Honolulu police officers encouraged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state legislation that permits undercover officers having sex with prostitutes in the service of an investigation Friday, sparking debate.
Officers claim the legal protection is needed to catch criminals in the act, but critics say the exemption is unnecessary and further victimizes sex workers who may also be victims of human trafficking, forced into prostitution against their will.
The legislation, which allows officers to receive oral and manual stimulation as well as engage in vaginal and anal intercourse and even sadomasochism in the course of an investigation, has already passed through Hawaii’s House of Representatives and is being heard Friday by the state Senate.
Police assured legislators that internal policies were in place to prevent officers from abusing the exemption, but others argue that the exemption itself constitutes abuse.
Human trafficking expert Derek Marsh, who trains police who handle human trafficking cases and has twice testified before Congress about the issue, says the legislation is “antiquated at best” and expresses concern that the practice undermines polices moral authority.
"It doesn't help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone," Marsh says. "And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?"