A newspaper in Florida has needlessly published the photos and names of 18 men arrested in a four-day gay sex sting operation.
The men, aged 28 to 78, were arrested by undercover officers in a number of parks in Volusia County, apparently following complaints of lewd behaviour.
“If you insist in going in our parks and trails and engage in this type of despicable behaviour you may find yourself in handcuffs,” said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood in a news conference on Saturday.
He added: “It’s important that we set the tone that our parks and trails are safe for families.”
In addition to charges of indecent exposure and committing lewd acts, one of the men was also charged with battery and another only with battery. Most were middle aged and older.
“It’s a bunch of dirty men who their thrill is exposing themselves to other men,” said Chitwood, reported the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The newspaper also deemed it appropriate to publish the mugshots of all the men, as well as their names, ages and areas in which they live. One man appears to be weeping when his photo was taken. A video of some of the arrests was also published on the newspaper’s website.
The extent to which the men, who have yet to be found guilty, have been publicly identified and shamed, and possibly outed, appears to be out of proportion to their relatively minor alleged crimes.
The newspaper’s unnecessary and callous actions are reminiscent of the naming and outing of LGBT people by Ugandan tabloids such as the Red Pepper.
In many large cities, cruising between consenting men is tolerated, especially within the context of a society that forces many gay and bisexual individuals into the closet.
There are also legal and ethical issues around undercover officers “entraping” men by effectively playing a role in initiating the crime.