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Police Harassment of Homosexual Women and Men in New York City 1960-1980

NCJ Number
Columbia Human Rights Review Volume: 12 Dated: (Fall/Winter 1980-1981) Pages: 159-190
S A Rosen
Date Published
32 pages
Changes in New York City Police Department policy and practices with respect to homosexuals are traced from 1960 through 1980.
Police harassment of homosexuals is defined as 'active police conduct for reasons unrelated to individual or public safety, directed at persons believed by the police to be homosexual, which has the effect of annoying, impeding, embarrassing, injuring, threatening, or intimidating such persons.' This definition includes both harsh forms of police conduct, such as entrapment and arrest, as well as milder forms, such as employment discrimination against homosexual members of the police force. During the early 1960's, the most obvious form of police harassment resulted from the enforcement of statutes criminalizing acts of sodomy between unmarried persons. In the late 1960's, there was a decline in police harassment of homosexuals, although police raided gay bars, baths, and private clubs. Mayor Lindsey's administration made a great deal of progress in combating harassment of gays, and this progress continued throughout the 1970's. Conflicts between the police and gays centered on two issues: employment protection for homosexual police officers and protection for gay crime victims. By the end of the decade, serious police harassment of gays was uncommon in New York City. In 1980, the statute prohibiting noncommercial consensual adult sodomy was found invalid, and a class on dealing with gays was added to the curriculum of the New York Police Academy. One table and 246 references are included.