story by Robin Perelle /
Aug 05 2004
Surrey cruisers beware: the RCMP is cracking down on gay men having sex in Bear Creek Park.
Const Doug Trousdell is part of the Surrey RCMP’s vice squad. He says he and his colleagues began actively investigating the park a few months ago, after receiving more complaints than usual from the public about sex in the park. “It’s a huge concern for us,” he says, citing the potential for children to stumble across used condoms and “indecent acts.”
But the RCMP is not just targeting gay men, he hastens to add. It’s trying to clean out all forms of sex in the park. “It’s not a place for people to have sex,” Trousdell says. “It’s not appropriate.”
The investigation has already caught at least one gay man in its snare. Tim (who asked that his last name not be published) was cruising Bear Creek’s trails around 2:30 pm on Jul 14, when he ran into two men. Little did he know they were undercover cops. Then one of the men took out his RCMP badge. It was Const Trousdell.
“I was very surprised,” Tim later told Xtra West. “This has never, ever happened to me in my whole life. I do a fair bit of cruising and it has never, ever happened to me before.”
Tim says the cops asked him what he was doing in that part of the park. He told them he was taking a nature walk and trying to lose weight.
The cops didn’t buy it. “Tell us why you’re really here,” they reportedly replied.
When Tim lied again, one of the officers allegedly got indignant. “We are sick and tired of people like you using the park for indecent purposes,” he reportedly told Tim.
Const Trousdell confirms that the exchange likely took place, since he did run into several men while patrolling the trails that day. “Certainly, we are tired of the park being used for indecent purposes,” he says now.
But there’s nothing indecent or even harmful about gay men having sex in a park, Tim counters angrily.
“I’m very unapologetic for having sex in parks,” he says. “Parks are for the enjoyment of everybody—and part of that enjoyment is sex in the park.”
Gay men have been having sex in parks “from the earliest times,” Tim continues. “That’s where men meet.”
Not everyone is comfortable going to gay bars or bathhouses, he explains. Parks are discreet, easy and cheap. And they’re especially appealing to married men, he notes. “And I understand where they’re coming from—I’ve been there.”
Park sex is not going to stop, he continues. And it shouldn’t have to. “Parks are for the enjoyment of all. I don’t really see a problem with guys having sex in parks as long as it’s discreet.”
Trousdell firmly disagrees. Even if the men using Bear Creek’s trails are being discreet, the vice squad will still go after them, he says. “We’re not going to tolerate indecent acts in the park.
“What’s going on is an indecent act,” he repeats. “It’s illegal.”
Tim is outraged. “Surely to god there’s enough other priorities for police than this kind of homophobic, punitive…” he trails off.
“With all the rights and freedoms we have now—this is so 1980s,” Tim continues. “It’s an old way of dealing with the issue. It’s so punitive.”
Though Canada’s Criminal Code still outlaws anal sex and “indecent acts” in public places, some police forces no longer enforce those laws unless the sex occurs within sight of heavily travelled trails. The Vancouver Police Department, for example, only investigates cruising in Stanley Park if it receives a complaint about blatant sexual activity. And even then, it would be a low priority, Insp Dave Jones told Xtra West last year. Jones headed the force’s West End contingent for years before he retired last December.
Trousdell says he can’t comment on other police forces’ policies. “But we are going to continue to patrol the park,” he says.
That is so uncalled for, Tim insists. “I feel really insulted.”`
Tim says he feels particularly angry that the officers insisted on taking his identification—and even followed him back to his car to get it. It was “very upsetting,” Tim says now. It felt “very invasive.”
Then the cops allegedly told him to stay out of the park. “We don’t ever want to see you in this park again,” they allegedly warned him.
Trousdell says he wouldn’t have told Tim to stay out of the park completely—just out of that section of the park. He says he told everyone he approached that day that they’re more than welcome to use the park for activities other than sex.
Tim isn’t satisfied. “I’m really appalled at how 1980s this is,” he repeats. “It was just entrapment and harassment.”
Trousdell says he and his partner didn’t entrap anyone because “we were just walking down the trail”—not posing as potential sex partners. They were, however, undercover, he admits. Some officers patrol the park in plain clothes because they’re also investigating drugs, he explains. But they are not there to harass gay men, he insists.
Tim says he felt harassed—especially because one of the officers asked him where he works. Though Tim says he hasn’t experienced any repercussions from that yet, it still made him feel threatened and angry.
Trousdell denies asking anyone for their place of work. As for taking gay men’s ID, he says it’s standard to record people’s identification during an investigation. It’s not a criminal record, he notes, it’s just for police files. “It’s certainly not something that’s going to be disclosed.”
Tim says the RCMP needs some sensitivity training.
“The whole attitude was ‘we’re righteous and you’re not. You should be happy we’re not locking you up.’”
What are these cops learning in their training institutes? he asks.
Trousdell says all RCMP officers receive basic training in discrimination issues of all types, including gay and lesbian. But to his knowledge he has never been trained in issues related to park sex.
Would he find such training helpful? “I would certainly be open to that,” Trousdell replies. “I’m sure we would welcome any input from the gay community.”
CONST DOUG TROUSDELL.