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Friday, January 7, 2011

Palm Springs Police Chief Retires After Gay Sting Controversy

By Karen Ocamb -

PS Police Chief David Dominguez
KESQ TV in Palm Springs, California reported Wednesday, Jan. 5, that Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez is retiring after being accused by PSPD officers of making “inappropriate comments” during an antigay undercover lewd conduct sting in Warm Sands in June 2009.  The arrests of 19 gay men after a four-day operation involving 14 officers garnered national attention after the District Attorney’s office – at the request of the police department – sought lifetime sexual offender registration in addition to charges of indecent exposure and lewd conduct.
According to testimony during pre-trial hearings last June – one undercover officer referred to the gay men as “cocksuckers” during the sting.  In a motion to dismiss the case filed in September – Deputy Public Defender Roger Tansey provided evidence that the “cocksucker” comment was made in response to comments from Police Chief David Dominguez. The Chief allegedly said, “What a bunch of filthy mother fuckers. You guys should get paid extra for this.”
Tansey claimed Dominguez created an antigay environment in the department. He cited police reports for the two years prior to the arrests indicating that the Palm Springs police routinely rousted gay men in the Warm Sands area while giving a pass to heterosexuals having sex in public. Of the 12 public complaints – only two involved gay men and 10 – or over 83 per cent – involved straight men sexually harassing women.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready sent an internal memo to the Palm Springs City Council in which he apologized for “unprofessional conduct” and “inappropriate comments” made during the sting.  Police Chief Dominguez – who was reportedly out of town on vacation at the time – issued a written statement one hour later. He offered a “sincerely apologize to the community at large” for making an “inappropriate comment.”
The Police Chief, the City Manager and the arresting officers were due back in court on January 20 for a hearing on the motion to dismiss the case.
Dominguez’s resignation “came as a shock because it was sudden,” KESQ reported city officials and residents as saying. However,  openly gay Mayor Steve Pougnet told the station his resignation was in the best interests of the city and the police department. Openly lesbian Councilmember Ginny Foat concurred, saying the community that has been mired in the scandal can now move forward.
“It’s important lessons we have learned in terms of these kinds of operations,” said Ready. “There are better practices,” adding that the PSPD will no longer use undercover decoys to investigate lewd acts.


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