PALM SPRINGS – Palm Spring police Chief David Dominguez apologized today for insensitive remarks made during sex sting in Warm Sands targeting gay men.
”An inappropriate comment made by me did not display the utmost professional conduct expected from the chief of police and I sincerely apologize to the community at large,” he said.
City Manager David Ready also offered his apology, saying a report on the sting showed police were unprofessional and made offensive comments.
The sting, which netted 19 arrests, was done in response to what police said were complaints about drug use, public sex and prostitution in Warm Sands. But some people complained that police were targeting gay men unfairly.
During a pretrial hearing, one defendant said a police officer could be heard using a gay slur on a video recording in an undercover vehicle. An attorney for some of those arrested said the chief was in that particular car.
The lawyer lodged a complaint, alleging Dominguez disparaged the arrestees to his officers.
”What a bunch of filthy mother (expletive),” he allegedly said. ”You guys should get paid extra for this.”
The apology comes months after he disputed similar allegations relayed to him by City News Service.
”If someone told you I was in that car when that slur was made, that’s a lie,” he said. ”And that is a total lie.”
That statement led attorney Roger Tansey, who is defending six men who were arrested, to question the chief’s integrity.
”Was the chief lying then or was he lying now, and what is the City Council going to do about it?” Tansey asked. ”He was furious someone would even imply he was in the car making obscene comments. Now, it appears that he did.”
Ready said any discipline to be meted out has been taken care of, without saying what that might have been. He said state law prohibited it.
In the city’s report, Ready said police should have reached out to hoteliers, businesses and residents to warn them about the sting operation. He suggested the sting could have been done with surveillance instead of undercover decoys.
Ready said police are revising guidelines for handling lewd-conduct complaints, requiring officers and future hires to receive sensitivity training. The city also is instituting a procedure by which complaints regarding LGBT issues, internal or external to city hall, will go through the city manager’s office
The issue will be aired again at a Jan. 20 hearing in which Tansey will seek dismissal of charges against his clients. He said police acted with discriminatory intent.
The police chief’s admission may further the cause, Tansey said.
”Certainly to the extent that you have the police chief calling them names and officers down the line calling them names, I would assume a judge would agree that is discriminatory,” Tansey said.
Tansey called Ready’s report a ”whitewash,” because it did not specify that the city received specific complaints of men having sex with other men.
Ready did not return a phone call seeking to discuss the report.
Dominguez said he would learn from his mistake.
”I believe we have all learned much about perception and sensitivity,” he said. ”While we are not perfect, we make every attempt to understand and embrace the diversity of our community.”