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“Show me what you’ve got”

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

Sometimes I wonder whether law enforcement in this country hasn’t completely abandoned the deterrence of crime in favor of “catching bad guys”. And sadly, I see the glorification of entrapment and the nonsensical presentation of it as evidence of my protection to be a trend that has no foreseeable end. And rather than find it troubling, the masses are applauding.

This past Christmas some stupid 19-year-old Somali American kid was “stopped” from setting off bombs at a Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland, Oregon. And the FBI was quick to soak in praise for having foiled his efforts. Of course, they also were the ones who approached him, encouraged his radicalism, provided the “explosives” and sent him on his way. But they are heroes for “protecting” the people from this kid.

Now I’m certainly not saying that the FBI should have ignored the potential threat. But I couldn’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have as effectively prevented an atrocity by approaching the kid and telling him that they were aware of his radical views and that they would have their eye on him. Or perhaps by working with local Muslim leaders to redirect his thinking.

Maybe that wouldn’t have been the right approach in this instance, but I wish that it could have been considered. But, of course, discouraging radicalism isn’t nearly as dramatic or as likely to scare the public or demonstrate just why they need you.

Which brings me to the trial going on in Palm Springs. The 19 gay men who were enticed by a “sting operation” (aka entrapment) conducted by the police department to make an example of and punish the “filthy mother-f*ckers” are fighting their arrests.

I don’t know these guys. For all I know, some were regular scoff-laws who delight in public sex. But they also may be regular guys who had no intention of anything indecent or illegal until an undercover officer encouraged them to break the law. (mydesert.com)

“I pretty much just stood there. People would walk up to us,” Palm Springs officer Chad Nordman testified. He did say “show me what you’ve got” to those arrested — but only after they approached him first, Nordman added.

But approaching isn’t a crime, whether Officer Nordman thinks so or not. And even if being a gay man make you a “bad guy” in Nordman’s eyes, it isn’t an arrestable offense. So the officer had to push the “criminal”, he had to encourage him.

Show me what you’ve got. Commit a crime. Let me catch a bad guy.

What if, instead, the police had just regularly enforced the law when they saw public sex – there or anywhere. Or what if the decoy had simply said, “I want you to know that I am a police officer. And we want to have the public sexual activity to stop. You could have done something for which you would be arrested. Think about it.” Would that not have discouraged public sex? Would that not quickly result in a change in behavior in the area?

But deterring a crime was second to catching bad guys. Even if you had to encourage them to be bad guys to do so.

Comments

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Erin
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Excellent piece, Timothy. Well said.

Ben in Oakland
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

As I used to say many years ago when I was in law enforcement:

We have a vice squad becuase it is much easier to catch a gay man with his pants around his ankles than it is to catch a burglar or a rapist who is armed and on the run. And there is far less paperwork than a burglary.

Ben in Oakland
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

And yes, excellent piece. In this country, unfortuantely, we would rather punish offending someone’s sensibilities than teach people to behave responsibly.

mikenola
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

so let me get this straight, (pun intended even though I’m gay).

You equate the FBI following the law (Federal law at that) to get proof positive than an individual not only wanted to cause havoc (very hard to prove in court) and was willing to take the actions to cause that havoc, with a public sex sting.

Have you been getting your argument style from Faux News? trying to twist reality to fit pseudo-facts as you see them?

As for the Warm Sands issue, be real. That area has been a hot bed for sexual public activity for decades. I’ve stayed in some of the clothing optional resorts there and frankly just walking across the street you can get accosted by some of those clowns wagging their weenies at you.

The attitude of the cops was wrong and needs to be addressed, no question about that, but having sex in public is against the LAW. no matter how much you whine about it, it is illegal.

should the cops treat hetero public sex the same as gay public sex? yep they should, but don’t you dare try and get self righteous about a guy pulling out his cock in public just because some stranger asked him too! That is down right hypocritical as well as being childish whining.

If you don’t want to get busted on a morals charge, don’t have sex in pubic. very simple.

You should also remember that not EVERYONE in Warm Sands is gay and not even all the gay residents like those creeps having sex in front of their homes.

pay the damn fee at one of the clothing optional resorts, hang out by the pool and see if an inn guest wants to take you back to their room, other wise keep it in your pants!

Thomas
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Mikenola: agree sex in public is illegal. However, it’s apparently illegal only for “the gays”. The PS police did not choose to go after the heterosexuals for which they had written more tickets for pubic sex over the last two years. Why? What is and has been the purpose of focusing on gays for “public sex” ? Has it been to stigmatize and marginalize a certain group? Why didn’t they have a blonde female with large breasts entice a straight male since this was by far a greater problem (hetero public sex) than it was for “the gays” ( as evidenced by facts ie written tickets). Open your eyes.

Scooter J
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

How about this remedy. . . to avoid harrassment and potential arrest, how about keeping your pickle in your pants when you are in public? Sort of ends the debate, doesn’t it?

Donny D.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

No, because entrapping vice cops often lie to make these kinds of arrests.

Erin
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Mikenola and Scooter, perhaps you missed all the jazz about entrapment; an undercover cop asking someone to take his “pickle” out, then arresting him for it, someone who otherwise may have not done anything of the sort, and yes, the FBI case, while a whole different level of crime, is the same exact method for making an arrest.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Wah, wah, wah. . . let’s please start taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions. Men who walk around the Warm Sands area at night are there for one reason only and any argument to the contrary is ridiculous.

Open up the “cruising” section of any gay guide or local community rag and Warm Sands will be listed as “cruisy”, “popular” and “quite busy at night”, (although ironically we tend to ignore the AYOR reference).

Even though we have claimed the desert area as our own gay mecca, the truth is that the voting demographic is primarily older, monied and conservative. As such, when you are in Warm Sands at night, perhaps you should consider that the stranger you are speaking with might just be a vice cop.

NEWS FLASH, gay men CAN control their sexual urges and comply with the law.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Scooter, if the area is “quite busy at night”, all police officers need to do is observe and they’ll find people having public sex they can arrest. But to invite someone to break the law is entrapment and its wrong. Police officers behaving immorally doesn’t set a good example for the public.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

A person is ‘entrapped’ when he is induced or persuaded by law enforcement officers or their agents to commit a crime that HE/SHE HAD NO PREVIOUS INTENT TO COMMIT.

When you are in the Warm Sands area, at night, lurking around, you are there with the intent of, in the very least, hooking up, and given the reputation of the area, having a quick snog in the bush.

Why are we having such difficulties with the notion of personal responsibility and acceptance of the consequences of our poor decision making?

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Scooter said “When you are in the Warm Sands area, at night, lurking around, you are there with the intent of, in the very least, hooking up,”.

You don’t have any evidence to support that assumption.

J. Peron
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

A defense attorney friend once made an important distinction for me. Years ago we had “peace officers,” whose jobs were to keep the peace and protect people from criminals. But he says this changed slowly over the years and they ceased being peace officers and became law enforcement officers.

Peace officers protect individuals from criminals. Law enforcement officers protect the state from the people doing anything the state deems wrong, whether rights are violated or not. Peace officers work within the realm of rights, law enforcement officers recognize rights ONLY if the law explicitly says they must, and they might get caught (even then they often don’t.)

When government agents have to suggest the crime, and encourage the crime, and bait and push someone into doing the crime, they are not protecting the public from the crime, they are manufacturing the crime. If that specific incident of a “crime” had, as a necessary component, the actions of a police officer, then they are manufacturing crime, not stopping it.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

I love the spirited debate Priya, thank you.

Have you been to the Warm Sands area before? There is no reason to go there at night except to (1) go to your private resort; (2) go to your private home; (3) visit someone at their private resort or home; or (4) to cruise for sex. This is a quiet residentail area that happens to have several all-male guest houses.

First hand experience is all the evidence I need, and all the evidence anyone who has been to this area should need. I enjoy staying at one of the men’s resorts in the area and visit there two or three times per year.

Walk into the street 24/7 and you will be enticed with hook up opportunities. Walk in the street on a nice night and it is a veritable buffet.

Even so, I make the personal and responsible decision to do my hanky-panky-ing in private and thus do not have an issue with the law.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

. . . “bait and push someone into doing the crime”. . . the crime was nonetheless committed. . . period. This is an Adam versus Eve debate. . . Eve was the temptress, but Adam took the bite. Who is at fault?

Take responsibility for yourselves people, stop blaming everyone else for your actions and poor decision making.

If loitering and public sexual activity began on my street or in my neighborhood, I would call the police. If it did not stop I would put pressure on my public officials to stop it. I am gay and I am not a prude, I just don’t want that happening in my neighborhood, I do not think it is ever appropriate, and. . . oh yeah, it is against the law.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Scooter, you may think one’s mere presence in an area is evidence of guilt – that’s not the case. Your “experience” counts for nothing, you’re not a mind reader, you are not in a position to judge whether or not these people would have committed a crime if they had not been invited to do so.

A lot of people go into an area for a lot of different reasons. Unless you are going to argue that you’re omniscient you’re in no position to decide what an exhaustive list of those reasons is.

Your entire argument is built on the assumption that you can read minds and are omniscient – get down off your high horse and come back to reality. No rational person is going to take you seriously when you claim to list “the only” reasons a person would be in an area.

The law must set an example by playing by the rules. “Show me what you’ve got” is entrapment. If there is any truth to your claims about the rampant public sex in that area police officers don’t need to break the law and become criminals in order to arrest criminals. If entrapment is the only way they can arrest people for public sex there obviously isn’t any real problem with it.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Priya: please answer the question, have you been to Warm Sands before?

If you have been there and you are honest in your convictions, (and I am certain you are), then you certainly understand what I have written about the place and the people who loiter on the streets there at night.

This Warm Sands situation is absolutely no different than the arrests under the old pier or dunes in P-Town, the bushes in Griffith Park, in your local park restroom, in the highway rest stop, and in every public place that becomes known as a gay cruising/sex location. When we start congregating in public places to engage in public sex, then there will always be a law enforcement agency under pressure from their community to stop it, and rightly so.

I am all about personal responsiblity and I take my life’s decisions and the resultant consequences very seriously. I do not blame other people or circumstances when I make a bad choice. The Palm Springs Chief of Police made a bad choice with his homophobic statements and a result is now living with the consequences of no job and public ridicule.

Lewd conduct in public is a bad choice regardless of the situation. Talking up strangers in a notorious cruise spot although not illegal is probably a little risky, showing your ding-dong in the same place is illegal, and really, really stupid.

I am actually a nice person who sometimes enjoys blogging on this brilliant website. So it is always a little discouraging when other bloggers go on the personal attack. Oh well, I still enjoy respectfully reading and considering your thoughtful posts. Have a nice weekend.

Scooter J
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

And how about words from a local Palm Springs, openly gay man who is testifying for the Prosecution, (dated two days ago). . .

Palm Springs resident Stephen Chele, an openly gay man, disagrees and came to the courtroom to support Anderson, (the officer who uttered the alleged homophobic slur).

“I feel what he said was inappropriate in a perfect world, but as far them prosecuting him as a homophobe — he is not a homophobe,” Chele said, adding that Anderson helped arrest the men who attacked Chele during a hate crime in 1999.

Furthermore, Chele said the police were only reacting to complaints made in the neighborhood and had the responsibility to take care of it.

“The crimes still occurred and what’s been going on on those streeets are an embarrassment to the entire gay community,” Chele said.

Anna
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Scooter, you have not addressed the fact that if there is a problem with public indecency, then the cops must have plenty of people to arrest without encouraging more people to commit crimes.

No one is arguing that nothing should be done. People are arguing that what has been done makes no freaking sense and you have said nothing to refute that.

Kurt Barrie
February 3rd, 2011 | LINK

Thank you for allowing me to believe other sane individuals roam this earth. I organized a protest this evening at City Hall in protest of the injustice that has been disguised as another great job by the Police. Who maintain there was no bias in this case. Even though an analysis of Police records ordered by the court show that Police ignored the fact that 83 percent of the complaints regarding sex in public were for heterosexuals who engaged in sex at Soak City Waterpark where kids play, and other places and the Police didn’t arrest a single one of them. In fact when asked on the stand if they ever recall any officer ever arresting a heterosexual for sex in public and they all said “no”. They claim they held the sting because of complaints they received yet the only complaint confirmed was from a gay man who took the stand for the defense stating he complained about prostitution, and not gay prostitutes. So its rather clear what the Police motives were when you ad the gay slurs that the cops made throughout the sting, even though the judge said they were not directed at anyone. Sure and I’m sitting here with Toto and the Tin Man eating bon bons on alibaba’s majic carpet. Homophobia has become the big denial. No matter what you say they pee on you and then try and tell you its rain. We are planning another protest next Wed at the City Council since we have to suffer, we figure they should too. Like a bad headache that asprin cannot make go away, we will keep pounding in their heads until they see it the right way. LOL Thanks its refreshing to know intelligent life does exist.

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