Mann in the mir­ror

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I al­ways hate to see some­one hu­mil­i­ated or pun­ished for be­hav­ior I’ve also en­gaged in, which is some­what self-serv­ing, but more an ex­pres­sion of kin­dred loy­alty. It’s like the em­pa­thy most peo­ple would have for some­one who got a speed­ing ticket for go­ing 70 in a 65, a mix­ture of, “There but for the grace...” and, “Fuck ‘The Man!’”

I haven’t en­joyed the ar­rest of DeKalb County Sher­iff Jef­frey Mann as much as I should have, although I’m cyn­i­cal enough to ap­pre­ci­ate a law en­force­ment leader be­ing en­snared by the web of in­car­cer­a­tion our so­ci­ety has mis­taken for a safety net. An At­lanta of­fi­cer claims he was in “an area of the park known for sex­ual acts af­ter dark” when Mann ex­posed him­self then fled, and the me­dia have cas­ti­gated the sher­iff while Gov. Nathan Deal at­tempts to cas­trate him via a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

As a man who has sought and stum­bled into sex­ual en­coun­ters in Pied­mont Park (usu­ally) af­ter dark, it’s trou­bling to see Mann’s rep­u­ta­tion and ca­reer face the death penalty for an of­fense as se­vere as jay­walk­ing or rid­ing a bike on the side­walk. Thank­fully for Mann, en­trap­ment seems an easy and ob­vi­ous de­fense if the of­fi­cer was wear­ing APD bi­cy­cle pa­trol shorts.

Many folks are dis­con­certed by an ap­par­ently clos­eted cop us­ing his one-eyed mon­ster to look for sex in a pub­lic park, but cruis­ing among the bushes is as old as Adam and Eve, and it’s of­ten nowhere near as ob­scene as folks per­ceive. This week­end, thou­sands of fam­i­lies with thou­sands of chil­dren will de­scend on Pied­mont Park for the an­nual Jazz Festival, and as they listen to the Tivon Pen­ni­cott Quar­tet, they’ll be bliss­fully un­aware of the in­evitable blow jobs be­ing en­joyed in the se­cluded crevices of the 185-acre park.

That’s be­cause the ma­jor­ity of “pub­lic” sex takes place safely out of view, or as in the al­le­ga­tions against Mann, at an hour where they are not dis­rup­tive to any­one us­ing the pub­lic lo­ca­tion for its in­tended pur­pose. Granted, stray con­doms are a par­tic­u­larly nox­ious form of lit­ter, but plenty of peo­ple “As a man who has sought and stum­bled into sex­ual en­coun­ters in Pied­mont Park (usu­ally) af­ter dark, it’s trou­bling to see Mann’s rep­u­ta­tion and ca­reer face the death penalty for an of­fense as se­vere as jay­walk­ing or rid­ing a bike on the side­walk.” who en­gage in pub­lic sex are in­tent on leav­ing no trace of their naugh­ti­ness.

Neigh­bor­hood ac­tivists have long claimed that late-night sex in Pied­mont Park at­tracts drugs and crime to the area, ig­nor­ing how men have been cruis­ing the trails for decades, and the big­gest in­creases Mid­town has seen have been in prop­erty value and rent. And de­spite ur­ban le­gends among gay men who have “a friend of a friend” who has been in the trails af­ter sun­set, mur­der and armed rob­bery are not rou­tine.

I ad­mire Mann de­fend­ing his char­ac­ter and re­fus­ing to re­sign from of­fice, although his long-term strat­egy is a mys­tery, and his re­al­time denials are in­com­plete and un­con­vinc­ing. Enough with the wig­gling, Sher­iff Mann.

Deal’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mann’s ar­rest seems to be the big­gest threat to the sher­iff ’s sur­vival, as the gover­nor has spo­ken and re­acted to the in­ci­dent with an ur­gency that is un­able to hide his dis­gust. Deal’s fer­vor is un­matched by many DeKalb res­i­dents and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, with no in­tense push for Mann to re­sign de­spite ad­mit­tedly bring­ing an “un­fa­vor­able light” upon the county.

Per­haps DeKalb vot­ers, who have seen all but one of the sher­iffs they elected in the last 50 years face crim­i­nal charges, con­sider go­ing to “an area of the park known for sex­ual acts af­ter dark” in search of a jerk-off buddy a re­fresh­ing show of re­straint from their chief law en­force­ment of­fi­cer. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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