Cincinnati Cop Union Head Pouts Over Nixed Publicity for Gay Sex Sting

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It’s “about values,” Sgt. Dan Hils said, while mayor’s office wishes cops would focus on violent crime.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown |

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(CincyParks/Twitter)

A series of sex stings in Cincinnati parks has spawned a fight between city cops and the mayor’s office.

Over the course of a six-week operation, Cincinnati police arrested or cited 20 men in Mt. Airy Forest, a huge and heavily wooded park on the city’s west side.

For decades, a remote area of the park has been known as a place where gay men meet up for sexual encounters. City cops recently targeted this area, with undercover officers posing as men on the prowl.

Police were set to release video of the stings as part of a big public relations push surrounding the operation. But the mayor’s office asked them not to do so, while also criticizing the premise of the stings more broadly.

“Given the historic rise in gun violence in our community, our resources should be specifically targeted at preventing and prosecuting violent crime,” said Mayor After Pureval, who took office in January, in a statement.

Pureval said he told police to “look for opportunities to cite nonviolent offenses to court rather than directing resources towards shaming people or jailing nonviolent offenders.”

It’s a step in the right direction. Ideally, police wouldn’t go searching for or setting up people for park-sex offenses in the first place. (There’s a big difference between “public indecency” at a time and place where people may actually see it and hooking up in a secluded area of a forest at night.) If these types of stings are going to take place, however, then citations seem much more reasonable than jail time and highly publicized criminal charges.

But Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils isn’t happy with this outcome. It’s “about values,” he told The Enquirer.

Hils seems apt to make this into a referendum on the new mayor. “I really wanted to give the new city administration a chance on law and order issues. My immediate thing is concerned that they are not going to support the police department and law and order activities,” he told WKRC Cincinnati.

City leadership fired back that the city was still punishing people for park sex, just not overreacting or turning their escapades into a media circus. “The offenders in the police operation have been cited in court and will be prosecuted according to their offense,” said Pureval. Interim City Manager John Curp noted noted that “all of the individuals referenced were cited with misdemeanor offenses, none involved sex with minors, acts of violence or sex trafficking. It is the position of this administration that the justice system will hold these individuals accountable, and that a public relations campaign related to the arrests was unnecessary.”

Lawyer Scott Knox, described by the Enquirer as “a long-time defender of LGBTQ rights [who] used to frequently represent men arrested in these stings,” worried that public shaming campaigns like the one police planned could lead to suicides and said the arrests hearkened back to the bad old days of police relations with the city’s gay community. “Certainly if they’re going into parks and engaging in illegal activity, they need to be cited, but they don’t need to be put at risk for committing suicide,” said Knox. “When it becomes a media event, historically these were closeted gay men, there’s real potential to them doing harm to themselves.”

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