HOUSTON – Rumors are flying around the Montrose area that Houston police are unfairly targeting gay people.
Some say officers are harassing homosexuals for no good reason and that it started after the election of Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly gay mayor. Police unions supported Parker’s opponent.
Stephen Bowen said he got a ticket for jaywalking after leaving a gay club.
"I thought it was a little overdramatic for me walking next to the street," Bowen said.
But the drama was just beginning.
"I told them I was wearing flip-flops and there was a puddle so I just walked around," Bowen said. "And he said, ‘That’s not acceptable.’ So they started to write out a ticket for jaywalking and then, out of nowhere, they told me to get in the back in the car that I was going downtown."
Stories like Bowen’s began to surface around Montrose in February. Since then, dozens of gays have complained of run-ins with Houston police officers.
"If somebody has to go around a puddle to walk in the street and wound up in jail there are several things there beyond the call of duty," said gay activist Ray Hill.
But others who live in Montrose argue they want more police presence because they’re worried about safety. For months now, open-air drug use and street corner prostitution have been on the rise.
"I tell people, if they’re from out of town, don’t walk alone, walk in pairs, stay in well-lighted areas," said Terry Thompson.
Civic associations have asked for stepped-up police patrols. That’s what the Houston Police Department says it’s doing.
Ray Hill isn’t buying it.
"Part of that is transition from one regime to another. The rest of it is just angry bullies that, they lost an election that we won," Hill said.
Stephen Bowen thinks Hill is right.
"I just think that cops, sometimes think they can get away with whatever they want," Bowen said. "And if they look at you [and] don’t like you they’ll try to get you in trouble."