This post appears in a different, shorter form on Helen’s Facebook page.
At the end of this post, please find a link to a DNA Info article about allegations against police officers conducting a sting operation in the men’s room at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. They are accused of arresting gay and gender non-conforming men who have not committed any offense.
This isn’t the only method used in illicit restroom sting operations.
In some entrapment instances, the undercover officer will make the first move, to entice another man into something which appears to be mutually consenting. Then the target of that encounter is arrested.
I won’t act as an apologist for restroom sex. Although it may be harmless enough when both parties are consenting, health precautions are taken and no bystanders walk in unexpectedly, there are no guarantees that everything will go well. A person who walks in on a tryst or becomes the subject of unwanted advances is likely to have a sense of violation. Don’t call that person a homophobe. Some very level-headed, enlightened people will cringe, even if they’re just overhearing activity taking place inside a closed toilet stall.
Any arrest has potential for harming a person’s relationships, reputation or career. Abusing the power to take someone into custody can’t be tolerated, although we know it happens somewhere on a daily basis.
Question: Do Port Authority officers use equal resources to ensure the ladies’ rooms are safe from creepy men who assault women? This is worth asking because that type of patrol sounds a bit more dangerous than arresting men who have done nothing threatening.
Another question: Does the Port Authority’s Police Department consult people who can advise on helping teenaged runaways avoid predators — without necessarily returning those kids to unfit home environments? Where sexual misconduct is concerned, that may be the biggest challenge for any urban public safety agency — especially a police department with jurisdiction in a bus station.
Maybe this all boils down to the way a few ignorant, ambitious or hateful people define public safety.