying to prevent or reduce "public sex," they could easily do so by using uniformed officers in marked cars. The purpose of "decoy" operations is not to reduce the target behavior, but to entrap and stigmatize gays.
There is no need for the gay community to defend "public sex." Entrapment cases are not about "public sex." If they were - the police would devote equal resources to the exhibitionism of heterosexuals. Likewise, the cases are not about responding to "citizen's complaints" about sex in public. If they were, the police would keep copies of the complaints. Undercover, anti-sex, covert, police decoy operations undermine the human rights of everyone, and should be confronted.
Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/transgender Detroiters need to write to the Mayor and Council demanding that the money used to target gay cruising areas be cut from the budget. We need to collectively demand that our policy makers tell the police that they should pay "special attention" to crime of violence and property damage. Likewise, the City Law Department should be ordered use better discretion in deciding what cases to push.
Without such action, every single sexually active person is at risk that the next time some attractive person "comes-on" to you in a bar, restaurant, park or other place, it could be a cop seeking to turn YOU into a "sex criminal."
Rudy Serra is an Attorney, a Social Worker, and a member of the Detroit Human Rights Commission. He is a former Oakland County Commissioner, a former Congressional Aide, and a former Staff Attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals. Serra is a Board member of the Triangle Foundation, and a member of The Open Justice Commission of the State Bar of Michigan.
Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
Nightmare in Gage Park
Sex in Public not Lewd - Just a Mood