The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department today updated its field operations directive for handling complaints of lewd conduct, a charge which often befalls gay men caught having sex in semi-public spaces in "vice" or undercover stings, according to West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang. The directive, initially instituted in 2006, was revised to place an increased focus on environmental factors that can reduce lewd conduct — including increased lighting, trimmed-back shrubbery, and increased patrols by uniformed officers and marked police cars. The revised directive relies on education, prevention and intervention, Prang said in an email.
"The basic theory behind the policy is that gay men engaged in lewd conduct are not 'criminals' who need to be jailed," Prang said. "Nor are they 'sexual predators' who need to register as sex offenders. They are simply engaged in inappropriate public behavior that needs to be stopped."
The revision also removes some impetus for stereotyping and entrapment by police officials, since it relies on environmental prevention of the behavior rather than punishment of individual offenders. By decreasing reliance on undercover stings, which only deter the individuals caught, the hope is that uniformed sheriffs can offer a better deterrent for those who would consider engaging in lewd behavior in the first place.
The policy does include a non-discrimination clause, which states, "where preventative efforts by a patrol station unit commander fail, we will not discriminate in our enforcement efforts on the basis of gender and/or sexual orientation."