Activists and members of the Houston's gay community are questioning the recent arrest of seven men for park cruising in the city's Memorial Park.
First news of the arrests posted this week on Facebook incorrectly indicated that more than 20 people were arrested.
Houston Police Department spokesman John Cannon confirmed to The Dallas Voice that seven arrests were made on Thursday, Aug 1, stating the sting operation resulted in the men being charged with indecent exposure after “voluntarily exposing themselves.”
Local activist Ray Hill says he has been in contact with one of the men arrested, who recounted the way police attracted the men.
OutSmart magazine reported Hill's retelling of the account: "eight to 10 male vice officers dressed in Speedos and suggestive T-shirts were along the jogging trail during daylight hours, attempting to beckon male joggers and walkers into the bushes."
“[My source] tells me that one of their shirts had what resembled a chrome penis on the back, and some of the other T-shirts looked to be gay pride affiliated,” Hill said.
OutSmart reports that "any individuals who responded to the officers’ calls and followed them into the bushes were automatically presumed to be looking for a sexual encounter, were handcuffed, and arrested."
Cannon, however, maintains that because the men willingly exposed themselves in public, the police sting wasn’t entrapment. He refused to comment on how the officers were dressed.
Hill questiones the needless damage done to the lives of the arrested men.
"We have a lesbian Mayor, a 'gay friendly' police chief and a SCOTUS decision (Lawrence v. Texas) finding the law against homosexual conduct unconstitutional," wrote Hill in a post on Facebook. "Yet these men had to post bond, were held an illegally long period of time in Houston City Jail, they must hire lawyers, defend against the charges, some will lose their jobs and make their family lives confusing at best."
Cannon says police are in the park “on as frequently a basis that we can because of complaints.”
“For the most part, undercover officers have been conducting similar operations for years, so this is nothing new,” he said. “This has been an ongoing issue in this particular part of Memorial Park.”
In July, the police department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found itself under intense scrutiny following the arrest of 12 men for agreeing to have consensual, private gay sex. The men were arrested under a Louisiana statute that was rendered unenforceable a decade ago when the US Supreme Court legalized gay sex in Lawrence v Texas.