On Friday Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina strongly criticized the Long Beach Police Department’s practice of conducting sting operations against gay men cruising for sex saying the department’s tactics were tantamount to discrimination while invalidating the 2014 arrest of a gay man for lewd conduct and indecent exposure.
The man was ensnared by an undercover vice team that had set up a sting operation in a men’s bathroom at Recreation Park in Long Beach, CA on October 2014. After receiving what he believed to be flirtatious signals from an undercover detective the man was arrested for exposing himself, said Bruce Nickerson, his attorney.
Dhanidina said Long Beach’s vice tactics are discriminatory because the squad uses only male officers as undercover decoys in lewd conduct stings. Several officers who testified at an evidentiary hearing this month all said they had arrested only male suspects for lewd conduct while working as vice officers, the judge said.
The judge also agreed with Nickerson’s argument that the detective smiled and nodded at Moroney several times during their exchange, and Moroney had reason to believe the detective was making a sexual advance
The department “intentionally targeted men who engaged in homosexual sex,” Dhanidina said “The presence and tactics of the decoy officers actually caused the crimes to occur.”
Stephanie Loftin, who is also represented the arrested man, described Long Beach as one of the “last bastions” for using undercover decoy tactics to arrest gay men.
Scores of gay men have been forced to register as sex offenders in California after they were convicted of lewd conduct under similar circumstances, a practice that ruins lives and unfairly lumps such men in with convicted rapists and child molesters.
“Those officers and detectives aren’t saving lives,” said Jim Key, a spokesman for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “They’re destroying them by branding innocent men as sex offenders.”