December 14, 2006

Danger in the Parks – Gay Entrapment(?)

I will publish this piece in both my journal, and Isaac’s Political Journal for two reasons. First, I am relating part of my daily existence here in Florida. Second, the situation I describe below reflects an administrative system that has distorted the purpose (to aid and protect citizens) of at least two major municipal institutions in Palm Beach County.

I always think that the police are here to help and protect me. I forget that the constabulary was created as an arm of local municipal government to control and regulate human behavior, and that the beginning of any honest police history must be filled with many a clash between ordinary citizenry and the police. Originally, the early American colonial British based watch system was fashioned in part with the responsibility to prevent public drunkenness. Later, in large cities the police forces were composed of hundreds of volunteers. Often convicts themselves, and or dull witted, they were called “leather heads” by ordinary American workers. The first paid police force was created in New York City in 1845 and other large cities were soon to follow. These police forces, recruited from the working class, were trained to think of themselves as better than their peers and during the late nineteenth century were used to control mobs, race riots, and strikes. The city bosses who were friendly to business concerns used the newly armed professional police to round up striking intoxicated (Irish) workers -thus the term “paddy wagon.” The confrontations often large in scale resulted in armed conflict. Thus, these police forces were used in service to big business, the rich, and the city bosses. They did not help the ordinary citizenry, rather they can best be understood as a militia used against the worker in class warfare.

I give this preamble concerning police history by way of explanation. You see, I just found out that one of my neighbors, a heterosexual male, was arrested last week for soliciting in a men’s room in a nearby county park. I will not divulge his identity because I have learned from past experience that doing so can hurt friends and family members. My neighbor, I’ll call him “Ted,” is not going to fight the arrest because the county police have sworn that Ted will not be prosecuted if he follows their directions explicitly. It seems there is an entire complex program here in Palm Beach County based on a profile of the “gay tearoom queen” (my term). Ted was told that over twelve hundred men in Palm Beach County have been “detained” under the program and that it is designed to help control a “social disease.” Ted has had to appear in court, and he will attend a “class” in which “experts” will teach him about the evils of tearoom solicitation including vandalism, blackmail, robbery, prostitution, and HIV AIDS. Ted must also have an HIV test. If he does these things, and stays out of all county public parks and other various particular locations throughout the county for 90 days, he will not be prosecuted. His name will not go on lists, including that of known sex offenders.

Now, do I believe the police are being honest and forthright with Ted? No, I don’t. Ted has been required to fill out many forms including one on which he had to admit to guilt that he can’t possibly have. The police have placed his car’s license plate number on file, and he has been given a list of all the places he may not go. These police requirements have forced him to tell his wife and child about the arrest so that neither should mistakenly drive the car into one of the forbidden areas.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation is that my neighbor was framed in a bizarre performance created by a trained undercover policeman, a very handsome and well endowed individual I am told, who stepped up to the urinal next to my neighbor, exposed himself and asked my neighbor what he wanted to do with the exposed tumescent part. My neighbor, shocked speechless, was then confronted by a second plain-clothes policeman who placed him under arrest. A third, uniformed policement stood outside the men's room. I’m appalled because such a program requires a huge expenditure. It is designed to profile a small population, but has mistakenly pulled in a person who does not fit the stereotyped profile, and I wonder how many times that has happened. Additionally, many persons must participate in such a program, from the top echelon of county administration, including trained professionals in several fields, the uniformed policeman, and the undercover agent. Each is receiving a salary. There are literally hundreds of county parks in this huge Palm Beach County. Do the police patrol all of them with handsome well endowed undercover agents whose purpose is to trap unsuspecting gay men? How many “experts” are paid on a regular basis to teach the special “classes” designed to mistakenly rid us of a “social disease?” How many court personnel are tied up with this ridiculous charade?”

I am appalled! Are we pursuing drug dealers with such gusto? Do we plan to hound organized car thieves with even a fraction of the energy, time and money required to fund this mammoth program designed to harass gay men? Is there a program anywhere to help the gay child thrown onto the street by his/her family to find housing, schooling, and a thoroughly supportive environment? I don’t thinks so, and I suppose there isn’t anything to do about it. Some angry and brave gay or straight man must confront the system by refusing to participate in this travesty, and so be prosecuted, dragged through the courts and the mud by a program with the intent to publicly display him as a deviant and incarcerate him. Who would be willing to do such a thing to himself?

Sadly, this is the state of liberty in Twenty-first century United States of America, home of the free and the brave!

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