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Police Actions, Media Reaction Surrounding Manhattan Beach Sex Sting Criticized

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is protesting the publishing of the names and photos of 18 men arrested in an undercover sex sting at a Manhattan Beach men's room earlier this month, the L.A. Times reports:

ManhattanbeachJim Key, chief spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Center, said the Manhattan Beach Police Department could have worked with the center to try to stop men from meeting in the restroom, located beside the beach at the foot of Marine Avenue. Key said the Los Angeles Police Department took the public education approach, rather than mass arrests, to cut down on a public sex problem at Griffith Park.

Darrel Cummings, the center’s chief of staff, said news organizations should use more discretion before identifying suspects in what he called a victimless crime. “Naturally we don’t condone illegal activity of any kind,” Cummings said in a statement, “but these men haven’t been proven guilty and historically, charges such as those leveled against them have involved police entrapment. Publishing their photos serves no purpose other than to humiliate and destroy their lives.”

The Center suggested names and mugshots were released because double standards were applied due to the same-sex nature of the incidents:

Key argued that some big-city police departments are less likely to release photos and that Manhattan Beach should exercise more discretion. Among the media that displayed some, or all, of the photos were the Torrance-based Daily Breeze newspaper; the alternative LA Weekly newspaper; CBS2, KCAL9, NBC4 and KTLA, the latter owned by Tribune Co., which also owns the Los Angeles Times.

Manhattan Beach Arrest 18 in Sex Sting [tlrd]

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  1. while i loathe vice-squad witchhunts, and public shaming, being Closeted is not a justified reason to commit what is defined as a criminal offense. now, sometimes (a lot?) the police get it wrong - they arrest innocent people, and posting their photos indicts them unfairly. but if you were busted, if you were doing it, i'm not sure what specific sympathy one wants. if you don't want to get arrested and therefore Outed you need to find another NON-CRIMINAL outlet for your sexual needs. there's no way around that.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 10, 2012 3:01:10 PM

  2. please,

    Cry me a river,,

    I' say shame them all.. The men that were busted was in the wrong.. The Cops and media has the right to show the faces of the pervs for the whole world to see.. They knew what they were doing was wrong..

    Posted by: SNT | Apr 10, 2012 3:03:28 PM

  3. Our little prude kiwi is right here to show us one more time his hateful, unforgiving character.

    He'll demand to reveal my identity and insinuate that my parents hated in 3, 2, 1.. Go!

    Posted by: AG | Apr 10, 2012 3:13:36 PM

  4. i agree 100% with cummings. this was evil, especially how they published the names & photos. quite frankly my anger goes toward this homophobic campaign by the police dept. rather than any victimless public sex they were allegedly so eager to clamp down on.

    Posted by: redball | Apr 10, 2012 3:13:55 PM

  5. Some guys commit suicide when their publicly shamed in these kind of stings. That's not cool. Maybe there should be class action lawsuits about this procedure. I assume there's been some lawsuits.

    That said, this is 2012! Cameras and electronic surveillance are everywhere and police are more active than in the past. There's no need for this kind of sh*t to be going on, and everyone should know the score by now. Go to a bar, club, use the internet, etc.

    As for double standards, well I've seen plenty of 'shaming' press releases, media articles, photos, names of heterosexual couples engaged in public indecent behavior, quite common.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Apr 10, 2012 3:16:09 PM

  6. Manhattan Beach has a lot of dirty laundry to be ashamed of. This is the city that gave us the Mc Martin Preschool satanic & ritual sex abuse mass hysteria trial, which produced zero convictions but was one of the longest running and most expensive criminal trials in U.S. history. The city council was also reported to have paid its city manager $270,000 to walk away from his job after he admitted to inappropriate behavior with at least one female city employee (LA Weekly 3/31, & 4/7/11) and no one was arrested. Manhattan Beach police were also involved in a botched hit and run accident a few months ago, (LA Weekly 1/19/12) that has so far cost city taxpayers more than half a million dollars to settle.

    Were Manhattan Beach police looking for a way to "score big" and regain the respect of the community? As noted by others, the police have a wide latitude on how to handle public nuisances and complaints about alleged lewd behavior. At the least they should have closed the beach bathroom, and that would have stopped all activity immediately. The arrested/accused don’t appear to have been predators, preying on unsuspecting/unwilling individuals. The publicizing of their names and photographs amounts to a public shaming, as pointed out by spokespeople for the Center, aimed at ruining the lives of these individuals for relatively minor crimes for which they have NOT been convicted. This brings to mind the kind of routine thuggish behavior that was all too commonly applied against LGBTs historically: bar shakedowns, raiding public meetings, surveillance of legitimate protest gatherings, etc. Police have often used the full force of the law to entrap gays, seeing them as fair game and easy marks; the media exposure is seen as positive in building their law enforcement cred, and deserved collateral damage for the alleged perpetrators.

    Posted by: So. Bay Resident | Apr 10, 2012 3:17:55 PM

  7. well, they shouldn't go publishing the photos of anyone who, as the law states, are innocent until proven guilty.

    accusations, even unfounded ones, can haunt a person for life.

    but there was a similar response to online-gay video companies prosecuting those who downloaded the videos illegally. some groups were saying that it was unfair, and was going to Out young people to their families. well, being Closeted doesn't mean you get a pass for criminal activity.

    vice-squad stings and entrapment are ugly wastes of time and money. there's a world of REAL crimes going ignored.

    but WHY these public bathroom encounters? it's 2012. it's America. there are other, non-illegal, outlets for not just sexual activity but LGBT Outreach and support for people who are questioning their attractions and desires.

    remember the larry craig thing? i was always puzzled as to why his response was "i'm not gay"
    uh, ok. you were, however, looking for c**k in a public restroom. i'm gay. i've never hunted for c**k in a public restroom.

    there are similarly people who say that the website "douchebagsofgrindr" unfairly Outs people.....but define "outing" - is the problem that they're being outed for being gay, or for being racist douchebags? if they have no problem with gay people knowing that they're racist douchebags, why worry about straight people knowing you're gay?

    if you have a public-restroom fetish you are also likely aware that your fetish comes with a risk of arrest. i'm not sure why people who are afraid of being Found Out would put themselves in a situation where they could not only be Outed, but charged with a criminal offense. it's just not smart.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 10, 2012 3:22:10 PM

  8. KIWI is correct, and surprisingly so given that Canada does (as I understand it) do things differently than we do. If I am not mistaken, in Canada names are not released and details not given until after the trial, correct? In the US, we don't trust our courts to act in secret, so the arrest, the proceedings, and the outcome is public.

    AG- Being a "prude" has nothing to do with this. These people are breaking a law which is equally applicable. The Clearwater police occasionally bust johns as well as hookers and put everyone up on They bust the tea room queens and mangrove night crawlers. This behavior is not acceptable. Public restrooms and parks are for public use, not for procuring and/or having sex.

    Posted by: David Hearn | Apr 10, 2012 3:24:03 PM

  9. Sorry but if you are engaging in sex in a public place and you get arrested for it, as you should, I have no sympathy for you. There are lots of outlets for you other than a public washroom....try hooking up on the internet, go to a gay bar, go to a bathhouse etc etc.

    Posted by: Swiminbuff | Apr 10, 2012 3:25:50 PM

  10. In this day and age, there's NO need for this. I have zero sympathy for these guys.

    Use the internet and Grindr like the rest of us.

    Posted by: Andrew | Apr 10, 2012 3:26:52 PM

  11. i'm a freak, sexually. i'm also smart enough to not get my freak on in any way that could possibly lead to my arrest.

    it's called being an adult.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 10, 2012 3:29:26 PM

  12. kiwi,

    It's good that you're an adult. What's not good is that you have so little compassion towards people who are somewhat different from you.

    Posted by: AG | Apr 10, 2012 3:36:24 PM

  13. Perhaps they should publish who is hetero married and/or on the DL as this is usually the most likely place men in hiding act out as we have seen time and time again, straight identified men having sex with other men.

    Posted by: Marc | Apr 10, 2012 5:28:18 PM

  14. "If I am not mistaken, in Canada names are not released and details not given until after the trial, correct?"

    No, not correct in the general sense. There are protections in cases involving children, and judges are free to order additional protections, but those can be successfully contested. Canada simply doesn't have as lurid a media focus as the United States seems to.

    Posted by: Nat | Apr 10, 2012 5:36:54 PM

  15. "Our little prude kiwi is right here to show us one more time his hateful, unforgiving character."

    I am so tired of this being trotted out.

    Not condoning anonymous and illegal washroom sex does not make one a prude, nor does it make one self-hating.

    Bathroom cruising traditionally proliferated because of the taboo, either because of closeted men seeking a sexual outlet, or because there's the thrill of doing something illegal. The Habib piece that was featured a few weeks back clearly demonstrated this: his encounters were frequently with closeted men.

    The defenders of these encounters are quick to denounce their opponents as prudes, or heteroconformists etc. But I think deep down, there's a substantial amount of self-loathing involved, regardless of whether someone is closeted or not. Gay sex is 'filthy' and 'degrading' so having sex in public washrooms - which definitely qualify as filthy, degrading spaces - confirms and accentuates the qualities that participants believe are inherent to gay sex.

    Posted by: Nat | Apr 10, 2012 5:47:01 PM

  16. Those of you who think that these men busted in these stings deserve to be humiliated by the press having their pictures published, their lives destroyed are not considering that gays are being uniquely thus:

    Straight people when they are busted for prostitution with the opposite sex do not have their names published, and even if they did it does not have the stigma attached to it that being gay does . . . so whatever your self-righteous, unsympathetic views are of gay (closeted) men having sex in public places their treatment by the police and the press is strikingly different from straight men and women . . . who do not get their names published until after they have been convicted in court.

    If you cannot be counted upon, as gay men and women, to support and demand fair and equitable treatment for others gays, just because you are personally disgusted by the behavior some gays engage in, then what difference is there between your attitude and the attitudes of the police and the press toward gay people; and why should you expect that anyone would advocate for you when you are being discriminated against?

    Are you forgetting that there are people who find you disagreeable? Anyone here holding a position that these men deserve what they get, are bigots, as much a bigot as a fundamentalist or a homophobe because you think yourself superior to them.

    As I said you are overlooking one crucial aspect of these stings and that is that gays are treated in way that straights are not treated.

    If there are any young people here on Towleroad, here is my PSA for you: While things do get better when you get out of high school, they do not necessarily get better by hanging out with gay people.

    Here is what you need to know about gay people. They are just like straight people:

    They can be cops, firemen, lumberjacks, truck drivers, politicians, jealous, petty, cruel, mean-spirited . . . and yes they can be self-righteous bigots.

    When you get clear of high school, and look to find acceptance, while you can generally expect to find acceptance among other gays, do not presume upon the acceptance of others just because they, like you, have the same sexual orientation.

    Things get better, not because you can meet other gay people like your self, but because you are now free to choose your friends.

    If you are reading these comments then you will know that gays can be as heartless, self-righteous, unyielding, and unforgiving as the kids in your high school, and as toxic, more so even, than the members of your family that turned against you.

    Things do get better as long as you avoid the mean queers and remember that not all straight are alike.

    Posted by: Ricco | Apr 10, 2012 6:33:50 PM

  17. "If there are any young people here on Towleroad, here is my PSA for you: While things do get better when you get out of high school, they do not necessarily get better by hanging out with gay people."


    Posted by: Nat | Apr 10, 2012 7:00:38 PM

  18. For those posting who are troubled or otherwise outraged that laws against sex in a public lavatory were breached, and believe that those participating must be self-loathing, closeted, and worthless human beings deserving what they get, here are a few things you might wish to refocus your outrage on:

    1. Police in general are encouraged to lie in order to get convictions. We only know what has been alleged by the police as to what actually happened in that beach restroom. Is this enough reason to treat these men as if they were actual sex criminals ready to prey on the general public, requiring that their photos, cities of residence & birthdates be broadcast?

    2. Not everyone passes into adulthood intact emotionally and mentally well-adjusted. It’s a process that takes years. And yes, there are even gay men who marry and raise families for the sake of their religious beliefs and parents’ aspirations (to please their parents), and later regret what they’ve done. They find their sexual longings and desires don’t end, but often lack the ability to make the kind of changes necessary. They act foolishly and take chances. It hasn’t been that long since homosexuality has been decriminalized in California (1978).

    3. Prop H8, which passed in 2008, didn’t happen in a vacuum; Californians were easily frightened into believing that the institution of marriage was threatened, and gays didn’t deserve marriage equality. There are mindsets that refuse to change and elements of society that prevent positive change. This often results in treating LGBTs differently by police and the courts, in the way the law is applied.

    There are unscrupulous individuals, organizations, politicians, and churches that will stop at nothing to prevent the normalization of homosexuality and bisexuality in American society. As someone else pointed out, the one thing that could have been done to stop all activity in that beach bathroom - closing it- was never even considered by the police.

    Posted by: Truth to Power | Apr 10, 2012 7:04:39 PM

  19. Throwback to 1986:

    Posted by: Frank | Apr 10, 2012 7:18:47 PM

  20. Truth to Power gets it exactly right.

    Those of you having no problem with this do realize that the double-standard of how this is reported directly plays into the strategies of the anti-gay organizations, right? This has helped them for years.

    So if gays get their photos prominently published, whereas straight men hanging around streets picking up hookers or engaging in other similar behaviors do not, it plays out a perception that gay men are the perverse and promiscuous ones. It doesn't matter that men of all stripes, straight or gay, might be getting busted for solicitation crimes, it's the gays who often get the "ohmigod, we're absolutely shocked this kind of thing is going on" sensationalized coverage on the news. Hell, straights invented things like the "Mile High Club"-- but I have to say I've never, ever in my life seen a news story-- anywhere, ever-- about a straight couple being arrested for it. Meanwhile, I have seen ads for local news that literally put horror movie music behind an image of a men's room and promised--as one of their headline stories-- to have "shocking" details about some gay sex bust.

    If this alone doesn't bother you, then it might be time for you to just phone up NOM and tell them you surrender.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Apr 10, 2012 7:50:47 PM

  21. Thanks for your contribution, NAT . . . and while I would say that advising kids to not have sex in public bathrooms is good advice . . . I do not know that it can or should be qualified as a better PSA, except of course by one of those queers I was warning our young readers about.

    Of all the intimidation, the bullying, the assaults I have endured in my life as a gay man, the worse of these were at the hands of other gays.

    The above self-righteous comments, wherein people are treated with as much respect as one could expect to treat cookie dough, with no more room for diversity of the events and circumstances that shapes peoples lives than a cookie cutter, indicates how much fear there is in the gay community . . . fear that straight people will judge and condemn you, or the gay community in general, by the disreputable behavior of other gay people.

    Love and understanding, at least an attempt to understand, does more to change people, and help them to change themselves, then presumption and condemnation.

    Sometimes the Towleroad blogosphere can be as toxic as Sunday services in a fundamentalist church in the south.

    Maybe the lot of you has not engaged in public sex (although I am willing to bet some of you have, but were not caught) but there has to be something you have said to someone, done to someone, or failed to say or do, that if published in the paper would be even worse than public sex.

    Somethings are not against the law, therefore will not come under the scrutiny of man . . . but you know what you have done, and if there is a God, he knows what you have done . . . and we all know that none of you have room to talk.

    Posted by: Ricco | Apr 10, 2012 7:51:20 PM

  22. "fear that straight people will judge and condemn you, or the gay community in general, by the disreputable behavior of other gay people."

    No, the self-hating are those who engage in this kind of behaviour, generally not those who take issue with it.

    Your self-righteous crusade becomes all the more apparent as the facade that it is. This isn't really about standing up for anyone.

    I think the kind of opprobrium exercises that the police engage in here are overblown. I prefer hefty fines and restraining orders. They're more efficient.

    But the tacit sanction of this conduct has to come to an end. Condoning it doesn't improve anything for young people at all.

    "So if gays get their photos prominently published, whereas straight men hanging around streets picking up hookers or engaging in other similar behaviors do not, it plays out a perception that gay men are the perverse and promiscuous ones."

    Men having anonymous sex in washrooms plays into the perception that they are perverse and promiscuous, not the fact that they're called out on it.

    Additionally: there are dozens of jurisdictions where solicitation measures are just as harsh. In mine, solicitation has a strict liability component attached to it, and if the John has a car, it can be impounded.

    Posted by: Nat | Apr 10, 2012 8:34:16 PM

  23. "but there has to be something you have said to someone, done to someone, or failed to say or do, that if published in the paper would be even worse than public sex."

    Acting like a deviant in a place where children are present? No, no I haven't.

    Posted by: Nat | Apr 10, 2012 8:37:10 PM

  24. NAT . . . be as self-righteous as you wish . . . but please don't show such blatant ignorance. Children are not present in these places where gay men cruise . . . and there were no children present when this sting operation was conducted.

    You should go work for NOM . . .you really should . . . . your lies and embellishments would fit right in with their agenda.

    Posted by: Ricco | Apr 10, 2012 9:31:20 PM

  25. i don't condone the publishing of names and pictures of people who were busted in these stings.
    i also don't condone using public restrooms as a means for, and place to engage in, sexual encounters.

    i'm not sure what some of you would like i, or others, to *do*.

    perhaps you should all frequent these places, and when someone gives the foot-tap or whatever the signals are, you can engage them in conversation and ask if they'd like to go for a coffee to talk.
    slide them a slip of paper with the name to the nearest LGBT Centre. Give a support-line number that would help them understand or come to terms with their sexual desires and/or attractions, if they are indeed going unaddressed on a larger level.

    none of us here can give any form of support to an adult who chooses a public rest-stop as their only "gay outlet".

    yes, there is a double-standard when it comes to hookers and johns. the double-standards for treatment of LGBT people compared to straight people are numerous, and not new.

    but at what point does a grown adult acknowledge the specific risks they are taking, and that those risks come with possibly grave consequences?

    i don't condone the way these men were treated, but i also don't defend what they were doing. it's against the law. they know this. where does common sense end and carnality begin?

    we sexually-active adults need to be responsible with our sex. ignore the heat of the moment, and remember to use a condom. ignore the heat of the moment, and remember you might get arrested for engaging in sexual conduct in a public restroom.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 11, 2012 12:30:58 AM

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