HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Senate panel on Friday voted to make it illegal for undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes that they're trying to bust. The move comes as the Honolulu Police Department insists that type of behavior isn't allowed.
"There shall be no exemption as it applies to sexual penetration," said State Sen. Clayton Hee during a hearing of the House Committee on Judiciary and Labor.
After some painful publicity, HPD representatives watched as the committee voted to change Hawaii's prostitution law. Legislators want to restrict the actions of undercover officers.
"When you get down to it, HPD officers shouldn't engage in sexual intercourse when making an arrest of a prostitute. It's a financial transaction that makes it illegal," said Hee.
"We never wanted officers to be able to have sex with prostitutes. We need that ability to be able to negotiate to get an agreement so that we can get a violation," explained Assistant Chief Susan Dowsett.
HPD has said that the conduct of undercover officers is already regulated by internal rules, but advocates who work with prostitutes allege that police misconduct is rampant.
"We know for a fact that these infractions and these abuses have been going on for decades and unaddressed. These girls have no access to justice," said Kathryn Xian of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.
"They never have sex with prostitutes. We have never authorized that. They never will. Anyone who has alleged that that has occurred is absolutely encouraged to come forward," Dowsett said.
Xian said PASS introduced a similar measure a few years ago, but the bill ran into opposition from police.
"Officers now have been put in the global spotlight and if they do decide to do these types of abusive acts, they will be held to justice eventually," said Xian.
The measure now heads to the full Senate.