Port Authority cops target men who seem gay or androgynous and arrest them on false charges of public masturbation and exposure at the city’s bus terminal, a new class-action lawsuit claims.
The cops have been falsely arresting men for years to increase “quality of life” arrest statistics, says the suit, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.
Cops spy on men who seems “gay or non-gender conforming” through the slats in the privacy dividers in the man’s bathroom and then lie and say that the men are touching themselves, according to the suit and plaintiff attorney Ross Kramer.
“It’s an absolutely unacceptable use of police power,” said Kramer. “They go into public restrooms and have plainclothed officer stare at people and then accuse men who they believe to be gay of engaging in lewd behavior. It pads their arrests stats by preying on a vulnerable group of people.”
One man who was arrested says he even heard other officers congratulate the cop who busted him, calling him “the gay whisperer” because of the large amount of seemingly homosexual men he cuffed.
The Port Authority cops look for men who seem gay or effeminate based on the way they carried themselves or clothing or jewelry believed to be “non-masculine,” the suit says.
The practice goes back to at least 2004, when Port Authority cops arrested Alejandro Martinez, accusing him of masturbating in public. Martinez was found not guilty and was awarded “substantial damages,” but the cops still continue the practice of arresting men for lewdness without probable cause, said Kramer.
“We want an injunction against this unlawful and unconstitutional practice that’s been going on for years,” said Kramer.
The attorneys are still collecting evidence, but they believe that “many, many men” have been targeted for false arrest by Port Authority cops, said Kramer.
Port Authority police spokesman Joe Pentangelo declined to comment on the suit, saying the agency doesn’t talk about pending cases.