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State law gives Hawaii cops right to have sex with prostitutes on the job

Posted by Chris Caesar  March 21, 2014 06:53 AM

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By Chris Caesar

Giving cops a "get out jail free card" to have sex with the very prostitutes they’re investigating - hey, what could go wrong?

A lot, say critics of the unusual Hawaiian law. State legislators included language to end the practice in a new bill cracking down on prostitution this week, though the change was removed following police testimony that claimed the protection was essential for undercover operations.

The amended bill passed the state house and is scheduled to go before a Senate committee Friday. However, some local advocates seek to get the ban reinstated at that Senate reading.

Local Hawaiian news station KITV-TV reports:

"The original [bill] would have nullified the existing exemption, preventing officers from enforcing prostitution laws," said the Honolulu Police Department in a written statement.

"As it is, we are already subject to 'cop checking' where prostitution subjects do certain acts or attempt to do certain acts to determine whether the person is an undercover officer," said Major Jerry Inouye, Honolulu Police Department Narcotics/Vice.

But experts criticized those claims:

[Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Executive Director Kathryn] Xian doesn't believe HPD's claim and says none of the former prostitutes she's helped has ever "cop checked."

"We've had one survivor who was a victim of misconduct and she was in prostitution for seven years and not once did she ever cop check," said Xian.

Bill supporters emphasize how other states manage to prosecute prostitutes at a high rate without letting law enforcement use sexual penetration during their investigations.

Sam Eifling of the Associated Press observes:

There have been instances of police being accused of victimizing sex workers across the nation. In Philadelphia, a former officer is on trial facing charges of raping two prostitutes after forcing them at gunpoint to take narcotics. A former West Sacramento, Calif., officer is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of raping prostitutes in his police cruiser while on patrol. And last year in Massachusetts, a former police officer pleaded guilty to extorting sex from prostitutes he threatened with arrest.

Hawaii’s police misconduct disclosure laws make it “impossible to know” if any officers have faced disciplinary repercussions for having sex with prostitutes on the job, he adds.

Chris Caesar can be reached at Christopher.Caesar@globe.com, or via Twitter @ChrisCaesar.

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