Working its way through the Legislature is a bill that would increase penalties on customers and pimps but would keep selling sex a petty misdemeanor. It originally eliminated the sex exemption for officers on duty, but the language was amended back into the measure after police testimony. The revised proposal passed the state House and was to be considered by a Senate committee Friday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Officials say they need the protection to catch lawbreakers in the act while critics said such an exemption is unnecessary and further victimizes sex workers, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.
Police didn't indicate to the Star-Advertiser how often -- or if -- they use the provision. But when asking for its preservation, police assured lawmakers internal policies and procedures were place to prevent abuse.
Derek Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases, said the exemption was "antiquated at best" and police could do their jobs without it.
"It doesn't help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone," Marsh said. "And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?"
"Police abuse is part of the life of prostitution," said Melissa Farley, executive director of a San Francisco-based group called Prostitution Research and Education.