Police in Dawson County, Georgia, recently arrested nine men following a three-day sting in which they targeted the suspects on the gay hookup app Grindr.
The men face a variety of mostly drug- and prostitution-related charges, according to Project Q Atlanta. But one of the suspects provided the publication with screenshots from a Grindr chat that contradict an undercover officer’s account.
Project Q reports: Sgt. W. Dereck Johnson – who identified himself on Grindr as “Charlie[looking for]420” – initiated a conversation about sex and offered to host at a Quality Inn & Suites on Beartooth Parkway in Dawsonville. … When the man said he had marijuana, Johnson replied, “U share?” The man said he would. Johnson also offered to supply papers to smoke the marijuana. “I want to get high and fuck,” Johnson wrote. “Nothing wrong with that,” the man replied.
Although the man says he never offered to exchange marijuana for sex, Johnson later wrote in an arrest warrant, “[The suspect] did solicit SSGT D. Johnson to perform an act of prostitution in exchange for marijuana.”
A local newspaper subsequently published the suspects’ names and mugshots, and even listed one of their employers. Incident reports from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted the sting, provided “scant information” about the arrests, Project Q reports. And Sheriff Jeff Johnson (pictured) declined to comment.
Gregory Nevins, an attorney with the LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal, slammed the arrests, saying they harken to a time when police routinely targeted gay men in venues such as public parks. Except in this circumstance, Nevins noted, there is no risk of children being inadvertently exposed to lewd activity.
“It does strike you as wow, these are the priorities of a different era that just missed out on the last 20 years,” Nevins said. “What’s going on in Dawson County is against the grain. Where does the protect and serve baseline actually come into this? Where is any appreciation for not over-incarcerating people who aren’t doing anything harmful and looking out for situations where real harm is going on? It’s a cataclysmic failure.”