A Calgary man claims that four police officers threatened and intimidated him while he was cruising for sex in North Glenmore Park Sept 24.
“I walked into a wooded area off of the main path where I knew people went to connect for sex,” says @CalgaryQueer, who asked Xtra to publish his Twitter handle rather than his real name, for fear of reprisal.
“As I came off the path, a guy was sitting at a picnic table that was there,” he says. The man, who identified himself as a police officer, told @CalgaryQueer that city bylaws prohibit people venturing off the park’s main walking path. Violators can be charged for disturbing park vegetation, he said.
When pressed, the officer revealed that police had received complaints about “homosexual activity” in the park, @CalgaryQueer alleges.
The officer escorted @CalgaryQueer out of the wooded area to the trail, where another officer was waiting. Together, they escorted him back to the parking lot, where two more officers awaited, in uniform.
One of the uniformed officers demanded to see his identification, @CalgaryQueer says. When he provided it, the officer recorded the information in a notebook but didn’t call it into dispatch.
“Even though there were four officers there, nobody called and checked my ID at that time,” @CalgaryQueer says.
“Whether formal or informal, the Calgary police were making a list [of gay men cruising the area],” he suggests.
“I don’t know if they’re trying to change beliefs, extinguish beliefs or harass the gays,” he says.
“Straight people have sex in the park,” he notes. “Are they being as aggressive in monitoring that, or about consuming alcohol in the park?”
Calgary police say they are cracking down equally on all public sex in the park, gay and straight.
“Sexual activity in public is against the law,” says Sergeant Jim Stinson of the Calgary police. “Sexual activity has been specific to this park for the last two decades. Both gay and straight sex.”
“It’s about illegal sexual activities. It’s not about anyone’s sexual orientation,” he continues. “I don’t think any reasonable person wants to see people having sex in public, no matter what their orientation is.”
Though Stinson says the Calgary Police Service isn’t mounting an official campaign to snuff out public sex, he admits bike patrols of the area have increased since police received complaints of “sexual activity” in the park.
The complaints came from area residents and park users, and they were not directed specifically toward gay sex, he says.
“We were responding to complaints from some of the neighbours that reside adjacent to the park.” Stinson says the police respond to these kinds of issues on a “complaint basis.”
“We don’t go looking for the issue,” he says, but “we are duty-bound to respond” when a complaint is received.
Stinson says no recent charges have been laid against anyone for sexual activity in the park. Calgary police are more issuing a warning, he says.
Asked why Calgary police dispatched both uniformed and plainclothes officers to the park, Stinson says it was not to intimidate park users.
“[Plainclothes officers] are anticipating that they can approach people easier who may or may not want to use the park for sexual activity,” Stinson explains, adding that uniformed officers are also likely to be in close proximity.
Police should be focusing on more important issues than nabbing people having consensual sex discreetly in the park, @CalgaryQueer maintains.
“I think it was a bit heavy-handed,” he says.
“Frankly, I think it’s kind of silly,” he continues. “I think there has to be way more pressing issues for the Calgary police to be dealing with.”
Stinson says that police won’t be monitoring park sex on a daily basis but that officers will continue to investigate complaints as they come in.