‘A Lust to Bust’ is a Disgrace to Erase

Today’s editorial will be short. The front-page story speaks for itself.

There is no defense for what law enforcement officers do to gay men in public parks. It does not happen in Palm Beach alone, though Palm Beach is where our story is featured this week.

 

From shore to shore, from Seattle to South Florida, ‘bag-a-fag’ tactics are illegally employed by cops to ensnare and entrap otherwise innocent gay men.  Mind you, this paper is not endorsing pubic sex in public parks. Parks are for kids, not tricks. But trickery is not a tactic that police should use to arrest gay men either.

The willingness of the Palm Beach sheriff’s office to devote and dedicate two officers over five years to arrest hundreds of men is indefensible. But the sheriff was given an opportunity to defend it. An elected official, he declined an interview with our Editor in Chief, an accredited writer who has won local awards and is on the board of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

It seems the Sheriff may be gayer then he realizes. ‘Stonewalling’ is a policy and practice he employed with Broward New Times as well, when one of their writers, Jose Lambiet, was investigating sexism in the sheriff’s office. That’s unacceptable.

Whether it is Congressman Allen West or Sheriff Rick Bradshaw, you have a duty to answer questions from the press other than the sycophants on the Fox News Channel. And if you are an elected official, you ought to study the extraordinarily high voting demographics of the LGBT community.

The truth is the LGBT press is now more than entertainment magazines showcasing our nightlife. It consists of representatives in nationally affiliated organizations, from the Florida Press Association to the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association. The story we report on today was investigated over two years, and required this newspaper spending close to two thousand dollars in public records requests to review over 300 police reports and other materials.  The results speak for themselves, as does the silence of the Palm Beach sheriff’s office. Rick Bradshaw, you should be embarrassed.

Nevertheless, without the sheriff’s input, this newspaper reaches the conclusion that for a period in excess of five years a task force of officers was deployed in public parks to interdict sexual activity but wound up instead creating and then perpetuating the very criminal activity they were assigned to stop.

We conclude that the Sheriff’s office unjustly targeted, improperly arrested, and then selectively prosecuted gay men in Palm Beach County public parks.

We further conclude that no oversight units within the sheriff’s office were utilized to screen, evaluate, or monitor the tactical operation employed by the designated officers, which were impaled by due process violations.

We find also, that the sheriff, given an opportunity to discuss these tactics with credible reporters from an established LGBT newspaper, has cowered from his civic responsibility to do so.

We encourage the LGBT community of the Palm Beaches to demand answers and hold the sheriff accountable. Being gay is more than holding pride parades. It is being proud to stand up against injustice, fight discrimination, and respond to challenges.


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