No, the cops in Hawaii aren’t talking about legalizing prostitution, something for which a person could make a logical case (you could say prohibiting prostitution doesn’t stop it but rather drives it into the shadows, making it less safe for the sex workers). Rather, the cops just want it to be legal when they have sex with hookers.
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. …
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 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.
Ironically enough, the bill that includes the legal exemption for cop-on-hooker action also increases the penalties for citizen-on-hooker action:
The Hawaii bill aims to ratchet up penalties on johns and pimps. Selling sex would remain a petty misdemeanor.
There are exemptions that allow police officers to break laws citizens must follow. For instance, it would be silly to charge cops for purchasing illegal drugs when they make undercover drug buys. But those two situations aren’t exactly the same. We let the cops buy drugs as part of their investigation to take down drug dealers, but we don’t let them use the drugs they buy.
Right now cops bust hookers and johns in undercover stings all the time, and there is established law for when an illegal act of solicitation has taken place (usually when a price for a sex act has been agreed upon). It’s hard to imagine why a cop would need immunity for having sex with a prostitute in order to facilitate their arrest.
On a related point, I would hate to be a vice cop in Hawaii right now trying to explain this law to a spouse.