Settlement ends police stings in NYC bus terminal restrooms

NEW YORK (AP) — The police agency that patrols New York City’s main bus station has agreed to stop sending plainclothes officers to its public restrooms to try to catch people offering sex to strangers , a type of sting long criticized by activists as a discriminatory relic. of an era of repression aimed primarily at homosexuals.

As part of a legal settlement reached Tuesday in federal court, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will provide its new police recruits with LGBTQ+ sensitivity training for the next three years and will only reinstate the so-called public obscene patrols at the Port Authority Bus Terminal only if approved at the highest level.

The settlement, announced on the first day of Pride Month, resolves a lawsuit brought by people arrested as a result of Port Authority Police Department patrols.

Many had claimed the charges were baseless, made by officers who targeted men using the toilets if they perceived them to be gay, largely to inflate their arrest statistics.

The two named plaintiffs, Cornell Holden and Miguel Mejia, had similar experiences at the bus station in 2014, according to the lawsuit.

Both described standing in front of a urinal and having an undercover officer stand next to them, then step back in an apparent attempt to see their hands and genitals.

Police arrested Holden and Mejia for public obscenity, saying they were spotted masturbating. Both men said they were falsely accused – and both were eventually cleared.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against Holden. Mejia was tried and acquitted.

“This kind of blatant homophobia has no place in the police, and the reforms made in this trial are intended to protect against future abuses like those suffered and challenged by Mr. Holden and Mr. Mejia,” Molly said. Griffard, lawyer for The Legal Aid. Society, which represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Under the terms of the settlement, Holden will receive $15,000. Mejia will receive $25,000.

Port Authority officials denied any wrongdoing on the part of the officers. In an email, a spokesman for the authority, which also manages airports and seaports in the region, said it had not carried out patrols for several years and had committed to upholding appropriate standards of conduct at all of its facilities.

Officer training will be done in conjunction with the Gay Officer’s Action League.

In addition, the port authority has agreed to designate single-cabin, gender-neutral toilets at the bus station and to make it easier to find complaint forms on the authority’s website.

Attorney Seth Spitzer, also representing plaintiffs on behalf of the law firm Winston & Strawn, called it a “fair result that we simply shouldn’t have fought so hard for”.

The Port Authority Terminal serves approximately 200,000 passengers daily at its location on 42nd Street, including commuters and people arriving in the city for long distance trips from all parts of the United States.

City Pride Month ends with a massive march marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, when a crowd of hundreds responded to a police raid on a Manhattan gay bar.

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