Should getting your rocks off in a public park get you spanked for life by being forced to register as a sex offender? Palm Springs police in California would like it that way.
Last year’s sting of the Warm Sands area snagged 24 alleged offenders, and new documents show that leading up to the sweep the police were hoping the district attorney’s office would severely punish the park sex hopefuls.
Prior to the Warm Sands sting, Palm Springs police made it clear to the Riverside County D.A.’s Office they were dissatisfied with the “disturbing the peace” pleas that came from previous stings, according to sworn testimony from Palm Springs police Sgt. Bryan Anderson, who helped supervise the Warm Sands sting. The police reached out to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Trisha Fransdahl prior to the sting. Anderson said he was confident they had an agreement in place to pursue “the charges that we actually asked to file.” The Palm Springs Police Department declined to comment on the Warm Sands sting. It’s not clear why it sought more severe penalties from the D.A. in advance.
“Not clear”? We have some theories.
In the meantime, while the D.A. insists there was never a firm deal in place to prosecute offenders under such a severe law, the 24 men do stand to be added to a sex offender’s registry if convicted — but only one that’s available to police, and not the public.
But how come it’s only the gays enjoying public sex that are facing such harsh penalties?
Indio-based public defender Roger Tansey aims to get a Riverside County Superior Court judge to compel the police to reveal details about their enforcement during the past 10 years. Tansey submitted earlier this month testimony from two former security guards — including one who patrolled Knott’s Soak City water park in Palm Springs — who said they witnessed rampant straight sex in public while on the job. Tessa Smith said she observed 15 to 20 couples engaged in public inappropriate sexual activity in the two months she served as a security guard at the water park in 2007. Smith, now a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy, said she witnessed two couples having sex in the wading pool. [...] Another security guard, Richard Heidorn, said he witnessed 25 to 30 straight couples having sex in the city-owned parking structure north of Baristo Road during a nine-month period in 2009.
The double standard of cracking down on gay vs. straight sex isn’t new, but the Palm Springs police’s attempt to force these men onto sex offender lists is frightening. These lists are used to keep tabs on persons committing sex crimes, not crimes that involve sex. There’s a difference between child rapists and pedophiles and men and women (gay or straight) stupidly using public property to get off with other consenting adults. Adding these men to that list dilutes the purpose of a registry.
We’re just fine with police trying to eliminate public park cruising; if there are families or children also using the park, seriously, go somewhere else. But including a Richard Quest type on a registry reserved for the sickest of human beings (and, apparently, teenagers who sext) is ridiculous and an over-reach.