You may have heard that Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero has formally asked for an attorney general investigation into the release of the HIV status of man arrested in a sex-sting operation. You may have also heard that the Michigan Department of Community Health sounded the trumpet for an investigation as well. Why all the fuss?
Well, Michigan law clearly protects the confidentiality of a person’s HIV status. Although there are a number of exceptions to this law, releasing the information as part of a police report does not appear to be one of them. In fact, even if it was relevant to the police investigation, the information should never have been revealed publically.
But this is not the only disturbing issue associated with the incident. Lansing’s decision to deploy undercover police officers pretending to be gay in an effort to encourage men to engage in illegal behavior in the park should raise some eyebrows as well. The fact is that indecent exposure and sex in public are illegal. However, there are more effective ways for police to deal with this problem if, in fact, it does exist. Police departments can deploy uniformed officers to patrol the parks and post signs indicating that parks are being patrolled to deter individuals from engaging in these activities.
After all, a statement by the Lansing police chief says it all – when asked why deploy undercover officers in the park; he stated that when uniformed officers patrolled the park, they observed no illegal activity.
Isn’t that point?
By Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project Staff Attorney