Email While many Americans may only be vaguely familiar with the idea of "cruising," there is a secret world of sex between men that exists in public places across the country. The police officer who arrested Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis airport for allegedly looking to engage in gay sex wrote in his June report that he "recognized a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.
Those actions led to Craig's arrest by Detective Dave Karsnia and the senator's guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge. Craig told reporters today that he did nothing inappropriate and said his guilty plea was a mistake. Public places like men's restrooms, in airports and train stations, truck stops, university libraries and parks, have long been places where gay and bisexual men, particularly those in the closet, congregate in order to meet for anonymous sex.
In an effort to curb lewd acts in public — or as some gays argue, in an effort to persecute gay men — undercover police began sting operations in places known for sex soliciting and employed the same codes. They will see each other and usually decide to go someplace else. The vast majority have no interest in being seen. They may be meeting in public locations, but they will be as discreet as possible," Griffith said.
Cruising areas traditionally have been those parts of town "women and children are told to avoid," but through word of mouth, bathrooms at places like Wal-Mart or Home Depot can become cruising locales, he said. Griffith said that officers involved in such stings tend to be young and that anecdotal posts on his site indicate the local arrest rates increase around the time of elections or when media attention focuses on the issue.
Because much of the signaling is itself benign behavior, some gay rights activists and lawyers have admonished police departments for arresting men who have done little more than tap their feet. If a case like this went to trial, police officers would have to produce evidence to say here is how we can say with certainty this is was really a lewd act," he said. Craig pleaded guilty to the charges and therefore opted against a trial.
Today, Craig denied being gay and said he made a mistake by pleading guilty. Police officers, for the most part, only investigate an area after members of the public have complained about it being used for sex, said Rich Gregson, executive director of the California Peace Officers Association. They rely on their own knowledge and experience to tell what is happening.
Most officers know the difference between an intentional signal and a stray motion," he said. The public has a right to enter public areas without worrying about inadvertently seeing lewd acts, Gregson said. The year veteran police chief said he believed this sort of activity took place "in every jurisdiction" and heard stories of "off-duty officers and even judges being caught and arrested.
They are deeply, deeply closeted. There is a lot of self-hatred and shame and they can't allow themselves to come to terms with their sexuality. There is also the added element of danger and being discovered," he said.