Hawaiian police defend right to sex with prostitutes

Los Angeles: Hawaiian police are facing a storm of criticism by fighting to protect a right for undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes if it can help an investigation.

Lawmakers debated the issue in the state Senate in Honolulu on Friday, as part of a bill cracking down on prostitution in which police have tried to re-instate an exemption letting officers have sex with prostitutes.

Critics on the US Pacific island state say the demand is part of an outdated concept of prostitution, and increases the risk of police abuse of their position to demand sexual favours.

But police say they sometimes have to maintain the pretence that they are genuine clients to avoid jeopardizing investigations, which would be a risk if a prostitute knew they were police officers.

“The original (bill) would have nullified the existing exemption, preventing officers from enforcing prostitution laws,” the Honolulu Police Department said in a statement cited by local KITV television.

“We are already subject to ’cop checking’ where (prostitutes) do certain acts or attempt to do certain acts to determine whether the person is an undercover officer,” Jerry Inouye of the department’s vice squad told a committee meeting last month.

In the Senate, police are trying to reinstate a clause reading: “This section shall not apply to any member of a police department, a sheriff or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties.”

But Kathryn Xian, head of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said the police were trying to defend an outdated attitude to prostitutes.

“We feel that the reason why this law is on the law books is because of age old, very archaic beliefs about prostitution being a victimless crime and there are no victims in prostitution,” she told KITV.

Roger Young, a retired FBI agent specializing in sex crimes, said Hawaii’s exemption was difficult to defend.

“I don’t know of any state or federal law that allows any law enforcement officer undercover to penetrate or do what this law is allowing,” he said, cited by local media.

( Source : AFP )
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