Kokomo police assisted the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department during a two-day operation at Tecumseh Trails and Davis Ferry parks -- sites long-rumored to be destinations for anonymous, sexual hookups.
Those arrested are suspected of exposing themselves to or inappropriately touching undercover detectives.
But the sheriff's department received its own blow when one of the suspects turned out to be a long-standing member of its merit board -- the five-member civilian group in charge of hiring, firing and promoting deputies.
Sheriff Smokey Anderson said he has asked Charles "Bob" Best, 69, of rural Lafayette, to resign after the man was found to be among those arrested. Best, who was elected by deputies, has served on the board for more than 20 years.
Other suspects include employees of Greater Lafayette Health Services, the Tippecanoe School Corp. and Purdue University, according to booking reports.
Though most suspects are from the Lafayette area, one listed his address as Naples, Fla. and another in suburban Chicago. Their ages ranged from 21 to 82.
The Sheriff's department says it undertook the sting operation based upon complaints of sexual activity taking place in the parks. The police involved in this particular sting operation claim they did nothing to initiate the sexual contact with the men. The newspaper reported:
During this week's sting, undercover officers were approached by or walked up to the suspects in the park. Police, however, do not initiate topics of a sexual nature, Whitehead said.
"Unfortunately, it's not a difficult thing to achieve," he said. "It's all too commonplace and all very anonymous. Within minutes -- minutes -- sexual activity can occur."
Suspects who exposed themselves were arrested on suspicion of public indecency. They face an additional offense of battery if they touched an officer.
About half of the men were charged with battery, in addition to public indecency for merely touching the officer. I find the battery charges suspect. Battery requires that a person knowingly or intentionally touch another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. Even if the undercover police officers didn't initiate the contact, it is hard to imagine that they didn't at least display body language to the charged men to suggest the touching would be welcomed. The charging seems to be a little bit of overkill.
That's the least bit of the charged men's concern though. The newspaper listed the names and ages of all 17 of the men charged. As the report notes, among the charged men are employees of Greater Lafayette Health Services, Tippecanoe School Corp. and Purdue. The civilian member of the sheriff's merit board, Bob Best, has already been asked to resign from his position according to the sheriff's spokesman. If convicted, the men could wind up on a sex offender registry, which could impact where they live, work and play (no pun intended). Is the punishment appropriate for an 82-year-old man?