Wising up, sort of

Good news, folks. The Detroit Police Department has come to its senses and is no longer issuing “annoying person” tickets to people in Rouge Park. News Hits reported last month that Jeff Montgomery, executive director of the gay and lesbian advocacy group Triangle Foundation, complained to Detroit City Council that 6th Precinct officers unfairly targeted gay men by setting up decoys in the park, and we ain’t talking ducks. Though some men did not respond to the sexual overtures, they still were issued “annoying person” tickets, their cars were impounded and they had to pay at least $900 to get them back, he said.

The Police Department told council members that Rouge Park is part of a citywide crackdown on prostitution that began last winter. The council grilled the department at last month’s hearing asking why they didn’t issue solicitation tickets. Not until the Police Department was before the council again last week did it offer an answer.

Jacob Schwarzberg, supervising assistant corporation counsel, said that that the officers had previously been issuing solicitation tickets even when money was neither mentioned nor exchanged. City attorneys advised them to instead issue annoying person tickets since they cover lewd conduct when money is not involved. But after recent media attention, Schwarzberg said that the police have stopped issuing the tickets.

Montgomery told the council that he obtained copies of 300 police reports from the department regarding a range of tickets issued to people in Rouge Park. Though money was mentioned or exchanged in only seven of those cases, cars were impounded in every instance, which is a violation of state law, he said. Montgomery claimed that the city and Wayne County prosecutor’s office, which split the $900 impound fine, are misusing the law to collect money from gay men, who are viewed as “ATM machines.”

The council said it will look further into the matter after its summer recess.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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