"Gay dollars are keeping this city afloat. Let's get real. The gay events are the largest events in the valley. The gay tourist dollar is crucial to the economic survival of Palm Springs."
-- From "Palm Springs cops feel heat over gay sex sting" by Hank Plante, San Francisco Chronicle 7/18/10
. . . new frictions have arisen between the city's Police Department and its sizable gay population - estimated to be as high as 30 to 40 percent - over a police sting of gay public sex.
Last summer, Palm Springs police used undercover officers to arrest 24 men in a gay neighborhood for allegedly trying to engage the officers in sex. While few in the gay community defend anyone having public sex - whether gay or straight - the anger is over the unusual charges in the case: The men are charged under Section 290(c) of the California Penal Code, making those who are convicted register as sex offenders for life, their names added to a police database.
The new scrutiny of the Palm Springs Police Department also reveals that there isn't a single openly gay male police officer among the 99 officers on the force (there is only one open lesbian), despite the city's reputation as a gay mecca. Reacting to anger in the gay community, the Palm Springs police chief now finds himself in the position of damage control. Last week, he met with gay leaders, and he brought in an openly gay Los Angeles sheriff's sergeant to help conduct sensitivity training on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the Palm Springs force.
The economic fallout on the city is not lost on City Manager David Ready, who says, "Palm Springs is very concerned and spends a significant amount of resources on tourism as our driving economic factor. So anything that affects tourism is of great concern to the city. That being said, the chief is doing his internal review of this sting operation, and he will be making recommendations on our policy going forward."
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