Mixtapes for Hookers

Florida Cops Spent Five Years Soliciting Sex, Making Arrests
January 13, 2012, 12:40 am
Filed under: gay | Tags: , , , ,

The cover story in the new issue of the South Florida Gay News takes a look at a five-year sting conducted by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office against gay men in county parks. It’s a very frustrating story, though sadly it’s also rather predictable: Two cops, Peter Lazar and Van Garner, made over 600 arrests between 2005 and 2010 by convincing men to expose themselves to the officers on public property.

Allegedly the detectives were there in response to a request from the Palm Beach County parks department, but the paper’s investigation reveals that no such request was ever made. The director of the parks department, at least, says he had no idea about the operation, even though it took place under his nose for five years.

It’s not surprising that the parks department didn’t make a claim about a rampant sex problem, though, because public sex seems to happen only rarely in Palm Beach County. During Garner and Lazar’s five years on the job there were a grand total of four arrests for men having actual sex with other men in the parks. (And if there were only four arrests, that might have only been two actual sex acts.)

That’s why the officers had to spend to much time figuring out ways to lure men into exposing themselves. (Their methods, documented in police reports, included making the first move, using the phrase “I like to suck,” and getting on their knees. Additionally, they’d pretend to play with themselves and then feign shyness if the poor guy they snared asked for a look.)

Attorney Jeffrey Weiner says that cases like this are usually dismissed when brought to court. But because the defendants don’t want to deal with the embarrassment or can’t afford legal fees, they think it’s easier to put the problem behind them, a fact the cops know and prey upon. “[I]t’s terrible what they put people through,” Weiner says. “The means they use are really offensive. The games they play.” One man interviewed for the story, arrested for loitering in a park restroom after a jog in the park one day, decided not to fight the charges because he couldn’t afford a lawyer and also because he had been warned about retaliation from one of the detectives.

Paying fines seems easier than fighting the county in court, but most of the defendants interviewed seemed unaware that the misdemeanor charges lingered on their criminal records.

Real sex activity in the park was apparently so scarce that the pair of officers even resorted to the internet to get business. One unnamed man met the officers after they answered a Casual Encounters ad he placed on Craigslist. They chose the place, and when he got there and pulled his dick out he was promptly arrested.

And yes, okay, it’s true that the man knowingly went to the park with the intention of getting off there, and it’s true that public park cruising is a thing that happens in some places. And while it’s completely harmless, I understand that it’s illegal and bothers some people. But that’s not the point. The sad, annoying point is that the man only went there in the first place because the cops invited him to.

That’s entrapment, and it’s also discriminatory.

The SFGN reports, predictably, that there was no team of female officers trying to talk men into whipping their dicks out (even though a small number of women were arrested for prostitution in the county’s parks during that time.)

“I’ve never ever seen an operation where police utilized a female officer to come on to men,” said Russell Cormican, defender of over a hundred indecent exposure cases in Palm Beach County.  [He’s also the partner of Norm Kent, the SFGN’s publisher, although they don’t mention that.*] “If you took an attractive female officer and put her by the restroom in a city park and she walked up to guys as they went in and out and asked them to show their private parts I think they would arrest a lot of guys.”

[*Maybe it’s one of those “you’d know if you lived there” sorts of things?]

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