Last edited: February 14, 2005


Detroit to Settle Rouge Park Gay Entrapment Suit

Detroit Free Press, May 16, 2002
321 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48231
Fax: 313-222-6774

By James G. Hill, Free Press Staff Writer

The Detroit City Council approved a $170,000 settlement Wednesday in a lawsuit brought by the Triangle Foundation and seven men who alleged police used vague city ordinances to unfairly entrap gay men at Rouge Park.

As part of the out-of-court settlement, the council said it also plans to revise the annoying persons and solicitation and accosting ordinances to prevent future lawsuits.

"This is a very, very good step forward, and we are very optimistic," said Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a gay rights organization based in Detroit. "For years we have met with police about these ordinances. The situation at Rouge Park got to a point last year where hundreds of men were arrested, and it was clear the police were not interested in discussing it. . . . That’s why we finally had to go to federal court to get their attention."

Before filing suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit last August, Triangle representatives and police officials from the 6th (Plymouth) Precinct, which patrols Rouge Park, met twice with the council to talk about the undercover operations. Neither side was able to resolve the differences.

In August, police officials told the council that the undercover arrests had been curtailed at the park. Police spokesman Ricardo Moore said Wednesday that the annoying persons ordinance is rarely, if ever, used now at Rouge Park. He said the park still has a problem with lewd activity, though to a lesser degree.

"I know that we have had some dialogue, positive dialogue, on this particular issue" with the Triangle Foundation, Moore said. "So I would have to say those talks have had some positive effect."

The 1964 annoying persons ordinance was meant to deter obnoxious, indecent or lewd behavior in public places. Police had used it to arrest people—mainly gay men—allegedly engaged in lewd activity at Rouge Park.

However, several arrest reports from Rouge Park show that men had been arrested for simply sitting in a car and talking with another man, flirting or blowing kisses at undercover officers—sometimes aware that they were cops. In one instance, a man was arrested for giving an undercover officer a phone number.

Many of the men ticketed under the ordinance, which is a misdemeanor offense, also had their vehicles impounded, and had to pay at least $900 to reclaim them unless they fought the ticket in court and won.

"The annoying persons ordinance will have to be repealed; and as a condition of the settlement, the first clause of the solicitation and accosting ordinance will have to be changed so as to make it clear that only unwelcomed, uninvited, unsolicited conduct or communication is prohibited, not consensual conversation between consenting adults," Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said. "I mean, using the context of the ordinance as it is now, who hasn’t been annoying?"

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