Friday, March 21, 2014

Hawaii Police Fight To Keep State Law That Allows Them To Have Sex With Prostitutes

Readers may recall our previous discussions about the fact that the Carmel Police Department allows its undercover police officers to engage in sex acts with prostitutes in conducting their investigations. The police claim that most prostitutes are too sophisticated to communicate an actual agreement to perform sex for money before the actual sex act occurs. Believe it or not, the state of Hawaii has long had a state law that expressly allows police officers investigating prostitution to engage in sex acts during their investigations. A bill making its way through the state legislature this year to crack down on prostitution proposed the elimination of the exemption in the law that allowed police officers to have sex with prostitutes. After strong protests from law enforcement, lawmakers restored the exemption. The Associated Press has more on the debate:
Honolulu police officers have urged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, touching off a heated debate.
Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it's unnecessary and could further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.
Police haven't said how often - or even if - they use the provision. And when they asked legislators to preserve it, they made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it.
But expert Derek Marsh says the exemption is 'antiquated at best' and that police can easily do without it.
'It doesn't help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?' asked Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases and twice has testified to Congress about the issue.
A Hawaii bill cracking down on prostitution (HB 1926) was originally written to scrap the sex exemption for officers on duty. It was amended to restore that protection after police testimony.  
The revised proposal passed the state House and will go before a Senate committee on Friday.
It's not immediately clear whether similar provisions are in place elsewhere as state law or department policy. But advocates were shocked that Hawaii exempts police from its prostitution laws, suggesting it's an invitation for misconduct.
'Police abuse is part of the life of prostitution,' said Melissa Farley, the executive director of the San Francisco-based group Prostitution Research and Education.
Farley said that in places without such police protections 'women who have escaped prostitution' commonly report being coerced into giving police sexual favors to keep from being arrested.
The Hawaii bill aims to ratchet up penalties on johns and pimps. Selling sex would remain a petty misdemeanor.
During recent testimony, Honolulu police said the sex exemption protects investigations and should remain in place.

Much to my surprise, I learned after my initial reports on the Carmel Police Department's practice of allowing their police officers to have sex with prostitutes that IMPD vice officers have similarly been allowed to have sex with prostitutes, although their rule makes it clear that the prosecutor's office typically won't prosecute the case if a sex act occurs as a matter of policy, which begs the question of why allow it at all.  


Anonymous said...

Cops are scum.

Breaking the law to enforce the law shows just how hollow the law is and how meaningless the cop's job is.

Any law that can be casually broken with no actual person suffering harm is no law, at all. Any job that requires enforcement of meaningless law is not deserving of public funding or respect.

Anonymous said...

Do the cops get reimbursed for the condoms they use?

Anonymous said...

Good to see the story still has a "happy ending"!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, most of these prostitutes aren't the ones you want to be paying. Even if they paid you I doubt it would be wanted.

Gary R. Welsh said...

From what I've been told, the very attractive, high-priced escorts who work out of hotels are the only targets with whom they deem it necessary to engage in sex as part of the investigation.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Mayor Ballard needs to answer the question you pose at the end of this report, Gary.