Houston police say they regularly conduct gay sex stings in parts of Memorial Park, and the one conducted last Thursday was no exception.
HPD spokesman John Cannon said undercover officers engaged in conversation with men in the park and some of the men enticed the officers with conversation and by getting their attention from a vehicle or outside in the park.
The sting led to seven arrests, not more than 20 as gay activist Ray Hill alleged after talking to one of the arrested men. The men were arrested between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for indecent exposure, a Class-B misdemeanor, after they “voluntarily exposed themselves,” Cannon said.
As for the account that officers were wearing Speedos, Pride-related T-shirts, including one with a chrome penis on it, Cannon declined to comment on the attire because police don’t discuss operational tactics.
Cannon said police conduct a sting in the park “on as frequently a basis that we can because of complaints.”
“For the most part, undercover officers have been conducting similar operations for years, so this is nothing new,” he said. “This has been an ongoing issue in this particular part of Memorial Park.”
The targeted area is the 100 block of Picnic Lane, which Cannon said is located near walking and jogging trails, as well as restrooms.
He said while the sting focuses on men who approach or are approached by male officers, the operation is done because of complaints from the Houston community. He said because the men willingly exposed themselves in public, the sting wasn’t entrapment.
“No one gets entrapped when you expose yourself to someone else, especially when you’re in a public area for all the public to see,” Cannon said.
Hill’s was outraged by the sting in part because gay men were targeted in a city with a lesbian mayor. Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for Mayor Annise Parker’s office, said Parker wouldn’t comment, saying “since this is a police matter, we are deferring to them.”