When I have friends or family visit, we don't walk in the parks in the greater Fort Lauderdale area. It seems that there's more cruising going on there than on the sex apps. From the reports, rest areas and Macy's bathrooms have nothing on the parks our kids play in, families go to. Seriously people? Get a life, get a room, get a conscience.
Due to this type of inconsiderate activity by horny self-centered gay men, law enforcers may have recently resorted to overstepping their bounds, allegedly. We want to thank South Florida Gay News (SFGN) for its investigation and sharing their findings in a piece they call Walking While Gay: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office targets men in John Prince Park.
An SFGN investigation has revealed that law enforcement officers in Palm Beach County are stopping men and questioning them in at least one public park with no legal basis to do so.
Over the past month the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has been aggressively patrolling John Prince Park in Lake Worth, stopping men, who are walking alone, and then interrogating them. In some instances, they’ve even taken photos of the men for their “personal use.”
One man SFGN interviewed said he was questioned by a Sheriff, while he was walking through the trails two weeks ago. He insisted he was doing nothing illegal and just walking along one of the many walkways. He was not arrested, not accused of any illegal activity, but told not to come back to the park again.
“There are a lot of other parks to go walking around in, I suggest you don’t come here anymore,” he said the officer told him. He claimed the Sheriff also said “we have been checking license plates for the past two weeks. I’m going to see if your plate is one of them.”
The man said the officer asked for his identification and to take his photo. He consented because he was scared.
“Would you mind if I take you picture?,” he said the Sheriff told him. “It’s not going on any website. Or any file. It’s for our personal use.”
SFGN confirmed the random stops in the park by sending a reporter in plain clothes. An SFGN reporter was stopped by two pairs of Sheriff’s and interrogated, however the Sheriffs did not ask to take a photo, or tell the reporter not to come back. The SFGN reporter did not identify himself as a member of the press.
One attorney believes these men’s constitutional rights have been violated.
“What the police are doing here goes well beyond just a consensual encounter with a citizen and amounts to an illegal detention. By photographing people, taking down personal information, and demanding ID without any legal justification, the police are violating the 4th amendment’s prohibition against unlawful seizure,” said Russell Cormican, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale. “Further, by directing law abiding people to cease visiting public parks that they have every right to enjoy, the police are violating the constitutional right to free association. It is very troubling that police are engaging in such tactics, particularly where that conduct appears directed at only one particular group of people. The incidents reported by the men who were stopped could serve as the basis for a civil rights claim against the police department and at the very least should warrant disciplinary action against the officers involved.”
The SFGN report goes on to a transcription of the banter between the Officer and undercover reporter. That one reporter wasn't stopped once, but twice by police officers. To read what transpired when the SFGN reporter was stopped by a member of the Sheriff's department, head over to SouthFloridaGayNews.com
There's a lot more to this story and a lot more to SFGN's investigation of the Palm Beach County Sheriff Office’s 5-year undercover sting targeting gay sex in public parks (300 arrests when only 4 were of men having sex).
On the one hand, if the accusations are correct, it's deplorable how the Sheriff's office is carpeting the parks, stopping people, and telling them to not come back for no reason at all. But it's also horrific that they have to spend the time and money to police a park that may be host to outdoor sexual activities by inconsiderate men. Two wrongs don't make a right, but the first wrong shouldn't be happening in the first place.
Was I too harsh? Well, you're welcome to your own opinion.